How to draw a self-portrait

Written by rachel terry
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How to draw a self-portrait
How you draw yourself says a lot about your state of mind. (mirror image by Svetlin Rusev from

Self-portraits are common among artists, possibly because you don't have to pay yourself to sit for a portrait and you're always available. Plus, you've probably looked at your face about a million times and are very familiar with your features and facial expressions. Self-portraits also make a valuable record for yourself over time. Your interpretation of yourself says a lot about your state of mind, life and development.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Mirror
  • Sketchbook or paper
  • Art supplies

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  1. 1

    Create a comfortable set-up. If you have an empty corner of a room, put the mirror against one wall and your paper against the other wall.

  2. 2

    Begin with the shape of your head; determine if it is oval, round or squarish. Your head shape should fill the centre of the paper.

  3. 3

    Draw a light line across the centre of your head shape, where your eyes should go. Observe whether your eyes are narrow, almond-shaped or tired. Eyes contribute a lot to facial expressions.

  4. 4

    Add your nose. Remember that shading is more important than lines when drawing a nose. The end of the nose should be about halfway between the midline (where your eyes are) and the chin.

  5. 5

    Add your mouth; the expression you use for your mouth will largely determine the feel of the self-portrait. Like the nose, use shading more than lines.

  6. 6

    Add ears. The top of the ears should correspond with the height of your eyes. The bottom of your ears will probably come down to about the tip of your nose. Consider your hair when you sketch your ears.

  7. 7

    Add hair. Don't forget to notice your part, shading, texture and volume.

  8. 8

    Return to all the features you have previously sketched and flesh them out with shading, adding shadows and erasing lines you don't need.

  9. 9

    Use watercolour or chalk to add colour to your self-portrait.

Tips and warnings

  • Use a printed picture of yourself to make the portrait easier. Post the picture directly above the canvas.

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