How To Make Pen & Ink Drawings from Stills


Портрет принцессы Дианы
Portrait of Princess Diana by David Lawrence

This course by David Lawrence gives a step-by-step tutorial for one technique to produce pen and ink drawings by hand, in the likeness of a photographic portrait which you have available.

To obtain a likeness, it is necessary to draw with extreme accuracy, especially in the position of the eyes, nose, and mouth, relative to the rest of the face.

We need patience. The drawing cannot be completed in half an hour. It is going to take something like five hours, but not necessarily at one sitting, although you may find it difficult to put it down once you’ve reached a certain stage.

The subject to be drawn is not Princess Diana but actress Gates McFadden in her role as Dr. Crusher in ‘Star Trek: The Next Generation’:

Как сделать рисунок пером и тушью по фотографии

This is about the size you should make your drawing. It can be reduced in size by photocopying later.


Step 1. Preparation

Hello, welcome to the course. For your drawing to achieve a likeness to the original photo accuracy will be necessary. To help get the accuracy we will make our drawing to a large size, probably bigger than the desired finished print, but this can be reduced as it is photocopied. I suggest you draw on 11″ x 17″ photocopy paper.

If you have a choice choose a photograph that is sharp rather than fuzzy. The clearer the photograph the better chance you have of a good result.

Pens. You need the following new pens:

  1. A black ‘Pilot’ Precise Rolling Ball – Extra Fine. Cost about $1.30
    2. A black ‘Paper-Mate’ Flair- Felt Tip Pen. Cost about $1.20
    3. A black broad tip Magic Marker (Stanford Hi Impact is ideal – pack of 3 for $1.94)

It’s best to have a spare of each, they can run out at any time, usually around midnight. You also need a blue pencil (that’s one with a blue lead – blue doesn’t photocopy) and a regular HB grade pencil.

Paper – get a few sheets of 11″ x 17″ regular photocopy paper. Photocopy shops will sell single sheets. You need to draw on an inclined board. Even a sheet of Masonite will do. If you have a tee-square and set square it’s a help, but it’s not essential.

We are now ready to start!


нарисованные ручки

Step 2. Outline

Getting the outline and features onto your 11″ x 17″ sheet of paper can be done in several ways.
Three methods are described here. You need to select the one which is best for you. Have a look at each. Method 1. requires a projector which you may not have.

Method 1. Projecting

1. The method I use mostly is to project an image to the size I want (10 inches from the top of the head to the chin) onto a wall on which I have previously attached my paper. I can only do this after dark as it is clearest when there is no other light. I then lightly pencil round the projected face, hair, shoulders, and all the facial features and shadow limits. Of course, this requires a projector which you may not have. The one I use cost about $20.

However, I will describe some other methods not requiring a projector.

картинка проецирования изображения

Method 2. Dot Transfer

Get a digitally enlarged color photocopy made to the 10″ high face size you want. Work out the enlargement needed beforehand. For example, if the face in your photo is 5″ tall, and your drawing is to be 10″, then the enlargement %age is (10 ÷ 5) x 100 = 200%. Most color copiers can enlarge to 400%. Because it is digitally enlarged the sharpness of the print is far superior to a regular photocopy which can only go to 146% and requires repeated enlargements and each time it gets less sharp.

With your paper taped onto a drawing board (or any flat board that you can tilt), tape a sheet of carbon paper (or two 8 1/2″ x 11″ sheets taped together) then tape the enlarged color copy centrally over the top of the carbon paper, making sure you get it vertically too. With a pencil dot around the hair outline and main locks, also the face features, with a dot about every 1/4″. Carefully repeat with the eyes, mouth, and all edges and changes of shaded areas, with dots about every 1/8″. Do it fairly lightly, because you don’t want heavy black marks to remove later.

изображение Dot Transfer

Method 3. By Measurement

This is more convenient if you have a drawing board with a tee square. But they are not essential. You just need to be inventive.

