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How to Draw a Female Portrait in Photoshop

I would like to thank Cucu Tudor for collaborating with me in creating this tutorial. In this tutorial you will learn how to use the brush and smudge tools and create a close to reality portrait.

Final Image Preview

First of all take a look at the illustration you will be creating. You can view the final image preview below or view a larger version here.

Step 1

First of all open a new document in Photoshop and then create a group of layers named “hair”, here you add all the layers for the hair. Create a new layer in the group (Command + Shift + N).

Step 2

You will start with the hair. Add the hair color and draw with the brush the shape of the haircut. The color I used is black. Because you are experimenting it is good to try with a different color and try to follow this tutorial to get the same results, also you could try a different haircut.

Step 3

Then choose a brighter color (using the code: #282828) and draw some curves and smudge the edges with the Smudge Tool (R), like in the image below.

Step 4

Also with a brighter color draw some lines and then give them a motion blur effect (Filter > Blur > Motion Blur) and then smudge the edges again.

Step 5

Brush many lines with a small hardness and master diameter to give a more realistic look, then you can blur it using Gaussian Blur (Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur).

Step 6

Next you need to go to Image > Adjustments > Brightness/Contrast (make sure that you have the hair layer selected) and play around with the settings until the white hair will slowly fade out.

Step 7

The last step in drawing the hair part is to brush again in a new layer with a special brush (I marked the brush in the image below), using Flow around 10% and Opacity 70%. Create a new layer named “shadow” above the background layer and draw a sleek shadow.

Step 8

Create a new layer place it below the first hair layer you worked on and add more hair, which is seen coming from the back of the head.

Step 9

Create a new group and name it “face” and place it below all the other layers except the back hair layer. Create the shape of the face using the Pen Tool (P) with a skin color #b68b6d.

Step 10

According to the light source (which is from the front), draw some shading using a soft Brush (B). This time use the same color but give it a slightly darker touch #795944.

Step 11

Use the same way and create a group for each other when you start to draw a part of the face. In the group “eyebrow” make a shape of the eyebrow with the Pen Tool (P), fill it with black then erase the edges with the brush I used (14px / Opacity 38%).

Step 12

Using a soft brush set to Opacity 40% add some shadow on the ear Color used is black.

Step 13

Create a new group and name it “eyes” and make a shape of the eyes with the Pen Tool (P) then fill the strokes. Smudge the eyes a little bit and then create a new layer and make the sclera white.

Step 14

Now it is time to make the iris. Create a new layer using the Elliptical Marquee Tool (M) and fill it with black. Color the eyes with #434d30 or chose other color if you please. Then you must make it shiny, so brush a little white spot and smudge it.

Step 15

Create a new layer and name it “eyelashes”. Using the brush represented in the image below you need to create the eyelashes one by one.

Step 16

Create a new layer and name it “lachrymal duct”. Make 2 circles and place them where the lachrymal duct is and use this color cod #985c55. Then double click the circles layer to enter the Blending Options and use Bevel And Emboss (if it’s needed reduce the opacity of the highlight) and then smudge it a little bit.

Step 17

You must start adding some more lights and shadows to the portrait and start giving some shape. The nose and the cheeks will be created using light and dark brushes, Burn and Dodge Tools.

Also you will have to use the Smudge Tool after you add the lights and shadows.

Step 18

Add more lights to accentuate the cheeks and the chin parts. Also you must add the shadow on the right cheek coming from the fringe.

Step 19

Add more light around the left eye and shadow to the right eye. The face is becoming to get a real view.

Step 20

You should continue accentuating the nose with a brighter color, the cheeks and the chin.

Step 21

Now we start drawing the mouth. First of all create a new layer and name it “lips”. Draw a shape and make it darker at the edges. Colors used: #840f0f, #ab1e1f and #c14141.

Step 22

Draw the base line, which separates the lips. To bring more realism you need to draw some dark and light lines on the lips. To make it shiny draw a white line and then smudge it. To the upper lip draw a pink stroke. Remember that the key tools used in creating this type of portrait are the brush tool and the smudge tool.

Step 23

Add some more lights and shadow to the left cheek and nose.

