Portrait Drawing

By Eric Hammer

Portrait drawing is one of the most common ways of making money from artwork. However, it's also one of the poorest paid options because of the fact that the barrier to entry is so low. After all, in order to do portrait drawing, all you need to do is grab some pencils and a pad. It's incredibly easy to do the job once you know how it's done and as such, it's quite common to see people doing portrait drawing on street corners in most major cities, especially in parks which are popular with tourists.

Portrait drawing, as opposed to painting a portrait typically involves drawing a picture of a person using pencils. The pencils are sometimes a single led like color and in other cases, multiple colored pencils are used. However, in all cases, the entire job typically takes as little as 10 minutes or as long as an hour. Because of this, the amounts that pencil artists charge for portrait drawing tend to be fairly minimal.

How Much Can You Make?

In most major metropolitan cities in the United States, it's possible to find several people offering portrait drawing services in and around parks and busy sidewalks, especially those which are frequented by tourists. Typically, these people charge between $10 - $30 for these portraits. This amount is however almost entirely profit since the cost of the raw materials, basically pencils and plain drawing paper are quite inexpensive.

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Those interested in portrait drawing may also find additional work or even an alternative line of work in drawing caricatures. These kinds of pictures reinterpret people's faces to look more like a cartoon character, similar to those seen in political cartoons in major newspapers.

Portrait drawing can also be employed when reporting on a court proceeding as cameras are not allowed in the court. Therefore, portrait artists are often called in to create pictures which can be featured in newspapers and on television news in place of actual photographs or video.

In all cases, it's important to be as accurate as possible (unless you are drawing caricatures, in which case it's expected that you'll exaggerate features) since people will expect to pay for a completed portrait which looks like an accurate representation of themselves.

Qualifications / Requirements

There are no formal requirements to become a portrait artist other than knowing how to draw such portraits. However, in some states, it may be helpful to obtain a license to engage in portrait drawing at local parks where tourists gather. Such licensure would give you legal standing to stay in the park when the police remove others and would also allow you to contact the police if other portrait artists chose to try to invade your location.

First Steps

In order to become a portrait artist, one must first learn how to do portrait drawing. The process of doing so is relatively simple and it's possible to study this form of artistry at a number of schools. We even found an online school offering such services (see resources).


Check out these helpful resources to learn more about portrait drawing:

Art Academy - An online school where one can learn the art of portrait drawing.

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Every Way to Make Money | Portrait Drawing