Drawing people accurately is obviously necessary in making successful family portraits …

… but you can add depth and interest to the picture by also adding props.

Objects that help to tell a story, give a sense of the family’s personality, and help connect the viewer to the people in the picture.

Some common examples are families reading together, playing a game, or playing an instrument.

When drawing a prop, you’re usually drawing a man-made object with perfectly straight lines, curves, or angles.

Often there is lettering to contend with as well, or complex symbols. The best way to handle it, therefore, is to keep the form simple to begin with and not to get caught up in the details until it’s time to put them in.

1. Draw the large shape of the object in sketchy lines to check placement on the page. Make sure that the size of the object is proportional to the people by marking off lines for the width and height before you do more careful rendering.

2. When you’re sure that the object is sized, placed, and angled on the page correctly, begin to darken the outline. For straight edges, always use a ruler even if the line is small.

For precise curves or circles, use a flexible curve, french curve, or other template. At this point you’re still concentrating on the shape of the object, nothing more complex than that.

3. Begin sketching guidelines for the interior shapes and designs. Sketch lightly, and then clean up and make modifications just as you did with the large exterior shape.

If there are extreme contrasts around a clean shape (such as the “E” on the guitar pictured here), mask the shape with frisket film before you lay down any tone.

4. Add tone to the object, first in the mid-tones and highlights leaving darks for last whenever possible to minimize smudging.

Detail work such as picking out wood grain in the guitar, or creases in the old books, can be done by alternating between pencil work and erasing out lines, and you can use the indentation technique for small white lines and letters.

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