Drawing Male Portrait in Pencil

See a demo of pencil techniques from beginning to end to create a compelling portrait.

Various techniques are explained, that can be used to build up three dimensional volume with pencil layering, blending, creating a diverse range of textures and marks, pencil grip, and more.

Pencil Portrait Drawing, banner

Tools like woodless pencils, kneaded erasers, and eraser sticks are explained. Demo led by Art Prof Clara Lieu.


Video Walkthrough

  • Don’t stress about the accuracy of your portrait!
  • Start the portrait with a very light gestural image, don’t start dark.
  • A short drawing and a long drawing start the same way: blocking in the largest shapes.
  • The upper eyelid is a good way to anchor the eye.
  • Embed the eye into an eye socket and define the forms around the eye.
  • Have fun with drawing!
  • Drawing allows you to slow down and notice smaller things in life.
  • “Rug of tone,” is placing large areas of tone to layer on top of.
  • Look at hair as a mass, not as individual hairs you draw.
  • Add the nostrils to show the three dimensionality of the nose.
  • Don’t expect that you will get the results you want immediately.
  • Changing your pencil grip to have more or less control.
  • Using the eraser stick to pull out highlights in the eye.
  • Looking at the transition between the forehead and the hair.

Prof Lieu’s Tips

Clara cartoon

I find that pencil grip is a very personal decision; not every pencil grip is going to work for everybody. That said, what I find is that most people haven’t tried multiple ways of gripping their pencil and that does become a limitation.

For many of us, we are used to that standard way of holding a pencil that we use when writing text. I grip my pencil very tightly when I write text, and that would be a disaster in terms of when I draw, so I really have had to experiment to find a good grip.

What’s tricky about my pencil grip that I demo is that it feels very, very shaky and unstable at first. Ultimately though it does provide a ton more flexibility in terms of the marks you make, but it does take time to get used to!

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