Four Steps to Drawing an Accurate Likeness

Whether you are working from a live model or a photograph there are some simple techniques you can use to ensure that you get an accurate likeness. Building on my last post “Five Tips to Improve Your Drawing” we will assume you have warmed up and are ready to draw.
1. Begin by taking sightings of your model or photo reference. Measure the length and width of the head with your pencil held between your thumb and index finger, your arm fully extended and elbow locked. Sketch the basic size and shape of the head.
2. Most people’s features follow a few basic rules with some slight variations. Bisect the head both vertically and horizontally. The eyes will be located on the horizontal line. The distance between the eyes equals the size of one eye. You should be able to draw a straight vertical line from the outside of the nostril to the inside corner of the eye. The edge of the mouth should roughly line up with the middle of the eye. The ears generally line up with the eyebrows and bottom of the nose. Check your model against these rules to see where they differ and make those adjustments.
3. Let’s say you have faithfully taken all the sightings you can think of and carefully measured and compared your model with the standard but still something is ‘off’ and you just can’t figure out what it is. Now is a good time to take a break. Walk away from your drawing and look at it with fresh eyes later.
4. So you have walked away and come back, but are still puzzled about what to do next. Take a picture of your drawing or painting and a picture of your model. If you are using a live model make sure he/she is in exactly the pose you are drawing. Scan or upload both pictures into your computer and put them up on the screen side by side. They should be the same size. You will instantly see where you went wrong. Adjust your drawing and take another picture. This time you might notice something else you want to change. I keep taking pictures, comparing and adjusting until I’m satisfied.
I hope these portrait tips will help you to draw better, more accurate likenesses. Please feel free to comment and share your ideas and favorite techniques.


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