Large-scale smudge tool use tends toward overblending. Starting with the largest workable brush size possible then moving downwards in size as you go ends with a more naturally-painted looking skin texture. Have you ever seen [link]? It's an excellent tutorial, and although I don't agree with everything the writer says, most of it is really useful to keep in mind. (The section at hand here is [link]) Although you show a masterful grasp of facial proportions and are able to duplicate a reference photo effectively, the final product looks largely flat and digital - each individual facial feature is well defined, but the area around them is very soft focus and looks more like silky cloth than skin (which, given the prominent skin texture in the original photo, seems out of place.)
You seem to draw primarily anime art when not using a photoreference, so here's my advice: learn to use proportional type guidelines and do a lineart-type sketch before you lay your preliminary flats. Although you should never draw one eye and then copy it digitally (kudos for mentioning that, btw) one of the reason the eyes on this guy look misplaced (although he seems to have slightly wonky eyes IRL too) is because your flats started out very lopsided.
Note: I do not claim to be as good as you at drawing faces, or that you should follow my methods or die. I do, however, think that you should play around with some of these ideas andtry to use them to improve your art. Sometimes you'll run across painters that go "my way of the highway," and you can usually ignore those, but there are some things that seem to come standard with all experienced and pro digital painters that are actually for a good reason. Also the stuff about sketching and brush size holds true for traditional artists too. You do not want to hear my horror stories about my art teacher finding someone's set of 1mm acrylic brushes
I think you are absolutely right! I know my skin does look way too smooth and shiney. It’s a problem for me when I draw digital art, because it doesn’t get any texture. I really want to learn to draw realistic skin, because that is one of the biggest flaws of my drawings. It works alright when it’s just manga or non-realistic portraits, but when I try photorealism, it really doesn’t cut it. Doing it your way sounds like an excellent idea, although I am afraid it will affect how my portraits look in general. I don’t think they will be as true to the references if I do it that way, sure the skin will probably look way better, but I will probably mess up when I place the eyes ect. I will (of course) try it, never the less. Thank you for taking so much time writing me this long guideline. I have never seen the tutorial you showed me, and I think it will be very helpful. I am still a young artist and I am still getting better and developing my techniques and skills. But photorealism isn’t my focus, it never has been. I haven’t really tried to get better at it, I’ve just always been rather good at copying what I see. It’s actually quite sad, because I want to draw from free-hand, without any references. Sadly, I can’t do this, because I’m not good enough, so I draw portraits from reference whenever I feel like I’m bad at drawing, because it reminds me that; ‘ey, at least I can do this, not many people can’. I know that’s kinda bragging, but it is true. Again, thank you for the comment, and thank you for taking an interest in my art.
You have a great attitude about it, and that's going to take you a really long way!
Right now - if you're anything like I was, and it sounds like you are - your greatest enemy is your own perfectionism. It's ok to not do it right the first time. Don't be afraid to put the eyes in the wrong place. It happens to everyone, and you generally get better at spotting what you did wrong after a few pics. (Plus, you can always go back if it doesn't suit you.)
You want to know a secret? Most of the really great artists use photoreferences all the time.[link] has some excellent examples of that. The trick is learning how to use them without trying to make an exact replica of the original image. Using more than one photo can help with that, although it depends on exactly how your brain's hooked up so it might not do it for you.
(Here are a few more really good tutorials, by the way - [link][link] <- I've been practicing like this for a while, and it's helped a lot with free-handing faces [link] <- some theory stuff that might help? I've always liked that one.)
Woahh! Thank you so much for even more help! I am so totally going to get better now! Thank you for inspiring me like this! I really, really appreciate it! I do use photo-reference when I draw, since I have a BJD, and it really helps me with the poses and stuff. My biggest problem is that I almost never finish drawings, because I get so bored with them after a while, haha.