Considering Lucy Liu is currently starring in the CBS television show Elementary as Dr. Joan Watson, working alongside Sherlock Holmes to solve crimes, I could not resist the reference in this tutorial’s title! Whether you are a fan of the show or not, the title is still fitting if you have ever thought about drawing Lucy Liu.
In this tutorial, we will take the same approach to drawing Lucy Liu that Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson take to solving mysteries. We will make small and careful observations.
So without further ado, let’s see how to draw Lucy Liu!
We will try to draw Lucy as she is depicted in the reference photo below.
This image is slightly larger than the one I used. You can also click on it to enlarge the image even more and get a closer look at details.
We will make some careful measurements to properly place Lucy’s facial features. Additionally, we will sketch some guidelines in the form of boxes and draw the features within those boxes.
I outline the measurements from my reference photo in the steps below, so the only measurements you need to make are for your own drawing. To keep things simple, the drawing is scaled to be twice the size of the reference photo.
Draw an Outline of the Head
The head is 3 inches tall and roughly 2 inches across on the reference photo. In order to draw Lucy’s head twice the size of this, use a ruler on your drawing paper to mark off lines for the top of the head and the bottom of the chin, 6 inches apart. Mark lines 4 inches apart for the width.
If you have trouble making an oval shape for the head, one technique is to begin with a circle. Mark off another 4 inches from the top line to create a 4″ x 4″ box. Sketch your circle within this box as best as you can. It does not have to be perfect!
From the sides of the circle, draw lines downward that meet at the chin to create an oval shape. Notice how the chin is shifted slightly to our left (Lucy’s right).
Correctly Place the Eyes
Three inches from the top of the head, draw a line to represent the top of the eyes. One-fourth of an inch below this should be a line for the bottom of the eyes.
Since we drew a head 6 inches tall, this will place the eyes about halfway down.
I also drew vertical lines to indicate the outside and inside corners of each eye. Drawing within these boxes helps us to see that the inner corners of the eyes are at the bottom corners of the boxes, and the outer corners of the eyes are higher up.
Next, draw circles inside the irises to represent pupils and highlights. Lucy has long eyelashes, so the lines indicated by the blue arrows below are to house her upper eyelashes.
Draw a few more lines to add a little detail, but not too much yet! We will begin shading and adding eyelash strands later. At this initial stage of our drawing, our goal is to establish a basic line drawing of Lucy.
Draw Lines to Place Her Nose
Our reference photo shows three-quarters of an inch from the chin to the bottom of the nose. Three-fourths of an inch x 2 equals one and a half inches.
Draw a rectangle with lines from the corners of the eyes as shown to the bottom of the nose. Another horizontal line 3/8″ above the bottom line will be for the nose tip and wings.
Draw basic curved shapes for the nose bridge, tip of the nose, and wings that house the nostrils.
Add a little more detail to better define the bridge, ball, and nostrils. Form the shapes as closely as possible to the reference photo and try to stay within the rectangular guidelines.
Draw Lucy’s Mouth
Use the measurements below to place a guideline box for Lucy’s mouth. Notice how we use features we already drew to place new features? The black vertical lines in the reference photo show how the outer corners of Lucy’s mouth align with her eyes.
Form the outline of the lips within the box. Then draw a thin top lip…
…followed by the bottom lip and teeth.
Placing the Ear and Eyebrows
Draw a tall rectangular box for the ear. See below how the top of the ear aligns with where the eyebrows should go. The bottom of the ear aligns with the nose just above the nostrils. Study Lucy’s ear in the photo and replicate the folds as closely as you can.
Lightly sketch the eyebrows under the guideline from the top of the ear.
Finish Up the Line Drawing
Now that we have the major facial features drawn, it’s time to wrap up our basic line drawing. Draw lines to define Lucy’s face, neck, and clothing.
Lucy has some prominent cheekbones. Be sure to indicate so by sketching in a way that protrudes past your original oval guideline.
Make the outline for Lucy’s hair. Include a hairline. It does not have to look like natural hair yet. Try using already-drawn facial features as references to where to shape and bend the hairline to match the reference photo.
Now, carefully erase as many guidelines as possible. These include all of your rectangular boxes, measurement lines, and any other basic shapes used to form facial features. I use a pink eraser for large areas and a kneaded eraser and eraser pencil for smaller, tight areas.
This is what you should have for Lucy Liu so far.
Before going any further, take a close look at the reference photo and compare it to your line drawing. Make any needed adjustments before we add shading.
Next we will bring our line drawing of Lucy Liu to life by adding some tones!
Add Detail to Lucy’s Eyes
Begin by coloring in the pupils solid black. Lucy has dark brown eyes, so shade in the irises almost as dark.
Color around the highlights. If you accidentally color over them, use a kneaded eraser to pick them out and brighten them up.
Add some shading around the eyelids. Then begin drawing the eyelashes. Since Lucy appears to have on some thick mascara, the eyelashes are clumped together in thick groups more so than they would be without the mascara. I suggest adding a mix of individual strands alongside the thicker strands.
Add light pencil lines to represent the individual hairs of the eyebrows. See that the lines flow smoothly in the same direction.
Complete Lucy’s Nose, Mouth, and Ear
Once again, look closely at the reference photo when adding tones to other facial features. Look for characteristic traits that bring out the uniqueness of the subject.
For example, I tried to replicate Lucy’s smirk by shading the corners of her mouth in a way similar to what I observed in the photo.
Continue to add a mix of subtle and distinct shading to the skin. Look to enhance facial features and highlight personal character traits.
Add in the Hair in Layers
Begin by drawing hair from the hairline to the back, in the same direction as it is combed. Build volume by adding sections of hair and strands of hair in layers.
It is not necessary to draw each strand of hair. Use a combination of shadows and highlights to build additional volume.
Draw and shade Lucy’s black garment. Leave some lines darker where the seams are visible.
Carefully observe the reference photo. Go back and add any other fine details to the face or hair that you may have missed or wish to include.
There you have it…an objective, measured approach to drawing Lucy Liu! I hope the close observations we made and the drawing techniques we used were able to remove some of the mystery of drawing for you.
Just think of what you learned in this Lucy Liu tutorial when you try to draw other faces. Soon, the task of drawing portraits will no longer be a mystery. Rather, it will be Elementary!