Lesson 4: How to Draw with Accurate Proportions

How to draw with accurate proportionsProportion simply refers to the size relationships between objects. If you want to draw a subject or scene with accurate proportions, you must employ proper techniques and train your eyes over time.

When drawing, most of my time is spent on measuring, comparing, re-measuring and re-comparing. The more time you spend trying to improve the accuracy of your drawing, the better you will “see”.

How to Draw With Correct Proportions

I’m going to introduce a few techniques to measure and check your accuracy. When you draw, it’s best to use as many measuring techniques as possible. You can use these techniques in any order, wherever you see fit.

I like to measure my subject before, during and sometimes even after I finish my portraits.

Measuring before I draw helps me understand what I’m seeing and familiarize myself with the subject. It’s very helpful when drawing portraits of people I’ve never seen before.

Measuring after I draw is a way for me to do a final check to find mistakes that I may have missed and a way to gain confidence in the finished product. You should never leave measuring to the very end!

Important: If you’re following along, you’ll want to use very light pressure so you can easily erase any mistakes you make.


1. Measure with Your Pencil
2. Check Relationships Between Objects on the Vertical and Horizontal Axis
3. Check Angles
4. Observe Negative Space

#1: Measure with Your Pencil

To draw something accurate in relative size, you can use your pencil and thumb as a measuring tool to measure the relationships between body parts or objects in a scene. Here’s how to do it:

Maintain Accuracy Across All Measurements

Before you make any measurements, it’s important to understand how to maintain accuracy throughout the measuring process.

How to draw with accurate proportions _ How to hold your pencilRaise your pencil up directly in front of your eye without bending your elbow. If you bend your elbow, it will be very difficult to maintain consistent measurements. This could result in compounding mistakes. Since your arm is pivoting from your shoulder, not from your eye, your measurements will not remain accurate throughout the process. To combat this, lower your eye as close to your shoulder as possible to get the most accurate measurements from start to finish.

If you’re drawing from a reference image, there’s no need to worry about bending your elbow or tilting your head because you can measure directly up against the reference photo.

If you’re not comfortable measuring with a pencil, you can use a proportion drawing tool.

Measure Your Subject’s Length and Width

How to draw with accurate proportions_Measuring


Use the tip of the pencil and the tip of your thumb to measure the height of your subject’s head. To find out how tall he is, move your hand down slowly, counting how tall your subject is in head units. For this example, my subject is equal to 8 heads. These units are relative, so you can draw the subject much larger or smaller compared to the original size of the reference image.

Let’s say I already drew the head and then decided I might as well draw the rest of the body too. Since I know the man is 8 heads tall, all I need to do is measure the head in my drawing and multiply that by 8 to find out where I’ll need to draw his feet.


You can do the same thing for the width as well. Simply measure the head’s length and then turn your pencil horizontally. You can figure out the width of the head as well as the shoulders, waist, etc.
Note: Sometimes, the relationship between two body parts will not be a whole unit. In this case, you will need to search for other relationships or do your best to eyeball that part of the sketch.


How to Transfer that Information to Your Sketchbook

How to draw with correct proportionsWhat’s the maximum length you want for your drawing? Once you decide, make a tick at the top and bottom of the sketchbook. It will help if you draw a vertical line down the entire page to align the ticks perfectly.

Since we know the man is equal to 8 heads tall, we can confidently divide the space into 8 equal sections vertically. Double check that the spaces are all even. You can use a ruler to do this. Now that I have my ticks, I know the exact height and width to draw the head.

How to draw with accurate proportions _ Transfer onto paper 2

Measure and Compare Other Parts of the Body

You can use this technique to measure all other parts of the body to get a good idea of the size relationships between each. This is very useful when you’re drawing several people in one scene. How do you know how tall or wide to draw one person compared to another? How big do you draw a child’s head compared to her parents?


  • The buttock is equal to 2 head units.
  • The right shoe is slightly smaller in total width than the left shoe.
  • Etc…


If there’s another person in the scene, you can compare the 2 bodies against each other so you know how wide to draw the second person or how big their head is compared to person #1.

#2: Check Relationships Between Objects on the Vertical and Horizontal Axis

proportion sketch comparison

Getting the sizing right is great, but it’s also important to know where to align everything. Let’s say you already jumped ahead and made a rough sketch. You got the length and width of each body part right, but something just doesn’t seem quite right.

In the examples below, I’m using vertical and horizontal lines to find out where certain body parts are aligned.

How to draw using the sight size method _ Vertical and Horizontal Relationships ComparisonIf you look at the first row of images, you’ll find that the following statements are true:

Image 1: The right shoulder and right buttock are aligned perfectly on the vertical axis.
Image 2: The middle of the head is in line with the inner side of the right foot.
Image 3: The bottom of the left shoe comes down to the middle of the right shoe.
Image 4: The left elbow is lower than the right elbow.

If you compare the top row to the bottom row, you’ll notice that 3 of these observations do NOT match the sketch. Now I know what’s wrong with my sketch and what I need to fix.

Tools you can use

To get accurate vertical/horizontal measurements of your subject, you can use the following tools:

  • A pocket level tool
  • A weight on the end of a string, aka a plumb bob + line (works for vertical measurements only)
  • Your pencil: Put your pencil up in front of your eye and align it with a straight horizontal or vertical edge, lock that angle in place and then move your hand back over to your subject. You can reference a straight edge such as a flat horizon line or perfectly straight poll if you’re outside. If you’re indoors you can reference the edge of the floor or the side of a wall. Make sure your vertical/horizontal references do not change!

If you’re drawing from a photo reference, you can simply use a ruler or pencil. Press the ruler flat up against the photo and align it to the edges of the paper. For super accurate measurements, you may want to try a drawing board with an inbuilt transparent ruler.

If you’re drawing from a digital reference, you can use an image editing software to draw lines directly onto the photo.

#3: Check Angles

Angles are especially hard to eyeball. For this dilemma, I use a sliding technique. What you want to do is hold your arm out between your eye and the subject without bending your elbow and then tilt your pencil at an angle until the edge of the pencil matches the angle you’re checking. Then carefully slide your hand in front of your drawing while holding the pencil as still as possible.

How to draw with correct proportions_angles

Important: Your sketchbook must be in a fairly upright position, sitting on something stable such as an easel and aligned fairly close to your subject for accurate results. As a beginner, you want to minimize the amount of travel time while you’re moving your hand from the subject to the sketchpad.

If you lost your grip and lost the angle, don’t worry. Sketch it anyway by making your best guess, then verify your line by repeating the process above until you get the angle just right.

You can use the same sliding technique to measure the relationship between several body parts. For example: the angle from the bottom of the seagull’s foot to the end of its tail feathers.

No doubt this is a tedious process. The more you do it, the faster you’ll become. Over time, you will tune your eyes to draw more accurately, allowing you to do all of this at a quick glance.

#4: Observe Negative Space

If you find it easier to draw geometric shapes like squares, triangles or circles than it is for
you to draw detailed subjects like people and animals, here’s a useful technique you can add to your drawing process.

Look a the negative space around your weirdly shaped subject to find familiar shapes such as triangles or circles that are easy for your brain to recognize. Shifting your focus from the subject to the space around it will change the way you see, perhaps simplifying it, which will allow you to make more sense of things.


