How To Position And Scale Your Pencil Portrait Accurately
All your hard work could become undone in the end if you don’t bother to position and scale your pencil portrait to perfection.
Never skip this step; no matter how tedious you may find it, your whole portrait hinges on this one step.
Before we continue, make sure you have found yourself somewhere quiet and comfortable to work. It is totally up to you how you do this; you can stand and use an easel, sit at a table with your paper flat or a combination of both.
Get your drawing gear out, your printout of your original photo and tear yourself a sheet of A3 Heavy weight Fine Grained 200g/m squared paper from your pad.
Scaling Your Pencil Portrait
Scaling means to resize in proportion, and is usually set out in a ratio format.
If the ratio, however, was 1:2 this means the image is to be resized down to half the size of the original.
Simply put, the number ‘1’ always represents the original. If it is on the right side of the ‘:’ symbol, then that signals resizing up by the amount on the left side.
If the ‘1’ is on the left side of the ‘:’ symbol, then that signals the image is resized down by the amount on the right side.
1:1 is evens Stevens; no change needed. For the sake of this tutorial, this is the ratio we will be working with, so no maths needed here today, but it is useful to know how to scale for any future portraits you draw.
Using The Gridding Method
A grid is what we are going to use to guide us throughout the portrait. If we needed to scale the portrait then it would be the grid size we would alter on our paper.
For example, we have a grid of 1/2″x 1/2″ squares on our photo covering the area we are going to sketch.
Now if we want to scale the image to a ratio of 2:1, then we draw a corresponding grid in a light outline on our paper measuring 1″ x 1″- which is twice the size of 1/2″ x 1/2″ we have on the original photo.
Now by copying each square from the photo one by one, our finished portrait will be twice the size of the original photo.
Gridding Tools To Help You
Like I said earlier, the ratio we are using for this tutorial is 1:1; so the original photo we printed out earlier in approximately A4 size will be the same size of our finished portrait.
I suggest either purchasing some transparent 1″ x 1″ grid sheets similar to the image on the right and placing the sheet evenly over the photo using a bit of Blu-Tac to hold it in place, or if you are struggling to find that then using A4 Inkjet Acetate Sheets and printing the grid on this will work just as well.
You can find a ready made 1″ x 1″ grid under Free Resources in the side bar.
If none of this is possible, then you can use a ruler to draw the 1″ x 1″ grid on the original photo; though, try and avoid this because the pencil lines will omit parts of the photo which could be crucial to the finished portrait. Every detail counts, remember!
Position Your Grid On The Paper Carefully
Remember, we are working with a 1:1 ratio so the grid size is the same as the original; 1″ x 1″.
Stand about a yard back from your blank sheet, and hold the original photo in front of the paper to try and work out the best position to draw your grid. This will be where your portrait will go, so keep in mind mounting and framing and leaving space around the portrait to avoid bad positioning and a cluttered look.
Once you are happy with where you want your portrait to end up on the paper, use a ruler and start drawing out your grid. Remember to keep the 90° angles in tact. It is squares we need, not a rhombus!
You should now have something exactly like the image below. Well Done!
Now you have done that, grab a quick cuppa or coffee because we are about to start our pencil portrait by giving our subject some eyes in Step 3.