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  • Writer's pictureKOH-I-NOOR HARDTMUTH

Portrait Drawing with Graphite Pencils




Long winter evenings are here, bringing the opportunity to draw something more demanding. Let’s start drawing Neptune with us, the god of freshwater and the sea. At first sight, this task might seem demanding, but thanks to our instructions and some tricks we share with you, the final picture will be worth it.




Dazzling dynamics, right? It’s this dynamic and attention to detail we must especially watch out for when transferring portraits on paper. Therefore we use the grid method to show you how to transfer everything our eyes catch.





If you are not comfortable with the bust of a god, you can, of course, choose according to your priorities. When you make your choice, print the model on paper so you can keep an eye on it all the time. Prepare graphite pencils set, ideally A3-sized card stock paper, ruler, kneaded eraser, fixative, graphite powder, and brush.

If you’re not confident enough with using a pencil as the art medium, take your time and try how each draws on a piece of paper. You get to know their hardness and grading, and this experience will come in handy when shading. Now, let’s begin with the drawing itself.






The first step kind of resembles a geometry task because we will enlarge an A4-sized picture to A3 size. For this purpose, there is a great trick we gladly reveal to you:


  • When enlarging the picture from A4 to A3, everything is multiplied by 1.41. Therefore, we draw a net of 4 cm-sized squares on the template.

  • Pay attention here, for squares can be either smaller or bigger. Precisely speaking, there is a rule: the smaller the square is, the more precise the transferred picture will be.

  • The advantages of bigger squares lie in less time-consuming squares drawing and less need for erasing in the third stage.


We decided on the 4 cm option, then drew the same net of squares on the card stock paper with a size 1.41x bigger, which makes it 5.64 cm.




Gridlines serve as referential points helping to draw lines and outlines of objects in the right place. A simple explanation is that you don’t draw the whole picture at once but square by square, making it less demanding. For this purpose of drawing, the ideal choice is a pencil 4B, which doesn't leave any deep marks and is easy to erase.




After you transfer the picture, erase the auxiliary grid that you won’t need anymore and leave only an outline. For erasing, we recommend a kneaded eraser as it removes graphite well and doesn't damage the paper.





With the finished outline, we can start with shading. Graphite pencils are ideal for this step, as they noticeably show their quality during work because the graphite core is smooth and doesn’t scrape against the paper when drawing. We used a pencil 7B for initial shadow suggestions and then fine-tuned the darkest parts and details with 8B, the softest pencil in the set.





It seems everything is complete, but what about the background? A handy thing, graphite powder, practically takes care of the background instead of you, and on top of that, it’s great fun - until it spills on the carpet :).




Pour a little graphite powder on spare paper. Take a bigger brush, pick up powder and then apply powder to the background area. The powder is also great for achieving a more realistic appearance when drawing portraits, as it excellently imitates skin and smooth surfaces.





To conclude, you need to use an eraser to clean the drawing and highlight light parts. The kneaded eraser disposes of one practical quality. It is easy to separate it into smaller parts, which you can use to create fine details.



When satisfied with the final picture, we fix it with a fixative, and it's complete!




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