Art History Lab

Mastering the Art of Colored Pencil Portraits: Step-by-Step Guide

Portraiture drawing is an art form that involves capturing the likeness of an individual in a portrait. It requires a set of skills that include understanding facial features, proportions, and the use of color.

When these skills are mastered, they contribute to creating beautiful and realistic portraits. Drawing with colored pencils is a popular medium among artists because of the versatility and ease of use.

However, it does require a certain level of knowledge on the types of pencils and techniques used to create impressive works. In this article, we will discuss the importance of learning portraiture and using color in portrait drawing as well as how to draw a girl with colored pencils.

We will go step-by-step through the process and mention the necessary materials to embark on this project.

Importance of Learning Portraiture Skills

Portraiture skills are essential in creating a likeness of a person in an artwork. It involves capturing the unique characteristics of the individual’s face, the features that make them distinguishable.

One cannot simply rely on photographic images to create a realistic portrayal. Thus, one must have the skills to understand and draw the proportions and details of the face to make the final portrait realistic.

Learning portraiture skills can help improve an artist’s overall abilities, but more importantly, they help individuals connect with their subjects. It allows people to convey emotions and stories that photographs cannot.

Being able to capture a likeness of a person through art can take an individual on a creative journey, bringing aesthetic appeal and a sense of accomplishment.

Using Color in Portrait Drawing

Using color in portrait drawing can create a more realistic and expressive quality to the art piece. Knowing how to manipulate colors, shading, and technique based on the skin’s tone and texture can take a portrait from good to great.

Color gives the artist the ability to capture emotions, suggest body language, and illustrates light and shadow, making the figure more realistic. Color, therefore, is an essential element in portraying people through art.

It can create depth and dimension in the artwork and help the viewer connect more intimately with the portrait. Understanding this skill can elevate the artist’s abilities, allowing them to expand their range and create various styles.

Step-by-Step Process of Drawing a Girl with Colored Pencils

Step 1: The first step in this process is to gather the necessary materials. One would need colored pencils (preferably those that are labeled as professional-grade and have a color range that is easily blendable), a sketch pad or drawing paper, and a pencil sharpener.

Step 2: The next step is to sketch out the basic form of the portrait on the paper. To start, draw a small circle for the head and sketch out the neck and shoulders.

Then, divide the face into thirds – for the forehead, nose, and chin. Step 3: Now, it is time to add in the facial features, taking care to ensure that the proportions match.

Pay close attention to the eyes, nose, and mouth, as these features are critical in creating a likeness of the individual. Step 4: After sketching in the features, start adding in details such as wrinkles and shadows.

This should be a gradual process, with the artist taking the time to observe and add the nuances of the subject. Step 5: Now that the facial features are finished, it is time to add in color.

Start by coloring in the larger areas, then adding in smaller details. It is best to use a light hand when applying color to avoid pressing too hard and leaving indentations on the paper.

Step 6: After all the coloring is complete, it is time to blend the colors, creating a more seamless transition. This can be done with a blending tool or by layering colors, so the colors marry together.

Necessary Materials

Drawing with colored pencils requires certain materials, which include professional-grade colored pencils. Some popular brands are Prismacolor and Faber-Castell.

A sketch pad or drawing paper is also needed, along with a pencil sharpener to keep the tools sharp and precise.


In conclusion, drawing portraiture and using color are essential skills in creating works of art that capture people’s likeness realistically. It takes practice and patience, but once mastered, it can be an enriching and rewarding experience.

Although the process may seem daunting, taking it step-by-step and gathering the right materials can make all the difference. So go ahead and give it a try and let your creative spirit take you on a journey.

Sketching the Girl’s Face

Before diving into the coloring process of the portrait, it is essential to sketch in the girl’s facial features and get the proportions and guidelines right.

Guidelines for Sketching

Sketching starts with basic guidelines that can guide the final portrait’s overall shape and proportions. For example, a circle could be used to sketch in the girl’s head.

The circle should be sized appropriately, depending on the size of the paper and desired final portrait’s size. The neck for the portrait should be sketched in next, leading to the shoulders.

From there, the next guide would be to divide the face into thirds to help create a more balanced and proportional portrait. The forehead should take up one-third of the face, while the nose and mouth should take up an additional third, and the chin should take up the last third.

Feminine Features and Proportions

The details of the girl’s face are important to add after the above guidelines are in place. Paying attention to feminine features and proportions is crucial to creating an accurate and beautiful portrait.

