We draw portraits with incredible realism in Photoshop

Final result:

Drawing in Photoshop does not seem to work with an album or canvas. And since you don’t need to worry about wasting paper, there are a lot of cool stunts that you can use to draw the best portraits even without tracing the contours of the original photo.

In this tutorial, I will show you how to draw two portraits in Adobe Photoshop using a Wacom Intuos graphics tablet and PhotoDune sources.

1. What does the similarity mean?

Similarity is a fairly simple concept. It means how much the pattern looks like the original item. If you are an artist, millions of times you will be asked to draw portraits, characters or designs based on real people. Understanding the similarity is an incredibly useful skill that will help make customers happy.

The more you practice, the closer your drawing is to a real photo!

Even if there is no desire to completely copy someone’s face, the study of similarity will be an excellent practice in the field of general anatomy of the face.

2. First, let’s reject some rules.

5 eyes rule

In any art school study quite a lot of materials about portraits. Some of these rules work fine, but many may just be confusing.

You have probably heard or seen the classic rule: “The head should be 5 eyes wide.”

Why it doesn’t work

Not every person is the same, so you cannot use the template approach. The subject may have big eyes or you just want to draw a portrait in a caricatured style. Anyway, you need to check the image with the original image.

Square heads

Another rule or technique that is usually taught is to portray the head, starting by drawing it as a cube. The cube represents the direction in which the head is turned and helps to deal with different angles.

Why it doesn’t work

Both rules are not so bad, but they will not help with realistic drawing. Cubic heads, for example, are better suited for understanding the general position and different planes of the face. Later it can be used in shading. But sometimes, if we limit ourselves to certain rules, then as a result we focus on the rule itself, and not on the subject.

Something “simple”, like how to draw a cube, can eventually become a task!

Leave the confusion with you! I’ll show you how to make everything simple, because we only need a couple of lines.

3. We achieve similarities with the help of grids and guides.

If you really want to learn how to draw any face, you should get used to using grids and guides.

The grid allows you to see the original image, divided into parts. Due to this, when drawing, you can concentrate on a separate section. This helps to make the process simpler, also allowing you to see the photo in a different light. Do not worry about “not drawing faces” – just focus your efforts on the similarity of each cell.

Photo of a young girl with photodune.

Guides are also great for understanding where to place each part.

Basic guides will mark the positions of the eyes, nose, mouth, and center of the face. Once these lines are created, they can be used to better understand the relationship between each part and end up with an excellent result.

Photo of a young guy with PhotoDune.

4. Why draw in black and white?

I know you want to start drawing incredibly realistic portraits as early as possible, but before you walk, you need to learn how to crawl. Don’t take on too much at once. Examine the similarity, and then move on to color.

In order to fully focus on the concept of similarity, we will draw both portraits in black and white. Many digital artists also call it grayscale painting. However, no matter how you call it, the purpose of drawing in such a technique is to gain confidence in the creation of lighting, shadows, as well as common tones.

5. How to draw faces in digital painting: easy angles

Let’s start with the classic pose. If drawing people scares you, start with female portraits and centered head positions. Women, especially young girls, are easier to draw, because their facial features are softer and you don’t need to worry about details like wrinkles or facial hair.

Step 1

Open the portrait of a girl in Photoshop. Discolor the photo by going to the menu Image> Corrections> Hue / Saturation (Image> Adjustments> Hue Saturation) and reducing the parameter Saturation (Saturation) to -100.

To keep the resolution close to the original photo (590 x 886 pixels), I will create a new document size 600 x 900 pixels. Place both windows side by side. This will greatly simplify the work.

Unfasten both windows and place them side by side.

Step 2

Let’s add guides. There are two types that will help us. The first is the grid, all its sections are the same as in the blueprint. The second type – guides. They focus on the basic forms of the original photo.

I prefer the second option.

Comparison of the grid and guides: on the left is a grid with the same sections, and on the right – guides that focus on the main parts.

Click Ctrl + R, to open the panel Rulers (Rulers) for each document. Then drag the cursor away from the vertical and horizontal rulers, placing the guides. Repeat the same lines for a blank document to match each other.

Step 3

Now let’s begin to redraw our photo using basic forms. Use a big round Brush (Brush Tool). Don’t worry about the details or the clean draft yet. You see, thanks to the simple guides, you now have a better understanding of how the head should be placed.

Step 4

Let us turn to the main features. Using the guides, I put small dots, marking where each line begins and ends. Focusing on the points, I begin to draw the nose, mouth and right eye on separate layers.

Eyes can be the hard part. Therefore, let’s cheat a little and create a second eye from the one already drawn. Simply Duplicate (Duplicate) layer with the first eye, and then flip it by going to the menu Editing> Transform> Flip Horizontal (Edit> Transform> Flip Horizontal). Now use the tool Move (Move Tool) and place your left eye in the right place.

Complete the final details of this rough outline. Guides can be hidden at any time by going to the menu View> Show> Guides (View> Show> Guides).

Step 5

I know what you’re thinking … Not too similar, right? We have not finished with a sketch yet.