Important things to remember

#1: Don’t press too hard
Keep your lines light. Make sure everything is in the right place before you start adding details and shading.

#2: Always triple check and cross-check
Measuring once or twice is not enough. Small errors that you make in the beginning can add up to bigger mistakes in the end. So make sure you do your due diligence. I like to measure my subject before, during and even after I’ve completed the drawing.

#3: Spend A LOT of time measuring to get the best results
The more time you spend, the more accurate your drawing will be.

#4: Use all the techniques above In any order you want
…just make sure you try all of them.


Homework Assignment

I have 4 images here, each with an increasing level of difficulty. Your homework this week is to use the techniques in this lesson plus what you learned in the previous lessons to draw your most accurate representation of each image.

How to measure correct proportions homeworkOnce you’re done, you can post your work on the RFA Facebook page, which is where I’ll post my left-handed homework assignment as well. If you submit your 4 drawings on Facebook, I will feature your work down below with a link to your facebook page so other readers can check you out. Feel free to draw other subjects or scenes as well!

If you want constructive feedback, please write “constructive feedback request” somewhere in your facebook reply :)

Happy drawing!


Readers Who Completed the Challenge!

José Perez


Kara T.

Go to Lesson 5 –>

Lesson 4: How to Draw with Accurate Proportions Read More »

Lesson 3: Going From 2D to 3D

How to Draw Form and Volume 3DIn this lesson, we’re going to focus on how to give our sketches a 3 dimensional quality.

At the end of this lesson, we’re going to revisit our homework assignments from the previous 2 lessons and apply the techniques from lesson 3. If you haven’t read and applied what you learned in lesson 1 and 2, I encourage you to visit them before you read on.

Lesson 1: How to Sketch

Lesson 2: Learn to See Things Differently


Drawing in 2D vs 3DWhen drawing something realistically, we’re depicting what a 3D object will look like on paper. In reality, the objects drawn are actually 2D because they have no physical depth.

How in the world can we draw something that looks 3D, while in reality being flat on the page?


What Makes Drawings Look 3D?

Many factors contribute to this. I’m only covering a few in this lesson and will sprinkle more in the following lessons.


The image below shows you 2D objects being transformed into 3D. I added some shading for you to visualize it better.

How to Draw Form_3D objects with shadowsThe reason why these objects look 3D is because I’ve given them additional faces. Each face is called a plane and each plane is facing a different direction. Multiple planes on one object give the illusion of depth. You can now imagine each object having volume.

It’s easy to draw 3D objects when they have obvious vertices or hard edges, but what about weird shapes like circles, blobs, or even people? How do you define the planes/faces on a round object? That’s where contour lines come in.


Contour Lines

The first row of objects below appear completely flat. You could say they each have one face.

How to draw 3D shapes_Contour Lines

In the second row, the objects have lines wrapped around them which make you visualize their many sides. These lines are called contour lines because they follow the form of the object. Contour lines can run in any direction along the surface of an object to help you create the illusion of form, giving the object a more meaningful shape.


When to Use Contour Lines

Here are some examples of when you can make use of contour lines.

Drawing Faces:

If you’re drawing a character whose face is tilted, contour lines will act as guidelines to help you find out where to place features on the face, such as where to draw the eyes, nose and mouth. Notice how the eyes on the cat in the second row wrap around the face more naturally. The nose and mouth are also aligned properly down the center of the face compared to the first cat.

2D vs 3D cat sketch example RFA

Here’s a more obvious example – a creature with 6 eyes:

How to Draw Contour Lines and Eyes_ spider example

Use your imagination to think of where you can make use of this technique. Perhaps a belt around Santa’s large stomach, a ring around a finger or a headband around someone’s head.


Defining Surfaces

Contour lines can be used to accentuate curves. Observe how the lines used in the examples below make a big difference in how the subject is perceived: Full lips versus flat lips. The more curved my lines are, the more plump the lips appear to be.

Here’s an example of a flower. When you look at the flower on the right, the stripes of each petal are curved. The curves follow the shape of each petal.

Flower contour lines example


When Should You Draw in 3D?

The short answer is: whenever possible.

First of all, whether you’re drawing a transparent or opaque object, you’ll want to approach it the same way. As a beginner, it’s always a good idea to draw all sides of the object. This practice will help you improve accuracy, so you can draw objects that make more sense.

Using the toy car example below, drawing the entire object in 3D helps me know where to draw each wheel instead of guessing where they should go.

2D vs 3D Car example


How to Draw in 3D

Since this lesson is an introduction to 3D, I want you to focus on only a few things to begin with.

Drawing Objects with Vertices and Hard Edges

This is the quick and simple method because it doesn’t account for perspective (something I will cover in lesson 6):

Steps: Draw a simple shape with corners, duplicate that shape, draw lines to connect the vertices together and then shade the object.

Tip: If you draw your second shape lighter than the first, it will appear further away.

How to draw 3D objects step by step_edges and vertices

For shapes with round edges, draw your connecting lines at the outer-most edges. If you size your shapes differently like the example below, it will give your drawing an added layer of depth. However, as mentioned above, this freehand method is quick but not very accurate compared to what we’ll be learning in lesson 6.

How to Draw 3D Round Edged Shapes Examples

For cylindrical shapes like cups, jars, pop cans and vases, you can use the method below: Draw your 2D object and then add ellipses to the top, bottom and/or sides.

How to Draw Cylindrical Objects

By changing the diameter of your ellipses, you can tilt your cylindrical shape more or less, as illustrated in the example below:

How to draw 3d objects on paper ellipse size
A bowl drawn from different angles

This idea can also be applied to drawing faces. You can change the direction you want your subject to face by changing the diameter of each ellipse or ring.

In the image below, assume that the sphere in the center is facing straight towards you. The point at which the 2 rings cross is the very front of the sphere.

As you look to the left, each sphere starts facing more towards the left side. The opposite applies to the right side. If you want a character to look up or down, you can apply the same idea to the horizontal ring.

How to draw contour Lines
Manipulate the vertical or horizontal ring to change the direction your character is facing.


Drawing Irregular Objects

Contour lines help you turn irregular 2D shapes into 3D. You can influence the way a viewer perceives your drawing by manipulating its contour lines. However, this process comes with some practice. If your contour lines do not accurately represent the shape you are drawing, for example, a sphere, your viewer will not perceive a sphere.

Here’s an example of how contour lines can manipulate your perception. I’ve shaded each object to better illustrate what I mean. Contour lines + shading make a powerful pair!

How to Draw Using Contour Lines _ Circle Example RFA 4

Tip: If your lines curve near the edge of your object, it makes the viewer think there is more on the other side, which magically lifts the object off the page.

A sphere, if observed from any side, has the outline of a circle shape. So if you want to draw a sphere, use various ellipses as contour lines.

A series of narrow rings will give you a pebble-like form, while a series of wide rings will give you a wider, rounder form. Here are some examples of what I mean. For each shape below, I’m showing you the front of the shape and the side view.

No matter what shape it is that you want to add contour lines to, always visualize it from different angles so you can create contour lines that best describe the form.

The ability to draw good contour lines takes a lot of visualization and practice. Once you understand it, it’ll be one of the greatest tools in your toolkit!


