The hardest part of nailing down a face is using the right proportions. Once you get that part, drawing faces will be easy peasy!
For me, the hardest part was always drawing the eyes in the right size and right place. We look at drawings or photos and it looks so easy, but then, when it’s our turn, everything is 10x harder.
Like in everything, it all comes down to practice. Start with shapes, learn the proportions.
Practice this a few times and, you’ll see that, soon, drawing just the head will be as easy as tying your own shoes!
Of course, I’m going to help you out and give you a step-by-step process on how to draw a face. From Basic Shapes and each feature of the face, like the eyes, nose, mouth, etc. Adding details, young and old faces and even drawing the face in different views!
Buckle up and get your sketchbook ready. We’re doing this!
What You Need To Know About Drawing Faces
It’s all about the shapes. Everything in a drawing is about shapes.
You look at a face as its whole. But I’ll look at it and I’ll try to figure out into what shapes can I put it down, so I can easily draw it.
Circles, squares, rectangles and guidelines, a puzzle for me to figure out.
Like I said, we’re going through a step by step guide for each feature of the face.
I’m going to show you the process I use when learning to draw new things and hopefully, it will be most useful to you!
You can do this with any medium you’d prefer.
Either with a sketchbook along with some pencils or even pens or grab your drawing tablet and pc. Anything will work, you just need to come along with your motivation and start.
Basic Face Proportions
Generally speaking, we’re dividing the face into 3 equal parts.
After drawing our main shapes of the head, we need to be sure that everything will be in the right places.
For this, there are 3 main spaces you might want to add:
- one goes from the hairline to our brow
- another from the brow to the nose
- and finally, nose to chin
This might sound confusing, but here’s an example:
Now, all we are missing is where our eyes, ears, and mouth will be.
But we’ll get there in a second, so follow me and we’ll build up our head and face, one step at a time!
Complete Step by Step Guide on Drawing Faces
If you'd like to see all of this and much more on Figure Drawing in video format, check out my premium course on Udemy!
Either way, before we begin:
Do your hand stretches, organize your workspace, bring some water and snacks if you wish to. The class will begin shortly!
Draw The Basic Shapes
Alright, let’s start very simple.
On your page, draw a circle. If you find it hard to draw a perfect circle, here’s a tip: draw a horizontal and vertical line, perpendicular to each other, crossing at the center.
If you prefer, use a ruler. But I’d say to do this without it. Your lines don’t need to be 100% perfect and as you practice, you’ll see that they’ll become better with time.
Now that you have your lines, draw the circle around them.
Alternatively, you can just practice a few circles on your page until you get the hang of it. Start with smaller circles and increase their size as you go.
Now the next step is to draw a square within our circle.
This might sound weird, but this square will determine the width of our face.
We’re doing a pretty default face at the moment, but later on, we’ll talk about how you can use your shapes, to draw different faces!
Alright, half of our head is done, now we need to find our chin.
Draw a vertical line, following the one you did for the circle, going down, with the same distance as the upper half of the face.
Where the line ends, that’s where our chin will be!
Now, all we need is to connect the points and we have our head done. Next all we need to add is our guidelines for all the features.
Pretty simple right?
Now you just need to practice this shapes and, gradually, you’ll start losing some guidelines, because you don’t need them anymore. Intuitively you’ll already know where everything is!
Draw The Eyes and Eyebrows
It’s time to start adding features to our face.
Let’s start from top to bottom.
Our quest now is to find where our eyes and eyebrows will be. Let’s take a look at what we have so far.
Now, for the eyebrows, our line is already there. Our brow line is where we’ll draw the eyebrows.
For the eyes, there isn’t much for us to do here either.
Go a bit below the eyebrows and make a new line, this is where the eyes will be.
To help you on their location, we can add some guidelines here as well.
Remember that square we drew at the beginning? Let’s divide each half of the square in two.
Two vertical lines, going down. These lines determine the center of each eye.
