How to Create Facial Expressions in Portraits

How do you come up with the best facial expressions in a portrait? Here is a new way of creating faces for portraits.

In the past, I traced the contours of the faces from the enlarged photos and then determined the values. I proceeded from there by creating the face out of fabric. I found that I wasn’t always totally happy with the results, particularly if I had too large a section of highlight.

Photo showing the tracing of a boy's facial expressions.

Tracing of boy’s face

New Method

So, what to do? I started in the same way by tracing the face, but then photocopied and printed the traced image, so that I had a copy that I could alter without changing the original.

 

Photo showing the photocopied tracing of a face (facial Expression) that has been adjusted for the values.

Photocopied and adjusted.

I shaded in the face based on the values that I wanted and then checked to see whether I liked the result. You can see the numbers that I use for referencing the different values. The only problem with this method is that the photocopy doesn’t erase like a pencil drawing would. You can see the White Out that I used to remove some of the lines.

This is the second face that I did with this method:

A boy's face showing the shading for a portrait.

Boy’s face 2

Once I have what I think is the best result, I lay the tracing, as seen above, back over the photocopy and adjust the lines on my original tracing. I use this traced image for the placement of the fabric pieces.

Result

And here is the result in fabric:

Boy's face recreated in fabric.

Boy’s face recreated in fabric.

I really like this method as I readily notice any odd lines, or shapes, and can double check the values that I have selected, before I start cutting up fabric.

These boy’s faces were difficult to create as the original photo had all the boys looking in to the sun and their eyes were all squinty and the faces were somewhat overexposed. This is the time when a good book on sketching comes in handy. I am currently using “The big book of Realistic Drawing Secrets – Easy Techniques for Drawing People, Animals and More” by Carrie Stuart Parks & Rick Parks. It has really clear visuals for sketching and is a great reference for facial expressions.

Comments

What do you think of this method? Do you sketch your pictures first? What is your favourite reference book?

 

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