We are going to draw the face approximately 10″ high. Your still photo will probably be smaller than that. We shall enlarge it as we draw it. We need to determine what the enlargement ratio will be. This is quite simply done by measuring the height of the face on the photo and do the following sum. 10″ divided by the height of the face on the photo equals the ratio. If the photo face is 5″ high (as in the example below) then the enlargement ratio is 10 ÷ 5 = 2. We will multiply (on the calculator) each dimension by 2. Of course, in practice, this will more likely be 2.684 but if you are a dab hand with the calculator you only key this in once and then you can keep this in memory)

Tape a sheet of 11″ x 17″ paper centrally on your board. Alongside it tape a good same-size photocopy of your reference photo. Above it, tape a calculator to the board. (This will save you having to continuously put the ruler down)

Place a dot in the center of the nose on your reference picture. Rule a horizontal line across to your drawing sheet from this nose dot. Place a dot on this line in the center of your drawing sheet. Using a set-square draw on the reference picture an angled line from the nose dot to the R.H eye. Measure the length of this line. Use the calculator to multiply this distance by the enlargement ratio (2 in our example)

Draw an equivalent line at the same angle (nose to the eye) on your drawing sheet. Measure off the enlarged distance of the eye along this line from the nose dot. (The figure you’ve just obtained on the calculator) You have thus found the position of the R.H eye on your enlarged drawing. Continue for every other main feature of the face and hair, maybe 40 positions. Join up all the dots in HB pencil and you have the enlarged face on your paper.

рисунок на доске

Step 3. Pencil Fill-in

If you used the Dot Transfer method, remove the enlarged color print and the carbon paper and now fill in the outline between the dots, hairline, and other facial features lightly in pencil.

изображение процесса переноса точки

Note. The outline is for guidance only. Later we will erase it. We shall not ink in this edge line. It provides a softer appearance if we limit the edge to shadow shading strokes only. See how there is no outline to the face on the drawing below.

картина без краев

Step 4. The Eyes & Lips


The Eyes

Usually, the eyes reflect a highlight (or two, as in the case of our still) reflecting from spotlights or sunlight from a window.

Observe the photo and determine the direction the eyes are looking. This will affect the position of the eyeball in the eye. Duplicate this – using the fine pen – taking care to make the eyeball round, the same size in each eye and the same position. Draw the eyeball in the following order.

  1. Mark reflection limits in blue pencil. This area to be left white.
  2. Pen in the circular outline carefully.
  3. Pen in the radial lines.
  4. Black in the pupil with the felt tip pen – except for the reflection (blue) areas.
  5. Pen in circular lines in the pupil.

Make a trial run on a piece of scrap paper before you ink it on your drawing.

отражение в глазах

The Lips

All shading should be radiused to indicate contour curvature, depending on the angle of the head. The top lip is always darker because it gets less light.

  1. Mark in the highlight outline in blue pencil. This area to be left white.
  2. Pen in dotted radiused contour lines.
  3. Increase shading as required.

рисовать губы

as a result:

готовые глаза и губы на рисунке

Step 5. The Highlight Areas

To carry out this stage the enlarged still should be scrutinized and a study made of the highlight (or shine areas) on the face.

As we proceed through further stages of the process we shall determine for each area the light value (or shadow intensity) we think exists on each part of the face. On a scale of 1 to 10 the Highlight Areas represent 1 on this scale and will be represented on the final drawing by a white area.

The highlight areas are only added with a blue pencil and cross-hatched in blue also. This is done so that you can identify the areas to be left white when you are putting in the vertical shading in the next stage.

рисование с выделенными областями

Take a look at the ‘man in the top hat’ (below). See how these highlight areas are treated and how they indicate high shine areas. With them, the face appears more three-dimensional.

изображение мужчины в цилиндре


Step 6. Vertical Shading

Using the fine point pen, make vertical shading lines – at approx. 3mm spacing – over the entire face, ears, and neck, except for the following areas.

Blue shaded highlight areas
Eyebrows, if the light in color

The vertical lines can be drawn with a set-square, or by hand. They look 100% better if done by hand. If you prefer the effect by hand but don’t have the patience, the following method can be adopted.

