7 Methods I use to help draw people when shape is undetermined/unsure of Page 3

5) Draw by Number-For starters,the problem is when drawing something, the value can’t be determined by eye contact because it is hard to establish.

There are so many lights and darks it can’t be completely identified, shaded exactly like the original picture.Once a drawing is completed, whether the outline or entire thing without any use of shading yet this comes in very handy. How?

Remember when days of interpreting and drawing were simpler? Back in childhood, when bold outlines were already provided, the coloring pgs, some of them had some demarcation zones, zones with numbers inside indicating based on a key of a scale of how and what colors do draw it.

I believe it is called, “Color by Number”. In the end everything is colored appropriately and realistically like the picture.

  • Similarly done using this skill, based on a scale of numbers, the drawing will be completed but not based on color, but lights and darks of black and white, light to darkest, or value.

  • There will be zones showing how light to dark in each zone how light to dark the drawing should be shaded. 1 being white-5 being the darkest. It should be unshaded, or have certain spots filled looking like this:

Daniel Radcliffe (5) expressions sketch mischevious

This is a drawing of Harry Potter with his jet black hair. There are certain parts of the hair that are the darkest and the rest of them are close to dark:

More about the method itself below…

  • This is similar but more detailed, complex than color by number. But in both scenarios, the contour, outline of is already drawn before hand, the numbers will be marked based on different lights and darks/colors and then the product will be finished based on shading/coloring each zone.

  • The part where the five is marked, is where I plan to shade. Once finished, it will be completely shaded covering the numbers marking, determining where and how it should be shaded.

  •  Notice I have certain zones marked, mapped out each individual zone marking its  location with numbers inside. You can plainly see the big five on top marked where I plan to shade that part the darkest.

    How can it be useful ?……

  • As a result, if mapping it out and planning it before hand, it the process of drawing, no details are sacrificed because you already know where and how to shade and it comes out much better in value.

  • This method is useful, by designating value-light dark as planned. Afterwards, when marking the numbers mark them light so when covering them, they won’t be seen. Unlike color by number  still showing the number afterwards because like the already drawn outlines printed, marked way too boldly.

  •  In conclusion, this works very well after drawing the outline and after shading over each number indicating how light-dark it is in each marked zone, it should end up very much like the photo, but in black and white.


  • The only thing you have to worry about is smudging the drawing. I recommend not pressing, having the side of your hand pressing against the shaded area, because then it is on the side of your hand and will smudge another part of the drawing covering the number indicating how light-dark to shade and you will have to erase it very carefully and rewrite the number again where it was.

6) Guides

Next, referring back to color by number and outlines thinking again about bold outlines already created, or known as to people as, ” A coloring page”, will help show an exact outline.

Because the outline is more bold, it shows a more distinct indication of the person drawn. Establishing eye contact drawing the same outline on another piece of paper will help draw the outline. Then shade it or if possible have the regular photo.

What I do is have the photo and the outline the same size present. I don’t place them on top of each other like the connect the dots method.

But, it helps to draw it on the same size paper because if something is the same scale it makes it easier to be represented as the original thing. Nothing else is changed in scale or proportion most likely in the unit when redrawn. Here is one example below…

One of the hardest people to draw was Sarah Michelle Gellar. The grid method didn’t work so I mapped out her shape in paint and used the same photo printed in black and white, once again as an outline using Kodak software making that effect, and printed that out.

Then using that drew the outline and shaded it based on the photo. I didn’t use a technical pencil at the time, so some of it is undefined and smudged with bolder, smudged lines showing.

I mapped out her shape:

Sarah Michelle Gellar

Notice it is heart-shaped but the space is narrow, the middle it is flat and the top and bottom are round like a cone. You can also draw a bloated, narrow long balloon in the shape of a heart, or what I like to call skinny heart. Her shape is a cone/skinny heart. After knowing this, I attempted to draw her again and knowing the shape really helped.

Because I was unsure I printed the outline made using Kodak softward and the original photo seen here:

15162nd trial of drawing Sarah Michelle Gellar

The first is the photo, the second the outline, the last one is my drawing.

I can see it is definitely her. But, it lacks detail and a definite outline of shape. Also, it is unfinished because I was afraid to finish it. This is one of my earlier stages of trial and error drawings. It came out much better planned using this method.

7) Grids

Normally a grid contains 9 1 inch squares on the pg, but I found really quick that it wasn’t good, definite enough and built on that. I used 1/2  inch blocks using a ruler and filled the entire page.

The more squares, the more practice. I recommend a smaller picture with a grid so you don’t have to draw 22 by 17 of 1/2 inch squares like I did. I certainly got the practice, but it is good to start off small. For me, 22 * 17 squares, is a lot of squares.

Close to 500 squares. It is about 50x more the squares than a 1 inch grid. But the smaller the square, the more room for detail. Little, by little you get every detail of the drawing in each confined, lightly drawn square.

Then when erased, it is done and should be more accurate then the other methods used. I used this method alot. I have the grids for some old ones but never completed them using the grids made because I started using other methods, mostly the guides method above, being more observant of the shape of face.

Here is the grid drawn below using a ruler. Also, it helps to print the photo and normally when it is printed on an 8 by 11, there are two options. It can be printed until the very edge, slightly cropped leaving a white trim, or it can be further cropped, or printed on the whole paper. My printer printed it with a slight white trim so it was easily printed.

The reason to leave a little white trim is to label the numbers for each column and row: 1-17/18 (depending on how much width the photo takes up on top. Then label the 1-22 numbers on the side. There should only be one 1 number. because other wise there is one extra square and the grid will not be drawn correctly. Normally on a grid there is one number 1 located in the top left corner.

Here is who I wanted to but never drew before-Michelle Pfeiffer. I did not know the shape and in comparison of drawing others. I drew her pretty well the first time. The only predicament was I almost started to exaggerated the lips shape, then the whole shape too full. If you notice Michelle’s shape is wide and flat, but if drawn fuller, the shape is exaggerated, it starts to look like Angelina’s similarly wider one, but much fuller.

This is the grid i used to draw Michelle. I either use to use grids and outlines/coloring pgs computer made with black and white photos and used them as guides to draw the structure the first time.

I noticed this mistake, misinterpretation drawing her and made the lip shape flatter and finished the drawing. You can still see the slightest indication of squares. I drew the squares using a harder, technical pencil so the lines wouldn’t be too dark and cannot be erased. However, if they are also too light and hard, they are also traceable.

Unfortunately, after erasing the lines they become engraved embossed after erasing them. They are pressed in the paper and after shaded, shown. You can see in the gray area of the background and parts of the hair where I neglected to use a pencil not too hard or soft, too hard, engrave the squares and I shaded as much as possible but traces of the lines of the square are still seen on drawing where I drew the lines too hard in some places.

Still, the result came out much better and I wasn’t 100% sure of the shape at the time. Notice it imitates the person being drawn. Knowing the shape before drawing will lead to a better outcome drawing the person much closer by studying it.

Because this method and I were very precise and it shows, I completed her wide + round, round heart-shaped face and was successful.

This is an older drawing of when I first tried to draw Pfeiffer, it's good but lacks detail in value so you can't tell who it is until you see the pic, but it is 100 % like the structure because I knew her shape.

Here is my personal, final result after previously having used seven steps using the same last black and white image of Michelle Pfeiffer…

Not quite finished, but see the difference of detail and identifying the person’s shape before drawing it? It is even borderline embellished as well as age. In this example I used a 2H for detail and a 2-4 B to shade darker, but not pitch black dark.


Michelle Pfeiffer

So, feel free to try these steps out.

Let me know what you think and enjoy!