Old Masters Academy

Pencil Portrait Drawing Tips

When it comes to multiple subjects in one pencil portrait drawing, there are two possibilities: (1) all subjects appear in one photograph; (2) the subjects appear in different photographs. We will be concerned with the second possibility.

It will not take long before you will get a request to make one portrait out of several photographs. This often happen when grandma wants to have a portrait made of all her grandchildren. This can be done but you need to be aware of a number of difficulties.

Here are a few guidelines to follow when combining photographs:

* Lighting – Check the light source in each of the photographs. Your portrait drawing needs a unified light source. Hopefully the light source is the same in all the photographs.

However, this is unlikely and, therefore, you will have to adapt the lighting in some of the pictures when you draw your composite portrait. This is a difficult but necessary challenge.

All shadows and tones have to be consistent otherwise your composite portrait will have a strange look to it. This, now, is a matter of experience and knowing how a subject looks like when lighted in a certain manner. There are no shortcuts here.

You may try to find a photograph or image of some other subject where the light source is located in a suitable location and deduce from that how the shadows and values are distributed.

* Gaze – Try to make all your subjects gaze in the same general direction. You can do this by adjusting the location of the irises. You do not want each subject staring in a different direction because this will make them look disjointed.

* Composition – When you have different photographs you have the opportunity to create your own composition. The standard overall compositional shapes are: the circle; the rectangle; the triangle, and the square. Choose one of these and arrange the subjects within it. Start with the largest subject and arrange the others around it in a pleasing manner.

* Size – Another problem you will encounter is that the subject in the different photographs will be portrayed in different relative sizes. One subject will be small, the other will be large.

Therefore, you will need to go through the process of reducing all subjects to the same scale. To this end, start with the largest of the subjects and measure the distance from the mouth to the eyes. Then try to reproduce this measurement in all the other subjects.

If the subjects are of different ages, say a child and an adult, adjustments must be made in the measurements according to the known average differences of such subjects. For example, a child’s head has different average measurements than that of an adult. If you have a photograph of the two together then you can study the differences and draw accordingly.

Much more can be said about merging different photographs into one pencil portrait drawing but the above suggestions will point you in the right direction.

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