Disclaimer: I have been a bit out of touch with sketching and shading so this might not be an exact copy, however I tried my best :)
So, I haven't sketched a portrait in a while now (about 2 years) and I can surely say it is nothing like the regular sketches and paintings I do. It requires precision and patience. Still, on her 87th birthday I really wanted to give something quite special to a beautiful and darling of a granny I really adore and love. So I decided to make a portrait sketch of hers…
Sorry, but the eyes are the least detailed part of the portrait and I plan to get it right the next time. Well, I'm not an art pundit and I have never taken any art lessons hence, I never want to rave about my work or give lessons to others. However, I've done couple of portrait sketches before and have been fairly satisfied with the likeness and resemblance of the sketches with the original (if any ;p). All I can say is that it's an excellent stress-buster! So, here are some tips I've realised over the time span I've spent doing my sketches, for the novice sketchers and new art fanatics starting out with portraits. Let me know what you think, and if there is anything else you'd like to add… Am only here to live and learn ;)
Tip no. 1: If you have difficulty drawing the perfect facial features of the portrait you are trying to make, do what I did with my 1st portrait, just trace it from the computer! Enlarge the picture in your computer to the size you want, increase the contrast to get the features sharp, and then place your paper on the screen and go over the features and face structure with your pencil very lightly. It's a bit of a cheat but a starting point. You can only develop and get advanced from here ;)
Tip no. 2: Improvise! No need to stick to the same weird expression of the portrait if you don't like it. I mean once in a while you do get a reference picture with a bit of frown or out of focus gaze that you'd like to change. Well, this is why sketching is so much fun. You can actually change it as you please. Wipe that frown away!
Tip no. 3: For shading I generally use my fingers. But remember DO NOT HAVE SWEATY FINGERS. Cause if you do, it would smudge darker than the rest and will not be erased easily. One too many times I've had sweaty hands and on those occasions I try and use tissues to shade and smudge.
Tip no. 4: For me the type of pencil does not matter so long as it isn't too light and need to be pressed hard. I use all sorts from proper HB to B1-6 to push pencils… The main trick is to use as much shading. Go over it as many times as you want to get the right shade. Just do not press hard or there will be lines engraved on to the paper that would set (even after erasing) and will be difficult to undo.
Tip no. 5: Coming to the eraser, use sharp edges of the eraser to get clean highlights. Also that way you wouldn't have to shade again, smudge again, erase again… And the whole process repeats. If your eraser is getting too blunt, use a paper cutter and cut the edges to get a new sharp edge.
Tip no. 6: Obviously you already know about the functionality of the blunt and sharp pencil tips. Well, I for one use a sharp tip to make the thin, light outline, then use the blunt one to shade. I only hard press the pencil as the final touch where I had to define some really dark regions like iris, etc.
Anyway, I hope you found my tips on shading tricks helpful, for those of you just starting out and don't know much about shading do feel free to ask more about them.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY GRANNY!