Creating Coloured Pencil Portraits

Tutorial by UK Pencil Portrait Artist:

Portraits in Colour from Photos; Composition and Other Notes


3. The client wished to retain the garden setting, so the artist blended across rough forms with a Blender Pencil.

This out-of-focus background doesn’t detract too greatly from the portrait’s subject.

4. For the figure, the artist layered colours rather than trying to apply each colour singly. Looking intently at colours to see what other colours are bound up in them can take much practice.

The artist used the blender pencil gently and kept it clean – this pencil can cause unwanted smudging and make further detailing difficult, but is excellent for finalising a colour mix.

Accurate colour rendering helps create luminescence and texture, whereas poor colouring would result in a flat-looking, lifeless portrait.



Other Portrait Tutorials


Pencil Portrait




Pet Portraits, Various Media

Cow Portraits, Various Media



Lastly, the badge was improvised into the portrait so that it showed more than in the reference photo:




Kym’s Coloured Pencil Portrait






Other Portrait Examples













The sample below compares mixed black with the flatter, more artificial black straight from the pencil. The portrait demonstrates the richness of a blended black against a warm background.

3. Background is sometimes integral to a portrait’s mood or theme.

With the pencil drawing below, the artist improvised a background based around the photo (the sign had a specific meaning for the client.)
















8×10" Portrait


This commemorative portrait also improvised on the photo’s background, emphasising the warmth and brightness of a Greek holiday:





Hair, Early Stage


to commission a pencil portrait or ask questions about pencil portraiture.

The artist always responds to questions about pencil portrait drawing, although regular correspondance cannot be entered into.

Pet Portraits; Children; and Wedding Portraits; Pencil Sketches,

Nudes, Figurative and Abstract Art by UK Pet / Family Portrait Artist.


This Artist Uses

artists pencils






2. The artist first superimposed a 1cm. digital grid onto the photo (left) to help retain correct proportions while copying.

The portrait was tranferred bit by bit onto the paper using a neutral coloured pencil, and grid-lines removed.

(See 2cm. grid on pet portrait)

The grid does not guarantee accuracy and a "good eye" is vital. Because our brains are programmed to recognise facial details, even tiny mistakes would stand out.


5. The main focus in a portrait is the eyes. The artist treated the eye as a sphere, shading accordingly. Eyes’ "whites" rarely appear white, and sometimes, as in this portrait, the pupil does not appear altogether dark.

Note also the blues and greens added to the skin.

Eye in progress – pencil strokes before blending.

Completed eye – blended with blender pencil and white.

6. The artist continued building colours in the portrait, paying attention to the fine details of the face so as to gain the true expression.

* * *

A photo may be atypical of a person, due to angle or lighting.

At the parents’ request, shading was adjusted to refine the nose and make the portrait more characteristic of Kym’s everyday appearance.

1. Readymade black pencil is best used sparingly.

In the pencil portrait below, the artist combined browns, indigo, dull green and loganberry for the hair, exposing the paper with a putty rubber to create highlights.

After fixing, further highlights were added in white pencil.

Orit’s Portrait





2. To combine photos, the artist creates a collage in Microsoft Publisher before superimposing the digital grid.

4. The colours in shadows depend in part on what casts them as well as what they are cast upon – also the type of light. They are not always predominately blue, as demonstrated by the portrait below:




This pet portrait shows the range of colours which may be apparent in "white":


dog portrait

Pet Portrait


In the portrait below, the dark hair and skin almost disappear in the sunlight. This demonstrates again how the artist must reproduce what is actually there, not what is merely expected.

A5 Portrait





Portrait Composition


For the best photo-to-portrait, the artist needs to look for a good composition amongst the images available (usually cropping is needed). A classic composition for all kinds of pictures is the triangle, noticable in these portraits:

Repeating v-shapes in the following nude pencil portrait help "lead the eye" along the diagonal, while the curve of the hip mirrors the cloth’s folds. These features help balance the portrait.




Below, the artist has improved on the portrait’s composition by increasing the original area of water and decreasing that of the sky. This greater symmetry gives a more cohesive feel to the finished portrait.

This coloured pencil variation on a portrait by artist Bouguereau uses the triangle with a diagonal. The eye subconsciously recognises these patterns and finds them pleasing. They also hold the portrait together:


Diana Portrait



Although a good photo is not always to hand, modern technology makes taking selections of photos easy.

So an artist can often find a good basic composition to enhance the end result of any portrait.




Portrait Step-by-Step


1. Coloured pencil portraits work best on slightly textured paper to aid colour blending and depth. Kym’s 16 x 12" portrait used a finegrain watercolour paper and artists’ pencils from the Derwent Coloursoft range.