Step 24

In this step you should make the upper lip darker and the chin more accentuated.

Step 25

In this step you should copy all the face and change the contrast. To do so you need to make the background invisible then press (Command + A) and go to Edit > Copy Merged then go to Edit > Paste. This will copy you entire face with all the layers and place them all into a single layer.

Make the background visible again then select the head layer you just created. Go to Image > Adjustments > Brightness/Contrast.


In the end you can add some pink color on the cheeks and a little bit of green on the eyebrows using the same brush and smudge tools. Hope you learned some new techniques and had fun while doing so. You can view the final image below or view a larger version here.

Download the Source PSD


  1. Add point Subtract point

    wow…i like it… it so very nice..

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  2. Add point Subtract point
    charan (-2 Points) November 21, 2010 at 9:38 am

    very good … excellent , very good work !!

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  3. Add point Subtract point

    Good portrait seems like the original portrait. I will try myself to do this one.

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  4. Add point Subtract point
    nightmarethh (-3 Points) November 13, 2010 at 12:22 am

    WOW! I drew some portrait but I didn’t know how to draw the hair. But now I do. Thanks so lot!!!

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  5. Add point Subtract point
    Ashish Gaikwad (-1 Points) May 28, 2010 at 12:28 am

    brush details would haven a great help for the beginners

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  6. Add point Subtract point
    เพลงใหม่ล่าสุด (-4 Points) February 2, 2010 at 11:44 pm

    wow Cool tip thank for sharing.143

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  7. Add point Subtract point
    ฟังเพลงออนไลน์ (-3 Points) February 2, 2010 at 1:29 am

    wow Cool tip thank for sharing.129

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  8. Add point Subtract point
    โหลดเพลงฟรี (-3 Points) February 1, 2010 at 2:45 am

    wow Cool tip thank for sharing.123

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  9. Add point Subtract point
    Robert (-4 Points) December 31, 2009 at 6:12 pm

    Ok, so I followed the steps and made it took me 1 hour. Then I get at the bottom of the page I see the download psd button FML.

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  10. Add point Subtract point

    merci beaucoup!! c’est un didacticial tres bien explique :)

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  11. Add point Subtract point

    Wow. This is great, even for someone like me who has very little experience with Photoshop whatsoever.

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  12. Add point Subtract point
    Alagesh (-1 Points) July 27, 2009 at 3:46 am

    I like this website…..really good tutorial i know it….

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  13. Add point Subtract point
    deeksha (-2 Points) July 4, 2009 at 9:17 am

    nice tutorial, i really i like it…

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  14. Add point Subtract point
    deeksha (-1 Points) July 4, 2009 at 9:15 am

    its really nice, good tutorial, i like it

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  15. Add point Subtract point
    momo (-1 Points) June 9, 2009 at 7:27 pm

    thaanks alot ..very useful topic

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  16. Add point Subtract point
    retoucher77 (-1 Points) June 4, 2009 at 7:26 am

    great tutorial :) exactly what i was looking for.

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  17. Add point Subtract point
    KANCHAN TAYAL (-2 Points) June 3, 2009 at 5:28 am


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  18. Add point Subtract point
    anamika jain (-1 Points) May 24, 2009 at 6:32 am

    very nice tutorial.

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  19. Add point Subtract point
    anamika jain (-2 Points) May 24, 2009 at 6:27 am

    this tutorial is extremely helpful for those persons who have already some knowledge about the face sketching and who want to paint with brush.

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  20. Add point Subtract point
    Shabu Anower (1 Point) May 19, 2009 at 1:32 am

    Need a bit details for beginner, for others, a perfect tut :)

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  21. Add point Subtract point
    Roberto (-3 Points) May 15, 2009 at 3:08 pm

    Awesome! Really good tutorial.

    Just don’t call it close to reality, please, cuz it’s not.

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  22. Add point Subtract point
    photo retouching (-1 Points) May 9, 2009 at 12:43 am

    I never saw photoshop as a portrait drawing tool before, as I use it for photo retouching ,but this tutorial has reminded me what a powerful tool it really is.

