Let's look at some situations that come up when
you draw non-European looking people. Up until now most
of the models on Learn-to-Draw have been Caucasian.
Let's see what happens when we draw other types of
When you draw darker skinned people, depending
on how your subject is lit, there may be a different
skin tone, which means the shadows on the face will be
different than you're used to so far from this website.
Darker skin will have deeper shadows, which may mean a
greater contrast between the darkest shadow and the
highlights on the face.
Let's look at the 1980s icon Mr. T. I selected him
not only because I'm a child of the '80s, but also
because he brings some things to mind that we just
looked at. I'm thinking hair (or lack of), and beards.
Click on him to the right and look at the tones of his
skin. Where is the light coming from in this photograph?
This is a studio portrait, and there are at least two
lights. A quick way to discover how many lights are used
in a photograph is to look at the highlight in the eye.
That trick won't work here because Mr. T has his head
tilted down and he's looking slightly up at the camera -
and there are no highlights in his eyes because his
eyelids are too low. I can see three highlights on his
bald head, and the light on his left (our right) is the
least bright. I see that the shadows are slightly
heavier on his left (our right) side.
If we were to
draw him, let's start the usual way and draw the egg
shape to get a rough boundary for where his head will be
placed on the page. And since his head is tilted down
and he's looking up, his eyeline is not in the
center - rather, it's slightly lower. This photograph is
also not straight on, so this would be a three quarter
drawing (although he's not at a three quarter angle -
more like 60/40). So now do some measuring and draw the
contours of the face and head. Because his face is
tilted down, there are some foreshortening and
perspective skews going on here. His ear appears higher
than it should be, his chin appears smaller (his hand
obscuring some of his chin doesn't help), and his nose
appears slightly longer.
With the contours drawn we
can begin to shade in the face. I usually start doing
shading at the eyes, and work my way out on the face. In
the photograph, find the middle tone and start shading
with that tone - start with just a very light shade of
grey. Try and get the same tone grey throughout the
drawing, leaving the highlight areas that you see white.
Then in the darkest shadow areas - like under his brow, nose,
darken the shading a bit. Go ahead and color in the
eyebrows too. It's at this point that you might want to
protect your drawing by taking a clean sheet of paper
and resting your drawing hand on it.
Keep laying down
shadows darkening them the more you draw. You'll find
that the more you shade, the lighter the original tones
you put down will appear. Go ahead and darken them up as
needed, but keep your subject in mind. Keep referring
back to your subject and try and keep the the shaded
tones just as dark or light as you see them on your
subject. Mr. T isn't super dark, so the drawing
shouldn't be super dark either. When drawing
darker-skinned people it's easy to make your drawing
look too dark, so watch for that. When shading a
drawing, I generally work from light to dark. In this
drawing I filled in the hair last because it's the
darkest part of the drawing. And when I did fill in the
hair, the rest of the face looked a little too light.
That also happened back in the first three quarter
drawing that we did on the previous page. So again,
after I filled in Mr. T's hair, I darkened up some of
the shadows. I darkened up along the top of the shaved
part of this head and his left (our right) cheek. I
didn't shade his hand in because we'll cover drawing
hands in another portion of this website.
enjoy drawing portraits of darker skinned people because
I really enjoy the way light is reflected on the darker
skin. The contrast of the highlights and shadows is very
interesting for me. You can look for and draw contour
shapes that the shadows and highlights create because
they are much more apparent than on lighter skinned
people. And depending on the light and the quality of
the light, on very dark skinned people there may be very
minimal midtones or no midtones at all - only shadow and
highlights. Drawing dark skinned males can be a little
more challenging than drawing dark skinned females
because, for the most part, females have softer skin and
therefore softer skin tones than males. That results in
more midtones on a female face and fewer shadows and
softer highlights. But the softness of a female's skin
depends on the lighting almost as much as the tone of