A good place to start would be the eyes. Take time to sketch in the general shape and proportion of the eyes, making sure they are symmetrical and in the correct position.

Moving onto the nose, taking time to sketch in the general structure and shape of the nose. Take note of how the nostrils sit on the nose and the curvature that follows the bridge of the nose.

Remember, taking time and care to get the proportions correct will make the coloring process more manageable. Next, move onto the mouth, sketching in the lip line and taking care to ensure proper proportions and symmetry.

Remember to observe and capture the subtle details of the girl’s lips. Lastly, take the time to sketch the hair and any other accessories.

Hair is an essential part of the portrait, and creating its general shape and flow can help create a more balanced and beautiful portrait. Coloring in the Girl’s Face

Once the sketching is complete, it is time to add color to the portrait.

Understanding how light and shadow work and how to work with color values can enhance the portrait’s facial features and create realistic shading.

Color Values and Enhancing Facial Features

When it comes to coloring in the portrait, start with the larger areas of the face first, such as the skin tone. Take care to use color values that accurately represent the girl’s complexion.

Many different factors can influence skin tone, such as lighting and the time of day. Adding contrasting colors to the portrait can create a more realistic and dynamic appearance.

To enhance the facial features, add in subtle shading and highlights to create depth and shadow. Taking time to observe how light falls on the face and sketching in the corresponding areas can create a more realistic and accurate portrait.

Shadows and Highlights

Creating and adding shadows and highlights to the portrait is essential. These two elements can help to bring out the 3D quality of the face, providing depth and dimension to the portrait.

Start with lighter shades and apply them with a delicate hand to create highlights on the portrait. Place these highlights accordingly, mimicking how light would hit certain parts of the face in real life.

Then move onto shadows, using a darker shade to create depth and an illusion of form and dimension to the portrait.


In conclusion, understanding these guidelines for sketching and the importance of working with color values, shadows, and highlights is essential when sketching and coloring in a girl’s face. Taking the time and care to capture the details of the portrait is crucial to create a realistic and beautiful piece of art.

Remember to start with broader guidelines, move onto the facial features and hair, and then work on shading and highlighting to enhance and bring out the portrait’s 3D quality. So find your inspiration and get started on your masterpiece!

Contextualizing the Head with Surrounding Features

The girl’s face is just one part of the portrait, and the surrounding features are essential to consider when drawing a complete portrait. In this section, we will cover how to draw the neck and hairline, and how to add depth and volume to the hair.

Drawing the Neck and Hairline

The neck is an essential aspect of the portrait, as it adds balance and structure to the face. To draw the neck, start with the main shape, using the existing guidelines to direct where it should be placed.

After that, sketch in the details of the neck, taking care to add the necessary wrinkles and curves that come with it. Consider the angle of the neck and how it will lead to the shoulders to maintain proportion.

Similarly, the hairline is crucial as it frames the portrait and gives it character. Start with the basic shape of the hairline, and then sketch in the individual hairs that make it up.

Take note of where the hair falls, using your pencil to create lines that mimic the flow of the hair itself.

Adding Depth and Volume to Hair

Adding depth and volume to the hair can bring the portrait to life, creating a more realistic and dynamic piece of art. Begin by adding in shading to create and emphasize the 3D quality of the hair.

Consider where light falls on the hair, using light and dark shades to create realistic highlights and shadows. To create more volume, consider layering the hair.

Use darker shades to create shadows, and lighter shades to create highlights, where appropriate. Curly hair can be particularly challenging, but take time to observe and understand the curls’ natural flow to create a more realistic look.

Adding Penwork for More Contrast

Using ballpoint pens to create more contrast and define the lines can help to emphasize individual features and textures in the portrait, making it stand out.

Emphasizing Features with Ballpoint Pens

Starting with a thicker pen can help to create more prominent lines that can help define the features of the portrait. Use it to create lines in the hair and sketch in the details of the neck further.

As you become more comfortable with the pen, you can create more subtle lines that add to the overall texture and character of the portrait.

Enhancing Details and Texture

Ballpoint pens can create a highly textured effect on the portrait, bringing it to life and accentuating the details. Texture can be added by using the pen to create small dots or lines that give the portrait a more distinct and unique character.

By adding these subtle textures along with shading, it can create a complex and multi-layered portrait.