Use the rough sketch as a base, clean it up and add details before proceeding with the shading.

Try not to be lazy. You may need to redraw the face two, three or even more times before the drawing looks like a photo. Cut down Opacity (Opacity) rough draft up thirty%, then create New layer (New Layer) over it and use this base layer as a hint. To draw as clean as possible, use a small round Brush (Brush Tool) radius 5 px and spend enough time.

Do not worry if now the sketch is not completely similar to the photo. You will still have the opportunity to improve it.

Here is my final result. Now you can go to shading.

Step 6

Overlay the main colors of the portrait with a soft round Brushes (Brush Tool). At this stage, you need to constantly check the similarity of the picture with a photo. If something looks wrong, trust your instinct and make the necessary edits.

Noticed how much shading helped? We can further improve the view by adjusting several problem areas.

Returning to the original photo, her face is not perfectly symmetrical, as we depicted it. In fact, her head is tilted slightly to the left, and this affects the position of the eyes and face. To fix this, I use the tool Rectangular area (Rectangular Marquee Tool) and select the area around the head.

Just in case, I will create a copy of the head by clicking the right mouse button and selecting To copyon a new layer (Layer via Copy). Now turn your head slightly by pressing Ctrl + T to activate the tool Free transform (Free Transform).

Step 7

Continue to draw and study the original photo well. It is necessary to understand its light and shadow. Since I painted too large eyes, I will correct my face with the Plastic filter (http://design.tutsplus.com/articles/paint-better-portraits-with-the-liquify-tool-in-adobe-photoshop–cms- 23625). Merge all layers, then click Ctrl + J, to create a copy of your drawing. Go to menu Filter> Plastic (Filter> Liquify). Choose a tool Shrinkage (Pucker Tool) and make your eyes smaller. Be careful – we do not need too sharp effect.

Here is a quick animation of the changes received in the filter. Plastics (Liquify).

You may also notice that I have corrected the jaw. Just move it to the right place with the tool. Deformation (Forward Wrap Tool).

Step 8

Now that we have done most of the work, it remains only to complete the drawing. The last details really help to change the portrait, so keep adjusting everything until you are happy with the result.

Not bad, right? Let’s see what can be done in our next portrait.

6. How to draw faces in digital painting: complex corners

Ah, terrible portraits in profile. If you hate drawing faces turned to the side, start with a simple profile to make it all easier.

Step 1

Just like last time, we will start with a photo of a young man, which we will place next to an empty document. This drawing will be much larger in size. 1250 x 1667pixels with permission 150pixels / inch.

Step 2

Create guides again and convert the portrait to black and white. This time I’m going to bring them in with the tool. Pen (Pen Tool). So it will be easier for us to work. Draw with a small round Brushes (Brush Tool).

Photoshop guides can affect brush behavior when drawing, so draw them better. Pen (Pen Tool).

Now hide the original guides. I also use Pen (Pen Tool) to identify different angles by marking them with bright red lines on New layer (New Layer). Since these angles are harder than the first portrait, additional guides will help ensure that we are drawing in the right direction.

Guides for position, facial features and angles. Working with different kinds of guides will help you draw even better.

Step 3

Copy and paste these lines onto a blank document and start drawing a big round Brush (Brush Tool). Switch between different types of guides to compare progress when moving on to the next outline steps.

The windows next to each other help to make sure that the picture matches the photo.

Select a layer with a rough draft and cut it. Opacity (Opacity) to 25%. Create a new layer again and draw a cleaner sketch with a small round Brushes (Brush Tool).

The important thing when drawing people is to understand the structure of the skeleton, do not be afraid of creating very detailed sketches.

Step 4

Now let’s start drawing. The faces of men are more angular, so take enough time to study the guides so as not to go beyond the lines. And since their faces are not so smooth, I also added a bit of texture with a grunge brush. This slight change will give the pattern a more manly look.

Use a combination of soft and grunge brushes, effectively simulating the texture of the skin.

Step 5

This time I had better facial features, so no need to make a lot of corrections. The angle of the neck looks a little wrong, use again Plastic (Liquify) and its tool Deformation (Forward Wrap Tool) to straighten it.

With the help of plastics, you can correct the anatomy in seconds.

Step 6

Often you have to zoom in on images to catch subtle differences in shadows, textures and lighting. Since we are working with shades of gray, freely use the tool Pipette (Eyedropper Tool) and draw the colors of the original photo.

As you move to the final stage, force yourself to draw as much as possible. Here is my result when using these techniques. For the second time I managed to achieve amazing similarity without tracing the contours of the photo itself.

Now you!


You never know which doors will open if you just learn to draw better. Keep practicing with portraits in shades of gray, and when you get enough confidence, go on to work with color.

Experiment from different angles to become the best artist. I really hope my advice helped you. If you have any questions, feel free to ask them in the comments!

And if you want to learn more about portraits, see these lessons:

  • Learning to draw realistic hair in Photoshop
  • How to draw realistic hair in Adobe Photoshop: short haircuts and beards
  • Edit the image with the Plastic tool in Photoshop

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