How to Create a Medieval Style Female Profile With Ink and Pencils

Final product image
What You'll Be Creating

In today’s tutorial we'll be drawing a delicate and expressive female portrait with hair decorations, such as flowers and a feather. The theme of this drawing is natural beauty and stylization for Renaissance art. We’ll be using ink liners and watercolor pencils.
  • White paper (any kind you are comfortable with)
  • Lead pencil for creating the sketch (I recommend HB type)
  • Eraser (for any excess pencil lines)
  • Ink liners (I'll be working with 0.1 mm, 0.2 mm, 0.3 mm, 0.5 mm and 0.8 mm line width types)
  • Pencils (I use three colors: lilac, blue and pink, but you can add more tints)

Art supplies for this drawing

Undertaking a historical study of the Renaissance period is as useful for this project as getting your art supplies ready. Examining artworks can immerse your mind in the atmosphere of a long-gone age and inspire your creativity. It's also important from the practical side of your work, because the more details you get from your research, the more vivid your drawing will be. Any stylization (even combining historical and contemporary) needs a considerable cultural basis.
Here's a great example of Renaissance art: Sandro Botticelli, Portrait of a young woman, 1484.

Example of art

You can become acquainted with Renaissance art and its representatives in thisWikipedia article
In this tutorial we'll create a portrait based on human face anatomy principles, but with a considerable influence of stylization. My idea is to depict a collective symbol of beauty that our culture inherited from Renaissance art and, in turn, from ancient Greece and Rome.
Let’s consider drawing a head in a very simple way. The shape of the head has an egg-like form. Sometimes it is helpful to imagine a circle with a bulging extension—that’s the figure in which we can insert a human head.
With relation to composition principles, it makes sense to outline a profile portrait with some extra space between the character’s eyes and the end of the paper sheet. This way there remains some logical space for the look, making the drawn human more real and expressive.
Also please take into account that there should be enough space on the paper sheet for the long hair of our character. 
Firstly, draw a circle (you can use bow compasses if it’s complex to draw an even shape just by hand). Having the middle line of the circle outlined is very useful for future sketching. Then draw a line downwards and merge it with the middle line, as in the image below. 

Creating simple form for the head

Make this line more prominent and round, and then add a little bit more volume at the other side. (Please note that I'll be erasing all unnecessary lines from the previous steps in the course of the tutorial, just for your convenience.)

Drawing initial shape for the head

Leave a small space for the hair area at the top of the head shape. Then divide the remaining figure in three approximately equal intervals. 

Creating intervals for face features

The first interval, on the top, is for the forehead. The forehead is an inclined line that stops at the eyebrow line (the eyebrow will lie on the border between the top and middle intervals) and switches into a small cavity where the eyes are. I exaggerate this transition a little for dramatic effect.
The second, middle interval is for the central part of the face, where the nose is. The nose in my portrait is straight. My intention is to depict an ancient ideal of beauty, natural and noble.
The third part, at the bottom, is for the lips and chin. This part steps a little further forward in comparison with the forehead part.
There is also a place for the ear—it lies obliquely at the left of the circle’s middle line. The ear in this artwork will be covered with hair, but it’s useful to mark it just for your reference.

Drawing profile features

Let’s draw the eyebrow and the eye. The eyebrow is a classical, graceful, bent shape. The figure of the eye is stylized, so I depict it a little bit bigger than the realistic prototype. It’s also a part of cultural heritage, a tiny allusion to elegant portraits of ox-eyed ancient goddesses, symbols of beauty.
The eye is located on the imaginary inclined line below the eyebrow, like in a cavity.

Drawing the eye shape

To achieve a human-like look, add the iris with a pupil and eyelashes.

Refinement of the eye

I mark the approximate borders of the future hairstyle.

Creating space for the hair

I outline the round shapes of three roses in an improvised compositional zigzag and differing in size. The smaller circles inscribed in the bigger ones are the imaginary center of the flower. I deliberately make the centers point at various directions because it creates a more vivid look.

Shape of the roses

I refine the petals’ shapes, imaging how they grow around the bud’s center and overlap each other, the central ones small and narrow and the peripheral ones bigger and wider. A petal is a natural form, so it creates many delicate curves. I also add two small leaves.

Refinement the roses

A feather is a part of the decoration—it’s romantic and elegant at the same time. The feather has a long, rounded shape. Now it’s placed on the top of the head, so it may seem unnatural, but when we add hair, it will be in just the right place.

Drawing the feather

I add a fragment of stylized braid as a symbol of femininity and beauty. Drawing a braid is very simple if you pay attention to the center zigzag-like line of it, because simplistically a braid's main body is an ornamented form of two hair strands set against each other. Just repeat this ornamental rhythm as long as the braid is visible.
To balance the decorative composition, I add several flowers resembling chamomile, with a small core and six petals.

Drawing a braid and several hair strands

I mark the hair strands. The hair is wavy and interlacing. Several short strands near the face make our portrait look more gentle and delicate. 

Drawing more hair

I also add several tiny braids in the hair mass, creating balance between the big and small objects in the drawing. I refine the configuration of hair strands, fill the gaps, and now the hair looks completed.
We can move to the ink part!

Complete hairstyle

Retrace your artwork to a clean piece of copy paper. It can be done with the use of a light table or just a window, when it’s light outside.
You can add small changes in this step, for example, outline a new hair strand, because the paper hasn't been inked yet. It’s always useful to estimate your artwork in each step, because there’s always something awesome that can become your next design decision. 

