I was very intimidated about coloring a face and actually still am. To me, it is the biggest challenge of all subjects in coloring because a flower or leaf can be forgiving, there’s no right or wrong basically. Well there is but you can get away most of the time. However, to think that I might destroy a face by having the wrong highlights, more depth and dimensions are all scary thoughts.
Learn by observing
The best way to learn is to observe. We can observe the facial feature of people we encounter. As I mentioned in one of my previous blogs, I look at things differently ever since I started coloring. Nowadays when I look at something, I am really analyzing, like where is the shadow, how lighting changes the colors, what eye makeup enhances and so on. I look at myself in the mirror at different angles and try to understand the collar bones as the face turns. The other thing I like to do is study portrait photographs.
There are greyscale coloring pages or books where all the shadows, intensity and depth are preset by the artist. It is a good exercise to do a few of those to get a feel of identifying the contours of the face before attempting your own. Besides, they are fun to do.
Color a side view to start
I find it’s a lot less intimidating to color a side view. For the human face, I think the most difficult part is the nose – too straight, not straight enough, wrong shadow, too wide, too narrow. Somehow, I find it easier to do smoky eyes, and pouty lips, it’s like applying makeups (ok I know not all of us apply makeups but it helps if you do). A side view spares you having to draw a perfect nose. Most of the time illustrators didn’t draw the entire nose on a front view. This is understandable because you really don’t want a black outline of a nose if you are trying to achieve a realistic portrait look. Here’s a few of my side view coloring in addition to the featured piece above:
A semi-side view
After I got more comfortable with a side view, I ventured into a semi-side view. As you can see below, I am still able to get away with drawing the entire nose myself.
I tried a nose job eventually using an illustration by Laura Rafferty (@lauracolorstoo) below. There are a lot to improve upon I know but at least I’ve tried.
A video demonstration
I am still learning but I decide to be brave and share a video of how I did the face shown below. Hopefully, you feel inspired to try a side face after watching. Of course there are many other colorists much more experienced at coloring faces who share their techniques on YouTube. Make sure you watch theirs too! Remember? Learn by observing. As always, learn the technique and not try to copy exactly. You’ll become a better colorist that way.
In this example I used Derwent Inktense plus colored pencils. The color choices of green, blue and tan were unconventional but suit the jungle theme of this piece. However, the important thing is to demonstrate the “how”, you can substitute with whatever colors or coloring medium you like in your own project.
Coloring a face is the same blending technique as a flower once you understand the contour, the shadows and depth. It is a good idea to lightly map out the shadows (the darker parts) early on and gradually build on them. The other trick I have used is to use a white or platinum white pencil to block out areas that should be the lightest at the beginning, so I don’t accidentally lost the “shine”.
Here’s the YouTube Video: