How To Draw A Portrait Step-By-Step


The above images demonstrate “blocking in” the drawing before adding the lighting and shading. The blocking in phase is where you can make adjustments to the features, head angles and basic proportions.


Welcome to the portrait drawing lesson

Now I am not trying to scare you but….well y’know

How to draw a portrait for beginners step by step

Ah … so you want to draw life-like portraits of your loved ones, friends, and celebrities. You want to draw portraits because you want to show off your drawing skills to your adoring fans. Or you just want to draw portraits because you  ——  like a good challenge.

Those are great reasons.

That’s why you REALLY want to learn to draw in the first place. Isn’t it?





I will try not to disappoint, but I’ll warn you this is where most beginners give up drawing and run away screaming,

“Get me the hell out of here. I have no talent for drawing. ”

Portrait work is difficult, frustrating, agonizing, and confusing … but doable.

Sort of like playing golf.

I am not going to lie.

Drawing lifelike portraits requires work! Tis not for the faint of heart or those who do not want to accept a good challenge.

A realistic portrait can take anywhere from 1 to 10 hours or longer depending on the realism you want to achieve and the skillset that you have.

 Here’s the good news:

Portrait drawing is doable even for someone with zero drawing experience. All it takes is practice.

Even the pros struggle with portrait work.

Think of portrait drawing like putting together a 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle or climbing a mountain or running a marathon.

Why do people do them? For the challenge. For the satisfaction. For the enjoyment.  For whatever…to achieve their personal best at something.

There isn’t one reason why people do them. People do them because..

There are many benefits to portrait drawing.

Even if you cannot get a good likeness, the pursuit can prepare someone for other forms of art such as graphic art, animation and, illustration.

If you have never drawn or have little experience with drawing basic heads and faces, then I recommend Chris Hart’s book “Cartoon Faces How to draw heads, features, and expressions.”

The lessons cover the placement of facial features, head shapes, and expressions It’s a great book to start your portrait journey.

 There are many ways to draw portraits and.. many ways to teach them. Unfortunately when it comes to picking one way to do them, well, there just isn’t one way. There are just too many positions that the face can be in and various ways to draw them.

 As a beginner, You have to experiment with different, books, courses, and instructors until you find an approach that works for you. Then you must practice.  

 I will not do a deep dive into the intricacies of portraits because it is way beyond the scope of this website.


We will cover the basic views

  • front,
  • side,
  • and 3/4 turn of the head.

These are the basic poses that will get you off to a good start.

We will introduce the features including the head, and neck.

Well also, do a lesson on how to measure.

You should be able to estimate the differences between 1/4, 1/2, and 1/3 of distances and dimensions.

Most portrait lessons divide up the head into thirds, quarters, and halves. The more comfort you have with dividing the head and face the faster you’ll learn to draw lifelike portraits.


At the end of the lessons, you should be able to draw a face that looks like a face. But, Capturing a likeness or an expression will require advanced study and more practice.

But don’t despair because these lessons will give a good foundation that can help with advanced coursework.

We will cover the formulaic approach to drawing a basic head, which is based on the Loomis method.

Loomis’s method builds on the construction of the head at various positions and angles. His method can be hard for most beginners to follow.

I urge you to take a look at his book and get an idea of the generic head.

Don’t get discouraged if you cannot replicate the drawings.  The book explains rather than shows “how to draw the head in various positions.” The drawings are minimal but can help once you develop your own system of drawing a basic head.

There will be lessons on how to draw the features as well.

  • Eyes
  • Ears
  • Nose
  • Hair/facial hair
  • And mouths, teeth, and lips

The features are important, but don’t get hung up drawing the features in this lesson!

I want you to focus on getting the head shape, proportions, size, and angles as accurate as possible.

We will touch on shading and highlights as well. Then we will circle back to the features.


Without further ado, let us begin.

 “Think of the face as a planar object instead of a circle.”