Summary of the Above

In short:

  • You can make things look 3D by indicating that your subject has multiple planes.
  • Use contour lines for irregular objects like circles, blobs, etc.
  • Always sketch in 3D. Your final drawings will look more accurate.
  • To draw a 3D object with vertices: draw 1 shape, duplicate it, connect the vertices and then shade it.
  • To draw irregular shapes such as spheres or blobs: use a series of contour rings.


Your Homework for the Week

Your assignment for the week is to take a look at your drawings from lessons 1-2 and recreate as many drawings in 3D or incorporate contour lines in them if you haven’t done that already. I’ll be submitting my left-handed homework to facebook. You’re welcome to share your homework on there as well :)

A great way to practice drawing contour lines is to grab a newspaper, magazine or a few pictures off the internet and draw over them! If you want more examples, head over to Google Images and search for “object wireframe” or “animal wireframe” etc and study the images. You can use them as reference while you practice drawing contour lines.

If you want to try a more difficult exercise, check out these cool pictures here. Try creating forms using only contour lines. Here’s a simple tutorial you can use to draw a hand: http://www.handimania.com/diy/3d-handprint.html

This week’s challenge: Turn 15 2D objects into 3D sketches. These objects can be anything from apples, chairs, milk cartons to light bulbs. Submit your drawings to the RFA Facebook page and I’ll feature your artwork below! Each transformation must have a 2D column and 3D column similar to the example below:

Have fun!

If you’re waiting for the next lesson, sign up to my special mailing list in the sidebar or follow me on facebook!

Update: Click here for lesson 4


Readers Who Completed the Challenge!

Kevin Stockard


Manjistha Rawat

Lesson 3: Going From 2D to 3D Read More »

Lesson 2: Learn to See Things Differently

How to draw what you see RFAFirstly, I’d like to thank everyone who left feedback and commented on the course so far. Thank you for your support! I really appreciate your feedback and look forward to working with all of you toward your goals!

If you’re committing to this course, I hope you share your progress with me – it’s the most rewarding part of what I do :) If you check out my Facebook page, you’ll notice that I’ve posted my homework assignment for lesson #1 already. You can also see other readers’ artwork posted there as well.

In this lesson, you will learn several things:

  • How to draw faster! (individual objects and entire scenes)
  • How to make your drawing look closer to reality
  • How to draw objects and people that are more structurally sound


Do your drawings look similar to the one below?

This is an example of how I used to draw when I first started out. I would trace the object with my eyes while translating what I saw to the paper immediately without really thinking about the rest of the object. It’s even more exaggerated when drawing complicated subjects.

If you’re like me, the reason why our drawings are so distorted is because we’re so focused on a single area instead of looking at the big picture. This is called tunnel vision.

This tutorial takes you a step back, shifting your focus away from the details, allowing you to see the world differently, which will change the way you draw for the better.


Breaking the World Down into Simple Shapes

Everything we see around us can be broken down into a series of simple shapes.

Whether it be an individual object or an entire scene, you can break it down in your mind with a little concentration.


Let’s hop into a quick example!

What are the shapes that make up this pepper mill?How to break objects down into simple shapes RFA

For me, it’s 1 circle, 2 ovals, 2 rectangles and a trapezoid. It might be different for you.

Let’s arrange these shapes into a pepper mill resembling the one above:

Wait, that doesn’t look right does it?

That’s because I skipped over a very important step! The overall shape of the object!

Take a step back, squint your eyes until the details fade away and tell me the one shape you see that could represent the pepper mill’s general form.

Breaking Down Objects into simple shapes stage 1

For me, it’s a rectangle. Let’s try drawing the pepper mill again:

How to break an object down into simple shapes

That’s much better! The first rectangle provides a container for the rest of the shapes to fall into, allowing you to create 1 solid object. Pretty neat, eh?

So, do people actually draw like this?

Yes, a lot of artists do, but most of them do it in their minds. That means they can do all of this without planning it out on paper first. That’s a valuable skill that will come with lots of practice!

Let’s recap! The entire process can be broken down into 3 simple stages:


Stage 1: Sketch the Overall Structure

This is where you look at your subject’s form and sketch a simple shape that represents the overall structure. The more simple it is, the better! If you can’t decide on one shape, that’s fine! Sometimes it’s easier to sketch several shapes instead of just one.

How to break objects down into simple shapes Stage 1jpg

Creating a boundary or outline of your object allows you to think about the object as a whole instead of focusing on one specific spot at a time.

If you pay close attention, you’ll see that I only outlined the head, body and wings of the fly and not the legs. It’s okay to leave portions of your subject out to make it easier for you to visualize a solid shape.

Stage 2: Identify Secondary Shapes

How to break objects down into simple shapes Stage 2

These are the general shapes that make up the fly. In this example, I’ve used 4 ovals. If you find that you made a mistake in stage 1, it’s okay to revise it as you continue to work on the drawing.

Stage 3: Define the Subject

Continue sketching until you join all the shapes together into one solid object, insect, person, etc. When you finish your drawing, the shapes you drew in stage 1-2 shouldn’t be so obvious anymore.

Here’s a better example of joining shapes into one object

This may be a simple exercise, but it shouldn’t be overlooked. If you’ve ever struggled with a drawing before, revisit it using this technique and see how it works for you.


Let’s Apply this to a Scene

No matter how complicated a scene is, this technique can help you plan out your entire drawing in just a few short minutes. It also helps when you’re drawing from life because you can draw a lot faster when you see the world in shapes.

Blocking out areas of your drawing allows you to make sure all the elements are in the right place before you commit to drawing the entire scene in detail. You can also very easily gauge the size of each element in your drawing and revise it in the first stages. Nothing is set in stone! We have erasers for a reason :)

How to Draw a Scene Quickly by breaking it down RFA

For this example, I could  have drawn a bunch of triangles for stage 1, but it would look very messy and confusing to start.

Since it’s a mountain range, it’s easy to find other shapes that make up such a huge mass. You can divide areas of the mountain up by grouping certain sections together by difference in overall value, distance, etc.

The couple standing side by side fit perfectly into a rectangle, so I drew a rough one and eventually split it in half.

The entire process can be as quick or as well thought out as you want it to be. Generally speaking, the more time you spend, the more precise your drawing will be, but you’re minimizing the amount of practice you get.


More Examples

I was a slow learner in school and really appreciated when teachers took time to give different examples because I learned a lot better that way. If you’re like me, this section is for you!

Examples how to draw faster


Once you get the hang of it, you’ll start to see shapes everywhere you look!

Nadia, that flower example is for you. Hope it helps :)


Your Homework Assignment for the Week

Pack up your sketchbook and go for a little walk. Find a place to sit, relax and draw what you see in front of you. Don’t be afraid of drawing moving things and people. The more practice you get, the faster you’ll be able to draw.

Try limiting the amount of space you have on the page and see if you can draw faster that way. Experiment with different ways to draw a single scene or subject to challenge yourself even further.

If you want to draw from pictures to get the hang of it first, visit sites like Flickr or Pinterest to get some ideas. You can search for “nature scenes”, “home interiors” or pictures of “food”. Get creative and draw a huge variety of things so you can train your brain to look at the bigger picture, shifting your focus off the details.

