In this tutorial, we will draw a head-and-shoulders pencil portrait of Kirstin Maldonado, applying the following principles:
- Work large to small.
- Measure proportions.
- Look for shapes and angles.
To celebrate Kirstin’s recent EP announcement, I’ve selected her EP cover as the reference photo for this tutorial. (I won’t be adding the lettering in this tutorial, but you can if you like!)
We’re going to work large to small, so first we’ll outline the face, hair, and shoulders, after which we’ll place facial features, and then go into finer details.
1. Draw outlines of face, hair, and shoulders
Let’s start by sketching the head shape. First, measure proportions. How does the width of the head at eye level compare to the height? At my estimate, her head’s width (not counting hair) about 2/3 of its height. As typical of the female face, her eye level is about halfway between the top of her head and her chin. I sketch in some guides: a vertical line of symmetry down the face, and crossing it through the middle, an eye level line 2/3 of that length.
Now let’s look for shapes and angles that will help us outline the face. The corners of her jawline are soft, not as angular as Mitch’s, but it looks like they’re slightly in from the head’s full width, and they’d be on level with a horizontal guide line placed halfway between eye level and chin. I’ll sketch in that line now. We also need a guide for the hairline. Conveniently, it’s about halfway between eye level and the top of the head.
Now sketch the jawline, with a soft curve that passes through the jaw corner points we’ve just figured. I’m about to sketch the hairline, but I could use some more help getting the shape right. I see that the corners of the hairline (behind the feathery-lace bangs) line up with the corners of Kirstin’s eyes.
So let’s place points for the corners of the eyes. Jack Hamm‘s triangle rule can help us place the corners of eyes: the mouth, and the corners of the eyes, typically form an equilateral triangle. Kirstin’s face conforms to this rule. So if I place the mouth, that will help me place the corners of the eyes. Kirstin’s mouth is fairly low on her face, below those jaw corner marks we found earlier. Now I use the center of the mouth and the eye level line to form an equilateral triangle; I tend to turn my sketchbook sideways to make sure triangle’s sides are all the same length.
Now that I have the eye corner points, I extend guides up from them to the hairline for the corners I wanted. Connect the dots, and the hairline is sketched.
Next, outline the hair. Let’s go ahead and add her ears to help us place her hair. Her upper hair outline extends from the head a little farther than her ears do, following a round curve on either side of her head up to the crown. (While I was at this, I noticed an error in how I curved the hairline, and I corrected it.) Don’t get lost in the braids and bangs yet; we’re just doing a rough outline.
The part of Kirstin’s hair that’s down flows from behind her ears to the breadth of her shoulders. So let’s place the shoulders to have a point of reference for placing her hair. Let’s start by measuring from chin to collarbone: it looks like just a little more distance than the distance from Kirstin’s mouth to her chin. Some people’s collarbone dips from the shoulders, but as it happens, Kirstin’s is fairly level. So we can go straight out to the side to measure from collarbone to shoulders. About a head’s width either way takes us to a point level with mid-collarbone, where the shoulders are sloping. Connect each of these points to our mid-collarbone point to make our collarbone lines. Then draw gentle curves outward to draw where shoulders become arms.
Next is the neck. It looks like the points where neck meets face are directly below the eye corners. Make a scoop-slope from these points to the shoulder points we found earlier, and you’ve finished outlining the shoulders. Now we’re ready to draw the hair outline that extends from the tops of the ears to the outside of each shoulder.
2. Place facial features
Now we’re ready to draw Kirstin’s face! Measure proportions: the eyes are one eye width a part, and the nose, slightly wider than an eye width, and the mouth, a bit wider than the nose. I add the imaginary line the eyebrows follow; Kirstin’s are quite straight. As I’m sketching the eyes, I draw in the wings from her eye makeup, since these have such a strong effect on how the shape of her eyes is perceived. I draw in the nose shape, and the lips’ shape.
Now it’s time to erase the guides and see what’s left to do.
At this point, I add some details to the eyes to make her look alive. This raises the bar for how well a likeness must be captured. Now I examine the face for anything that needs to be adjusted to look more like Kirstin. At this point I struggle and struggle with nose, mouth, and chin placement. I give the nose its distinctive shape: see how it has width at the bottom but curves in to a narrow bridge? That’s important to get right.
3. Add details and shading
Now that the face looks about right, we’re ready to add other details: sketch the bangs and earrings, outline locks of hair, etc.
Next is shading. For Kirstin, it’s essential to make the shading on her skin soft and smooth. Different artists use different techniques, but I’ve learned as I go that this order of operations works well for shading:
- Identify light levels of different areas of the picture, and lay down rough shading.
- Use a cotton swab to blend until the shading is smooth.
- Use an eraser to make highlights. Blend again if needed.
- Add hair texture and other fine details.
One more word of advice: every so often, step back and look at your work from a distance, or take a picture of it and look at it on a screen. This can help you spot and correct errors that you otherwise might not notice until you’re all done! Right now I’m looking at my shaded picture of Kirstin and seeing things to correct, but I’ll forbear and let my errors be a lesson to you.
Here’s a recap of the steps:
This tutorial is part of a series on how to draw members of Pentatonix: