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How to Draw Portraits from Photos with Cricut BrightPad

How to Draw Portraits from Photos with Cricut BrightPad

Artwork with drawn portraits (or painted portraits) have been popular for hundreds of years. There is something really cool about hand drawn portraits hanging on your wall! If you aren’t lucky enough to know an artist or have the funds to hire one, having a Cricut BrightPad around may be your ticket to getting a piece like this done. I am going to show you how to draw portraits from photos with the Cricut BrightPad, so you can have unique pieces for your wall, too!

How to draw portraits from photos

I’m not going to lie to you here. While you don’t have to be a Michelangelo level artist to trace a portrait, a tiny bit of artistic ability is required to shade and choose which lines to trace. The key here is that I said you need A TINY BIT of ability, not tons. My 12 year old daughter does these portraits all the time of pop star pictures from the internet, and she’s not enrolling for art school any time soon. (She’s also the reason I own TWO BrightPads…)

How to Draw Portraits from Photos

How to Draw Portraits from Photos


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The first thing you have to do is find a digital photo that you’d like to turn into a portrait. I recommend photos that are very crisp with light backgrounds. While the BrightPad’s adjustable LED surface and 4000 lumens is pretty cool, it is not going to be able to fix everything. You want a photo that is going to be fairly easy to see to trace.

Your computer should have some sort of paint program on it where you can resize a photo. If not, check out

I use Photoshop or Illustrator. You can see in the photo above I’ve resized my picture of the dog to 5×7 and 4×6 to print off on a plain piece of copy paper. You can alter the photo size so it’s as big or small as you’d like. The Cricut BrightPad has a 9×11.5 lit area…so if your portrait is bigger than that, you’ll have to move your picture around to complete it.

When you print off your photo, you can do it in black and white or color, but try to print to a thin piece of copy paper. Why? So the light has a better chance of shining through the paper so it’ll be easier to trace.

I use washi tape to pin down my picture. It’s relatively unsticky, but just enough to keep the picture in place. A stabilized picture makes it much easier to draw in the long run, so it’s a simple step I recommend taking.

Use the same washi tape to tape your drawing paper over the picture. You don’t want to use copy paper for your final product if you plan to display this portrait. You need a nicer quality paper, but not one that is too thick! We still need to see through it.

You can flip on the BrightPad at this point and adjust the light to where you like it. (There are five settings!) Before I start drawing, I like to map out where my edges are for my picture. This pup is a 5×7 picture, so I get out my steel ruler and sketch in the edges. I know everything drawn outside these borders will eventually get cut off anyway.

Now it’s time to start tracing! In the top photo, I have all my studio lights on and it’s really hard to see the picture. I really recommend for something like tracing photos that you work in a low-lighting room. It doesn’t have to be completely dark, but noon-time sun is not the setting you want to do this project in.

When you begin the project, start by tracing the basic form of the photo’s subject. In this case, my friend’s puppy at it’s adoption day party. I do the first sketch with my HB pencil.

Pencils matter a little bit in artwork like this. Of course, you CAN go ahead with your #2 pencil if that’s what you’ve got. It’s better than not trying at all, and sometimes you just have to work with what you have. When I was an art major, I did learn all about quality pencils, and given the choice, I use them because the difference in the final product is noticeable.

Since my children have long since disassembled my supply of art school pencils, I had to go pick up another set. The pencils are really inexpensive at Hobby Lobby. If you only buy a few, get an HB (great for initial sketches), a 2B and a 6B. The B pencils are soft and mark more darkly, and the H pencils are on the hard side and leave lighter markings. I’d also get a good kneaded eraser while you’re there to clean up any errant pencil marks.

You can see here how I have a good roughed in image of our puppy. From here, you use a hard pencil to fill in the really dark areas of the image. Do the lighter shaded areas as well with less pressure on the pencil. Then grab your next softest pencil and go over the dark areas again, and then some of the lighter areas. Keep doing this until you have your shadows filled in. But just a little at a time so you don’t end up with an eraser job!

If you’re following the shaded outlines of the photo fairly well, your image should start popping off the paper. Turn off the BrightPad every once in awhile to see where you’re at with your picture!

This method can be used for people portraits as well.

If you’re not super comfortable with shading, you can always pick out the major lines in the photo to trace instead. These also make fantastic portraits!

Probably the easiest subjects to trace on the BrightPad are inanimate object. Cars, space shuttles, etc. There are fewer nuances to get exactly correct. Kids LOVE tracing pictures like these. They always come out looking amazing with little artistic ability on their part.

The BrightPad is definitely good for more than just weeding vinyl–I also use mine to trace pictures to start watercolor paintings. My friend uses hers to piece together paper quilt pieces, and another for cross-stitching. Many useful uses!

Check out the BrightPad at the Cricut Store here!

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Cricut. The opinions and text are all mine.

Paula Biggs

Owner at Frog Prince Paperie
Paula Biggs is a party planner, DIY crafter, and owner of Frog Prince Paperie, where you can find hundreds of party, craft and lifestyle ideas.


Thursday 14th of February 2019

This looks so easy, and I love pencil drawings. That baby sure is cute! I have a daughter who does marvelous pencil drawings, I will let her know about this.

Paula Biggs

Thursday 14th of February 2019

Please do! :)


Thursday 14th of February 2019

I love love love this!

Paula Biggs

Thursday 14th of February 2019

Thanks, Jessica! I was very happy with the way they turned out--reminded me of the good old art school days, lol

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