10 Essential Tips for Beginner Portrait Artists


Let's explore 10 essential tips and techniques to help you kickstart your journey as a beginner portrait artist. Whether you're looking to create realistic portraits or express your artistic style, these tips will lay the foundation for your artistic growth.

1. Start with Basic Shapes

As a beginner, it's crucial to simplify complex facial features into basic shapes. Begin by sketching simple circles, ovals, and triangles to outline the head, eyes, nose, and mouth. This technique helps you establish the overall structure and proportions of the portrait, providing a solid foundation for your artwork.

Here is a beginner-friendly classes that will help you simplify the human face in your drawings:

Drawing the Human Head with Mike Creighton

2. Study Facial Proportions

Understanding facial proportions is key to capturing a likeness in your portraits. Learn about the proportions of the face, such as the placement of eyes, nose, and mouth in relation to each other. These classes provide valuable guidance on these fundamental principles, helping you improve your accuracy and realism:

Quick Sketch Portraits with David Tenorio
Drawing Anatomy: The Human Face with Tiffany S. DaVanzo

3. Pay Attention to Lighting

Lighting can dramatically impact the mood and depth of your portrait. Experiment with different lighting setups, such as natural light or artificial sources, to create compelling shadows and highlights.

4. Practice Value and Shading

Mastering value and shading is essential for creating depth and dimension in your portraits. Learn how to analyze and replicate various shades by observing light and shadow patterns on the face.

These classes provide exercises and tutorials to help you develop your shading skills and add realism to your artwork:

Drawing Faces with France Van Stone
Portraits in Pen with Robin Hilthouse

5. Capture the Eyes' Expressions

The eyes are the windows to the soul, and they play a vital role in conveying emotions in a portrait. Practice capturing the intricate details of the eyes, such as reflections, iris colors, and eyelashes. These classes offer guidance on techniques to bring depth and life to the eyes, helping you create captivating and emotive portraits:

Quick Sketch Portraits with David Tenorio
Portraits in Graphite with Derek McClure
Drawing Anatomy: The Human Face with Tiffany S. DaVanzo

6. Don't Neglect the Background

While the subject is the focus of a portrait, the background can significantly impact the overall composition and complement your portrait's overall mood and story. Experiment with different background elements or keep it simple to direct attention towards the subject.

7. Utilize Different Mediums

Explore various art mediums, such as graphite, charcoal, colored pencils, or pastels, to find your preferred medium for portrait art. Each medium has its unique qualities and techniques that can help you achieve different effects. These classes cover less common mediums, allowing you to experiment and find your artistic voice:

Portraits in Watercolor with Dritan Duro
Practicing Portraits with Margriet Aasman
Block Printing with Wildlife Educator Sarah Lynn Bowser

8. Embrace Continuous Learning

Art is a journey of continuous learning and growth. Stay curious and open-minded, seeking inspiration from other artists and art styles. Art challenges like these offer opportunities to learn from a group of experienced instructors and connect with fellow artists, fostering a supportive and inspiring environment to fuel your artistic development.

9. Practice Regularly

Consistency is key to improving your skills as a portrait artist. Dedicate regular time to practice, even if it's just a few minutes a day. These daily-lesson classes provide structured exercises and assignments to help you build a regular practice routine and track your progress.

10. Share and Seek Feedback

Don't hesitate to share your artwork with others and seek constructive feedback. Online art communities like Sktchy and local art groups will help you connect with fellow artists, exchange ideas, and receive valuable critiques. Engaging with a supportive community can accelerate your growth as a portrait artist.

Join the Sktchy community for free here.