My challenge to you is to draw 3 scenes and 5 individual subjects using what you’ve learned in this lesson. Take a picture or scan your work and post it on my Facebook page under the post for Lesson 2. I’ll feature your artwork here if you can complete the challenge!

If you simply want to share your homework and don’t want to participate in the challenge, you’re very welcome to!

You can expect to see my left handed homework assignment posted to Facebook sometime this week.

If you’re waiting for the next lesson on going from 2D to 3D (drawing volume), sign up to the special mailing list in the sidebar or follow me on facebook to get an update when new lessons are out!

Update: Click here for lesson 3

Have any questions? Leave them below!

If you have any friends that would benefit from this course, share it with them using the share buttons below :)

Readers Who Completed the Challenge!

Nika Andrienko


Kevin Stockard


Manjistha Rawat





Lesson 2: Learn to See Things Differently Read More »

Lesson 1: How to Sketch

How to Sketch for Beginners

Click here to read the introduction to the course if you missed it!

Drawing is simply the process of layering shapes, lines, scribbles and values on top of each other until you get your desired result.

In this first lesson, we’re going to focus on the process of sketching. If you can make a mark on a piece of paper, you can learn how to sketch! You don’t need to be able to draw straight lines or perfect circles in order to be an artist.


Introduction to Sketching

Sketching is the process of roughly scribbling an idea on paper. It allows you to bring your ideas to life quickly so you can save time in the long run. It’s a great way to brainstorm!

learn to sketch for beginners _ bike exampleThe awesome thing about sketches is that they usually blend in or fade away while you continue to build upon the concept of your drawing.

So don’t be afraid to make mistakes!

This stage is meant for exploration! When I make a mistake, I find ways to use that mistake to my advantage. If I can’t, I’ll simply move on.

sketching for beginners _ bike example 2
Can you tell this sketch was created using one of the rough sketches above?


How to Sketch

It’s best to use free flowing lines that are loosely and lightly drawn. To do that, adjust your grip on the pencil so that your hand is relaxed instead of tense. If your hand usually gets tired after you’ve drawn for less than an hour, you’re probably gripping it too tightly.

how to sketch for beginners _ dos and dontsIt’s okay if your lines are wobbly because you may not be used to drawing certain lines and curves yet. Drawing is very different from writing, so you’ll need to improve your muscle memory by drawing as frequently as you can!

When making an initial sketch, you’ll want to leave your perfectionism behind and focus on general shapes. Think about the size, shape, angle, etc. The last thing you want to think about is detail!


Let’s Sketch Something Together!

Since this is a sketching tutorial for beginners, I’m using my left hand (non-dominant hand) to show you that you don’t need to have good control of your hand in order to sketch well.

Step 1: Sketch a circle loosely

How to sketch a circle 1
My lines are so wobbly!

I sketched a circle using a bunch of loosely drawn lines. Don’t worry if your lines are going in weird directions. It’s likely that you’re not going to draw something perfect the first time around. That’s totally fine! Remember, we’re supposed to work in layers.

Step 2: Refine the shape

After your initial sketch, find areas that need improvement and sketch over it until you get closer to your desired result.

Step 3: Keep refining

Keep repeating that step until you get even closer to what you want.

Tip: You can rotate your sketch book to help your eyes look at the shape differently. You might spot some obvious areas that need fixing.

Step 4: Define the shape

Happy with how it looks overall? Use more confident lines to define the shape of your circle. You can erase the scribbly lines or let them disappear naturally as you continue to work on your drawing.


Like That Example? Here are Some More!

How to Sketch_Beginners Sketching Examples RFAAfter drawing all these examples and more using my non-dominant hand, I noticed some big improvements!

I got used to moving my elbow and shoulder joint to draw which gave me much smoother lines. If you look at the images in the example above, you’l notice that my lines gradually become a lot less wobbly.

I thought it would be fun to show you the difference between a sketch made with my left versus right hand:

How to Sketch Portraits _ Left Hand vs Right HandAgain, you don’t need to be good at drawing straight lines or have amazing control of your pencil in order to be able to sketch. Having good control just means that your drawing will look cleaner and in turn more precise.


Your Homework Assignment

Things to remember while you draw:

  1. Don’t be a perfectionist
  2. Focus on the overall shape instead of the details
  3. Use a gentle amount of pressure

Assignment #1:

Fill an entire page in your sketchbook, following the steps in this lesson.

Step 1: Sketch Loosely

Step 2: Refine the shape

Step 3: Refine it further

Step 4: Define the desired shape

Find objects to draw around the house, outside or from a quick google search on “random objects”. Once you fill an entire page in your sketchbook, fill another one.

My challenge to you: If you can draw 50 things in your sketchbook and submit it to the facebook page, I’ll feature your artwork down below!

Here are some ideas for you to draw:

  1. Fork
  2. Apple
  3. Banana
  4. Laptop
  5. Jacket
  6. Hat
  7. Your hand
  8. Your foot
  9. Your eye
  10. Key
  11. Lamp
  12. Cat
  13. Dog
  14. Bird
  15. Boat
  16. Tree
  17. Flower
  18. Car
  19. Helicopter
  20. Plane
  21. Alligator
  22. Person jumping
  23. Person sitting
  24. Person standing
  25. My avatar picture


Done the assignment?

Let me know if/how you improved and how this lesson helped you draw better!

If you’re waiting for lesson 2, sign up to my special mailing list in the sidebar or follow me on facebook and I’ll notify you when it’s posted.

Update: Click here for lesson 2

Have any questions? Drop them in the comment section below and I’ll get back to you shortly!


Readers Who Completed the Challenge!

Pamela Gail Rowell

Nika Andrienko

Firoz Wadud <– he drew 80!!

Chris Brown


Nykesha Guinita


Anahita Sharma


Ritwik Verma


Guylene Antoine


Lesson 1: How to Sketch Read More »

How to draw a female face (side view)


How to Draw a Female Face from the Side View Step by StepStruggling to draw female faces from the profile view? This tutorial gives you a great way to practice getting your proportions right and eventually being comfortable enough to draw quick sketches.

Follow my drawing method 2-3 times and then try some quick sketches without the ruler. You’ll astonish yourself with the level of improvement after only a few practice sessions!


Note: Remember to use an HB pencil with the lightest amount of pressure for each of the steps so you can easily erase outlines when you’re done the drawing.


Step 1: Draw an Oval

How to Draw a Female Face from the Side View Step 1

Draw an oval and a line at the bottom. The line should be distanced away from the oval by a little more than half of the oval’s vertical diameter.

In other words, a little more than the oval’s vertical radius.


Step 2: Face Outline

How to Draw a Female Face from the Side View Step 2

Connect the oval to the horizontal line to complete the shape of the head. Then, draw a long straight line down the middle of the oval.

Don’t worry about shaping the jaw or chin just yet. These are just rough guidelines!


Step 3: Make a Ruler

How to Draw a Female Face from the Side View Step 3

Use the length of the head to make a ruler on the side of your drawing. Don’t draw it too close to the face because you want to make room for the nose.

Divide your ruler into 8 equal spaces and use a straight edge to draw lines from each tick through the head. Don’t forget to keep your lines light. It’ll be a pain to erase later on.


