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Teaching Module 2 – How to draw a basic portrait

18 Mar, 2020

Your Materials for this composition

finished - Ennis Art School

Hi this is the second teaching module on how to draw a basic portrait.  Portraiture is a very important area in art, for a secondary student if you are very good at portraits you are practically guaranteed a H1, if you want to win Texaco, the National children’s art competition, the portrait always wins.  Why does the portrait win you ask, well basically if you are out evan by a couple of millimeters the portrait is off, so everything has got to be spot on.  The portrait is relatively easy to do, but once more it is all, practice, practice, practice.  Now everybody can do a portrait, evan the 6 year olds, so have patience and away we go.

This is the portrait that we are going to draw, it is basic straight forward portrait with no perspective.  You can draw this portrait in any medium, pencils, chalks, paint, I will be using chalk pastels.  I will also be using blending sticks (if you do not have blending sticks you can use a rubber with a point or q-tip.  All of these materials can be bought in the Ennis Art Shop which is located in the market.  If you have not access to this shop or they do not have these materials you can buy them on line at

This is the portrait that we will be drawing. But you can get a mirror and draw yourself, using these step by step instructions.


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Step 1

Draw a straight line down the middle of the paper, please do not use a strong colour as you will see it in your end work, a yellow or flesh tone is fine, I will be using stronger colours so you can see what I am doing, but you will see these colours in my end work.

Every time I do a portrait I use a unit of measure which is taken from the eye.  The face is symmetrical, In a symmetrical facethe left and right sides look like each other. But not only are our faces symmetrical but the majority of faces there is only one unit of measure from each aspect of our face, i.e. we take the unit of measure from one side of the eye to the other, now there is only one unit of measure between our eyes and there is only one unit of measure from the side of our eyes to the side of our ears.  One unit of measure down to the end of our nose, one unit of measure down to the end of our chin and three units of measure from the eyebrow to the top of our head.  (Our eye is a circle, which is as tall as its wide, but we have an upper eyelid and lower eyelid, to keep the eye in our socket.  When we take this eye as a unit of measure, we must remember that we are including  the whole eye.  If you feel your face around your eye, you can feel the eye socket, the top of the socket is where your eye brow is and the end is your cheek bone, this is the unit of measure, right to left of the eye, up to the eyebrow and down to the cheek bone.)

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Step 2

Divide the line into 12 equal units, it should be 11 but thats an uneven number, so use 12 as it is easier to half an evan number.  This can be a big problem with younger children.  So if there is an adult around can you draw a straight line and get the child to half it first, (now you have 6 units in each section).  In one of the sections of 6 get the child to half this section, so now it is easier for the child to divide this section into three and they have their unit.

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Step 3

Now count down five units and put a cross into the middle of the 5th unit, this cross represents the middle of face between the eyes

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Step 4

Now draw a line horizontal to the top of the page on the top and bottom of this unit.  Place your unit into the middle of the cross and measure out the units to either side of the cross.

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Step 5

Eyes -Leave the unit in the middle with the cross vacant, this represents the bridge of the nose, and draw a circle in the unit to either side of the unit with the cross. These circles represent the eye sockets.

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Step 6

Draw a horizontal line through the middle of the circles, we use this line to keep the eyes level.

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Step 7

Remember we have a top and bottom eyelid, now draw a semicircle in the right circle over the line running through the middle, this will represent the top eyelid.

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Step 8

Draw a semicircle under the line and do the same procedure on the left eye.

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Step 9

In the middle of the right eye between the two eyelids at the top place a semicircle, this will represent the pupil (the black spot in the eye that you see through) now draw another larger semicircle under the first (this will represent the iris} the coloured section of your eye.

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Step 10

Do the same procedure to the left eye.

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Step 11

Fill in the pupil’s with black.

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Step 12

Now fill in the Iris with the colour of your eyes, remember that you eye will have tone, so for example if your eye is blue, apply light blue, dark blue, white and black to the Iris.  If your eyes are brown, have a look in the mirror, some eyes are so brown they are nearly black, some are light brown with flecks of yellow.  If they are green, again look in the mirror, some have brown in them, etc.  When applying these colours remember to apply the colour’s in a spiral running your chalk from the pupil to the edge of the Iris.  If you have a blending stick you can tone the colours with this, a rubber with a point or a Q-tip also works.

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Step 13

Fill in the area beside the Iris with white and on the inside, the area nearest the nose, put in your tear duct. Add a line under the eye and fill in peach and white.  Also put small white patches in the eyes.  This will give the eye a glassy look.

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Step 14

Before adding the eye lashes fill the space all around the eye first with white then apply your skin colouring, if you are of Northern European origin, i.e. Irish your skin tone will be white, with pink and red maybe with a bit of yellow, have a look in the mirror.  If you are Asian, your skin tone will have more yellows, if you are African, more yellows and browns with maybe some black.  We are now going to add the eye lashes to finish off the eyes.  Notice that the top eye lash rolls out from under the top eye lid and as the eye lashes come over towards the tear duct the get fainter.  For the bottom eye lashes, draw the lashes in a slight curve coming out from the middle of the bottom eye lid.  To finish the lashes all white to the lashes that you have drawn, this will give the lashes tone.  By the way if you are a lad, dont give yourself long eye lashes as it will look very girley.