Tracing the sketch to a clean copy

Before we start inking the artwork, let's have a quick look at the hatching effects that we will be using momentarily. The character of the strokes is very simple: just parallel hand-drawn lines, resembling an engraving style. In some steps I will use dots instead of lines.
The thinner and farther from each other are the lines, the lighter seems the object that is drawn with this style of hatching. It' s also a great way to depict distant objects. The thicker and closer to each other the lines are, the darker and closer to viewer the object will look. Just compare the two upper fragments of hatching on the picture below. 
You can increase the darkness and work on the volume in your art by creating frequent close strokes or applying a layer of additional lines subsequently, atop the existing ones or between them. The strokes don't have to be perfectly even and straight—they can also repeat the shape of the object, be wavy or rounded. That's perfect for natural subjects, such as hair. Don't be upset if your lines don't become as even as you'd like, because an artist is a human, not a machine. 

Variety of the hatching

I use a 0.8 mm ink liner to outline the fragments of my pencil contours, where the joints of the shady areas are supposed to appear, and also the outward contour. I don’t want my artwork to seem plain and heavy, so I need a line variation, which will be added later with a thinner liner. Therefore some intervals of pencil strokes remain untouched in this step.

Drawing thick lines

Now that we have the thickest and darkest lines of our drawing completed for our reference, let’s get the face done. It’s also a psychological trick: after the face on the portrait artwork is ready, everything else will seem easier and can be completed even faster. Because the facial features define the mood of the artwork, it’s the most important and difficult part of our work.
I begin with the eye. With the 0.3 mm liner I expand the cutout of the eye, place several strokes on the iris, and mark the edge of the nostril. It's important to be attentive and increase intensity sequentially, keeping in mind smoothness of light and shadow transition.

Inking face features

With 0.1 mm liner I darken the external side of the eye to achieve a dramatic look, and do the same with the bottom border of the eyebrow. The entire blackness of the iris’s contour turns to hatching with some white spaces, because the eye has some reflections. 

Working on the eye

I add eyelashes and create delicate parallel hatching with a thin 0.1 mm liner on the upper eyelid for visual volume and smooth shadow transition. The center of the eye remains white.

Hatching on the eyelid

I add a layer of dot work with 0.2 mm liner to the upper lip. If the lower lip remains untouched, it will create a natural light play. To strengthen this effect I add tiny hatches with 0.1 mm liner in the area between the lower lip and chin, because this place is supposed to be in shadow too.

Creating volume on the bottom part of the face

It’s time for dots. With a 0.1 mm liner I add dots to the upper eyelid, above the hatching, and a little bit further, so that only a small spot remains untouched in the center of the eye. I also add dots along the bottom of the eye, to the eyebrow, and mark the inner side of the eyelid. These details are very small but incredibly important for creating graphics that are really interesting to examine closely.

Adding dotwork

With the 0.3 mm liner I overlap all the pencil lines that remained untouched in my drawing. Then I accurately erase pencil lines where they’re still visible.
In the next steps we'll be working on different fragments of the drawing, gradually approaching the completion of the ink part. It's important to be concerned with the artwork in general, not separate pieces, because a disconnected perception of the process leads to poor results.

Covering all pencil strokes

It’s time to design shady places on the roses. These areas will be handy in future, when we proceed to the coloring with pencils. I add simple parallel hatching with the0.1 mm liner.

Creating areas for deep shadows on the roses

I create hatching on the hair with a 0.2 mm liner, marking the shady places. It's important to leave enough white fragments, so the hair strands get volume and the play of light and shadow. You can always add one more layer of strokes—it's better than overdoing it right away.

Hatching on the hair

I work on the feather with 0.2 mm liner. Draw free, slightly wavy strokes from the feather's core to its sides.

Inking the feather

I increase the intensity of shadows on the hair with 0.1 mm liner. I add tiny hatching to the hair to create a smooth transition, trying to place these strokes between the ones already there, creating smooth and accurate shadows. Now I get more paper covered with ink, because 0.1 mm lines are really tiny and delicate, without a risk of creating an imbalance.

Additional hatching on the hair

I add hatching with 0.1 mm liner to the little flowers and the roses’ leaves. Just a couple of strokes of chamomile petals and leaves will be enough. 

Working on flowers and leaves

I add small shady areas to the roses where the petals are bending downwards, using 0.1 mm liner.

Creating additional shadows on the roses petals

I thicken the contours in places where I find it necessary with 0.5 mm liner. Increasing intensity allows this artwork to get a completed look.
We are ready to move to the colorful part!

Thicken the contours on shady areas

There is no any special technique for applying colored pencils to this drawing. I just draw, sometimes pressing the pencil harder to achieve brighter intense color, sometimes leaving just tiny single strokes.
My pencils are watercolor, but I won't use any water or brushes to wash the colorful strokes. So you can use any kind of colored pencils you have.
I start with a lilac pencil and apply it to the hatched areas of the roses. I deliberately leave parts of the flowers untouched with color because it creates a delicate and organic look, harmonious with ink graphics.

Color part lilac

I continue coloring the artwork with the blue pencil, covering the lilac strokes. Blue is the color of air and distant objects, so it's the best choice for creating depth. Apply blue pencil mainly to the shady areas of the roses, where the petals are closely adjacent to each other.

Color part blue

The third part is adding the pink color strokes. The part of this color is minimal, just local nuances. The roses become more vivid and bright with these little bright spots.

Color part pink

This is our final result! Now you have a precious piece of art, drawn by your hand on paper. Inserted into a frame with glass, it can become a decoration for your workspace or a unique gift to a friend. I hope you enjoyed the process of working with traditional art supplies, such as ink liners and pencils, and learned something new and useful from this tutorial. Thanks for your attention!

Final art


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