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  23. Add point Subtract point
    azRa2805 (-2 Points) May 3, 2009 at 9:21 am

    wow!!!!!!!!!!that is amazing! an expert tutorial ! i’m not as good as you!
    this web is very usefull for me! thanks :)

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  24. Add point Subtract point
    huwaw69 (-1 Points) May 2, 2009 at 8:53 am

    Im a beginner this is so hard, but i want to really make this, good tutorials man!

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  25. Add point Subtract point

    nice portrait really nice good example for photoshop beginner.

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  26. Add point Subtract point
    Gyrel Dagooc (-2 Points) April 23, 2009 at 8:27 am

    Great! Simple and very good for beginners.

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  27. Add point Subtract point

    Great tutorial…but it will be very helpful if written in more detail…some point missing lots of information that make people lost especially for the beginner …
    Thanks for the tutorial!

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  28. Add point Subtract point
    tracy lykins (-1 Points) April 18, 2009 at 12:56 am

    just wanted to shout out a big thank you for your tutorial – very helpful, simple, to the point – and as mentioned above – nicely directed to the intermediate user…


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  29. Add point Subtract point
    daniel paiva (-1 Points) April 14, 2009 at 10:59 pm

    muito feio este desenho.

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  30. Add point Subtract point
    aravind (-1 Points) April 14, 2009 at 3:43 pm

    whatever the critiques may say.. I love this tutorial!
    I have been working with photoshop since 8 years! never tried something like this. This is awesome!!

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  31. Add point Subtract point
    dev.My (-1 Points) April 12, 2009 at 7:26 am

    This tutorial is at difficult level, but really awesome tutorial, it will be good if written in very detail.

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  32. Add point Subtract point
    CgBaran Tuts (-1 Points) April 12, 2009 at 4:15 am

    Great tutorial but high drawing skills needed here:)

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  33. Add point Subtract point
    Lucas (0 Points) April 10, 2009 at 9:42 pm

    Zarpado! excelente!

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  34. Add point Subtract point
    T-Law (-1 Points) April 10, 2009 at 8:07 pm

    Great tutorial but I think to hard for me :)

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  35. Add point Subtract point
    Navdeep (-1 Points) April 10, 2009 at 1:06 pm

    Really cool. I love the way it gets shape…


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  36. Add point Subtract point
    Ryan (0 Points) April 9, 2009 at 8:12 pm

    I for one think this type of tutorial is refreshing. Instead of step 1, step 2 etc. that tells you to do things this way with this tool with these settings, it allows things to be interpreted by the artist on an individual basis.

    I think some folks just like to complain to complain! Where are their jaw-dropping tutorials? Ahhh, I thought so…. ;)

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  37. Add point Subtract point
    Emily Lysyk (0 Points) April 9, 2009 at 7:00 pm

    As one of the many artists who turn to graphic design to avoid the “starving” title, I just have a few comments (none harsh, honest!):

    Firstly, it would probably be best to start with the head first. This give you a general shape to base the hair off of since the hair comes out of the head, not the other way around.

    I like the technique of using the grass brush for the eyelashes, though I would want to angle the brush to better follow the curve of the eyes. So starting with a 0 degree rotation in the middle and leaving the brush toolbar open to change it as I move on.

    Otherwise, this definitely illustrated the portrait process nicely and will be helpful when I go back to painting some pieces that I’ve never finished!

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  38. Add point Subtract point
    liam (-1 Points) April 9, 2009 at 6:38 pm

    Sweet post, very interesting for sure. Nice work, thanks for sharing!

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  39. Add point Subtract point
    Michele (-1 Points) April 9, 2009 at 6:10 pm

    Step 9 typo: “By doing this the edges will be smoth”
    Should say ‘smooth’, I’m assuming. It’s on the graphic.

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  40. Add point Subtract point
    Janko (-1 Points) April 9, 2009 at 5:37 pm

    Wow, interesting comments here.

    In answer to all aggressive criticism here: I agree that honest feedback is important, but honest doesn’t always means a good thing. It’s not the same if you say “You did a terrible job” or “Personally, I don’t like this way…” The first one is very aggressive, force people to defend and move focus away from the point. And that’s what people always do! If you don’t like it it doesn’t means that it is terrible!