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Step 15

Now repeat this procedure to the other eye,including eye lashes.

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Step 16

Nose – Now draw a vertical line down the inside of the eye on both sides to the end of the next unit, please do not use black as you will never get rid of it, use yellow.

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Step 17

In the middle of the end line put a small curve.

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Step 18

On either side of this curve draw two filled in ovals, besides these ovals draw twi curves, this is now a drawing of a basic nose.

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Step 19

Mouth – The next thing is to find and position the lips. Put your finger up the nostrils, the small black ovals, and drag the black down, with the same finger drag down a line in the middle, so now you have three black smudges. These smudges will form the curved section on the top lip.

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Step 20

Now draw a smiley face line on the next section, this will form the end of the bottom lip.

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Step 21

Now draw a curve connecting the black smudges, drawn in red and draw a straight line in the middle, between the top an the bottom curve.

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Step 22

Connect the top curve to the side end of each of the middle line.  These are your lips

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Step 23

One unit down, draw a small curve, this is the end of your chin and draw a vertical line one unit out at either side of the eyes, draw a line out from the sides of the eyes to connect with this line, draw a line out from the end of the nose to this line also,we are now going to position the ears inside this space.

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Step 24

Ears & Jawline – The ears are inside these lines, not outside. A basic ear is just two curves, bigger curve on top. Draw a line out from the middle of the mouth to under the ear lobes.

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Step 25

Draw a vertical line down from the ear lobe to connect with the line running from the middle of the mouth.

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Step 26

There are three different types of jaw line, square, which most of us seem to have, round and heart.  Look in the mirror to see what you have.

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Step 27

Once you know what your jaw line is connect the jaw line to the chin.

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Step 28

Count up 3 units from the eyes and make a mark

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Step 29

Now connect this mark to the ears, remember to stay on the inside of the top of the ear lobe.  The top of the head is the shape of an egg, so don’t make it circular or square.

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Step 30

Neck – Draw a line down from the outside edge of the eye down towards the bottom of the page, remember the neck is in perspective so although in reality the neck is connected to the ears, as the head is coming forward in front of the neck, we have to put the neck in perspective, to show it is going back, so the line of the neck will be at the side of the eyes, then curve the line out wards in a curve to form the shoulders.  Now we have finished the form of the face.

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Step 31


TONE, there are three tones in every aspect of your drawing, dark, middle and light tones. Tone is what makes the drawing after creating the form. Rule of thumb, the light tones will bring the drawing forward and the dark tones will push the drawing back. So fill the nose with white and then put your skin tone on top, we have discussed the skin tone when we were applying it around the eyes, in step 14.

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Step 32

Next, fill the whole face in white, as white is your base tone, this is like applying foundation to your skin, if older people are reading this.

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Step 33

Now start to build up your tones, remember to rub the chalks in a circular movement, usually I only use the side of the chalk for this not the tip, as the tone will be more even, apply your pinks, yellows and reds representing the cheek bones, remember your cheek bone is under your eye.  If you are Asian or African apply more yellows, browns, reds, blacks.

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Step 34

Lips – Apply red to the lips pulling the chalk from the middle line up to the top of your lip.

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Step 35

Do the same with the bottom lip, but pull the red out from the middle to the end, this time.

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Step 36

Red is just not enough as you will have to apply your light and mid tones, which would be white and pinks and black in moderation.  Have you noticed that the three black smudges are gone running out of the nose, if they are not gone, just curve the area above the lip and bring the skin down on either side of the lips, that will pull the black out, by the way you will be using light tones here.

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Step 37

Now for the Eyebrows, these are positioned on the top section of the eye unit, apply your colour with light flicks and remember to use your 3 tones.

Hair, we all know it is positioned at the top of your head, but please do not apply the hair like a swimming cap, make sure in has a flow and tone, make sure it is moving and most important, please keep your hair to the side of your ears not flying all over the place, keep your hair on your head.  Watch your tones, if your hair is brown, use brown, black and red, blonde yellow, brown and white, use the tones to make the hair move.

finished - Ennis Art School

The last thing is to put black under the chin, to push the face forward, but some black at either side of the neck to curve the neck away and put your lighter skin tones in the middle of the neck to bring the neck forward in the middle.

This is your portrait finished, remember you can send the images to me by email at and I will load them up under this teaching module, please make sure you include your name and class.  If your work needs correcting I will correct it and send it back.  Every body can do portraits, down to the 6 year olds, I am going to include some images of portraits created here at Ennis Art School, starting off with the young children and working up to the teenagers.  Practice makes perfect, so practice, practice, practice.