Thinking of the best gift for a loved one can sometimes be a challenging chore especially if the desire is to really please the person with something personal. Regardless of occasion, there can be nothing more personal than a realistic pencil portrait drawn by your own hands. Although not everybody can come up with masterful artworks there are step-by-step guides or tutorials to provide the basic knowledge needed to get you dabbling with a graphite pencil.
Steps in Creating a Realistic Pencil Portrait
• Select an Image to Copy. If you want to create a pencil portrait of your loved one as a surprise gift, you cannot possibly ask him to sit for hours while you sketch the face. The most logical thing to do is to select a photograph that captures the best features of the person. However, if the person is already aged, you may opt to sketch a picture of his favourite young member of the family like a grandchild or nephew. An old person’s wrinkled face is one of the most interesting subjects to draw, but reserve the complicated job to the expert artists. Your amateur hands can instead work on simple portraiture focusing on the smooth facial skin of your young model.
• Use the Right Tools. Once you are decided to launch yourself as a budding artist, make sure to be equipped with the right tools for the project. Invest on a good set of both hard and soft graphite drawing pencils to get the best shading and toning effects. Learn how to use pencils belonging to the H (hardness), the softer B (blackness), and the F categories. If you really want to come up with a realistic pencil portrait, avoid the cheap mediocre quality pencil. It is better to have a few different scales that are of high quality in order not to compromise the outcome of your work. Apart from a good set of pencils, you also need a pencil sharpener, an eraser, ruler and good quality paper. The Strathmore 400 Series Smooth Surface Drawing pad is a good paper material to work on.
• Preparation. Make a black and white print of the chosen image at the same size of your art project. Use the ruler to draw a grid with 1cm squares both on the image and on the working paper, making sure to use a soft pencil to draw the faintest line since you will eventually erase the lines as the work progresses. To avoid the hassle, pin a clear acetate grid to be used as a guide. Make sure to clip it tightly to prevent it from moving. Start plotting the main features by locating the exact cross points in the grid. Another option is to trace the main points and shape of the face through the overlaying paper. Using a lit lap top screen can make the image more visible, but there is still the need to measure the points to make sure that everything is accurately positioned. After plotting the outline, compare the original image against your work to see the resemblance.
• Shading. Use a soft pencil, preferably a 2B, to begin shading. Before the actual shading, practice different shading techniques and know how to apply pressure on the pencil. Once perfection is achieved, move onto the drawing and perform light to dark shading methods. Start with the eyes and work onwards to the other parts of the face. Putting a sheet of paper under your hands can be helpful to prevent stains or smudges on your work. You can fairly judge how much shading is required based on the first layer of shading.
• Do the Finishing Touches. Use the eyes to start working on the finishing touches by employing the blackest pencil to darken the pupils. Be careful not to smear the light reflections on the eyes or else the desired glassy effect created by the contrast between the pupils and light reflection will not be achieved. Perfect the rendering of shading effects on another piece of paper before applying a particular pencil motion on your work. Once the work is completed, remove all traces of the grid lines to bring out the outline of the image. Review the finished work and apply additional shades if necessary to lift the image.
What can be more touching for a person than to receive something as personal as a realistic pencil portrait where much effort has been put into it? However, before presenting the precious gift, make sure to put it in a nice glass frame otherwise all the shading techniques you belaboured to perfect will be reduced to nothing but an image of shameful smudges.