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  41. Add point Subtract point
    Max Stanworth (0 Points) April 9, 2009 at 5:26 pm

    Pretty damn good, i think that if youve never created such an illustration this tutorial shows you all the tools you need to get started and finished, id reccomend copying from a refrence photo to learn proportions and lighting.

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  42. Add point Subtract point
    Jonatan Castro Fernández (-1 Points) April 9, 2009 at 4:43 pm

    Ok guys, I guess you’re going in the wrong direction….

    I’m sure you have seen the pixelperfect tutorials ( Well, Bert Monroy is the guy of the videos. It’s an amazing artist, in fact here you can see one of his works here(no words to describe this: If you take a look at his videos, the result he gets it isn’t nothing fancy (and of course he can do it MUCH better)

    He always says: “The important isn’t the final result, but how you got there”.

    My 2 cents.

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  43. Add point Subtract point
    Tony Gines (-1 Points) April 9, 2009 at 4:34 pm

    I really feel that this article (although it is detailed and illustrated well enough) just doesn’t fit with the rest of the content on T9. I was actually taken back a bit by it to be honest. Definitely on the bottom of my list of articles here. I love seeing all the tutorials posted here just to grab techniques and tips that I don’t already know, and I feel that, even if a relatively new person was studying this tutorial, it would lead them in the wrong direction…

    …that’s just my opinion. I’m still a fan of T9 :) Looking forward to some new stuff in the near future.

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      DavidA (-1 Points) April 10, 2009 at 2:45 pm

      This is definitely what I was intending. I wasn’t trying to bash the author, I was simply trying to say the entire tutorial was very vague. Typically a “tutorial” consists of a set of ordered instructions. I felt this a bit to be all over the place without any real clear guidance. Again I agree w/ Tony I’m a huge fan of Tutorial9 and I love the work you guys do. So again, just being constructive.

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    • Add point Subtract point
      Constantin Potorac (-1 Points) April 15, 2009 at 5:20 pm

      Thank you guys for all the comments and I appreciate them and this will definitely help me write better tutorials in the future

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  44. Add point Subtract point
    nandreas (-1 Points) April 9, 2009 at 4:34 pm

    amazing bro ….some pretty techniques ….cheers and god luck

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  45. Add point Subtract point
    Crimzdesign (-1 Points) April 9, 2009 at 4:18 pm

    Just love it ! It’s pretty and well done!It will help me a lot in my work someday

    Great job to you,mate!

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  46. Add point Subtract point

    I found the tutorial to be insightful and well put together. I’m not much of an artist, especially when it comes to drawing people—I know the tools and how to make things work with Photoshop, so this is the type of tutorial I would be looking for if I ever need some help with a portrait.

    Thanks Constantin :)

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  47. Add point Subtract point
    Brian Cassidy (-1 Points) April 9, 2009 at 3:17 pm

    I think this tutorial was really well done. This tutorial is great for a target market that doesn’t get many tutorials made from them… the intermediate designer. There are TONS of tutorials for the beginners and advanced users, but not as much that sit in the middle of the road. Well done.

    Side Note: Complaining happens way to much these days. Don’t waste your time reading and making negative comments on a tutorial that you personally think is bad. In this case you are shown the final product first. If you thought it was crap, come back tomorrow.

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  48. Add point Subtract point
    Razvan (0 Points) April 9, 2009 at 2:43 pm

    Looks fine for me. Sometimes designs like this are not easy to be explained. you have to learn alone how to do it.

    First you need to learn the technique. I write tutorials myself, and sometimes is very hard to explain each step.

    Photoshop has only a bunch of tools. Even if you know how to use each tool it doesn’t mean it is easy to create something. Great tutorial Constantin.

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  49. Add point Subtract point
    Kyle Gallant (-1 Points) April 9, 2009 at 2:41 pm

    It all really comes down to how you look at it, this tutorial might not explain everything… but if you understand photoshop then it shouldn’t be that hard to put it all together in your head.

    @Graphic Designer…. I don’t think this was about how to draw the face correctly, just how simple it is to actually accomplish it. If you understand anatomy and lighting, then yes it would look better…. but I feel this tutorial is about the “tricks” used, and not the drawing itself.

