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How To Easily Draw People With This Basic Portrait Sketch Technique

Have you or your students struggled to create portraits or self-portrait drawings? We get it! It can be hard. Follow this easy drawing tutorial to create a basic portrait drawing in no time!

black line drawing of girl.

People are arguably one of the hardest things to learn to draw. Sometimes a simple technique is nice to help you get started with your portrait or self-portrait project.

Why You Will Love This Drawing Technique


  • KID FRIENDLY – We have used this technique with 4th graders and up.
  • EASILY CHANGE SUBJECT MATTER– If a beginner doesn’t want to make a portrait, you can easily use a different image.
  • GREAT STARTING POINT -These line portrait drawings are great starting points for other fun ideas, like our fun Pop Art projects.
  • LEARN TO SEE DETAILS – Using this technique makes kids and beginners draw what they see and not what they know. They are more apt to pay attention to the details if they are not worried about the outcome.

While we agree that beginners should practice sketching and drawing from observation, sometimes you need a break and just want a fun line drawing. As an Art teacher, I used a mix of techniques to build confidence to help students feel successful.

Supplies You’ll Need

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  • Pencil
  • Black Drawing Pen
  • Eraser
  • Image Printed On Paper
  • Tape
  • Drawing Paper
picture of woman, white paper, ruler, pencils and pen on counter.

Basic Portrait Drawing Technique

It is pretty simple. The most important thing is to draw what you see when tracing. Don’t try to make something up.

Before You Begin: Find Images

First, you have to decide on the image you want to use. Print your image to size on regular computer paper. This technique will not work on a regular glossy 4 x 6 printed photo.

Step 1: Add Graphite To The Back Of The Image

Scribble graphite on the back of your printed picture. I have had better success with kids using an Ebony pencil to ensure full coverage. A #2 pencil though will work just fine.

scribbles on the back of a paper.

Step 2: Place Your Picture On Top Of The Drawing Paper

Carefully tape the picture on a piece of paper. You do not want it to move while you are working.

tape on picture on white paper.

Step 3: Draw On Top Of The Picture

Trace all lines and details with a sharp pencil or ballpoint pen. Only do outlines of important features.

hand using pencil to draw on printed picture of woman's face.

Step 4: Lift The Paper

Before lifting the paper, check that you have traced all important details. Once you are satisfied with the basic portrait drawing, remove the image.

hand lifting paper to show simple portrait pencil sketch underneath.

Art Teacher Tip: When creating image transfer you want to pay attention to details when tracing the picture. It will help the drawing look more realistic!

Step 5: Add Black Lines

Trace over your pencil lines with a drawing pen or extra-fine tip marker.

hand using fine black drawing pen to outline portrait.

Step 6: Clean-Up Drawing

Once you have traced all details use an eraser to get rid of extra pencil lines. 

Use your portrait or self-portrait line drawing as a starting point for all sorts of fun art projects involving people.

simple drawing of girl on white paper.

Tips

  • Even though you are tempted to lift the paper, don’t until you are completely done.
  • The graphite scribbles need to cover the complete area of the portrait.
  • Kids tend to press too hard or too lightly when covering the back of the picture. Showing them examples of how much graphite is needed helps.
  • A sharp pencil is a must when tracing details.

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couple portrait drawing on frosted clear keychain.

More Fun Drawing Ideas

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Basic Portrait Drawing For Kids

Use this easy drawing technique to draw portraits and self-portraits.
Print Tutorial
hand lifting paper to show simple portrait pencil sketch underneath.
Creating:7 minutes
Total Time:7 minutes

Equipment

  • Pencil
  • Tape
  • Black Drawing Pen

Supplies

  • 1 piece White Drawing Paper
  • Printed Image

Instructions

  • Find a picture to work from.
  • Print your image to size on regular computer paper. This technique will not work on a regular glossy 4 x 6 printed photo.
  • Scribble pencil graphite on the back of your printed picture.
  • Carefully tape the picture on a piece of paper. You do not want it to move while you are working.
  • Trace all lines and details on the picture with a sharp pencil or ballpoint pen. Only do outlines of important features.
  • Before lifting the paper, check that you have traced all important details.
  • Once you are satisfied with the basic portrait drawing, remove the image.
  • Trace over your pencil lines with a drawing pen or extra-fine tip marker.
  • Once you have traced all details use an eraser to get rid of extra pencil lines.

Notes

  • A sharp pencil is a must when tracing details.
  • Try to trace all important details before lifting paper.
  • You can reuse the same picture to create multiple line drawings.
Author: Erin
Cost: under $2

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