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How to make an accurate realistic portrait pencil drawing using a grid

Drawing with a grid helps beginning artists to refine their eyes and hone their drawing skills. A grid placed over or on a picture helps create a detailed and realistic portrait. Using a smaller grid forces the artist to pay attention to greater amounts of detail and works well for complicated portraits containing great amounts of visual complexity. Larger grids give the artist more freedom, forcing the artist to rely on free-handing skills.

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  1. Lay a piece of transparent plastic on a flat work surface. With a permanent marker, draw vertical and horizontal lines across the plastic with a ruler to create a grid. If you have a detailed portrait, make the squares small --- about a half inch for each square. For a larger or less complex drawing, make the squares about 1 to 2 inches each. The plastic should be large enough to cover the entire portrait you wish to draw.

  2. Print a portrait on high-quality printer paper. Place the plastic grid over the picture. Tape the grid and picture together.

  3. Tack up the portrait on an easel or drawing board. Attach a sheet of drawing paper to the board.

  4. Refer to your portrait and begin drawing the outline of the subject using an HB pencil. Create the entire outline, and then go back to focus on specific squares to create the details.

  5. Draw only what you see in each square to get the most realistic representation of your portrait. Use soft-grade pencils such as 2B or 3B pencils to hatch or cross hatch shadows and dark areas of your portrait. Lift off mistakes with a kneaded eraser.

  6. Tip

    Spray your work with matt fixative to protect your drawing from getting smudged. Step back from your drawing every few minutes to get a better perspective of what your portrait will look like. Take frequent breaks to prevent wrist and eye strain.

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Things You'll Need

  • Transparent plastic sheet
  • Permanent marker
  • Ruler
  • High-quality printer paper
  • Tape
  • Easel or drawing board
  • Drawing paper
  • HB pencil
  • 2B or 3B pencil
  • Kneaded eraser
  • Matt fixative

About the Author

Alyssa Ideboen has been writing professionally since 2005. She has contributed to several print and online publications, including "Lexington Woman" and "Global Business" magazines. Ideboen holds a Bachelor of Arts in business management and communication from Judson University.

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