How to Draw a Self-Portrait

Self-portraits are common among artists, possibly because you don't have to pay yourself to sit for a portrait and you're always available. Plus, you've probably looked at your face about a million times and are very familiar with your features and facial expressions. Self-portraits also make a valuable record for yourself over time. Your interpretation of yourself says a lot about your state of mind, life and development.

Create a comfortable setup. If you have an empty corner of a room, put the mirror against one wall and your paper against the other wall.

Begin with the shape of your head; determine if it is oval, round or squarish. Your head shape should fill the center of the paper.

Draw a light line across the center of your head shape, where your eyes should go. Observe whether your eyes are narrow, almond-shaped or tired. Eyes contribute a lot to facial expressions.

Add your nose. Remember that shading is more important than lines when drawing a nose. The end of the nose should be about halfway between the midline (where your eyes are) and the chin.

Add your mouth; the expression you use for your mouth will largely determine the feel of the self-portrait. Like the nose, use shading more than lines.

Add ears. The top of the ears should correspond with the height of your eyes. The bottom of your ears will probably come down to about the tip of your nose. Consider your hair when you sketch your ears.

Add hair. Don't forget to notice your part, shading, texture and volume.

Return to all the features you have previously sketched and flesh them out with shading, adding shadows and erasing lines you don't need.

Use watercolor or chalk to add color to your self-portrait.


Use a printed picture of yourself to make the portrait easier. Post the picture directly above the canvas.

About the Author

Rachel Terry has a Bachelor of Arts in English from Brigham Young University. She has been a freelance writer since 1998, authoring literary study guides, as well as articles and essays.