Product Review: Realistic Pencil Portrait Mastery by Christopher Sia

23 Comments | January 27, 2011

Realistic Pencil Portrait Mastery

Realistic Pencil Portrait Mastery

Today I’ll be reviewing Christopher Sia’s “Realistic Pencil Portrait Mastery”, a home-study course that will teach you how to draw realistic portraits.  Now let me begin by saying that I care very little for so-called “pitch sites,” the online version of OxyClean infomercials.  They all have the same structure: 1) Hey check out how great my product is; 2) see how great these people think my product is; and 3) but wait, there’s more!

Well, this online course is sold through just such a pitch site, but Mr. Sia got in touch with me so I figured I’ll give it a try.  At this point let me also provide full disclosure: if you access his site through any of the links I provide on this page and ultimately end up purchasing his product, I will earn a commission on that sale – money that will be reinvested in keeping the lights on around here.  Nonetheless, I will try to do as objective a review as I can.

So let’s get started.

All sales pitch aside, what product do you get for your $47.00?

  • 5 e-books lessons and 5 process maps (more on that below)
    1. How To Draw A Realistic Eye
    2. How To Draw A Realistic Nose
    3. How To Draw Realistic Mouth And Teeth
    4. How To Draw A Realistic Ear
    5. How To Draw Realistic Hair
  • 100 high-resolution reference pictures (70 head shots, 30 facial feature close-ups)
  • 12 weeks of exercises

Ok, so let’s a look at what we’re getting.

The Lessons

As the author states, the lesson contain 208 pages and a total of 605 illustrations.  The basic technique used is that you start with a picture, draw a light outline of the feature, and then shade it in.  He goes into painstaking detail on all the required shading.

How to Draw a Realistic Mouth

How to Draw a Realistic Mouth

Following his instructions will definitely make you see things you might’ve otherwise not caught.  There are good little tips dispersed throughout.  Here’s a bit on drawing hair and eyes:

How to Draw Hair

How to Draw Hair

How to Draw Eyes

How to Draw Eyes

The Process Maps

Each lesson comes along with a process map, which is essentially a diagram on how to go about attacking the particular feature that you are looking to draw.

Process Map for the Eye

Process Map for the Eye

The High-Rez Photographs

Included in the package are 70 high-resolution images in black and white (resolutions are in the area of 1500px by 2000px).  These are definitely helpful as they provide you good reference material, although they are all celebrities – subject matter I always find slightly tacky.  In addition to the celebrities there are 30 images of facial features, which are great for you to get a sense of how individual features vary from person to person.

Liam Neeson

Liam Neeson

Female Mouth

Female Mouth

The Exercies

The 12 weeks of exercises are a bit light on the exercises per say, but contain some additional good information on various shading techniques.

How to Draw Eyebrows

How to Draw Eyebrows

But wait, there’s more 🙂

Once you’ve purchased the course, you can upgrade to the VIP level for another $29.95, which will give you access to another 30 high-rez black and white celebrity pictures as well as a worthwhile guide on how to make sure your drawing doesn’t lack contrast but shows more volume.

David Beckham

David Beckham

In addition, you can send in your reference picture and Mr. Sia will make sure that it is properly edited for you to draw from.

My Thoughts: The Bad

There are several things that I miss from this package, the most important being a lesson on how to pull it all together into a coherent face.  There is no theoretical background on some basic things like proportion of the head or face.  Moreover, each lesson focuses on only a single facial part, instead of varied facial parts to illustrate some facial differences.

If you want to be able to draw from your mind, this course is not for you – it is strictly useful in drawing from a given photograph.  The course also requires some basic skills in being able to trace the contours and features that you’re later going to shade in.

The Good

Mr. Shia is very detailed and you can fully follow along his entire drawing process.  If you want to see each step in how his drawings are put down, you’ll find them.  There are many good tips and tricks on shading and pulling off tricky bits like hair.  The process maps give you a birds-eye view of the drawing process and the exercises have some additional beneficial information.

The reference material will keep you busy for months if you don’t mind drawing celebrities.  The facial features pics give you sense of the variation of facial features.  The photographs are very large and very crisp – great to draw in other words.


If you have been drawing largely from photographs and want to elevate your game to the next level, this is certainly a purchase you may want to consider.  If you are looking to be able to draw the human head and face in 3 dimensions from your mind, look elsewhere.

Hopefully this review has been beneficial to you, and thanks to Mr. Sia for letting me review the product.