Step 4: Brow, Forehead and Top of the Head

How to Draw a Female Face from the Side View Step 4

Now that we’re done with the guidelines, let’s start drawing the top portion of the head. Where the CENTER LINE meets the face, draw a shallow curve. I’m trying to avoid a deep curve because I don’t want to bring too much attention to the brow area. Just trying to keep it looking soft and subtle.

Once that’s done, draw a slight bump for the brow and then use the oval as a rough guide to draw the forehead and rest of the upper head.


Step 5: Nose

How to Draw a Female Face from the Side View Step 5

If you haven’t read my nose tutorial, go here first. I prefer to draw the nose without the circles, but you can use that technique if you want.

I like to draw my noses at a medium length, keeping the tip of the nose under Line 1. The angle of the nose depends on the face I’m drawing, but I tend to draw them at a 50 degree angle.


Step 6: Mouth

How to Draw a Female Face from the Side View Step 6

From the nose’s base, form a natural curve that dips down through Line 2 and wraps back in towards the face, creating a full top lip. The corner of the mouth should not extend too far past the nostril.

Then draw the bottom lip which should be above Line 3.

When you’re done, check to see if there’s enough space for the chin or if there’s way too much space. Adjust the lips accordingly to prepare for the next step.

Step 7: Chin and Jawline

How to Draw a Female Face from the Side View Step 7

Keep in mind that your chin and jawline does not need to follow the exact guideline of the head/face shape.

Extend the jawline beyond the vertical line that goes down the center of the face. When drawing females, I tend to give the jawline a soft or rounded, less angular appearance.


Step 8: Neck

How to Draw a Female Face from the Side View Step 8

Draw the front and back of the neck. Avoid drawing the neck using vertical lines. Also try to avoid using straight lines, as this will appear very unnatural.

Step 9: Eye and Eyebrow

How to Draw a Female Face from the Side View Step 9

To find where to place the eye, draw a vertical line from the corner of the lip to the CENTER LINE. The eye should be drawn where those two lines meet. If you want more details on drawing an eye from the side, visit this tutorial.


How to Draw a Female Face from the Side View Step 9_2

Follow the general shape of the eye to form the eyebrow. Keep the eyebrow well below Line C for a relaxed look. For a more surprised expression, draw the eyebrows a little higher and stretch the eye up along with it.


Step 10: Ear

How to Draw a Female Face from the Side View Step 10

From the jawline, draw an outline for the ear. This outline can be anywhere from roughly the CENTER LINE to Line 2.

Learn How to Draw Ears

Step 11: Hair

How to Draw a Female Face from the Side View Step 11

Draw the forehead’s hairline starting between Line A and B. When you draw the hair at the sideburns (hair between the ear and cheek), keep your lines extra light because females have very sparse sideburns. Don’t forget to give the hair some volume, for more on that, visit my hair tutorial.


How to Draw a Female Face from the Side View Step 11_2

Happy with how your drawing looks? Whip out your eraser and have fun erasing your guidelines! To save time, I like to use an electric eraser followed up by a kneaded eraser to get into those tight spots or overlapping lines.

Experiment by Drawing Many Unique Faces

When you’re comfortable, try drawing some faces without the ruler on the side. The examples below have very rough guidelines. In fact, if you look closely you can see just how sloppy they are. Once you get the hang of it, you should be able to draw realistic and unique female faces on the whim!

My challenge to you is to fill an entire page in your sketchbook with rows and rows of faces. Make them small so you can fit as many as you can (I actually find it more difficult to draw faces on a large scale). It might take 5 or more tries to get the hang of it. If you’ve filled the entire page but your faces don’t turn out quite right, come back and follow this tutorial again.

Examples how to draw female faces from the side RFA
Like my teaching style and want to make a request? Drop me a comment below and I’ll see what I can do for you :)

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Want more similar tutorials?

How to Shade a Face

NEW: Draw Female Faces from the Front

Part 3: Drawing Faces from the 3/4 View

how to draw a face from the side thumbnail 324x235Part 2: Drawing Faces from the Side

How to draw a Face Thumbnail 324x235 7

Part 1: Drawing Faces from the Front View

How to draw a female face (side view) Read More »

How to draw a female face in 8 steps

How to Draw a Female Face

Another highly requested tutorial fresh out of the oven! This one is, again based off my original method, but with a few small changes here and there to create a female face with soft features. I’ll explain the differences in each step as we go along.

Note: Remember to use an HB pencil with light pressure for all steps so you can easily erase your guidelines in the end. I used a lot of pressure in the examples so you can clearly see what I’m doing.

I know there are a lot of measurements in this tutorial, but I think it’s very important, especially if you’re a beginner. Once you understand proportions you can try this tutorial again without the ruler method.


How to Draw a Female Face Step 1: Face Shape

How to Draw a Female Face Step 1

Draw a circle and make a small horizontal line at the bottom for the chin. It’s position should be roughly half of the circle’s diameter vertically. This matters because the circle was drawn freehandedly, so the horizontal diameter could be different.

Females tend to have shorter chins than their male counterparts, so a long chin can display a more masculine look.

When you’re done, draw the jawline to connect the circle to the chin. Females have all sorts of face shapes, but for this example I’m going to stick with a smooth, tapered jawline that’s less angular.

Finally, use a ruler to draw a faint line down the middle of the face vertically.


Step 2: Draw Face Guidelines

How to Draw a Female Face Step 2

Measure the length of the face and draw a ruler to the side of your drawing using a straight edge. Then divide it into 8 equal spaces length-wise.

Label each of the ticks like the image on the left and once you’re done, use a ruler to carefully draw faint lines on the face through the ticks labelled: CENTER LINE, 2, 3, A and C.

If you’ve gone through this tutorial a few times already and want to try it without the ruler, draw your lines in this order: CENTER LINE, 2, 3 , B, A, C, essentially breaking sections of your drawing in half over and over again.



Click here to see the SIMPLE version of this tutorial. It’s a faster method and it’s also paired with a video!


Step 3: Draw the Eyes

How to Draw a Female Face Step by Step 3

On the CENTER LINE, draw 4 ticks that separate the face into 5 equal spaces horizontally. If you’re like me and you drew a very narrow cheek/jaw line, you’ll want to take the full diameter of the circle into account (The two dotted lines mark the full diameter of the head).

When you draw the eyes, keep in mind that females generally have wider, more open eyes than males. If you want to learn how to draw realistic eye shapes and how to size your irises properly, visit this tutorial.

And click here for a super detailed tutorial + video on how to draw a pair of realistic eyes.

Step 4: Nose

How to Draw a Female Face Step 4

To draw the nose, extend the two lines at the inner corner of each eye all the way to Line 3. This will serve as a guideline for the nose’s width.

If you’ve already read my tutorial on drawing noses, place your circle above Line 2. I’m going to go with a short, narrow nose with a narrow bridge.


Step 5: Eyebrows

How to Draw a Female Face Step 5

The picture on the left shows the top of the brow bone. I added this so you can see how the eyebrows are positioned naturally in regards to the bone structure.

In the image on the right, you can see that the eyebrows are drawn below Line C. For a surprised expression, the eyebrows will be pulled up closer to Line C.

Click here if you want to learn how to draw realistic eyebrows


Step 6: Lips

How to Draw a Female Face Step 6

From the center of each iris, draw a vertical line all the way down to Line 3. This will give us a boundary for the mouth.

