How to Draw a Portrait- The Basics

The Fundamentals of a Head
Starting with the Classic method of Developing a
Portrait from the Egg shape.

Step 1 – We start with an oval or egg shape.

Generally the oval is about a 1/3 taller than it is wide. If you are having trouble with drawing ovals grab an egg from the refrigerator and quickly making some ovals. 20 to 40 will go a long way in helping you get more comfortable drawing the shape

Step 2 – Once we have drawn our oval we will cut the oval in half with a horizontal line.

This is the “eye line”. From the “eye line” to the bottom of the oval we will divide this space in half to mark where the “nose line” is located. From the “nose line” to the bottom of the oval we will divide this space in half once again to establish the “mouth line”. One very import note the mouth line is where the bottom lip will touch or close to it. View the illustration below to make this more clear.

Step 3 Head width

The width of the head is measured in “eye spaces”. The head width is generally 5 eye spaces wide along the “eye line” which should be the widest part of our oval. Let’s divide that into five eye spaces as seen below. Now using a center line will make things easier. For those who follow my newsletter I had an art tip on dividing a line of any length into five equal sections which you can use, but for the most part when I was a student we where taught to just eye ball it. Then using a ruler and or your thumb and pointed end of the pencil to measure and check each section to make sure the spaces were equal.

Step 4 – 3 Eye Spaces

If you remember one things please remember this. Eye spaces 2, 3, and 4 are always the same width. This is the two eyes and the space between your eyes sometimes referred to as the “third eye”. Eye spaces 1, 5 can vary depending on the person’s face how round or how thin they are and so forth.

Step 5 – The Eye Line Measurements are Key.

The five spaces help us locate all other measurement of the face.
Nose– drop straight lines from the side of eye space “3” to give you the width of the nose.
Corners of the Mouth. Drop line from approximately the middle of eye spaces “2” and “4” for the width of the mouth. Look at the illustration below. Remember the “Bottom of the Lip” touches the “Mouth Line”
Other Features
Ears – The Ears are in the space between the “nose line” and the “eye line”
Hair – Your hair grows off and from you skull so the illustration show the original oval or egg shape as a checked line and the hair line out and off the skull.
Neck – Use a cylinder for the neck. Now the neck can be dropped straight down from the ears if the person is a line backer or something. If it’s in too far from the jar it looks like a cartoon neck so somewhere between those extremes are where the neck will be.

Step 6 – Putting it all together.

This shows a very simple generic and simplified portrait using the proportions I talked about. Look where the simple nose falls or where the lips, ears and so forth are located. Next month will go through the steps of creating a portrait using these proportions we have discussed today.

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