Now, all we need to do is to add our eye shapes in their places.
Either an oval and almond shape will work. See what works best for you.
Our next step is to fill up our eyes.
Add the pupil and iris, the upper eyelid and some eyelashes if you wish!
You can do these as stylized as you want or keep it very simple.
More cartoonish or more realistic. Try out different things and experiment!
While you’re learning and improving your faces, you’re also developing your own style and discovering what and how you like to draw!
The eyebrows can be very simple or full of detail.
It all comes down to your taste and style. I tend to draw my eyebrows with a single line. But, if you prefer, you can draw them, hair by hair.
Then, of course, you can go with several styles, from very tiny to very thick and bushy eyebrows.
As their place, we draw them right above the eyes, the line resting there is our guideline.
They can go a bit further than the eyes, but the starting point is the same.
Usually, I start from inside the face, I feel that it’s easier to go from there.
We draw an arched line, turn it around and we close our shape where we began. Remember that the eyebrows are thicker on the inside and get thinner on the ends of it.
Lovely, the face is starting to look great!
Draw The Nose
Next in the list is the nose.
We already know where it ends, our second guideline, after the brow. But where does it begin?
Don’t worry, we don’t need to add more lines… yet! Our nose starts at the same line as our eyebrows.
As for its width, it will go as far as the starting point of our eyes. Let’s do some base shapes first:
Now we just need to sketch out our nose.
There’s a variety of styles you can go about here. I cover, in a video, the main ones you can do, so if you're interested, check out my Figure Drawing course on Udemy!
As for the size of the nose, these are only guidelines, feel free to exaggerate your noses or eyes as you wish. Especially if you’re doing a more cartoonish style!
Draw The Mouth
We’re almost done!
For the mouth, we don’t have any guideline yet, so let’s start with that.
Find the middle point between the nose line and the chin. Now draw a horizontal line.
We found our mouth!
Now above this line, we’ll have our upper lip and beneath, the bottom lip.
Again, there are several types of lips, thinner or thicker, long lips or very small. But the default shapes are an M shape for the upper lip and an arch for the bottom.
Again, try out different styles and shapes.
Experimenting is always the best part of drawing, so have fun with it!
Draw The Ears
We’ve reached the last step of drawing the face.
All we are missing now is the ears!
I admit, drawing ears in a front view isn’t the most entertaining, but it is also very simple.
As for their location, very easy as well: draw an oval shape, starting in our eyes line, its highest point rests on the brow line and lowest point on the nose line.
And there it is, 90% of our ear is down. Now we just need to add some details, mostly curves here and there:
Well done! That's a good looking face.
Adding Details And Aging
Now that you know how to draw a complete face, we can add some details!
Depending on whether you’re drawing a younger character or older, the face will look different.
An aging face will have some wrinkles for example!
Apart from that, there are other details you can add to give more personality to your character: moles, birth signs, freckles, scars, among others.
If you’re drawing male characters, there’s another addition for you: beards!
There are dozens of styles to go for: long, short, different designs, mustache only, beards only or a mix of both!
Details Can Make or Break Your Character
Don’t overdo it though!
Details are nice, but you can’t easily use everything in one character. It can be too messy and confusing. Besides, the point of adding some details is so that people will recognize your character through unique details.
If you’re unsure on how to go about your characters, try out different versions. Try out several things and see what you think works best with their personality.
Once you’ve chosen how your character will look, draw them in different poses, locations, actions and test them, so you’re sure that’s the look you want!
Drawing Old Faces
As I said before, if you want to draw someone older, you might want to add some wrinkles and even different colored spots and signs over the face.
As we age, our skin changes. Use photo references if needed!
The most common wrinkles will show on the eyes and around the mouth.
But, once again, feel free to exaggerate your lines! Even in real life, people age differently and will look different!
Drawing Young Faces
For young people, well there are several stages and there’s a lot to play with!
