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How to Draw a Nightmare Self Portrait Tutorial in the style of Tim Burton

Learn how to draw a Nightmare Self Portrait with an easy step by step tutorial. It imitates the style of Tim Burton, an American film director who is known for his gothic fantasy style shared in The Nightmare before Christmas.

A drawing of a Nightmare Self Portrait, made with the help of an easy step by step tutorial.
PDF Tutorial Sample Drawing (page 3)

It only takes a few simple supplies and a couple of drawing tips to learn how to draw a Nightmare Self Portrait. The project name is in honor of Tim Burton, the artist and director of “The Nightmare before Christmas” movie, which has the famous style of skinny figures with large white eyes.

There are some professional artists around who will make a Nightmare drawing of you for a fee, but who needs that when you can make your own? A few exaggerations in a couple of places will result in something that captures the look, and provide some good pencil drawing practice for young artists too.

Drawing Project Tips

For best results, it’s really helpful to draw on some kind of off white paper. This sample was done on a Paper Source card stock that was called Gravel, but any kind of light gray or brown would work too. The most important reason is that the added color allows students to fill in those big eyes with a white pencil crayon. They are the key feature of this self portrait and the bright white eyes popping off the shadowy background really helps to accentuates them.

Lastly, to help students make their drawing as original as possible, this drawing tutorial comes with an added tip sheet. The main tutorial will show what order to draw the portrait shapes in, but an additional sheet offers more options for the shape of the head, and the large eyes and tiny mouth. And maybe most importantly, some ideas on how to draw different styles of hair, which is what stumps a lot of students. The idea is that they have a little help in visualizing their own faces, so they come up with their own original Nightmare Self Portrait.

Note: For those that want to go all out, I’ve included a fun frame template in the download, and a sample drawing of how I used it. It just seemed like a fun option and a place to add even more creativity, which is always a good thing. Scroll down to see a little preview of it.

Use the Button below to Download a PDF Tutorial

A step by step tutorial for how to draw a Nightmare Self Portrait, which is available as a free download.
PDF Tutorial (page 1)
More drawing ideas for the Nightmare Self Portrait project. Lots of options will help students see how to draw their own portrait.
PDF Tutorial Tip Sheet (page 2)
PDF Tutorial Sample Drawing (page 4)
PDF Frame Template (page 5)

Materials to Draw a Nightmare Self Portrait

  • Paper. Card stock paper that has a light gray or brown shade for an old-fashioned black and white look.
  • Pencil. The Ticonderoga brand are the most reliable, make nice dark lines when you need them, and are the easiest to erase. Buying the pre-sharpened ones will save busy teachers a lot of time.

  • White Pencil Crayon. Prismacolor cost a little more than the others, but they always leave the brightest color. That’s especially true for the white ones.

  • Eraser. Large ones you can hold in your hand do a much better job than just the pencil tip erasers, especially when erasing leftover pencil lines after tracing.

Directions to make a Nightmare Self Portrait

Time needed: 45 minutes.

Step by Step Instructions

  1. Choose your head shape and draw it large.

  2. Add two very large circles for the eyes.

  3. Draw tiny circles for the pupils, and a nose and lashes.

  4. Add a tiny mouth and skinny neck.

  5. Draw brows, ears and any hair on the forehead.

  6. Finish the hair with the outer line.

  7. Trace all of the head with a pencil, making a heavy dark line. Add shadows around the OUTSIDE of the eye with a pencil.

  8. Add any extra details that make you unique.

  9. Fill in dark areas with the pencil, and color the eyes with a white pencil crayon.

  10. Bonus Tip Sheet includes a few more options for the head, eyes, nose and mouth.

Student Art Inspiration

By Benjamin Franklin Elementary School, 2nd grade German, Glendale, CA 

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More fun Halloween Drawing Projects

Scream Self Portrait
Witch Hat
Frankenstein meets Picasso

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