How to Draw Pencil Portraits

Illustrations by Andrew DeWitt

Things You'll Need

  • Paper
  • Pencil
  • Kneaded eraser

Drawing a pencil portrait is a great way to capture the image of a loved one. The main advantage of these portraits is you can add complex shading and hard and soft lines with pencil that you cannot achieve with a pen. The key part of drawing a portrait is to map out the basic frame of the face in simple shapes. This will ensure that the face retains the correct proportions. For the example, here you will be learning how to draw a pencil portrait of woman with long hair.

Sketch an oval for the head. Add the neck with diagonal lines coming out of the base of the head. Draw a cross shape inside the head. The horizontal line will be the guideline for the eyes. Next, create a small horizontal line for the nose and another underneath for the mouth.

Add a curved line all the way around the head and down to the neck for the hair. Pencil in a curved line across the forehead for the bangs. Create the eyes with two ovals on the eye guideline. Add eyebrows with small curved lines above the eyes. Draw the lips with a wide "M" shape for the upper lip and a curved line below the mouth guideline for the bottom lip.

Draw the irises with two circles inside the eyes. Sketch the sides of the nose with vertical lines on the side of the nose guidelines. Add small vertical dashes one the side of the mouth for dimples.

Thicken the eyebrows with parallel lines around the eyebrow lines. Add small curved lines inside of these to create the eyebrow hairs. Then add curved lines inside the hair to create locks of individual hair. Draw defined cheek bones with a curved line.

Erase the guidelines. Add shadows with heavy pencil strokes under the chin. Sketch in light shadows under the eyebrows. Draw the shadows under the cheek bones with light diagonal pencil strokes. Darken in the pupils, under the nose and add light shading to the lips.


  • You can blend the shading on the illustration by wiping the area with a napkin.


  • Watch where you place your hands when shading as you can smudge the drawing.


About the Author

Andrew DeWitt is a freelance writer/illustrator and stand-up comic with more than eight years of professional experience. He has written for Chicago Public Radio, Vocalo Radio, Second City Chicago, and The Lemming. DeWitt has a liberal arts degree with a double major in theater and creative writing.

Photo Credits

  • Illustrations by Andrew DeWitt