Let’s say you want to draw a baby or a child. Usually, we go for really round shapes, the youngest, the chubbiest!
Play with those shapes as much as you want.
Again, look up some reference images and draw from them.
As for moles or freckles, those tend to appear a bit later.
The same goes for wrinkles, except, if you’re going for a very chubby baby, then you can add some lines on the forehead and very round cheeks.
Children are a mix of babies and teens.
There’s less roundness to their faces, but it’s still there.
When drawing both babies and children, we also tend to draw very big eyes, almost too big. It makes them look cuter and children’s eyes look always a bit bigger than when we’re older and very vibrant.
Look for this kind of details on photographs from when you were a kid, for example. Take advantage of these little features and exaggerate them in your drawings!
As for scars, well it’s something you can start adding when drawing both children and teens.
If your character is the adventurer and energetic type, then maybe a scar or other would fit. I for sure know some people where their scar’s stories begin with “When I was a kid…” and end with “And that’s how I got this one!”
Teens can be really fun as well.
This is when the terrible acne starts to appear! You can add some pimples if you think it fits your character.
On another note: beards! At a certain age, boys start growing facial hair, so you can start playing with this idea as well by giving them small stubbles or random tiny hairs.
Experimenting With Shapes
Alright, so like I said before, we drew our face in a very default way.
Those are the proportions you want to go when drawing a realistic portrait. But if you’re interested and going for a more cartoonish approach, you can go beyond these proportions!
Exaggerate the sizes of each feature and try out different face shapes. Basically, the only thing that usually doesn’t change is the position of each feature. Unless you’re going for a Picasso approach of course!
Try different shapes, a triangle for example!
Instead of a circle and square, try to use a triangle. Either up or upside down. See the results that you get! A triangle will probably give you a more caricature style and a more elongated face.
If you really want to play with a very long face, try a rectangle or a very long triangle!
What about a pentagon? Either upright or inverted.
This one can give us very interesting face shapes.
You already have your bases and now how to do a face.
Now it’s time to experiment and try out different formats.
Is your character a very sturdy man, perhaps a boxer? Then draw a very square face.
Are you drawing someone with a very big belly? Then draw a very round face to match!
There are thousands of options and you are free to try whatever you like!
If you don’t like the result, try again or go with another shape. You learn with these experiences and not only you’re learning different approaches when drawing, you’re also improving your drawing skills.
So, keep practicing and have fun with your characters!
Drawing Faces At Different Angles
We’ve done our face in a front view, but you might want to draw your characters in other positions. Especially if you want to make a turn around sheet of your character!
Worry not, for I will not leave you hanging!
Let’s go through a few more tutorials on how to draw faces in different angles.
Our first shape here will be the same as before. We start with a circle!
Again, if you wish, draw two lines, crossing each other in the middle and then connect everything together. Actually, I’d say to draw your circle like this, because you’ll need them later.
They are very important guidelines!
Alright, so we have half of our head done. Now, from the bottom of our vertical line, we draw an oblique line, like so:
This is our chin and jawline!
Finally, we just need to close this shape. From the edge of our circle, on the right side, draw a vertical line until it touches the line we just did.
Our main shapes are done.
Now it’s time to start finding where each feature of the face is!
This time, we’re starting from the bottom. But before that, remember how we divided the head into three equal parts before? Let’s do the same here!
Now that’s done, from the point where our jawline starts, let’s draw a horizontal line.
This is where our mouth will be! At the edge of our head.
Like last time, the upper lip should be above this line and the bottom lip, below.
Usually, the upper lip also goes a bit forward than the bottom lip. But again, it all depends on how you want your character to be!
Next, is the nose.
We already have our line here, where the end of the nose will sit. To help you, before detailing and drawing a finished nose, draw a triangle, going out of the head.
This is where your nose should go.
Before drawing the eyes, let’s do the ears first.
