There are many approaches to creating a sketch of a person. There is more than just one right way to go about it. I want to share with you one method I discovered that breaks the whole process down into four simple steps. I find this manner to be really helpful for people considering themselves as beginners. So let’s see how to sketch a person in only four steps.
The Steps Needed to Sketch a Person
Here is the reference photo for this tutorial so you can follow along and sketch in however many details you are comfortable with. We have a hiker in the mountains looking at the horizon.
First of all, sketch the outline of the person’s figure. Use light, loose motions of the wrist as you sketch. Think of this almost as a rough silhouette sketch to get down the bare essentials. This beginning step is also a great time to evaluate your proportions. Do the sizes of the head, arms, legs, body, etc. seem realistic? Sketches do not have to be in perfect proportions, but it is nice if they are close.
Next, sketch in the apparent human features. The sketching process involves lots of loose lines that overlap one another. Sketch the facial features and fingers over the guidelines you made in Step 1. It is fine if you see and leave overlapping lines. Below you can see where the nose is sketched to protrude past the line forming the shape of the head.
Now is the time to sketch in the clothing. Remember that this is just a sketch, so there is no need for every little fold to be perfectly in place. Just indicate some general placements of where the fabric bends and moves. If you need more help than what the reference photo can give you, check out my previous post on different types of folds in clothing. Have fun with this. Let your hand move freely as you sketch the lines that form the jacket, pants, shoes, backpack, and other accessories. The amount of detail you add is up to you. You can show more or less than what I have here. You can also sketch some of the snow in the background at this point.
Finally, bring greater dimension to your sketch by adding values to it. The shading style you use is your choice. I mainly went with hatching, with some crosshatching and just coloring in the graphite in the darker areas. Keep looking at the reference photograph to find just a few good places to shade.
There are three components of adding values to your sketches. The shade you see in this sketch is just one of those three components. In the book I talk about after this lesson, it goes over this and the other two components needed to bring just the right form to any sketch you make.
More on Sketching
That is how to sketch a person step by step. I learned about this method while reading a how to sketch book titled, coincidentally enough, How to Sketch. The author of the book, Kerry Godsall, breaks the process down in very easy-to-follow language. That process includes not only how to sketch people but also how to sketch inanimate still life objects, buildings, foilage, landscapes, and animals. The book also covers in greater detail the three components of adding values to sketches that I mentioned in the tutorial.
Hopefully you will try this lesson out on your own. Try it on different subjects. You can use your own reference photographs, and you can also sketch from life. Since the steps are so quick and easy, and you are only making a sketch of a person as opposed to a complex drawing, you do not have to worry yourself with excessive details (if you so choose). The more people you sketch, the quicker and easier the steps will become!