How to Get the Correct Values in Your Human Portraits | Top Tips

Sep 22, 2023
How to Get the Correct Values in Your Human Portraits | Top Tips

I have a couple of easy tricks to help you identify whether you have the correct values in your human portraits so you can feel more confident when tackling your own portraits. Perhaps of your loved ones!


Transforming Your Image into Greyscale:

Turning your reference photo and drawing into black and white can help with determining values in your human portraits. It's an easy trick to use and does help identify where you need to alter your values. By putting your image into greyscale, you can see where you need to darken or strengthen tones as colour can sometimes distract us from the values. For instance, the vibrant colours in my little girl portrait might seem alright at first, but a closer look reveals the need for more depth. Drawing fair skin can be challenging and using a dark or bold colour such as Burnt Ochre on a fair-skinned child might seem intimidating, but they’re essential for depth and realism.


Comparing Colours:

If you use Photoshop, you can pick out the colours that are present in the reference photo compared to the colours you have used. This is a really easy way to tell if you need to add more orange to your skin tone or if you have made it too pink, for example, and you can see how I do this in the video at the top of this blog.

When I was drawing the little girl, that you can see above, I really struggled in areas to get the values right and had to keep going back to darken her skin tones. I had problems with her hand at first, which looked too dark on its own, but now, with the background and context, it looks fabulous, if I do say so myself!

This technique isn't about colour picking, but about values and helping you to see where they may be a bit off and need altering or where you have done really well.


Understanding values is crucial in realism and having the context of the rest of the drawing helps in getting the skin values right. Remember that skin tones are usually darker than we perceive and always consider the surroundings and lighting, as they provide crucial clues about how dark your skin tones need to be.

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