If you’ve already practiced my tutorial on drawing lips, place your triangle under the nose. The base of the triangle should be drawn inside the square. The top of the triangle should extend to wherever the bottom of the nose is.

After you’ve drawn the lips, you might feel the need to lengthen or shorten the chin so it’s more proportional to the rest of the face. This is completely normal. Happens to me all the time. That’s why it’s important to draw using faint lines so you can easily fix things.


Step 7: Ears

How to Draw a Female Face Step 7

The CENTER LINE and Line 2 are general boundaries for the ears. You can learn how to draw realistic ears here.


Step 8: Hair

How to Draw a Female Face Step 8

When drawing hair on females, keep in mind that females generally have narrower and shorter foreheads compared to males. I drew the hairline for my character well below Line A and drew more hair at the sides of the temple, making sure not to bring the hair in too close to the eyebrow.

Remember to give the hair some volume by leaving lots of space between the head and the hair. For more detailed instructions on how to draw hair, visit this tutorial this tutorial.

How to Draw a Female Face

I like to do a final check before I erase all my guidelines. Check to see if the facial features need changing. Perhaps you’d like to change the nose length or eye shape.

Once you’re happy with your results, use a hard eraser to clean up all the lines. An electric eraser works very well for this kind of work.

After cleaning those lines, I like to use a kneaded eraser to dab away dark spots from where the lines intersected with my drawing.

This tutorial is focused only on structure and proportions. If you want to learn how to shade a face, visit this page.

Time to Experiment!

After you’ve grasped the drawing method above, try drawing faces without the ruler. Here are a few faces I created using rough measurements. Stretch your imagination and get comfortable with drawing faces quickly. How many faces can you draw in under 20 minutes?

How to draw female faces experiment RFA

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Other face drawing tutorials:

How to Shade a Face

NEW: How to Draw Female Face (Side View)

Part 3: Drawing Faces from the 3/4 View

how to draw a face from the side thumbnail 324x235Part 2: Drawing Faces from the Side

How to draw a Face Thumbnail 324x235 7

Part 1: Drawing Faces from the Front View

NEW: Simple method to draw male/female faces


How to draw a female face in 8 steps Read More »

How to draw 6 different eye shapes

THUMBNAIL different eye shapes 324x235In this tutorial, I’m going to show you how to draw 6 different eye shapes: almond, round, monolid, hooded, upturned and downturned.

You’ll get a chance to look at different types of eyes being drawn at the same time. I don’t encourage you to draw them all at once, so pick only one and follow it throughout the tutorial.

Feel free to mix and match as you get comfortable on your next run-through.

Since I couldn’t fit all 6 eyes in every step, the last 2 have been pushed into a bonus section at the end of the article.



Step 1: Draw a Circle

How to Draw Different Eye Shapes 1Using an HB pencil, let’s start by drawing a circle. This circle represents the eyeball.


Step 2: Pick an Angle

How to Draw Different Eye Shapes 2 RFAHow slanted do you want the eye to be? Draw a line going through the circle with the angle you prefer. Feel free to deviate from the examples above.

Note: the left side of each circle is the inner side of the eye

This method is awesome if you’re drawing a set of eyes on the same face.

Step 3: Draw the Inner Corner of the Eye

How to Draw Different Eye Shapes 3 RFATime to draw the inner corner of the eye. You can use several shapes. Angular, pointy or rounded ones like the examples above and in the bonus section. For small or shallow corners, stay very close to the circle. For deep and large corners, place it well outside the circle.


Step 4: Draw the Top Lid

How to Draw Different Eye Shapes 4 RFA
Draw the upper eyelid while staying within the boundary of the circle. Imagine that the eyelid is wrapping around a sphere. The last example shows the right side of the lid wrapping around the eyeball with a big steep curve.

For almond shaped eyes, you’ll want to stick to a slim football shaped curve and the deepest part of the arc should be located at the middle of the lid.

Step 5: Draw the Bottom Lid

How to Draw Different Eye Shapes 5 RFANow draw the lower lid. Make sure to draw a slight bump near the inner corner of the eye and avoid drawing the lid too far away from the line you created in step 2.

For almond shaped eyes, the arc of the top and bottom lids are very closely aligned vertically.

Step 6: Add a Crease

How to Draw Different Eye Shapes 6 RFADraw the fold above the eye starting from the inner corner and working your way out. The thicker the space between this line and the eye, the thicker the fold will look. You can loosely mimic the curve of the top lid.

This crease should not go past the line you created in step 2 unless you’re drawing wrinkles.

For the hooded eye, you’ll want to bring the crease as close to the top lid as possible. You can even overlap them or cut through a portion of the top lid.

When drawing the crease, keep your lines fairly light. A dark crease will look really deep.



Step 7: Erase Outlines

How to Draw Different Eye Shapes 7 RFA

Carefully erase your outlines. I used a hard tombow eraser to save time.

Step 8: Add Some Details

How to Draw Different Eye Shapes 8 RFA

At the inner corner of the eye, draw a curve or two to separate the eyeball from the soft pink caruncula.

For Iris sizing, a good rule of thumb is for the iris to take up about 2/4’s of the eyeball (horizontally). Examples below:

How to Draw Different Eye Shapes Iris Sizing Example RFAIf you want to draw a perfectly shaped iris, draw a full circle and then erase parts of the circle that go outside of the eyeball. This step should be done very lightly. Once you have the position and size you want, darken the iris outline.

How to Draw Different Eye Shapes Iris Example RFA


Step 9: Shade Your Eye

To shade and add more details, you can refer to the tutorials below:


How to draw eye shapes Bonus RFA

Monolid: You can draw a monolid eye by excluding the crease or giving a small hint of it at the end of the eye.

Downturned: Try not to angle your line too much when drawing downturned eyes. In fact, the one I drew is pretty extreme already. Actually, you know what? Just do what you feel like. Experiment and have fun!

Click here to learn how to draw a pair of eyes!

I hope you got a lot of value out of this tutorial! If you didn’t, let me know why in the comments below and I’ll do my best to make it right for you.

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How to draw 6 different eye shapes Read More »

How to draw short hair (very detailed)

wm-rfa-how-to-draw-short-hair-from-the-side-view-10_2Looking for a highly detailed tutorial on how to draw short hair? This is a very extensive one with plenty of examples, a full step by step tutorial and mini tutorial.

It’s an expanded version of the mini tutorial from my first hair article. So if you’ve seen the thumbnail for this article before, I’m not feeding you old content. What you’re getting in this tutorial is new content with more images, more steps, more explanations and over 2000 words of valuable content! Let’s get into it!


I hope I don’t lose you during any step in the application part of this tutorial, so here are a few things I want to cover with you before we start. Let’s talk about:

  • Grouping Hair
  • Layering Hair
  • Hair Flow/Direction
  • Shading
  • Detailing Short Hair
  • Lighting and Consistency
  • How to Draw a Small Section of Hair (Mini Tutorial)


Grouping Hair

Grouping is a great way to approach drawing a an entire head of hair, especially if the sheer amount intimidates you. This method can help you draw hair faster because you’re simplifying something that looks complex.

When you’re in the grouping phase, you’ll want to draw using very light outlines. These groups will eventually be broken down into smaller, more detailed sections of hair.

In the grouping phase, all you need to think about is the length, overall design and flow of hair.

If you’re drawing from a reference image, you can identify groups of hair by zooming out of the image or standing back to find patterns in the hair. Group hairs that are flowing in the same direction and/or close together.


Layering Hair

This part is self explanatory, but I decided to include it just in case. If you get the idea, move on to the next point.

The order in which you draw each group of hair is important. If you’re drawing a hairstyle where the hair is prominently parted at the side of the head, you’ll want to start your first layer there and work your way out.

The image below is an example of drawing from the part and working your way down the side of the head.


If all the hair is brushed from the back of the head towards the front, start your first layer of hair from the back of the head where the swirl or whorl is located.

If the hair is brushed from front to back, you’ll draw starting from front to back.


Hair Flow and Direction

wm-how-to-draw-short-hair-flowIf you have a reference image, look for patterns in the hair to find out the general direction where the majority of hair is flowing. In the image above, the hairs at the top of the head are all pointing in a similar general direction while hair on the side of the head seems to have a more unique flow. You can use arrows in your reference image to help visualize the flow.

Avoid drawing hairs that follow the exact direction your arrows are pointing. You can make your drawing look a lot more interesting by pointing the hair in several different directions, while still appearing to point in the same general direction.


Dark Spaces

Drawing hair isn’t about creating as many lines as possible. Between some hairs, there should be dark space. These dark spaces are important and can make a head of hair look more interesting to the eye and give the hair more volume or depth.

wm-dark-spaces-exampleYou can introduce dark shadows in areas like the swirl behind the head, spaces between large groups of hair or even areas where overlapping, curly or unruly hair appear.


Detailing Short Hair

If you’re drawing from a picture and you’ve lost track of which hair you just drew and you don’t know which patch of hair to draw next… there’s really no need to copy the exact picture hair by hair.

If you end up reading through this entire tutorial, you will be more comfortable playing it by ear instead of pouring over the tiny details from your reference image.

Below are just a few ways you can detail hair. You can incorporate a few or all of them in your drawing wherever you see fit. Come up with your own formulas. It’s a lot of fun!



Lighting and Consistency

Overall Lighting:

rfa-overall-lighting-exampleIf you often find it hard to keep track of the overall lighting while you’re drawing, it really helps to plan ahead. You can do this by outlining/shadow lining areas of the hair you want the light to fall on or areas you want to have the most shadow and then shade these areas in. This step should be done before grouping and layering.

Lighting Across Particular Sections:

Once you start drawing the individual hairs, it’s easy to lose track and end up with inconsistent lighting across small groups of hair. Here’s an example:

particular-lighting-exampleYou can easily change the highlighted section of hair by pinching your kneaded eraser into a long thin shape and swiftly remove graphite from your drawing.


How to Draw a Small Section of Hair – Mini Tutorial


Step 1: Light Planning

mini-tutorial_drawing-small-section-of-hair_lightingHave a good idea of where you want the hair to be lightest and where it should be darkest. Use a soft but sharp pencil to shade the darkest areas of hair. I used a 6B. If you don’t want such dark shadows, use a harder pencil. Make sure to use strokes that follow the hair’s flow.


Step 2: Add Individual Hairs

You can start drawing the individual hairs now. If you’re not comfortable with that just yet, see the mini tutorial from the original hair article. You can do this step with many pencils or you can use one. I usually draw one group of hair at a time. But in order to make this mini tutorial short, I’m working on all 3 groups at the same time.

Using a 4B mechanical pencil, I created strokes that were bold to begin with, but ended lightly as I approached the areas I wanted to highlight. Then I used a sharp HB pencil to fill in some spaces. I applied a variety of pressures to get a mix of different values and line thicknesses.

Some lines are shorter or longer than others. This is great, but make sure the area that you want to highlight has not been shifted.

Step 3: Directional Strokes

Now, you’ll want to draw from the end of the hair towards the highlight. If you draw the hair ends as dark as the root, the hair will have more of a curve to it.

The thing you need to keep in mind here is that the stroke needs to appear as though both ends are faded out or thinned out. The way to do this is to draw each hair using 2 strokes going in opposite directions. You only need to do this if your hair ends are noticeably blunt, making them appear unnatural.



Step 4: Touchups

If you haven’t been mindful of the prearranged lighting and your highlights appear to be off, use your kneaded eraser to redefine them. If you want the highlights to pop more, increase the level of overall darkness and/or use an eraser to brighten up individual strands of hair.

If you’re still reading, you’re one heck of a patient person. I think you’re ready for the full tutorial now!

How to Draw Short Hair From the Side


Step 1: Head Outline

rfa-how-to-draw-short-hair-from-the-side-1Draw the shape of a head from the side. You can use this tutorial for proportions. Make sure to draw the ear and neck in this step as well. I used a 4B pencil so that you can clearly see my outlines. If you’re afraid of the outlines showing through in the end, use an HB pencil.


Step 2: Hair Length

rfa-how-to-draw-short-hair-from-the-side-view-2Decide on the length of hair you’d like to draw. In this example, the hair is shortest around the back and sides, while the hair on top of the head is longest. Once you’ve decided on the length, grab a blunt 4B pencil and use the shadow lining technique to outline the hair.

Make sure the distance between the hair and head is consistent.


Step 3: Separating Top From Side Hair

rfa-how-to-draw-short-hair-from-the-side-view-3Erase any outlines that you made for the head and then use an HB pencil to create an outline that separates the hair on the side of the head from the hair on top of the head.


Step 4: Overall Lighting

rfa-how-to-draw-short-hair-from-the-side-view-4If you don’t want to lose track of the overall lighting, use an HB pencil to shadow line areas of the hair you want to the light to fall on and then shade around those highlights. You can shade using a single tone or take it a step further and introduce darker tones. I used a blunt 4B pencil for that.


Step 5: Grouping, Layering, Flow and Shading

wm-rfa-how-to-draw-short-hair-from-the-side-view-5_1If you did step 4, use a 4B pencil to layer groups of hair starting from the swirl at the very back of the head. If you didn’t do step 4, use an HB pencil. Make sure you keep the overall direction/flow in mind as you draw.

You can cover the entire side of the head or work section by section. I stopped as soon as I got close to the area I wanted most of the light to fall on.

wm-rfa_how-to-draw-short-hair-from-the-side-view-5_2When you start shading, start by defining the darkest areas before drawing individual hairs (sharp 6B). If you happen to cross into the area you wanted most of the light to fall, do not introduce overly dark tones.

After you’ve defined the major shadows, start drawing individual strands of hair. Naturally, you’ll start breaking large groups into smaller groups and you’ll find ways to incorporate overlapping hairs and other unique and interesting patterns.

For the individual hairs, I used a 0.5mm 4B mechanical pencil.


Step 6: Repeat

wm-rfa-how-to-draw-short-hair-from-the-side-view-6Continue working around those highlights. When drawing hair at the nape of the neck, curl the hairs in towards the neck. For areas close to the back of the head that aren’t getting much light (the light source for your drawing may be different), focus more on mid tones and dark tones instead of trying to define highlights/shine. It’s okay if the hair doesn’t stand out.


