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Adding In The Details

From here we’re going to refine the drawing and add in all the details. The cool thing is that not only is this stage the fun part of the drawing, but it’ll also be a breeze because you’re literally just drawing onto of what you’ve already got.


There are three main elements we’ll be using to take this drawing through to a finally polished piece of top row comic book art. Here’s what they are.

Details consist of 3 elements:


  • Line weights – “Refinement of lines using varying weights to indicate stroke direction and overlapping.”

  • Shadows – “Used to indicate light sources. Shadow work can also greatly enhance mood and drama.”

  • Rendering – “Blends solid shadows into highlights. Also aid’s in the depicting of form.”

Of course, there is an endless well of variety and style out there that individual artists use to create a unique identity for their art work. So how you use these three elements to finalise your drawing is completely up to you and your personal preference.


Some people like to keep it simple, and the Line Weights are more than enough to achieve the affect they’re after. Other’s like to introduce an extra touch of mood and drama into their drawings through the use of thick, heavy shadows. And then there’s some artists who take it the whole mile by trying to fit as much intricate detail into their work as they possibly can.


Take some time to think about your personal style. How would you like your comic book art to look?

Step 17. Refining the Drawing

To clean up the drawing, you’ll refine the sketch using ‘Line Weights’. Line Weights help the contours of your drawing to appear more distinct, less flat, and more visually appealing over all.


Line Weights were originally used by inkers for the same reason when inking over pencilled art.


Being an artist however, the less guess work you leave to others down the pipeline, the closer the final art work will be to your original vision.


So as you draw, it’s always worthwhile to define the line weights yourself not only because it looks good, but it’ll also leave minimal guess work for anyone else you might collaborate with.

How to Draw Comics | How to Draw Head Portraits 1

Line Weights are an important topic to cover, so we’ll talk about them more in depth in a later tutorial dedicated to them alone. For now, here’s what you should keep in mind.

  • Line Weights refer to the different weights/thickness/heaviness within a single line. The line may begin thin, thicken up in the middle, and then fade out again at the end. For example, the chap’s mouth above is a single contour line. However it’s not the same thickness all the way through. It starts out heavy at the corners, thins out in the middle then bulks back up again at the other end. If you observe closely you can see that not a single line in the drawing above has the same amount of thickness all the way through.


  • Line Weights can also be used to indicate the direction of a light source. Simply use a heavy weight on the dark side and a thinner weight on the light side. To put it another way, the further away an area of the form is from the light, the heavier the line should be. 


Step 18. Draw in the Iris

Women are naturally darker around the eyes and mouth then men of the same skin tone. This is why eye makeup and lip stick are so popular among women, because they work together to exaggerate their feminine appearance.


Here we’re using the same method to distinguish the female gender of our character.


Thicken up her eye lashes, especially around the top eyelid and sides of the eye. You are basically taking on the role of a makeup artist as you apply the eye liner to your character.

How to Draw Comics | How to Draw Head Portraits 1

You’ve probably wondered why some comic book characters like Batman, Spiderman and Wolverine are drawn with white, pupil-less eyes when wearing their masks.


Well as it turns out it was Lee Falk, creator of The Phantom who first came up with the idea for white pupil-less eyes. He said that he was inspired after seeing Greek statues that had no pupils and thought it made the statues look like their eyes were following you everywhere and that seemed appropriate for crime fighters - that they are always watching you.


Another reason a character might be drawn with white, pupil-less eyes is to suggest some sort of anonymity, otherworldly power – or – that they’re a mindless zombie.


In either case, our lovely lady is not wearing a mask, nor is she a space zombie goddess, so we’re going to give her a soul and draw some pupils into those blank, dead eyes. For a nice finishing touch, you can add in some shiny light reflections too.

Step 19. Divide the Hang Bangs

Now it’s time to deal with the hair. It can be easy, or it can be complicated. Personally I’m all for easy street, so let me show you how I go about tackling hair.


We’ve roughed in the general style using the bang method. This already makes things a lot less complex.


The first step here is to refine what is already there.

How to Draw Comics | How to Draw Head Portraits 1

As you draw, break the large clumps of hair (bangs) into smaller clumps. The smaller bangs will follow the overall shape of the larger parent, but also feather out on their own. Almost like the wing of a bird. Remember, keep it simple! Then work your way into the more intricate details.


  • Fig 1. Each bang starts out as a large clump of hair. These large bangs help to rough in the layering, styling and overall shape of the hair.

  • Fig 2. The hair is detailed out by dividing the larger bangs of hair off into smaller bangs.

  • Fig 3. To increase the detail, those smaller bangs are then divided off again into even smaller clumps.


Those bangs can be divided as much as desired, depending on the amount of detail you want to throw in there. But take note that they are only ever divided down into smaller clumps of hair, never individual strands (unless you are going for an ultra, photo-realistic look).


Remember to make good use of the Line Weight technique when refining your lines to keep your hair looking neat and slick.


How to Draw Comics | How to Draw Head Portraits 1

Step 20. Rendering of the Hair

Once the hair bangs have been divided up a couple times, they’ll receive a final render pass. The purpose of rendering in comic art is to create values that graduate from dark to light. When applied to hair, this accentuates the layering and helps to add depth.


How to Draw Comics | How to Draw Head Portraits 1

Basic Overview of Rendering:


Fig 1. Rendering is achieved through a series of render lines that wrap around the form, also known as ‘feathering’. A single render line is a simple line with Line Weight applied, being thicker at the base, and gradually thinning out at the tip, almost like a needle.


Fig 2. Rendering lines can be cross hatched over one another to increase contrast between the light and dark values inside the gradient.


Fig 3. Through this gradient, render lines work together to indicate a light source, while also helping to describe the form and shape of an object.


Fig 4. By applying the same rendering techniques to hair, the layering is made more obvious, and in turn gives it more depth.


How to Draw Comics | How to Draw Head Portraits 1
How to Draw Comics | How to Draw Head Portraits 1

In regards to hair, rendering will typically occur in the areas where two overlapping bangs merge out from one another. It’s the underlying bang that will have the rendering applied to it.


Step 21. Rendering the Face

Using the same feathering technique, we’ll create soft shadow gradients to describe the form around key areas of the face.

When it comes to rendering faces, less is often more. It can be easily and unnecessarily overdone, especially on the face of a woman. The ladies tend to have softer faces so the main areas you’ll be lucky to find rendering is around the eyes and nose.

Resist the temptation to render out the cheek bones as doing this will cause her to rapidly start aging.  

How to Draw Comics | How to Draw Head Portraits 1

Step 22. Shadows

Normally, I like to define the shadows before I even think about rendering. But because very little shadow work was used on this lovely lady, it’s been left till last.


One other major difference you’ll notice when it comes to drawing female characters is that their face not only has very little rendering, but even less shadows. Since the purpose of shadows and rendering is to define form, parts of the face, such as the cheek bones, eye sockets, and nose are emphasized when it’s applied.


Sure, this can work well for guys when done correctly, but remember women in general appear to be softer and less defined which means this really isn’t needed. It fact, it’ll do more harm than good, taking away from their youthfulness and femineity.


However, all that being said, shadows are not entirely ruled out for the flawless face of your heroine. There will be times when the use of shadows play an important role such as when she finds herself in an environment doused with dramatic lighting.


Here are a few quick shadow pointers that should be kept in mind for both men and women:


  • Keep it simple. Protruding and receding forms such as the nose, eye sockets, cheek bones, lips, jaw and brow will cast a shadow under certain lighting.

  • The larger the form, the larger the shadow it’ll be casting.

How to Draw Comics | How to Draw Head Portraits 1

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