Buy a 15ç wooden rule and profile the edge with some sandpaper to give a ridged non-straight edge. Tape this to the edge of the set-square. In order not to get all the ridges occurring at the same level raise the set-square up and down on adjacent shading lines to imitate a hand-drawn effect. This takes a bit of practice, but you’ll know when you get there.

портрет с методом вертикальной заливки

Step 7. Contour Shading

To give the drawing its three-dimensional appearance we need to add the different degrees of shading and these shading strokes are determined as we continually scrutinize the color print, and make judgments as to the darkness of each area.

The shading can be divided into 10 grades as below:

10 степеней штриховки

  1. is left white.
  2. is vertical shading only with Pilot fine point pen.
  3. is additional 45º shading at 3mm pitch, with Pilot fine point pen.
  4. is additional 45º shading at 3mm pitch (the other way) with Pilot fine point pen.
  5. is additional 45º shading at 1.5mm pitch with Pilot fine point pen.
  6. is additional 45º shading at 1.5mm pitch (the other way) with Pilot fine point pen.
  7. is additional 45º shading at 3 mm pitch with Felt Tip Pen
  8. is additional 45º shading at 3 mm pitch (the other way) with Felt Tip Pen
  9. is additional 45º shading at 1.5 mm pitch with Felt Tip Pen
  10. is all black with Magic Marker. There is a blend between grades 9 & 10.

Features such as eyebrows and nostrils can be added, also the general eye hollow and lashes. Then add the dark-side shadow and under chin shadow.

We are adding shadow a little at a time so that if we overdo something we can work around it and bring up adjoining shading. Corrections are seldom necessary, but if they are, since we will finally photocopy the drawing, we can stick on a piece of paper over the wrong bit, and blend it in carefully.

Gradually the face will begin to look rounded instead of just two-dimensional.

After this stage, we can erase the pencil outlines of the face.

портрет с затемнением лица

Step 8. Heavier Shading & Face Border

Continue applying the shading with glances back and forth from the color print. The pencil outlines are now erased but the shapes are fixed by the shading. Add heavier shading grades as the areas require.

When you apply the magic marker work you may need to put a sheet of paper underneath as it may mark your board otherwise.

портрет с более тяжелой заливкой

Step 9. The Hair & Final Shading

The hair shadow lines follow a different process. As with the face observe the highlight areas and leave these clear. Black hair has to rely almost solely on reflective white areas.

Final shading – Work over the whole face area and increase the shadow where needed. As previously one works by continuously glancing at the color photo and comparing the photo shade grade with your drawing and adding more shading where needed.

Work using the shading grades described in Step 7.

Blend the merging of two grades gradually, so that shadow changes do not appear as ridges on your drawing.

Background – This is entirely a personal preference. If you choose to show a background keep it simple and sketchy, and preferably out of focus – without well-defined edges. If your drawing is fairly light you may choose to add a dark background, maybe close shading, or even black.

Как сделать рисунок пером и тушью по фотографии

Step 10. Self-Critique

When you have reached the point where you are more or less satisfied with your drawing and can’t see where to add further strokes before you take it off the drawing board decide whether you want to put a border around it. Again, this is entirely optional. Some illustrators like involved fancy borders. One use of a border is to indicate where vertical is.

Take it off the board and pin it up on the wall somewhere where you can see it. Perhaps with the color print alongside. After a while, you will spot some feature that needs a little extra work done to it.

The real test is when you show it to a friend and wait for them to say “That’s the Doctor on the Star Trek series”.

Самокритика вашей работы

Step 11. Publication

If you are interested in getting your drawings published there are many fanzine editors who are eager to find good illustrators. Choose a fanzine – or fan press – that is well established and in good standing. It is very disappointing to send your art away and nothing appears because of the fanzine founders.


You can read about the artist David Antony Lawrence and see a few other examples of portraits done in pen & ink techniques in this article.


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