Let’s See How to Draw People

Have you always wanted to draw a realistic human face? Many people feel anxious if they are asked to draw people because they fear that their facial drawing will bear no likeness to the person. Portraiture is the art of creating portraits. A portrait can be defined as a drawing, painting, or photograph of a particular person. In short, portraits are two-dimensional artistic representations of the three dimensional human face.  Drawing a person is not as hard as it looks, but many find capturing the likeness is the most difficult part of facial drawing.  A good pencil sketch of the human face should capture the likeness using perspective, proportion, accurate shading, and contours. So, let’s find out how to draw people and explore various ways of bringing portraiture to life.

But first things first…don’t be a bad workman who blames his tools. Invest in some good art materials and learn to use them in the right way.  Listed below are some of the main art materials used to create good pencil drawings.

Tools Used to Draw Realistically

  • Good quality acid-free drawing paper
  • A high-quality mechanical pencil
  • A boxed set of pencils (offers a selection of different pencils that will help you to achieve a variety of results)
  • A pencil sharpening tool
  • Kneaded erasers
  • A blending stump or a tortillion
  • A can of fixative spray

You will use these and other tools as you delve more and more into drawing in pencil. For now, let’s take a brief moment to chat about just the drawing implements mentioned above.

When you begin to sketch your first portrait, you will make mistakes but errors can be rubbed out time and time again if you use quality paper. Cheap erasers work but they are not as effective as a kneaded eraser. Sharp pencils are easier to work with, so buy a good quality pencil sharpener or use a high-quality mechanical pencil with graphite lead. Pencil is a great medium and pencil art can be rubbed with blending stumps to create light and shade. The finished artwork should be sprayed with a fixative to protect it and to prevent it from yellowing and smudging.

Helpful Drawing Techniques for Drawing People

Now we can move on to discuss some common drawing techniques. Some of the most popular techniques used in drawing include:

  • Contour lines
  • Hatching and crosshatching
  • Smooth shading
  • Circles and scribbles

Why use these techniques when learning how to draw? Contour lines give drawings shape and volume, and these lines can be used to create the outline when you draw a body or a face. Hatching and crosshatching are ways of creating different tones, and meticulous hatching helps to make a portrait look realistic. Smooth shading can create a subtle or deep tonal change, and this is one of the main drawing techniques used to introduce depth into artwork. Circles and scribbles will make your sketch look looser, and this simple drawing technique creates contrast.

So, you want to draw a face, but you know nothing about the techniques mentioned above?

Budding artists should watch some of the many pencil drawing tutorials that can be found online. Useful online tutorials include realistic pencil drawing techniques, such as learning how to blend and basic pencil shading. When you have grasped the basics of pencil drawing, move on and watch artists draw portraits in step-by-step tutorials. Top online drawing tutorials include tips and tricks for general portraiture and how to create realistic pencil portraits.

It can be equally as helpful to watch videos of artists drawing people that are NOT tutorials with everything spelled out in steps. Often times, there is much to be learned from just watching an artist in action and closely observing which techniques are used.

Think you HAVE to see step-by-step directions or videos of artists in action to learn techniques? Think again! Although tutorials and videos are extremely helpful, you might also be surprised to find out how much you can learn by just examining already completed work. Study drawings of people completed by other artists. Look for styles you like and try to duplicate the techniques you think they used. Some of the most famous artists became famous by studying the works of masters that came before them. Just remember, you can just as well learn from an artist who is not yet a master. All artists have something valuable to share.

Draw a Face Step-By-Step

030596Following are a few basic guidelines to keep in mind when it comes to drawing faces. Try these out by referring to a photograph, or just draw a random person from your imagination!

  • Human heads are not circular. Always remember that humans have egg-shaped faces. Begin your sketch by creating an oval outline that tapers towards the bottom.
  • Map out the facial proportions by drawing a faint line down the center of the oval and a fine horizontal line through the center of the face.
  • Position the nose on the face by penciling a dividing line in the center of the lower half of the face. The lines that have been drawn on the bottom half of the face should form a cross. The base of the nose should be penciled in at the top of the center of the cross and one nostril will be sketched at either side.
  • Draw the mouth onto the face using a fine pencil line in between the base of the nose and the bottom of the chin. The bottom lip should sit on the dividing line just drawn. Create a line where the two lips meet (for a closed mouth), then move on to draw in the bottom and top lip lines.
  • Add the eyes to your facial drawing. The center of the eye sockets will be in line with the middle of the central horizontal line. Think of the eyeballs as two large circular balls, partially concealed behind the top and bottom eyelids. The eyebrow will sit on top and the cheekbone should rest on the bottom of the shape. Look closely at the eyes of the person you are drawing before drawing in the shapes. Some people have large round eyes and others have almond-shaped eyes, so draw your eyes accordingly. In general, the central space left between the eyes should be equivalent to the width of one eye. Remember, the iris of the eye is made up of many different shades.
  • Draw in the eyelids. The eyelid should be drawn in over the top of the eye and the base of the lid will come down to cover the very top of the iris. Use some of the shading techniques mentioned earlier to define the shape of the eye socket.
  • When you are satisfied with the facial shape and features you can add the neck, ears, and hair to the face.

