Drawing face

I wish for this tutorial to be some kind of introduction for drawing male head. I wish to move on from here to the basics of anatomy and proportions, shading, then expressions and so on... After going through this tutorial you will be (hopefully) able to paint a decent looking male head and learn few tricks to make it easier. For me learning how to draw male head was really tricky - here is all that helped me.

If you have any questions regarding this part - go ahead and ask. In the next tutorial from this series I will say more about bone and muscle structure and proportions of an ideal head - but that's for later! We don't need such extreme details now ;)

We have all seen a male head, right? They are not the same. People studying books for anatomy tend to fall into the trap of drawing same face over and over. It's quite fortunate for human race that every man, woman and child has individual and, what's even more important, identifiable face. They are not all the same. What I want to do in this tutorial is not to give you a guide for drawing ideal face. We will learn how to draw faces, many of them, which are distinguishable but follow similar pattern. This pattern will help you get the shape right!

But enough chatter. Let's get to work! When you think about the base shape of the head, you think about a sphere - cranium is more like sphere than like anything else, in fact. When you draw - think, imagine, and when you do that - do it in 3D. So there is no circle, there is a sphere. We will need some reference axis, just to know where is the middle of our cranium. Let's stick a pencil in our sphere, pencil that goes through the center. Then establish lines forming equator and dividing this sphere to eight parts. Now let's take a knife and slice off sides of the sphere - not too much, just to flatten it a little. Cranium is not exactly round, is it?

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Equator will be our brow line. One of the lines which cross it - symmetry line for our face. Somewhere between the brow line and the tip of the cranium (marked by the pencil) will be a hair line (or simply top of the face, if you draw a bald person). We all have different foreheads so feel free to adjust the position of this line ;) Now draw the middle line straight down off the ball and mark two points, laying in once and twice about the same distance as from the brow line to hair line. See the drawing below - it will be way clearer than my explanation. First point is the place just under the nose and second point is marking the chin. Some faces might have longer noses or be slim and long, you can move those points a little bit accordingly, don't be afraid to play!

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Now only the jaw is missing. It connects about halfway around the ball on each side. Ears are attached around the line slicing the head in half and their length is more or less from the brow line to the bottom of the nose. Now use your imagination and add details, move this 3D head in any direction you want. This guide is very simple but believe me - it's enough!

Now let's see how it works in practice. Below you can see my attempts to use this guide and draw male faces. Results were not always pleasing, I was very bad at drawing male faces before I started studying this topic so you can laugh at those drawings as much as you want :D I also experimented with faces longer or shorter but they looked best when I followed the guide.

Drawing face Drawing face Drawing face
Drawing face Drawing face Drawing face
Drawing face Drawing face Drawing face

Now it's your turn! Get your pencil or tablet pen and start drawing. Begin practicing at once, when your newly gained knowledge is still fresh. The most important thing is the ball and cross in the center (brow line crossing with middle line). Then comes hair line and two points telling where nose and whole face ends. Don't worry about the facial features too much, we will cover those in detail later. For now just grasp the shape and whole construction process. Place eyes under the brow line, space between them should be around one-eye length. Mouth is not wider than from one center of the eye to the other and ears should be about from the brow line to the bottom of the nose.

Now I will show you how I did it, step by step, from circle on the paper to the fine looking sketch. Let this be a summary of what you have learned, hopefully encouraging you to try drawing yourself. Believe me - I really couldn't do it before and this guide helped me a lot. This tutorial was based on what Andrew Loomis wrote, check out his books if you are interested in polishing your drawing skills. He gives excellent tips!

I start with a ball (well, a circle, but in my mind it's a ball) and add a dot in the center. Then, as my character is supposed to look down and be seen from side, I add brow line which goes through the middle point and then the middle line, which will be my main guide for the face features. Then you can see me adding points, dividing face plate into three sections - forehead (from hair line to brow line), nose (from brow line to the first marker) and lips (from second marker to third marker).

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Now it's time to place face features. First I add the line for his jaw, shape of the head is finally determined! Jaw goes from the second marker to the base of our ball so it's easy to figure out how this line should go. It can end lower for more masculine face and higher for more feminine jaw, that's up to you. Try it out and see how that line works. It's easy to draw the nose as it's length is already determined. For now I sketch it out in an messy way, so simple, hard edged brush and on the separate layer I add my nose. Then brow, on the brow line (but come on, it's never a straight line unless you draw it on your face, let's give it some life and bend it a little) and at last eyes, lips and ear. They should be placed last, as you use brows, nose and chin as guide for placing those features. And again - it's up to you whether you want your lips to be higher or lower and so on.

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I add some shoulders and look at the whole picture. So far so good! I can imagine his head as a 3D object and it's looking fine, acceptable, human-like. It's time to move from messy sketch to a nice sketch so I set opacity for the whole layer to 15% and on the new one I start sketching again. This time I pick smaller brush and try to draw like I do while using a pencil - with short and delicate lines. I add some very subtle shadows to make it look more convincing, all with short lines, just crossing them and making the whole thing dense to create a darker spot. Don't worry if you have problems with placing those shadows - we will cover placing light on the head in detail later on :)

Drawing face Drawing face Drawing face

There is nothing else I want to add here. Play with the method I gave you, try different things, see what's working and what's not. Of course this is not the best method in the whole world or whatever - it helped me, maybe it will help you. After few sketches it becomes almost mechanical to draw the ball and then brow line and two additional markers, easy and useful.

Happy drawing!