Techniques and Tips

Two Drawing Tips to Consider When Sketching Faces

Two Drawing Tips to Consider When Sketching Faces

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Editor’s note: This just in! Jean Pederson is also featured in a brand new eMagazine titled Paint Realistic Skin Tones. Download it now for only $3.99 and also learn techniques from Alain J. Picard, Mario Robinson and Russell Harris. As a bonus, scroll down to discover Chris Saper’s great practice idea for color accuracy. ~Cherie

Drawing skills are a great foundation for painting. We learn the building blocks for brush work, proportion, hand/eye skills, etc. In the beginning, drawing faces and figures is a lot like learning to play an instrument–there are mathematical proportions that we study and practice like learning musical scales. Over time the mechanics become automatic, allowing quality of line, shape and value to emerge and express more than the technical process of early attempts of sketching faces, for example.

What are your intentions when beginning a drawing session? If you’re commissioned then it will be important to capture a likeness in structure and personality. Perhaps you’re hiring a model strictly as a reference and likeness isn’t a priority. Either way, you’ll want to end up with a comfortable, well-proportioned portrait drawing.

If you’re new to portraits, there are a couple of things to keep in mind when sketching faces.

• Consider the placement of the eyes within the oval shape of the face. Looking straight on at an average face, the eyes are aligned horizontally approximately halfway within the oval. Often we place eyes too high between the top the head and bottom of chin. We forget that there’s a forehead and in most cases, a hairline that encompasses a similar space to that below the eyes.

• Consider the size of the eyes. We spend a lot of time looking into people’s eyes and have a tendency to exaggerate and enlarge the eyes. On an average face there are approximately five eye-widths from one side of the head to the other. Keeping this in mind, you’ll have greater success with rendering proportionate eyes.

I like to find shapes and their relationship to one another. Taking away the subject can remove fear and opens the door to seeing and shapes in values and colors. You may choose to grid your subject and surface as a method of drawing an accurate face.

Drawing should be enjoyable and, like fitness, the more you do the easier it becomes. Whether in an organized figure class or squeezing in ten minutes a day in your sketchbook, make drawing a part of your routine. ~Jean

Bonus tip from Chris Saper: Paint Your Own Skin Tone

Look at the skin on the inside of your wrist and think of it as a shape of color. Mix a general skin tone that roughly represents your basic skin color–in my case, Flesh + Radiant Magenta. Next, I adjusted the value of the basic color by adding Flake White. (Naples Yellow would also have worked, but Flake White helped cool and lighten it, instead of just lightening it.) Finally, I adjusted the saturation of the color mixture by adding a mixture of Raw Umber + Foundation Greenish, mixed to match the value of the color mixture. Sometimes you need to make a final correction. Here, I added a little more Radiant Magenta to pink up the color. Either of the two color swatches on the left can be used to paint the wrist color. After you’ve done this exercise, turn your hand over and paint the skin tone on top of your forearm.

Click here to download Paint Realistic Skin Tones today!

Learn more from Mixed Media Artist Jean Pederson
New DVDs!
• Watercolor Techniques: Wet Glazing
• Acrylic Painting: Mixed Media Flowers
• Acrylic Painting: Mixed Media Portraits

• See her work at

Watch the video: DRAW FACES EASILY! Part 2 (August 2022).