Soft Pastel Tutorial: Female Portrait

See a soft pastel drawing demo on how to draw a portrait. Soft pastel techniques like blending, layering, and approaches to color are explained and shown.

Tips for creating a convincing sense of lighting and form in the portrait are put forward in this drawing tutorial. Explained are ways on how to draw hair and clothing to enhance the portrait. Demo by Art Prof Clara Lieu.

2 hour, 42 min. video

Video Walkthrough

  • Start a line sketch to block out the biggest shapes of the head.
  • Yellow ochre works well when sketching the lines, it’s not too dark, not too light, and it’s a mild, neutral color.
  • Be willing to make constant changes to your portrait drawing, especially changes to where a part of the portrait is located.
  • The mandible (jaw bone) is an important bony landmark to emphasize.
  • When blocking out the first pass of color, draw with the side of the pastel so you can cover areas faster.
  • Remember that skin is translucent, and on the human body there are many layers of skin.
  • Therefore, the variety of color is great in skin tone.
  • Don’t blow the loose pastel pigment to get it off, you don’t want that pigment in the air!
  • Instead, take your drawing and shake it over a trash can to get rid of the dust.
  • Don’t use the black pastel until you’re almost finished with the drawing.
  • Black pastel tends to be very overpowering, and it’s hard to draw on top of once it’s in your drawing.
  • Try not to smudge too much, your drawing could loose a sense of structure, and start to look mushy.
  • There is a lot of green in skin tone, often it has an olive tint to show.
  • When drawing hair, look for the lighting to show the form.
  • Look for the direction of each clump of hair.


Reference photo

Deepti Menon, photo by Deborah Lopez-@dlopezstudio
Photo by Deborah Lopez

Art Supplies

Anatomical Landmarks mentioned

  • Zygomatic Arch (cheek bone)
  • Ear
  • Mandible (jaw bone)

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