 Lesson 1: The Front View

The features will lie in planar areas around the face instead of on flat surfaces.

  1. Draw a circle. (You can use a compass to draw a more accurate circle.)
  2. Divide the circle into equal thirds horizontally


  1. Take the bottom third of the circle and extend it to the bottom of the chin.
  2. The top third of the circle is the hairline and forehead region.
  3. The second third of the circle is the top of the brow line and tip of the nose.

  1. Right below the brow line is where the eyes go. (About 1/3 the distance)
  2. The bottom of the circle is the bottom of the nose line
  3. The mouth goes between the nose line and the chin line. You can eyeball the distance until it looks right. The mouth line is about 1/3 below the nose line or a little more.

Time to Add the features.

We will draw basic shapes for the eyes, nose and ears and use them as place holders. There’ll be lessons on how to draw each feature.

9. Let’s start of with the eyes. The space between the eyes is one eye ball wide. Or another way you can measure is draw five eyes across the brow line. The second and fourth space are where the eyes go

10. Now you have your basic face shape. You can draw in a basic eyelid and circles for the iris and pupils of the eyes. No need to get to detailed about the eye at this point. We are just outlining the placement on the face.

11. Next, You can block in the eyebrows. They are about 1/3rd the distance from the eye lids. Draw them in thicker near the bridge of the nose and gradually thin them out towards the edge of the forehead. Male eyebrows are more rectangular and females are more semi-circular.

Then, take the inner portion (the tear ducts)  of the eyes and extend a line to the nose line. Place a dot on either side. This is where the outer wings of the nostrils will go.

Draw two parenthesis around the dots you made for the nostrils. Then draw a U shaped line in between and darken the ends of the U.

To give the nose that realistic 3D look requires shading around the side planes of the nose to bring out the top plane of the nose. (Remember the shading drill? It’s time to add the 12 concepts of art to your portrait drawing lessons)

The Nose

Think of the nose as a planar object. The top plane and the two sides.

The light is going to hit the top plane and put the sides into shadow. (Depending on the direction of the light source and the angle of the head)

The Mouth

Draw another line from the middle of the eye and extend it where the mouth goes. (About 1/3rddown from the nose line) This is for the corners of the mouth.  For now just draw a basic line for the mouth. We will cover the lips in another lesson or you could give it a shot here.

TIP: draw the line of the mouth in a gentle semi circular way. Think of the face as a cylinder and wrap the mouth line around it. Use a dull pencil and draw light line for the mouth,

Then draw a bow-shaped line on top ( fultrum)  and draw a line below the center line of the mouth.

( The top of the lip is called cupid’s bow)


The Ears

The top of the ears start at the eye line and the bottom is placed at the nose line.



Proper shadow and shading gives images that 3D look: full of depth and dimension!

I recommend  that you do this lesson multiple times before moving on to the next lesson. Placement of the features at the appropriate distances can be difficult for most beginners.

Get comfortable with measuring distances and placement of the eyes, ears, nose, mouth, and lips. Don’t worry about the specific shapes. We will cover that in a different lesson. Right now just draw in the basic shapes.

The big take away: Learn how to break down the head and face into thirds and where to place the features on the face.

Don’t move on until you do this lesson at least 10 times. Try different shapes of the head and angles of the mandible. ( Wide, narrow, large, small etc.)


Try drawing different size circles and draw the features at the appropriate distances and dimensions.

Challenge: Look at real pictures of faces and see if you can replicate them. Trace out the image first then see if you can draw it.


You can watch other tutorials and trace a basic head shape while learning. But after awhile you should be able to draw the basic front view without any visual aid or tutorial. I’ve also included additional material for this lesson.

Let me know in the comments section if this lesson helped. Remember portrait drawing requires practice and advance coursework. These lessons should get you off to a good start.

Here’s to good drawing!


Leave a Comment


Enjoy this blog? Please spread the word :)

Follow by Email