Grid Drawing Method With Kids: Portraits

Grid drawing is one of the best methods to get kids confident about drawing. Usually the results are good and the process is fun because it feels sort of like you are doing a puzzle.

Basically, with the grid drawing method, you are drawing a grid over a resource image, and copying it, square by square, to your drawing surface. You can choose to keep it the same size, or size up for a drawing challenge.

Breaking the image down into smaller, manageable squares makes it so much easier to get a better likeness of the original rather than tackling a big old blank piece of paper.

Speaking of not tackling blank pieces of paper, I have ebooks of drawing starters in my shop for kids and adults.

grid drawing portraits

Grid drawing is a technique that I learned in college and forgot about, so I was pretty excited when Fen came home from school last week and promptly showed me what she had learned in art class. She had me print out a face, and my headshot was the easiest one to find on my computer…

Then she got to work gridding and drawing. When she was finished, she was beaming. How cool is it to see your kids really proud of themselves for something?

The great thing about grid drawing is that it breaks down the subject into small, manageable areas. It makes drawing fun, and kids absolutely give their full attention to reproducing what they see in each box.

After doing a couple of drawings on 8 1/2 x 11″ paper, Fen decided she wanted to try a giant self-portrait, so I pulled out a piece of poster board. Big drawing is awesome. Big drawing helps kids loosen up, tackle something bigger than life size, and use their brain to translate something they are looking at to a different size onto the paper.

UPDATE! I just discovered a site where you can upload a photo, tweak it, and add a grid to it. This eliminates the whole math step. so do with this information what you will. 🙂


  • Print out of a face
  • printer paper
  • ruler
  • pencil


1. Draw a grid over the printed face using the width of the ruler as your guide.

drawing a grid on a photo to do the grid drawing method

2. Outline the most prominent features of the face to get your hand warmed up, and also to help simplify the face. This makes it easier to see the main shapes in each box that you will be copying.

grid drawing

3. Draw a grid onto your drawing paper. If you are using printer paper, just use the ruler in the exact same way you gridded out the face. If you are going bigger, you’ll need to figure out how many squares you can fit onto the bigger surface by multiplying. Ha!

Alternately, you can benefit from our math-doing and draw out the grid at 7 3″ squares width-wise and 9 3″ squares length-wise.

Measuring large grid for portrait grid drawing

Then just get down to drawing what you see in each square of your portrait into the boxes of your gridded blank paper.

Some people label their grids with letters and numbers up the sides and over the top, but I find that confusing still. I like to place a dot or another mark into each square on the original photograph to visually tell me I’ve already drawn that square.

Drawing a large portrait using the grid method

large grid for portrait grid drawing


4. Erase the grid marks. You may ned to go back over some of your drawing marks that accidentally get erased. If you want to, go over the whole drawing with permanent marker.

Fen left her drawing as an outline, but for older kids or adults, you can go into as much detail as you want with your drawings, copying the shadows and lines over as you see them on the reference photo. This post on how the face is perfectly divided up might be useful (or at least super interesting) as you embark on your drawing.

Feeling really ambitious? Break out the paints- this would work well on the poster board, but you’ll probably want to use something more substantial than printer paper if you’re painting on the smaller size.

grid method for drawing grid method draw faces

If ya liked this drawing idea, you will LOVE this post on 100 kid’s drawing ideas.



20 thoughts on “Grid Drawing Method With Kids: Portraits”

  1. Wow, Fen’s portrait turned out great! I haven’t done grid drawing since Junior High but it was funny because I was staring out the window this morning and noticed the little grid boxes from the screen. Grids everywhere!! And small grids make for dot painting!

    • Screens are weird to stare through- your eyes can go all soft and you can sit there forever staring at the screen and then what’s through it. Anyway, huh. SCreen dot painting sounds fun!

    • I loved those activity books, too! That was the first thing I would turn to, sitting at my kitchen counter, after school, chewing on some processed snacks. The good old days.

  2. What a great idea, Jeannette. It makes drawing successful. Thanks so much for sharing. Actually I wish I would have done this when I was young. A great way to learn, I think. I never really learned.

  3. I admit I’ve never tried this – drawing isn’t my favorite thing – but that just may be because I haven’t given it much practice! When we were in fifth grade my brother used this method to copy an entire world map! I’m pretty sure it won some awards 🙂 Thanks very much for sharing this at the After School Linky!

    • That is incredibly cool- I hope he kept the map! Some day when you’re sitting around, completely bored, maybe you can break out the old ruler and try this; it’s really fun even if you aren’t big on drawing.

  4. What a wonderful way to empower children to draw! Love the idea! Thanks for sharing on the After School Link Up!

  5. It’s so impressive! I remember grid work from school as well, but even with grids I was terrible connecting shapes. I do agree with you that it made some projects somewhat more “doable” with my artistic abilities. I can’t wait until my daughter is older and can try grid drawings as well. Thanks for sharing this technique with Afterschool!

  6. I LOVED doing this as a child. Thanks so much for sharing this at the After School Linky Party. I’m featuring it tomorrow on my blog. Stop by to check it out and link up more great ideas while you’re there. I hope you become a regular on our linky!

  7. I can’t believe this is a recent post Jeanette. I was searching for grid drawings for kids and this post came up. I figured it was a really old one. Do you think 6 and 7 yr olds can do some form of grid drawing?


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