How To Use Colour In Portraits


In this post I will tell you a little about how I use colour in my portraits. However I am pretty new to this, so I would do a bit of reading around before you completely take my advice!

So the first point I feel necessary to make is that you need to keep your hand fairly light, under no circumstances press down really hard on the pencil, you will find this time consuming and painful, it will also hide the shading and contours that a portrait desperately needs, and if you find you make a mistake, you will find it almost impossible to rub out.


My second point is that you should always take a good look at the colours before you apply them to the paper. You will also find that you will need many colours for each feature of the portrait, such as the skin and hair. Shading isn’t a case of pressing the pencil down more firmly, it’s a case of choosing a darker colour and applying it very lightly later after layer, you may even use an eraser to very slightly blend the darker colour. Finally, always keep the colours you are using out – nothing is worse than forgetting which colours you used.


You can see in this picture how I have used a brown colour to define the cheekbones and other aspects of the face.


Everyone likes to work in a different way, however, I find the most effective way of working is to work from the centre outwards. Unlike using graphite or pencil, this is not risky, as there is no danger of the colour smudging. I prefer working this way for a lot of reasons. Firstly it gives the portrait character before you have even completed it, and secondly I find these aspects of the drawing the most fun.


The next point I’m about to make refers to the eyes, possibly the most challenging aspect of the drawing. It is important to remember that at no point should you outline any part of the eye, the eye is soft and you need to make sure you keep it that way. Once again I like to work from the centre, starting with the iris. Make sure when drawing, you leave any white spots for light reflections, as the pencil is impossible to rub out at such a small point.


Finally I will talk about the hair, probably the most time consuming part of the portrait. It can be very frustrating and repetitive, but it is important to take your time on this. Hair can vary greatly, so make sure your pencil strokes are always following the direction of the hair. I like to draw on the darker bits of the hair first, so it gives me an idea of what the finished hair will look like.


Finally I want to recommend this brand of pencils. I use them and find they are very soft and easy to blend, I really enjoy drawing with them!

I hope you found this post useful, comments would be much appreciated! – if you have any points or drawings you would like to share with me! Thank you for reading!

2 responses to “How To Use Colour In Portraits

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