Step 7: Grouping, Layering, Flow and Shading

wm-rfa-how-to-draw-short-hair-from-the-side-view-7_1Working in small sections at a time, I drew layer upon layer of large to medium groups of hair. Working in layers helps me carefully plan out the hair direction and flow.

wm-rfa-how-to-draw-short-hair-from-the-side-view-7_2In the image above, I shaded around major groups of hair, making certain areas darker than others to show some depth. Since this is the area I wanted the majority of light to fall on, I used an HB 0.5mm mechanical pencil and a 2B pencil to draw the individual hairs.


Step 8: Fixing/Adding Highlights

wm-rfa-how-to-draw-short-hair-from-the-side-view-8If you’ve shaded too dark, or simply want your highlights to pop more, roll your kneaded eraser into a ball, pinch one section so it’s flat and sharp and then run the eraser along areas you want to highlight as though you’re drawing white hair.
The image on the left is before erasing and the one on the right is after.

Step 9: Grouping and Layering

wm-rfa-how-to-draw-short-hair-from-the-side-view-9In step 2, if you can recall, I wanted the hair on top of the head to be longer than the sides. The longest hairs you will have to draw will be in your first layer. The following layers are overlapped by layer 1, so they’ll appear shorter.

Step 10: Adding Dark Space and Individual Hairs

wm-rfa-how-to-draw-short-hair-from-the-side-view-10_1Use your creativity to define shadows along random areas of hair. These might be areas that you’re not sure what to do with or that would have looked awkward if you did draw hair. You’ll know what I mean if you’re following along and applying this to your drawing.

After you’ve drawn the shadows, use your mechanical pencil to break groups of hair down into smaller groups until they start looking like individual strands of hair. While you’re drawing the strands, improvise and find unique ways to incorporate unruly, overlapping, loose hair, etc.


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😊 Thank you for sharing!

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How to draw short hair (very detailed) Read More »

Beginner’s guide to graphite drawing pencils

beginners guide to graphite drawing pencilsIf you’re new to drawing with graphite and wondering what are the best drawing pencils you should be using, this guide is for you!

In this guide, you will learn:

  • What the numbers and letters on a pencil mean
  • Which pencils you should use
  • Which pencils are best for drawing portraits and pencils for sketching
  • The reason why there are so many pencil grades
  • How the quality of a pencil can affect your artwork


Pencil Grades

pencil graphite value scale H to 9B RFA 4

The letters on a pencil will tell you its level of hardness or softness. For example:

H: Hard
F: Fine Point
HB: Hard Black
B: Black

Hard pencils produce light lines while soft pencils produce dark lines. Why? Because soft pencils deposit more graphite onto your drawing surface. The softer the pencil, the smoother the graphite.

The number beside each letter represents the level of hardness or softness. So a 9B pencil is softer/darker than a 2B, while an 8H will be harder/lighter than a 3H.

Here’s a list of pencil grades in order from lightest to darkest or hardest to softest.

9H, 8H, 7H, 6H, 5H, 4H, 3H, 2H, H, F, HB, B, 2B, 3B, 4B, 5B, 6B, 7B, 8B, 9B

Value Range

Each pencil is capable of covering a wide range of values. If you look at the first image, there are some gradients under each square. This shows you how flexible each grade of pencil is. Even though 9B is the softest pencil, you can still use it to draw an entire portrait with values ranging from medium grey to black. Although, it would be a big challenge since it would require a lot of effort to keep from shading your drawing too dark.


The Best Pencils For Drawing

Don’t be intimidated by the number of pencils I listed up there! Most likely, you’ll only need to use 3-5 of them. The pencils you need will depend on the type of drawings you do.

Architectural / Product Sketches / Technical Sketches

If you’re into drawing buildings, cars or technical sketches, a set of hard pencils will suit you well. Hard pencils don’t smudge easily, so your drawings will always be sharp and clean. You won’t need to sharpen your pencils too often because the graphite is hard enough to hold a sharp tip longer than any B graded pencil.

If you want to add dark shading to your drawing, pick up a few soft pencils so you can make your drawings pop out of the page.


Portraiture /  Animals / Realism

guide to graphite pencilsIn order to achieve realistic textures such as fur, skin or fabrics, you’ll need pencils that blend well and are flexible enough to reach the darkest of tones in order to convey a realistic sense of depth. A set of soft pencils will fit the job perfectly. If you don’t want to buy a full set, you can get a few individual pencils. When it comes to portraiture, my most frequently used pencils are HB, 4B, 6B and 8B.


Why You Should Use More Than 1 Pencil

Each pencil has its benefits and can help you get the job done faster! I could use a monkey wrench to drive 1000 nails into my patio deck, but it wasn’t designed for that job. A hammer is so much more efficient!

Here’s how each pencil below helps me get the job done faster and more efficiently:

HB: This pencil helps me shade the lightest areas of my portrait such as eyeballs and highlights without having to spend too much time focusing on the amount of pressure I’m putting on the paper and worrying if I’m shading to dark.

6B: Without any effort at all, I can easily shade large areas of a portrait or background with a smooth dark layer of graphite.

If you feel really strained after you finish a drawing, you might need to add a few more pencil grades to your toolbox, or learn how to use them more efficiently.


Graphite Quality

Graphite pencils are typically mixed with varying amounts of clay. Which means that a low quality pencil could contain many sand-like bits that feel scratchy and can damage your artwork.

If you can’t test a pencil before buying it and you want to be sure it won’t be scratchy, check to see that the packaging says it’s mixed with high quality, pure or smooth clay. Keep in mind that no matter how high the quality, you’re not going to get a 100% pure pencil.

Pencils that I’ve used and recommend are Derwent Graphic and Daler Rowney Graphic (not sketch).

Have a question? Leave it in the comments!

If you enjoyed this guide and know someone that would benefit from it, use the social sharing buttons below to share it with them :)


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Drawing technique #1: Shadow lining

Hey guys! This is the first article in a new series I’m starting. The series will be focused on drawing techniques using a variety of different tools.

Today, I’m going to delve into a technique I call Shadow Lining. I came up with this technique a while back, but only recently introduced it in my tutorials. I’m not sure if anyone else uses this technique already or if it already has a name. If it’s an actual thing, let me know in the comments below!


Shadow Lining is basically the process of outlining an area on your portrait such as the boundary of a dark shadow or highlight using pencil strokes that mimic the way you would shade the drawing instead of using a continuous line to do so.

Example: In the image below, I Shadow-Lined the cheeks. This helps me break the face into sections, which makes it easier to shade and it also provides a guideline to follow while I’m shading.

Since my drawing is mainly shaded using the hatching technique (strokes going in a single direction), my Shadow Lines will also be drawn using the same technique. If I shaded the drawing using circulism, my Shadow Lines would be drawn as circles.

Shadow Lining

Image on the left shows shadow lining on the cheeks. Image on the right shows how well the outlines blend in after the area is shaded.

With Shadow Lining, you can outline areas of your drawing without worrying if the outline will show through in the end.


Even though it’s called “Shadow” Lining, you can use it in many applications such as outlining noses, lips, hair, eyebrows.. the list is endless!


drawing technique shadow lining eyebrows

Hair (Lighting):

rfa-shadow-lining-hairIf you usually outline elements of your drawing like the images below, this technique will give your drawings a major improvement and a more professional look.



Have any requests for future articles in this series? Let me know :)



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