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Drawing the Mouth with Color Pencils


A color pencil drawing of the mouth.
A color pencil drawing of the mouth.

The mouth is the second most expressive feature of the face and often displays our responses to different circumstances. It may communicate a range of emotions including joy, sadness, contentment, desire, fear, anger, frustration, uncertainty and disapproval.

The way a person's mouth is configured is distinctive to that individual and consequently an important feature of any portrait that aims to create an accurate likeness of the subject. Therefore, you need to look very closely at the mouth to capture its unique shape and form.

Please follow the steps below to explore the process and techniques used to build up our color pencil drawing of the mouth.

Step 1

Sketch the Mouth Lightly in Line


Drawing the mouth with color pencils - Step 1


  • You start to draw the mouth by concentrating on the line between the lips.
  • The movement, direction and weight of this line is distinctive in each subject and central to obtaining a likeness.
  • You continue by establishing the outline of the mouth using a very faint line to suggest where the warmer color of the lips merges with the skin of the face. This line should be light and broken to avoid separating the mouth from the rest of the face.
  • To complete the line drawing of the mouth you should define the bumps and wrinkles on the surface of the lips. These are formed by the muscles beneath the skin that move to create different facial expressions.


Step 2

Evenly Shade over the Mouth with a Light Skin Tone


Drawing the mouth with color pencils - Step 2


  • Next, you should shade a light skin tone evenly over the mouth.
  • Don't worry about losing your drawing beneath the shading. Color pencils are a transparent medium and your drawing should show through. If you feel that your lines are too faint, you can go over them again.


Step 3

Start to Build up the Basic Tones and Details of the Mouth


Drawing the mouth with color pencils - Step 3


  • When you start to sketch in the tones of the lips, don't treat them as a separate feature from the surrounding skin. Their colors may be different but their tones are shared.
  • This stage requires close observation and deep concentration to first discern then depict the intricate details and distribution of tones in the lips.
  • Some of the tonal detail in and around the lips will be more distinct with well-defined bumps and wrinkles while other areas will be flat and uniform.


Step 4

Continue by Reviewing your Tones and Details


Drawing the mouth with color pencils - Step 4


  • Once you have established the basic tones of the mouth it is time to look at them again to search for additional details that you may have overlooked.
  • When you look again it is easier to see your subject with a fresh eye as you are now able to compare it with what you have already drawn. You have a new point of reference that you can build upon.
  • Drawing teaches you how to see with an ever increasing depth of perception and this process of looking again and again to help you see more clearly is a fundamental skill for any artist.


Step 5

Add Highlights and Continue to Build up your Tones


Drawing the mouth with color pencils - Step 5


  • Next, you should continue to strengthen the tones of the mouth through this persistent process of observation.
  • The addition of highlights at this stage will increase the realism of your drawing.
  • Highlights are best created using an eraser in preference to a white color pencil.
  • If you try to brighten an area of color pencil by mixing it with a lighter color, you will actually decrease its brightness. Color pencils are a transparent medium and they display their maximum intensity of color when they are unmixed and able to reflect the white of the paper through their color pigments.
  • Using an eraser to create highlights allows you to retain the purity of your color pencil pigments and thereby achieve the maximum saturation of your colors.


Step 6

Increase the Warmth of the Skin Tone


Drawing the mouth with color pencils - Step 6


  • In order to reflect the subtle changes of temperature that naturally appear in the skin, we have applied a delicate layer of red to modify its warmth.


Step 7

Add Color to the Lips


Drawing the mouth with color pencils - Step 7


  • Once again, you should continue to strengthen the tones of the mouth and refine the texture of the skin, building them up to the depth of contrast and consistency you require.
  • When you are reasonably happy with the tone and texture of the mouth you should start to apply color to the lips.
  • The color of the lips is gradually built up in soft layers of red, crimson and violet.

  • We gently shaded over the tones and details of the lips with pale reds, deepening to crimson over the darker areas, and finally blending with violet for the darkest details.

  • This layering technique takes advantage of the natural transparency of color pencils to enhance the tones and details already established.
  • If you overdo any of the colors at this stage, you can easily lift them off with a sharp eraser.


Step 8

Refine and Balance all the Colors, Tones and Textures


Drawing the mouth with color pencils - Step 8


  • Once you feel that you have refined and balanced the tone, color and texture of your drawing to your highest standards, look at it again one last time to review all the elements of your work.
  • This final look is very important as during the process of drawing you can become attuned to your errors and fail to notice them as such.
  • For example, in our drawing we failed to notice an imbalance between the left and right hand side of the lips and consequently had to lift the right hand side to correct this error.


Techniques You Can Use To Discover Your Mistakes


There are several techniques you can use to help you look at your work with a fresh pair of eyes:

  • Look at your drawing in a mirror. The reversal of your image is enough of a change to help you see your work afresh.
  • Turn your drawing upside down to look at it and you will be able to see your errors more clearly.
  • Take a photograph of your drawing with your mobile phone and examine that. The change of scale and medium will alter the way you see the image and help you to notice any mistakes.


Drawing the Mouth with Color Pencils
A Step by Step Summary


Drawing the Mouth with Color Pencils – Steps 1-8


  • In our illustration above you can see how our color pencil drawing is built up in a series of layers that gradually refine the line, color, tone and texture of the image to create a convincing representation of the mouth.
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