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Drawing the Head and Face 101: Basic Tips


Best Tip for How to Draw the Head and Face

  • Everything follows three dimensional form. By drawing the shadows correctly you can get a likeness.

Planes of the Head: 3-D How To's of Drawing Heads and Faces

  • Face a mirror.
  • The browbone protrudes forward, toward you. Think caveman.
  • Cheekbones and eyes are further away, behind you.
  • Area under browbone is in shadow in most lighting situations. This one shadow can be sufficient to get a likeness.
  • Tip of the nose is forward most. That's a steep angle where the bottom of the nose turns back behind you. Makes sense that the bottom of the nose is typically in shadow.
  • Another steep angle back is found on the upper lip. The upper lip edge sticks forward since the upper row of teeth cover the lower. So, the upper lip is often in shadow, and very little needs to drawn for the lower lip.
  • Turn to the side in front of a mirror.
  • The cheekbone is toward the ear and down when compared with the bridge of the nose. The sides of the nose form a distinct plane on the face, one that you will often need to describe using the darker or lighter end of the tone scale of your drawing, depending on the lighting.
  • Much of the face and side of the head is parallel to the mirror -- where, chances are, there won't be a highlight. Andrew Loomis described this as shaving the sides off a sphere, and it makes sense. See Drawing: the Head by Andrew Loomis.

Lining Up the Features: Two-Dimensional How To's of Drawing Heads and Faces

  • Eyes are in the middle of the head. Not the face; the head, as measured from the crown to the tip of the chin.
  • The head is three and a half units tall. The half a unit is from the hair line to the top of the head, plus a little extra for hair.
  • The face itself can be divided into three parts tall.
  • Hairline to brow is one unit.
  • Brow to base of the nose is another. Avoid making the nose too long; think about how small the nasal opening on the skull is.
  • Nose to chin is the bottom third.
  • Lips meet a third of the way down from the nose.
  • There is a visible eyeball's width between the eyes, and that same width extending from the visible eyeball's outside edge to the ears.
  • Corners of mouth extend at least a bit beyond the inside corner of the eye; more so in a smile.
  • Take a pencil, measure in the mirror, and you will see that the outside of your nose pretty much lines up with the inside corner of the eye.
  • Lining up the angle from the bottom of the nose, outside of the eye, and to the end of the brow is helpful, in the mirror, or on your model.
  • Bottom of ear is likely going to be below the nose if the head is even slightly tilted up.
  • From the side, upper lip, tip of chin, and brow typically line up; chin may protrude a bit with a strong jaw; lips too.
  • Drawing a line or arc down the center of the facefrom the browbone to the chin, in profile or otherwise, establishes the tilt of the head. Bookmark and Share



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