Sunday, 31 August 2014

How to draw portrait from photograph


Firstly, Few words regarding portrait drawing from photograph reference. When you want to draw a person from a photograph,  you need to have all the features in exactly the same place and a lot of attention is required for finer details to achieve an acceptable level of realism. I find the grid method best suits this.
If you have the reference digitally, find out how to make grid here:

This is my reference photo with grid


If you have a printed reference and u don't want to mess it up with lines, construct the grid on a OHP sheet & attach it over the photo taping it on all
sides. You can photocopy a graph sheet on to the OHP sheet if u find it tedious to draw lines.
Well with that little piece of info, we'll go straight into the process.

Step 1:
Constructing the grid.

I Took an A4 size butter/trace paper. u can use any size u want but make sure your original drawing sheet and the paper are of the same size. Also any paper can be used for the grid and rough sketch.i used this because it is thinner, so i don't  have to apply too much pressure when transferring to the original sheet.
As I have already mentioned, you can directly use a graph sheet here to eliminate this step.
Use a hard lead pencil (2H) to construct the grid.
Here, I have constructed 20×14 squares for the A4 size . First draw the outermost rectangle 20×14 cm. Then make marks at one centimetre interval on all four sides. Join the opposite points & the grid is ready.



Step 2:
Drawing the face
Use the grid guidelines from your reference photograph and try to recreate the same on the sheet of paper, one square at a time. If you concentrate carefully on each square, then the final picture will turn out perfectly.



Step 3:
Shading the template

Use a soft lead pencil (I have used 5B)  to shade the back of the template sheet. It glides smoothly and the shading is uniform. The higher number, the better. Make sure you cover all the areas where the lines are present. This is especially tricky when you use a opaque paper. It's better to cover the whole sheet in such cases.


Step 4:
Transferring the image

Stick the template over the drawing sheet using tape on all four sides.  Since  both papers are of same size, it is easy to position one on top of the other & can be replaced exactly again if needed. Also, the adhesive in the tape is not touching the original sheet so any tape can be used.
Draw over the lines with the tip of an empty ballpoint pen. Make sure you go over all the lines. Fixing a starting point and proceeding in a single direction will help to avoid missing any lines. For example from top left to bottom right.
Peel off the tape after completion. U'll have a mild outline of all the required areas in your drawing sheet. Now you can proceed with sketching and adding the details with the medium of your choice. U can store the template and use it for future projects if you want to recreate the same or try out with a different medium.


I proceeded with coloured charcoal for this portrait. Click the link below if you want to take a look at the step by step process and final outcome.

Create.Have fun

List of materials used:

A4 size trace paper (I used the one which comes along with OHP sheets)
A4 size drawing sheet (tulip artist drawing pad)
2H,2B,5B apsara drawing pencils
Mechanical pencil 0.5 mm for fine lines
Eraser, scale
Empty ballpoint pen
Adhesive tape



  1. Thanks for the tips and step tutorial Rhizwana.. :)

  2. aw am so glad you found it useful Radhika :)