I made this drawing tutorial to show the different steps that I take in drawing a realistic face. I did make this tutorial a while ago and hopefully I will have some time to make another one because some of my technique has changed since then.
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Step 1- Choose a good reference photo. Good reference photos are big and clear. If an image is blurry, your drawing is going to reflect that in lacking detail. Choose a subject that is semi-interesting to you also. If the person you are drawing doesn't motivate you to do a good job you will get bored after a while and may give up.
For this tutorial I am going to draw my buddy, Kenny.
Step 2- Begin sketching your outline. If you are confident, you can do this freehand otherwise I would suggest drawing a grid. Gridding is the most accurate way. Once you have an outline of your subject, start with the eyes. Use a dark pencil (7B) for the pupil. If the subject has brown eyes, the retina should be fairly dark. If the subject has blue, green, or hazel eyes make them slightly lighter. When the eyes are complete, darken all the dark features of the face pressing very lightly with a 7B. This is just to remember where they are after you lay down a wash. Next begin laying down light layers of (F) graphite over the entire face except for the light spots on the face and the mouth. Make sure all your pencil marks go in the same direction. This process is called a wash. You are adding a base tone to the face. Don't worry about getting the lines perfect, they won't be there for long.
Step 3- Smudge.Now get out your cotton balls and q-tips. With a cotton ball spear all parts of the face but be careful not to smear the eyes. Use the q-tips to get more detailed areas like around the eyes. When you are smudging, be sure not to lose your outline for the face and features. Occasionally darken them back in. Since every subject has different skin tone you may want to repeat steps 2 and 3 until you attain the right tone. IMPORTANT-
Never let your skin come in contact with the drawing paper. Skin is oily. Oil and drawing paper do not mix!! You will have ugly spots all over your drawing if you touch it. I reccommend using a piece of copy paper to seperate your drawing hand from your drawing paper.
Step 4- Start darkening shadows. Carefully look at your reference photo and figure out where dark shadows are. Use a 7B, pressing very lightly, to color them in. Make sure the pencil strokes go the same direction as your wash. After you color them in use a q-tip to smudge them. You may have to add several layers to get the right tone.
Step 5- Continue adding shadows and blending them in. All the shadows aren't going to be dark. You have to look very closely at the reference photo and identify where they are. When looking for shadows, think about where the light is coming from in the picture. On my reference photo the light appears to be coming from the right (our right). I can tell this because the shadows on the nose are darker on the left (our left) side of his nose. Therefore, everything on the left (our left) side of his face is going to be darker than the right. I also began on his beard on this step.
Step 6- Blend in light spots and identify highlights in hair. There is always a transition from light to dark shadow. You can't just leave a big, ugly white spot on the face. You must blend the dark into the light. Do this by taking a q-tip and smudging across the light spot and pulling in some of the graphite from the surrounding areas. Be careful not to pull in too much tone. If you screw up this step, you can always erase and do it again. When the face is complete, then we can start on the hair. Remember it has darks, mid tones, and highlights just like a face. First we start off by identifying the highlights (light spots) in the hair. Then we darken the surrounding areas with a wash. I would suggest laying down graphite in the direction the hair is flowing.
Step 7- Draw mid tones and darks in hair. The wash that we gave the hair was just a base tone to work from. Chances are, it will be the majority of your midtones also. Identify where the dark spots are in the hair and draw them in with a dark pencil (7B). You may have to darken or lighten everything after it is all done.
Step 8- Draw the rest of the figure. The face is all done now. Use the same smudging technique on the rest of the skin (neck, ears).
Step 9- Finshing touches. When you have finished everything, there is still work to do. Graphite can be messy and you probably have some smudges where you don't want them on the paper. Use a kneaded rubber eraser to lift these. Minor alterations can be made at this time too.
From start to finish this drawing took me about 5 1/2 hours. Don't rush yourself when drawing. It is supposed to be a relaxing and mind stimulating experience, not a chore. 60% of drawing is patience, 30% is seeing, and 10% is ability. I truely believe that anyone can draw. Remember that I did not learn how to draw overnight. I have drawn lots of crappy drawings and gotten very frusterated in the past. Hell, it still happens to me. With every drawing you will learn something new.