6 Useful Tips for Sketching Faces

It’s amazing how easily identifiable faces are in everyday things. All it takes is two round shapes and a line below them for us to recognize eyes and a mouth. I’m guessing that the origins of this go back to when we were newborns, and our caregivers’ faces were the first things that we gazed upon. Others might argue that it’s the human ego that drives us to see ourselves in such things as clouds, for example.

Whatever the reason, artists especially love drawing faces. Strangers, relatives, friends, selves—anyone is game. Mixed-media artist Pam Carriker shares what she has learned along her own path in her book Mixed Media Portraits: Techniques for Drawing and Painting Faces. “I knew that if I put in the time sketching on a regular basis, I’d see improvement in my work,” she says. “As I look back through my sketchbooks, the evidence is there. The evolution of those faces stares back at me from the pages, each one a building block for the work that followed.”

Tips for Drawing Faces by Pam Carriker
A Colorful Journey Ahead (acrylic and graphite on watercolor paper, 12×9) by Pam Carriker. 

6 Tips for Sketching Faces by Pam Carriker

Don’t throw away your sketches, even if you really don’t like one. These are evidence of your journey, each a stepping-stone in the development of your signature style.

Use the same sketch multiple times to fully explore it and to strengthen your portrait skills. Tracing is a good thing! Tracing your own work builds memory into your artistic muscles.

• You can sketch from your imagination, from a photo, from a real-life object, or from a map or diagram, or incorporate a little of both your imagination and your reference.

• One key to creating a look of your own is to add a bit of you to your portrait, making it a self-portrait of sorts. Take a facial feature you like (or maybe even one that you don’t like) and incorporate that into your work.

• Instead of getting hung up on making one sketch perfect, move on and create another. This is vital to going forward.

• The last tip is simple: Draw. Put in the time, just a few minutes a day, and you will see improvement. ~P.C.

I love this honest and helpful advice on drawing faces. Of course, there’s much more to be found in Mixed Media Portraits with Pam Carriker. Pam includes techniques such as how to map facial structures, how to create shading, and more.

Until next time,


Blog, Mixed-Media Techniques


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