Good luck and happy drawing! – Lee


  • I Love your work I hope some day to be as Great as you.

  • AQ
    Pencil Portrait Mastery

    1-direct working on the computer or print the PDF must
    2-is a software to download or a site that gives you access?
    3 – I have several computers, laptops, home and other property for the summer. I can install the software on different PCs or limited.
    4 – It’s for a 10 year old girl who wants to learn how to draw


    Juan Vazquez
  • Thanks for the review. I was surprised to learn there isn’t a lesson on a whole head, which I would assume would be the pentultimate goal, esp. if you plan to draw from the mind, or at the very least, from a live model. I’m also surprised that all the headshots are celebrities. It would seem that there would be a bigger issue of copyright (unless, of course, he has the access to the celebrities in question), but what do I know.

    At least it’s something I will mull over!

  • Count me in/
    B K. Thomas

  • From your review I gather that he teaches exactly what he claims? How to add realism to your pencil drawing…

    Learning the math and structure of face drawing is pretty easy in theory, and can be researched and learned online for free easily, if you haven’t already learned from art class in highschool.

    I guess his book teaches you how to take that knowledge and build on it, like the difference between learning how to apply basic makeup to your face for daily wear (pretty to look at but simple) and learning how to apply make up to change appearance, like in movies, with contouring…

    He really should change his website though. I don’t trust that layout at all… If he was legit, why sell it thru such a shady format?

    Fidget Zee
  • Thanks for the review. I discovered this program through and online ad, it took me to a long sales letter. I hate long sales letters, I always think “scam” when I see them. But I may just pick it up after reading your review.

  • Is this a review or another advert for this course? Is does seem to be somewhat viral. Personally, I find the drawing style a little too weak. The drawings lack life and are so dull. I’d recommend Gnomon lessons by Ron Lemon. He’s pretty amazing and I learned a lot.

  • I have follow AP question, and ask if this is an actual review, or if this is another advert, as I am sure I have read something similar before.

    Anyway I personally find that Taylor Roy is an amazing teacher, there is something about watching an artist talk you through his drawings that you just cant get from a book.

  • Just realized I forgot to add Taylor Roy’s Website. It is

    I have personally purchased his course and I absolutely love it. Like I said before, the fact that you can watch as he sketches his drawings in front of you is amazing.

  • […] Portrait Mastery Review – Scam or Worth Buying?How do i made my portrait sketching more realistic ?Product Review: Realistic Pencil Portrait Mastery by Christopher SiaShould I send her this message? Is it sweet? creepy? bad/good […]

  • Hummm.. I googled the name Christopher Sia, and I got this –

    Now before you think it might be a different Christopher Sia, the signature is the same as the ad I looked at

    So considering he’s selling niche marketing, as well as promoting this niche marketing of pencil portraits, I do have to call foul. I’ll look elsewhere for knowledge.

  • For Ben! Went to the website that you said was so good and it looks exactly like Christopher Sia’s. The only difference is the packaging, and the pencil drawings. Are you getting a kickback?

  • It’s hard not to be suspicious of these kinds of sales pitches, even harder to take his particular sales pitch seriously when it’s rife with grammatical errors. How hard is it to find someone to edit for you? Especially when you’re trying to present yourself as a master with acute attention to detail?

  • Do your lessons come in actual books or just DVD’s

  • […] Your Cross-Referencing Here:…   No […]

  • Great! Am an artist from Kenya and i have learned alot fro the tutorials, my biggest problem was making realism to a portrait, i have a number of commissions that am working on, i think your tutorials will be of great use. Thanks.

  • i ordered some materials or a course from you
    a while back but cant find my username
    or password to get the material back
    could you check your records and send me
    them via my email
    thank you

    Phillip Jacobson
  • here learn to do the draw easy in day’s

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  • Ummm, why pay extra? Seems like you get the basics for this price but then if you want to draw whole head it will be another 29.95. GOTCHA. I am decent at drawing but I wonder if it is truly worth it when I think I would want the next lesson and I believe that is where they get ya!

  • This was very helpful to me. Appreciate how you detail the basics with information that you don’t get sometimes before you order. Nice critique.

  • […] Source by Lee […]

  • Dear Christopher,

    I tried to contact you but failed.

    I purchased your course and personal instruction last year.

    I have some works hoping you could give me some advise.

    Could you kindly get back to me?

    Great thanks.