How to draw a portrait step by step with Art-n-Fly sketch markers

Arlie Opal’s Step-by-Step Marker Portrait: Part 1 of 2

Stage 1: Getting Started and Skin Toning

Have you ever wanted to draw yourself, a friend or a loved one? Do you sometimes find yourself looking at a photo, wanting to draw it but not knowing where to start or how to do it? Well, let me help you! I love portraits, I love people. Everyone is so interesting! I want to show that anyone can draw a portrait. For this article I will be using the Art-n-Fly's beautiful creative director, Farren Arendse. Instagram account @farrenlauren


How to draw a portrait tutorial step by step


The obvious best method would be to redraw the image onto the paper you would like to use. For this image I used regular mixed media paper. Whatever paper you're using, just make sure it’s not textured since that would destroy your marker nibs.

I tend to be impatient with redrawing an image because I love to color. So it’s okay to cheat every once in a while and use a lightboard or a window 😊


color chart for drawing a face with markers


So here we are! The image is transferred, the color chart is ready and the reference is at the side.

Tools Used

Before we start, here are all the Art-N-Fly sketch markers I used. These include some from the skin tone pack and some from the 48 color pack. If you don’t have them, don’t be deterred, you can use substitutes. I also used a sepia ink pen size 0.3, and black fineliner drawing pen 0.3


Art supplies for drawing a portrait with Art-n-Fly markers and pens


So without further ado, let’s get this ball rolling.


How to draw a face with Art-n-Fly skin tone markers and pens


Starting a portrait can be a daunting task. Luckily, markers can be forgiving if you let them. I mess up all the time. Most of the time I have no clue what I’m doing. It’s best to give up on expectations and perfection so that way you can be surprised at the end without feeling inadequate. You have to remember that you are doing the best you can and that art is for expression and fun. So relax, I’ll show you how to dissect the photo and match colors.

Matching Colors

I always start with drawing the skin first. I used markers 203WG, 109BR, 25YR, 131R, 28R, and 38R. With markers it’s always best to start light and go to dark. You can always darken an area, but you can never take off a color when it’s put down. Keep a scrap piece of the same paper nearby to check colors. Use this to layer the markers and see which way you would like to proceed on your portrait.


how to draw a portrait with skin tone markers


The way I work a portrait from a photo is by sections. With the 203WG, identify in the photo the highlights on the face.


how to draw a portrait with skin tone sketch markers


Then we go to the next color on the list, 109BR. Don’t be afraid to go over the previous color. Don’t look at it as a paint by number. Natural skin is multiple colors smoothed together in a vibrant array.


 how to draw a portrait with skin color markers

how to draw a portrait with flesh tone markers


Proceed to layer on the colors 131R, 25YR and back over with 109BR by observing the drawing.

I used marker 131R a lot on the left side of the face because it seemed like a pink reflection on the photo. Don’t be scared about which colors you lay down. Think of it as a practice. By practicing coloring and shading it will begin to become second nature to you. Observe the people around you, how the shadows and light fall on their faces. How the light and shade reflects off their skin. This skill will make you a better artist.


 how to draw a portrait with flesh color markers


Using the same colors, move to the next section. In other portraits you would use some of the same hues for the lips, but since she is wearing lipstick, I avoid that area entirely. In the third picture I added sketch marker 38Y to the right side. If you look at the photograph, you can notice that the left is more pinkish and the right is more yellow.


Art-n-Fly markers skin tone markers portrait drawing


Now move to the next section, the neck and ear. I used sketch marker 38Y on the neck and ear, and marker 131R around the collarbone. Are you with me so far? If it looks weird or off, add a touch of color where needed.


face drawing with skin tone markers


Now we will move to the darker shadows of the face. The marker colors I've used are 107BR, 237BR, 236BR, 33YR, and 97BR. Using the reference photo, layer on 107BR and 237BR. Add some of these colors to the inside of the eye. It won’t look like the exact color, but remember that with sunglasses, we will layer over the whole area later giving it the illusion of sunglasses.


coloring a face with skin tone markers by Art-n-Fly


Next, using sketch markers 236BR, 33YR and 87BR, layer the shadows on the chin, neck, around the ear, at the corners of the mouth, the nose, eyes, and finally draw in the eyebrows. I used 33Y on the neck to give the shadows a more orange color. By layering the markers you are able to blend colors to create new colors; use your scrap piece to test out color, shading and blending combination for any curiosity you may have. 