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      Constantin Potorac (0 Points) April 9, 2009 at 4:07 pm

      You are right here and I need to say that I am not good at drawing especially portraits, the thing is in this tutorial I am not showing how you should draw or place light correctly, I am just showing a few techniques and helpful hints that could help you improve your drawing with Photoshop

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  50. Add point Subtract point
    Patrick (0 Points) April 9, 2009 at 2:23 pm

    Oh come on – this is terrible. Looks like a high school art project. Anatomically clumsy, bad lighting (as previously noted), incorrect proportions. And what’s going on with that “hair”?

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    • Add point Subtract point

      What’s useful to one person may not be to yourself. At any rate, I respect your thoughts and wish you’d respect our guest authors work. It’s one thing to make a suggestion, another to tell someone they did a terrible job.

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      Patrick (0 Points) April 9, 2009 at 3:58 pm

      But what if the designer did do a terrible job (which despite some fairly feeble arguments to the contrary is clearly the case). You don’t want honest feedback? You want mediocrity to be validated on your blog with positive feedback only? If you’re going to put your work out there, you must accept that people will look critically at it, and give you their opinions about it.

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      Chris Barnett (0 Points) April 9, 2009 at 7:09 pm

      Yo Pat,

      I agree with David. You may not see this tutorial as very well done or useful to you at all. But at least respect Constantin and his work. I find it kind of an ironic you chose this tutorial to rag on after seeing those ridiculous talking heads on your site.


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    • Add point Subtract point

      If I didn’t want honest feedback, I’d mark your comment for deletion. Feedback is something I do as a part of my living in usability testing and analysis. I simply make the point that you’re not offering feedback so much as going in for the kill.

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      Johnson Koh (0 Points) April 14, 2009 at 10:41 pm

      @Pat: Actually there are few digital painting tutorials out there with such detailed explanations. I will certainly prefer this one from Constantin than those that are really beautiful ones without a single text on the techniques.

      Let’s just appreciate and do not use our comments that took 15secs to put down a few hours of good work :)

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      Vijai (0 Points) April 16, 2009 at 3:39 am

      ‘Honest feedback’ is always a welcome. But the feedback shouldn’t become criticism. The author’s knowledge of anatomy may be less compare with your’s. You should understand that all those who put up tutorials on blogs and elsewhere are experts. I’m sure the guest author had taken your point. You can other sites that are excellent/perfect in graphic desigining. Like DeviantART & so on.

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  51. Add point Subtract point
    Graphic Designer (0 Points) April 9, 2009 at 12:36 pm

    I’m with Dave. If you want to paint portraits, learn the proportions of the human face and figure. Then paint an individual, not a generic, badly lit face.

    It’s not a matter of following steps, it’s a matter of learning the subject. Also, the lighting is totally wrong here, unless you lit the face with a flashlight head on. Oh, and her nose is broken..

    Bottom line? Learn anatomy, not tricks.

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  52. Add point Subtract point
    Emina (0 Points) April 9, 2009 at 12:13 pm

    Thank you for a wonderful tutorial on how to make a face. It was like you knew what I was looking for. I was experimenting with different things on how to create my own portrait and this tutorial will help a lot. Great post!
    Emina D Sehovic

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  53. Add point Subtract point
    moih60 (0 Points) April 9, 2009 at 11:25 am

    amazing way to create human face ..and simple
    thanx and added to my blog

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  54. Add point Subtract point
    Marvin (0 Points) April 9, 2009 at 10:32 am

    It’s all well and good to be proud of your heritage, but do the illustrative flaws also make you proud to be Romanian?

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  55. Add point Subtract point

    Is it just me, or did this tutorial literally not show you how to do this at all?… Each step said “do this do that, or use this use that” without any instructional screen shots whatsoever on how to do anything? That’s like teaching someone how to build a house and saying hey… go build the house but I’m not going to tell you what nails, what tools, and what wood you need…goodluck.

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  56. Add point Subtract point
    Simple (0 Points) April 9, 2009 at 9:44 am

    Posts like this make me proud to be a Romanian :). Nice job!

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