Since we’re seeing the head from just one side, we can only see one ear. Like before, the lowest part of the ear will seat on the guideline we did for the nose and the highest part touches the brow line.
This time we can also see more details of the ear.
I usually go for a very simple ear, but feel free to add all the curves that you see on your ear!
As for the eyes, we can also see only one of them and its shape will also be very different than before. Its placement is the same as before, the central horizontal line on our circle!
For its shape, instead of a circle or almond shape, we draw a cone.
Now we just need to add details like the pupil, iris, eyelashes and a bit of the upper eyelid.
We’re almost done and this last part is rather simple!
We just need to add our eyebrow.
We already have a place for it and now we just need to draw an arched line, a bit more tilted in the front and we’re done!
This one is usually the one that most people have difficulty with. This is why I did a whole section with 10 videos on my figure drawing course, just for drawing a complete head in a 3/4 view!
A part of the face is hidden, but not completely, so getting the proportions right can be hard.
Let’s start with our circle!
So far, we’ve always been drawing straight lines, this time we need a curved one. From the top of the circle, going all the way down.
Now, to make things a bit easier, let’s draw a rectangle, starting from the hairline, down to the nose.
This way we have almost a complete shape of our head, plus two of our main guidelines!
Now, we need to add our chin line, so from the nose line, go down the same distance as you have from the brow to the nose.
Finally, we just need to connect the dots!
Time to fill everything up!
Starting with the eyebrows, everything has a bit of a 3D feel right now, so it’s like we have arched guidelines. One of the eyebrows is completely seen, while the other is cut.
The shapes are the same as before though!
Let’s draw the ear now, so we can find the line for our eyes.
This time, we can only see one ear as well. Draw an oval shape, where its higher point touches the brow line and the lowest, the nose line. Just like we practiced before!
Now just add the details.
The ear here is done very similarly to when we drew it on a side view.
Next is the eyes, probably the one people have the most problems with.
Its line goes right below the brow line, same distance, and place as we did before.
Like in a front view, we draw almond shapes for the eyes.
The eye that is farthest from us is usually a bit hidden from the nose, so take that into consideration!
Now it’s time to draw the nose.
We can only see one of the nostrils, so the shape here will be a triangle, similar to the one we drew in a side view.
Like I mentioned before, the nose is in front of one of the eyes, so be sure to draw that line on top, connecting to the eyebrow.
Finally, we draw the mouth, similar to the one in the front view.
An “M” shape for the upper lip and an arch for the bottom lip.
The only difference here is that one of the sides of your lips will appear smaller since a part of the face is turned away from us.
Every shape is mostly the same when looking up, the only difference here is that we draw more arched guidelines, especially for the eyes.
I’m going to leave here an example, so it’s easier to understand!
Same as before, except that this time, our lines arch in the opposite direction.
Again, let’s see what I mean by this with an example:
Different Expressions, Different Face Shapes
Depending on what kind of expression you’re going for, the face will have different shapes.
For example, if you’re drawing a surprised character, eyes growing big and a long “O” for the mouth, then the face will look more elongated.
On the other hand, if you’re drawing someone angry, where the eyes and eyebrows grow close together and a closed mouth, maybe showing some teeth. Then we have the opposite effect.
Put yourself in front of a mirror and practice your expressions.
Take photos if you need to! Then, you’ll have tons of references for you to use in your drawings. If you prefer, you can even trace on top of your photos, so you can see clearly the differences in proportions and shapes, depending on the expression you’re making!
Summing It Up
Uff, that was a lot of learning!
But, as you can see, the important parts you need to retain when drawing faces are proportions and shapes.
Once you nail those down, everything else comes easily.
As always, practice a lot. In the beginning, practice only the shapes and guidelines if needed. After a few tries, you’ll see that everything will come up more intuitively.
If you prefer to see these steps in video format, check my course on Figure Drawing over on Udemy. Together, we can go over drawing a face, different types of ears, mouths, noses, etc, in different views!
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