Stage 2: Coloring Lips and Working Reflections


how to draw lips with markers


For the lips I used markers 28R, 84P, 7RP, 12R and 241R


how to color lips with markers


I learned as an artist to not view the objects as they are. Lips are nothing but shades and hues. There are no hard lines in real life. Try to look at the image as different colors pieced together to create the object.

I started first with the highlights on the bottom lip by using marker 28R. From there, I layered the shadows and surrounding areas with 7RP and 84P.


how to draw red lips with markers


Next I use red marker 12R to redden the very bottom on the bottom lip and most of the upper lip. With marker 241R I layered over that to create more shadows. Follow the reference, but don’t feel that you need to follow every ‘rule’. Do what feels right to you.


drawing red lips with sketch markers


This is how it will look so far. Everything will start kind of falling into place and making sense.


How to draw sun glasses with markers


The next step is too look at the sun glasses. To give it a purple tint I went over almost all of the inside of the rims. Even over the skin tones I put down earlier. I did take special care around the highlights as you can see in the right image.


How to draw glasses with markers


Grab your 2CG and 6CG markers, my all-time favorites that I use more than any other color and use these on the glasses, shadows around the ears, nose, lips, and neck. The next image with have close ups of each section.


How to color sunglasses with markers


Notice the highlighted parts on the right image. It may be hard to see, but this is where I used 2CG. 6CG is darker for sure, so you can really see the spots I decided to mark. Keep going back to your reference photo and make sure you can really see the colors. This study will help you grow as an artist and really see the world differently.


how to draw lips neck and ear with sketch markers


The next step is to look at the nostrils, and edges of the lips. While looking at the reference photo I also noticed that the left eyebrow was darker than the right. So I added some of the colors to that as well. In the second image I added some to the inside of the ear and as a shadow for the earring. Finally the last image I used them around the collarbone.


how to draw eyebrows with pens and markers


After that I still wanted a little more fine details. If you notice, your markers can bleed or spread on certain papers. I like the way it looks because I am first and foremost a watercolorist. So I want my drawings to have that look. For finer details and lines, I grabbed my fineliner black and sepia pens in 0.3 size. I used them to color in the lashes, darken and lined the rims and to draw in individual eyebrow hairs. I also used it to sharpen the edges on the nostrils and separate the lips a bit.


how to draw a portrait step by step


I actually decided to go back with markers 2CG and 6CG because I divided the sunglasses in sections. I wanted to make sure I got the skin portion right without drowning out my ability to see the subject as a series of hues and tones. You can see exactly where I used them, but again, learn how to study references. 


how to draw lips with markers


Now we will move on to all the fun colors. I used 138RP, 7RP, 59G, 67B and 66B. Starting with the 138RP I colored over a lot of the existing colors. Going over the greys that you used earlier. Pay attention to the reference for this because the glasses have very cool multicolored reflections. In the last image to the right you can see where I used the rest of the colors. Don’t be sacred to play around with it. Do little bits at a time and stop when you feel satisfied. Color how it feels right to you.


Drawing a portrait with sketch markers and skin tone markers


This is where we stop for part 1. Keep the colorful markers we just used aside because we will be using them later on for the background.

Be sure to check out Part 2 of Arlie Opal’s Step-by-Step Marker Portrait! I would love to see your progress on your work! Tag Art-n-Fly (@artnfly) and me (@arlieopal) on any social media!


3 Responses


November 19, 2019



August 14, 2018

This photoshop tutorial is simply amazing. Thank you for sharing it with us, I’ll definitely be using it in the future.

Felicia Arendse
Felicia Arendse

September 05, 2017

This is super cool ?

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