Although there is more to learn, these tips will hopefully give you a helpful start with how to draw faces. But humans have more than just a head and a face. People have bodies and wear clothes. If you want to learn more about methods of sketching bodies and people in clothes, please read on.

Drawing the Human Form

Sketching the human body in all positions is commonly referred to as “figure drawing” and there are many different ways of drawing the human body. Different types of figure drawing include:

  • Sketching
  • Life drawing
  • Emotive drawing
  • Perspective drawing
  • Illustration drawing
  • Diagrammatic drawing
  • Analytic drawing
  • Geometric drawing

A sketch is an informal drawing and figure sketching helps us to learn how to draw a realistic human figure. Lots of amateur artists enjoy drawing the human figure by studying a live model and life drawing is an essential part of art. People have personalities and characters and emotive drawing is used to express the subject’s personality. Perspective drawing represents scale, eye-level, surface, planes, light, space and volume. An illustrative drawing is a piece of artwork that comes from a photograph, painting or sketch whereas a diagrammatic drawing is a well-planned piece of art. An analytic drawing of a person will be realistic. The person will be drawn in proportion. Those who find it hard to draw realistic figures may get on well with geometric figure drawing.

Additionally, when you are drawing people you should obviously keep in mind the differences between men and women. For example, when drawing a woman, you will draw smoother, more graceful features. You will draw a proportionately larger pelvis and slender shoulders. When drawing a man, you will draw features with a more rugged, muscular appearance. You will draw broader shoulders and a proportionately larger rib cage.

Drawing Clothing

how to draw clothes clothed figureLook at some of the online images of people who are wearing clothes and you will see that every person wears their clothes differently. Artists who want to learn how to sketch people wearing clothing will have to examine the clothing closely. Take a close look, and you will see a recurrence of seven different kinds of folds:

  • Pipe
  • Zigzag
  • Half-lock
  • Spiral
  • Diaper
  • Drop
  • Inert

Learn how to apply design, details, and these folds, and you can draw practically any type of clothing on a person!

Draw Children Step-By Step

"Ashley" by Jack Pearce
“Ashley” by Jack Pearce

Many of us try to sketch our children because that drawing will act as a personal reminder of how much we love and cherish them. However, there are major differences between an adult’s face and a child’s face. It is all too easy to make a young child look much older when drawn, so it pays to keep a drawing of a child simple. Let’s look at an easy way to draw a child.

  • Sketch a small oval-shaped (but almost circular) head. The younger the child, the more circular the head will be.
  • Divide the small face into four using a vertical and a horizontal line.
  • Make large round eyes that rest on the horizontal guideline. The eyebrows sit above this line.
  • Create a small triangle to form the nose.
  • Draw a curved line to create the young mouth.
  • Add some thick bobbed hair (or thin hair, depending on the subject and age).

This is a simple way to draw a child. The basic sketch is straightforward and the drawing is not detailed, but this easy way of drawing children works well for many. Now the more you draw boys and girls of different ages, the more you will realize other differences between babies, toddlers, school-age kids, and teenagers.

Mastering the Art of Pencil Portraits

Italian portrait artist Franco Clun and Russian portrait artist Olga Larionova create incredibly realistic pencil drawings, yet they never took a formal art class. They are just two examples of how anyone from any background, with enough determination to consistently practice and learn, can eventually become a master portrait artist. Talented artists know how to bring their work to life, but you must never forget that every successful artist started out as an amateur.

It will take time to teach yourself how to draw people. In fact, it could take months or even years to master the craft at a level that you are satisfied with. But practice will improve your drawing, and the people that you draw will start to look more and more realistic. If at first you don’t succeed, try, try and try again! You will see that if you practice on a regular basis, you will not need to wait months. You will realize small successes and make gradual progress with each drawing that will keep you motivated enough to keep at it!

Amateur artists can learn how to draw people with confidence, and beginners shouldn’t be afraid to make mistakes. The information found throughout this site will help you to learn how to draw people, and more importantly, how to eventually become a skilled pencil portrait artist. Make use of our articles, tutorials, and videos, and then start enjoying and employing your artistic talents today!


  1. I wish I could draw people.

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