How To Draw Faces

Making Faces

In this tutorial, you will learn the basic construction of the human head and how to draw different parts of the face. Everyone is different, and using these techniques, you will be able to draw all kinds of different face shapes in any drawing style.

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The first step in constructing a head is to understand the skull at a basic level. Knowing the name of every bone in the skull isn’t necessary, but you should study their approximate placement.

The second step is to see beyond the complex shape. Look for basic shapes that are familiar to you. In this drawing, I picked out a circle, a triangle, and two rectangles, and built my face from there.

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There is no one proper way to do this. You may see completely different shapes than I or any other artist sees. Don’t worry, you’re not doing something wrong. They use certain shapes that make sense to them, and you should do the same.

You might find it easier to find a photograph of a human skull and start drawing shapes all over it. Find out which ones make the most sense to you. Then analyze the relationships between these shapes to remember their approximate placement.

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Remember that even though the underlying structure is similar, people have different face shapes. Once you’ve mapped out the skull, you can stretch, squash, and skew these shapes to create different looking people.

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 Eyes and Eyebrows 

(a) Most people have about one eye’s width worth of space between their eyes.

 (b) The ideal shape of the eyebrow can be defined by three lines. A line straight up from the nostril defines the start, through the pupil is the highest part of the arch, and to the outer corner of the eye is where it should end.

(c) When looking straight ahead, most people’s irises will touch at the top and bottom of the eye, leaving two white areas on either side. However, some people’s irises are smaller, called “sanpaku eyes” which means “three whites,” where the white part of the eye is visible on the bottom or top of the iris when they are looking straight ahead. This is an uncommon trait.

(d) The eyebrow can help approximate where the ear should go and what size it should be. Drawing a straight line around the head, the eyebrow indicates the top of the ear, while the end of the nose indicates the bottom.

For help constructing the eye, check out my other tutorial, How To Draw and Color Eyes.

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Drawing noses is easiest when you break it into basic shapes, as you did with the skull. I showed a couple different ways using triangles and circles, but maybe you will find your own shapes to work from.

When people move one part of their face, they are moving muscles which are connected. For example, when someone smiles, the nose stretches out, too.

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Although lips come in all shapes and sizes, I think the easiest way to approach them is to think of them as two triangles, one for the top one for the bottom. When looking down, since the top lip is less visible, I draw only the bottom triangle. When looking up, I’ll draw only the top triangle.
Understanding the skull will help you place the lips and nose relative to one another. The lips cover the teeth, and the fulcrum of the nose is over the gums.

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Faces at an angle need to show continuity. If your character’s head is pointed up, all the features on the face should respond to that angle.

To help with this, I sometimes map out triangles over the eyes, nose and lips. The triangles should all face the same direction and be similar shapes. See how the face looking upward shows triangles pointing up, and the face looking downward shows triangles pointing down.

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The top half of the image shows a step-by-step drawing of the ear from the side of the head, while the other shows the ear from the front. As with everything else, ears come in all shapes, but this is their basic construction.
I also included piercings and stretched ears. Remember that these do affect the shape because they pull on the ear.

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Finally, know that expressions affect the face shape temporarily. When one part of the face moves, all those connected muscles move too.

The expression your character is making can stretch and squish the face. However, their skull shape doesn’t change, so as long as you maintain your basic proportions, they will still look like the same character. Have fun making your own faces!