5 Little-Known Mistakes That Could Affect Your Portrait Drawings


Have you ever gotten finished with drawing a portrait and knew something was off but just couldn’t figure out what it was?  Well, you’re not alone. Many of us will make at least one of these 5 little- known mistakes when we draw.

Too Much Erasing

Let’s face it we are not perfect no matter how much want other people to think we are. At some point we are going to have to erase a mistake on our drawings. And every time that we erase we damage our paper. This can cause the values that you replace to be inconsistent with the rest of the drawing.

So, how do we keep from erasing too much?  The question is not “how often I erase” as it is “what techniques should I be using to erase mistakes”?

  1. Don’t use an eraser that is too hard. Stick with the softer erasers like a kneaded eraser or click erasers that are made from soft rubber and use them delicately.
  2. Keep to lighter pencils when you are laying out your drawing. If you are using a dark pencil to layout your portrait then you may have to spend more time erasing for adjustments and cause more damage to your paper.
  3. Keep the eraser dust clean from your paper and your drawing surface. Even a tiny over looked eraser shaving can cause damage to your paper if you accidentally go over it with your pencil and embed it into the grain of the paper.

Choosing the Wrong type of Paper


Depending on what type of medium you are using the texture of your paper plays a significant role in the outcome of your portrait drawings.

You wouldn’t want to use an overly coarse paper to replicate smooth skin but yet most people do. Avoid this mistake by determining the correct grain of your paper in conjunction with the type of medium you will be using before start your drawing.

Pencil Mistakes


One of the first things that most people do when they first start out drawing is reach for the ole trusty #2 pencil that they find lying around the house. Although this is not necessarily a bad thing but if you are really serious about portrait drawing then you’re going to want to invest in some quality pencils.



Using a pencil that is too light and barring down too hard.

If the pencil you are using can’t reach the value you are trying to achieve then it is better to graduate to the next darkest pencil than to bare down too hard with the one in your hand. This will cause the paper to dent and can permanently damage that area on your drawing.

Losing the Direction of Light


This is a simple mistake that almost all of us have made at least once. (Or those that will admit to it.) Basically, you shade the left side of an object darker than the right but the light direction is coming from the left everywhere else on your drawing.

The easy fix for this is to draw a small arrow somewhere in the corner of your paper indicating the light source. In most cases this is not necessary but if you are drawing a complex portrait with lots of shadows and textures this trick comes in handy.


Over Blending


This is very common mistake especially with most beginners. The temptation to create your gradations by using a blending stump can leave your drawing looking flat in areas. The best way to avoid over blending is to not become reliant on using the technique.

Allow the grade of your pencils to make the transitions from dark to light and avoid using a blending stump all together if possible. Blending stumps are great tools if used properly but they can damage your paper and sometimes cause areas to become inerasable.

Hopefully you’re not making these mistakes in your portrait drawing I know that I have made my share of them. The good news is now you know what to look for. Happy Drawing!



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