Portrait Drawing


step 1

Fold a piece of paper in half vertically so that there is a “foldline” down the middle.

step 2

Draw out a vertical rectangle 8” tall x 6” wide, centered on the paper. The foldline should fall in the middle of the rectangle (at 3”).

step 3

Along the vertical center line, make a mark at 0” and a mark at 8”.

step 4


Make a mark on left and right sides at halfway point (4”) and connect marks lightly with pencil to create the horizontal centerline. This will be the eye line.

step 5

Within the rectangle, draw an upside down egg, (it should taper closer at the bottom). Students should draw large starting the top
of the egg (head) about an inch or two from the top of the paper and coming down to about the same distance from the bottom of the page. The egg should be symmetrical along the vertical line created by the fold.

step 6

Draw a second horizontal guiding line 2” below the eye line, this is the nose line and is halfway between the centerline and the chin. This line will guide the placement of the nose.

step 7

Draw a third horizontal guiding line that is 1” below the nose line, halfway between the nose line and the bottom of the chin. This line will guide the placement of the lips. Remind the students that guiding lines should be drawn lightly.

step 8

Eyes: For guiding proportions, draw in five
equal sized eyes along the eye line. To do this,
start with one eye directly in the middle. From
there, draw in two more equal sized eyes on
each side.

step 9

Nose: The width of the nose is determined by the width of the center “guiding” eye. Draw two vertical guiding lines down from
the corners of the guiding eye to the nose line. At the middle and above the guiding nose line, draw a small curve like a bowl. On each side, draw two small hooks that curve inward towards the small curve.

step 10

Mouth: The width of the mouth is determined by the pupils in the eyes. Draw two vertical guiding lines down from the middle of the eyes to the mouth line. The mouth will also sit above the horizontal guiding line. For the top lip, draw in an organic line similar to a seagull flying that is centered between, and connects, the mouth width guiding lines from step 8. Demonstrate on the overhead. For the bottom lip, draw in a curve that connects the two mouth width guiding lines. Draw in a line that separates the top lip from the bottom lip. This is rarely a straight line--have the students determine the mouth line’s curve in the mirror.

step 11

Ears: The length of the ears is determined by the distance between the eye line and the nose line. Have the student verify this on their own face. Draw in two curve shapes as guides for the ears.

step 12

Hairline: As a general rule, the hairline is about halfway between the eye line and the top of the head. The hairline should be an inch or two below the top of the head, and hair should extend past the top unless the style is close-cropped. The hairstyle is a totally personal choice and can be drawn in with multiple lines.

step 13

Neck: The neck is a bit tricky. You do not want the neck to be too narrow or too wide. Demonstrate on the overhead how this will
look silly. Starting from the bottom of the ears and following the chin line down, draw a slightly curved line that starts to move away
from the face at an appropriate point.

step 14

Finishing the Eye: With heavier lines, draw in the two eyes over the guiding lines from step 6. Draw in another “rolling hill” line
on top of each eye for the top eyelid. Draw in the iris of each eye. The iris is not a circle in the center of the eye. The circle of the iris gets cut off at the top from the eyelid and a little on the bottom. A reminder that a finished eye is not a circle, but more like the shape of a football. Draw in the eyebrows reminding the students that they should not be too close to the eye. Again, refer to their mirrors. *Hint for drawing a pupil. Draw a circle near the center of the eye that serves as a point of light. Draw another circle behind the point of light and fill it in, leaving the point of light circle unfilled.

step 15

At this juncture or any other point throughout the instruction, remind your students that they can always modify. Ask them to pick up their portraits and hold them farther away to get a better view.

Ask the students if anything is missing. This is a step that activates paying attention to detail, which will be important when
doing self-portraits.

step 16

Finish the Portrait: Erase all unnecessary guiding lines. Paying attention to detail, students can begin to add value to the
portrait by adding shading and drawing in details, such as those two lines underneath the nose or bags below the eyes.


For several minutes, have the students closely look at themselves in the mirror. Remind them to pay attention to detail. Drawing is 10% skill and 90% observation.
During this exercise, the students should be spending most of their time looking in the mirror and not at their paper. The mirrors should be situated so that the reflection is a front view at eye level.

Repeat steps to develop all the necessary guiding lines. The students should use these steps only as guides, as each student should pay special attention to the observations of their own reflections in the mirror. For example, a student may notice that the mouth line is actually higher on his/her face or that his/her eyes are not completely symmetrical.

Art Making

Ruler or Straight Edge
Overhead projector for modeling