Creating children’s portraits is a pleasant way to practice drawing. I recently completed a toddler’s portrait in pencil and thought of some drawing tips that give a tender, cherubic quality to the artwork. I want to share these techniques with fellow artists in case you find them useful.
Since it greatly affects the appearance of the final artwork, the first thing to consider is the reference material for the drawing. Choose an excellent photo of the subject with good tonal quality, contrast and detail. If possible, meet the individual in person to gain a better sense of their personality, and then try to convey it in the piece. The artwork will only be as good as the reference used when drawing it.
Drawing children’s portraits requires a different approach than I usually employ when illustrating. I must consciously draw a lighter representation of the subject matter than I normally would. Being detailed oriented, this can be a challenge as my artwork tends to have much detail and contrast in it. With children’s portrait drawings however, less is more. Details are softened, especially the lines and shadows around the eyes and mouth; these areas are drawn with less detail than portrayed in the photo reference material.
Some techniques that help to create a soft “look and feel” include the use of a blending stub and drawing with a finger. For example, when drawing creases around the eyes, begin by drawing a light line and then blur it with a blending stub. To create smooth, soft looking skin, use a HB or 2B pencil and apply the graphite directly to the tip of a finger, then press your finger against the paper to make a soft mark. Press, smudge and feather out the graphite on the paper. Lastly, I use a kneaded erasure to draw details and lighten areas, which takes more graphite out of the drawing and creates a warmhearted, softer image.
I hope these drawing tips and techniques are useful. Have fun drawing!