In conclusion, mastering the art of portrait drawing goes beyond the face. To create a complete portrait, one must consider the neck, hairline, and hair, and use pens to emphasize the details and texture.

Taking the time to study and observe the subject, as well as using the appropriate shading and pen techniques, can elevate a portrait to the next level. It is an art form that requires patience, practice, and creativity but is infinitely rewarding.

So pick up a pen and start creating your masterpiece today.

Tweaking and Refining the Drawing

Once the main aspects of the portrait, such as the features, hair, and surrounding elements, are in place, it’s time to tweak and refine the drawing to enhance its overall appearance. In this section, we will cover how to add darker marks for form and use different tools for refinement.

Adding Darker Marks for Form

To create a sense of depth and form, adding darker marks to the drawing can be highly effective. Take a closer look at the reference image or the subject and observe where the shadows naturally fall.

Use a darker pencil or increase the pressure on the pencil to create those darker marks. With a careful and deliberate hand, begin to add shading to areas that have more depth or are receiving less light.

This technique will bring out the three-dimensional qualities of the portrait. Remember to gradually build up the shadows and use lighter pressure for delicate areas and gradual transitions.

Utilizing Different Tools for Refinement

Refining a drawing involves attention to detail and using different tools to create varying textures and effects. Here are a few tools that can be utilized for this purpose:


Blending Tool: Blending tools, such as blending stumps or tortillons, can be used to soften and smoothen the transitions between colors and tones. They are particularly useful for creating a more realistic and seamless look in areas like the skin or hair.

2. Eraser: An eraser can also be used as a tool for refinement.

By carefully erasing certain areas, highlights can be created, adding brightness and depth to the portrait. 3.

White Colored Pencil: A white colored pencil can be used to add highlights or brighten certain areas. It can also be used for adding texture or creating subtle details in areas such as eyes or jewelry.

4. Fine-Tip Pen: A fine-tip pen can be used to add intricate details or refine lines.

It can be particularly useful for accentuating features like eyelashes, eyebrows, or small textures in clothing or accessories. By incorporating these tools into the refinement process, the artist can achieve a more polished and professional-looking portrait.

Tips for Drawing a Girl with Colored Pencils

Drawing a girl with colored pencils requires an understanding of color combinations, values, and the importance of patience and pencil sketching. Below are some tips to enhance your colored pencil portrait.

Importance of Patience and Pencil Sketching

One of the key factors to create a successful colored pencil portrait is practicing patience. Take your time to observe and study the subject.

Start with a pencil sketch to establish the proportions and details before adding color. This initial sketch will act as a roadmap for the rest of your drawing.

As you begin applying color, remember to take it one step at a time. Layer your colors gradually, building up the desired depth and intensity.

Patience is crucial as colored pencil work requires multiple layers to achieve the desired effect.

Exploring Color Combinations and Values

Color combinations play a significant role in bringing a colored pencil portrait to life. Experiment with different color schemes to achieve the desired mood or atmosphere.

Observe and analyze the subject’s skin tones, hair color, and clothing to select the appropriate colors and achieve a realistic representation. Understanding color values is equally important.

Values refer to the lightness or darkness of a color. Use a reference image or your observation skills to determine the range of values in the subject.

Pay attention to the highlights, midtones, and shadows, and translate them into your drawing using appropriate color values. This will add depth and dimension to your portrait.

Experimentation and practice will help you develop a better understanding of color combinations and values, enabling you to create portraits that truly capture the essence of the subject.


Tweaking and refining a drawing is a crucial part of creating a portrait that truly reflects the subject’s likeness. Adding darker marks for form and utilizing different tools for refinement can enhance the overall appearance of the artwork.

Furthermore, tips such as practicing patience and pencil sketching, as well as exploring color combinations and values, will improve your colored pencil portraits. Remember to enjoy the process and allow your creativity to shine through as you continue to develop your skills in drawing a girl with colored pencils.

In conclusion, mastering the art of portrait drawing with colored pencils requires learning portraiture skills, using color effectively, and understanding techniques for sketching and refining. By following step-by-step processes, gathering necessary materials, and incorporating different tools, artists can create realistic and expressive portraits.

Patience, attention to detail, and understanding color combinations and values are key aspects of the drawing process. Through practice and experimentation, artists can bring depth, form, and texture to their portraits, resulting in impressive and captivating artwork.

So pick up your colored pencils, continue to explore and refine your skills, and watch as your portraits come to life with vibrant colors and striking realism.

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