Portrait Drawing

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.

How to Draw a Simple Eye

eye step 6 smallest

How to Draw a Simple Eye
Eyes are one of the most important things when drawing people. Many people struggle when drawing eyes. These easy steps will help you draw eyes more accurately. Lets start with the basic angle in the top lid.

Step 1 – The Top lid is comprised of 3 main angles. The innermost angle from the tear duct is usually the most extreme angle. Each person’s eye and therefore the angles are different. Practice looking for the 3 angles while drawing several different eyes.eye step 1 smallestStep 2 – The Tear duct is a trapezoid or modified triangle shape. Everyone’s tear duct shapes are different. So analyze the shape of the person’s tear duct. It’s an important feature of the eye.

eye step 2 smallest
Step 3– The top lid is comprised of two main angles. The first angle at the lid wraps around the eye ball is the most the second is softer at it connects to the tear duct.

eye step 3 smallest
Step 4 – Round your angles and make them soft arcs. Then there are just a few more things to remember. The lids have a thickness. This gives volume and depth to you eye. The how much of the thickness of the eye you see can indicate the angle you are viewing the eye at, this eye below is being seen from straight on. If I was looking down on someone I wouldn’t see the thickness of the top lid. If I was looking up at a person I would see more of the top lid thickness and less of or even none of the bottom lid.step 4 smallest
Step 5– The eye’s top and bottom lid have a thickness that shows the skin wrapping the eye ball. Again this gives shape and form to the eye. Look of the fold. The top lid fold is always darker than the lower one. If you are not careful the person will look like they haven’t slept in weeks.

eye step 5 smallest
Step 6 – Putting it all together. Next try putting in the values and you will have a very convincing eye. I will cover a more advanced explanation of drawing the eye in coming articles. The steps above are the most basic ideas to consider when drawing the eye.

eye step 6 smallestI will add posts on shading an eye, basic eye anatomy and drawing a more advanced eye.

How to Draw the Nose

How to Draw the Nose

The Nose

One of the most important features of the face. The nose seems like a simple lump on the face it is often overlooked. The nose is made of many subtle plane changes and structures. Let’s explore the drawing of this wonderful feature of the face.

Step 1 -Breaking Down the Nose into Simple Shapes

We will use simple shapes to represent the anatomy of the nose. The nose in the simplest terms is made up of the Glabella, Bridge, Ball of the Nose, and Wing of the Nose. Below shows the basic anatomy of the nose.

The Usual Suspects

The Usual Suspects of Shapes
We will use the trapezoid, rectangle, circle, a “c” shape and a comma shape. We will use these to construct the nose.

Step 2 – Establishing the Major Parts of the Nose

We will start with a center line. Then we will stack the trapezoid, rectangle, circle and another trapezoid. These represent the Glabella, Bridge of the Nose, Ball of the Nose, and Septum.

Step 3 – The Ball of the Nose is a Rounded Cone

As you observe the nose from the front, you will perceive the ball of the nose as a circle. If you look more closely you will  see another circle as well. That is because the ball of the nose is a rounded cone. That is why from the front it looks like a circle within a circle.

Step 4 – Putting in the Nostrils and Wings of the Nose

The nostrils are sometimes drawn as a circles, but this will give your nose a porky pig look. The nostrils are actually closer to “comma” shapes than circles. We will add two commas to either side of the septum and add our “c” shapes to finish drawing the nose.

How to Draw the mouth

Drawing the Features of the Face: The Mouth
The Mouth

One of the most important features to be able to capture on the face. They seem so simple and yet they can be challenging to draw. Here are some steps that will help you draw mouths successfully.

Keeping the Mouth Symmetrical

We want the mouth we draw to be symmetrical so we will start with a cross hair. This way is will be easier to keep both sides even.

The Basic Shapes of the Lips

The top and bottom lips are very different in their basic shapes. The top lip is like a long stretched “M” while the bottom lip is like a long stretched “U” shape.

The Lips are Wrapping Around the Teeth

The muzzle or tooth cylinder is round like a cylinder. You always need look for the roundness of the tooth cylinder. The line between the lips will show the roundness of the mouth. Draw this line and then wrap the lips around this line to create the curvature of the mouth.

Step 4
Top Lip is Flat the bottom lip is round

This is very important to remember especially as we put value on our drawing the top lip is flat and angles inward. The bottom lip is round and projects outwards. Looking at the mouth in profile demonstrates these characteristics very well. This is why the top lip is normally a darker value than the bottom lip. The top lip angles away from the light and the bottom lip projects into the light.

Step 5
Starting to Draw the Mouth.

Always start with the center-line of the mouth. This will define how much of the curvature you will see in the mouth.

Step 6
Drawing the Top Lip.
We talked about the basic shape of this lip is a stretched “M”. The cleft of everyone’s “M” is more or less pronounced. So observe the person’s mouth you are drawing to establish how pronounced their cleft is, also the “M” will be more rounded. Like shown above.

Step 7
Drawing the Bottom Lip.

The bottom is probably the easier of the two lips with it being a stretched “U” shape. However look at the person’s lips you are drawing. Everyone has a different shaped bottom lip. Some are thin and others full and others somewhere in between. So always observe the person you are drawing. With art it’s not impolite to stare and observe.

Step 8 – Putting it All Together

I went back to the center-line and observed it was created by three soft “U” shapes. I put that in and Voila! You have a mouth.

How to Draw the Mouth in Real-Time

How To Draw the Ear

Drawing the Ear



Continuing with the theme of drawing the portrait I will cover drawing the  features. Now in January I covered drawing  eyes. So I thought it would be fun to continue with one of the most neglected features, ears.

Step 1

Starting with the “?” Shape and the “C” Shape

The basic ear shape is comprised of two main shapes. A “?” shape for the outside of the ear and a “C” shape or rhythm for the inside.

C + ?


Step 2

Start with the outside Contour

Now if you look at an ear you will see that it is a little more rounded than a simple “C”. To get the main shape start by establishing the main angle changes of the outside of the ear.

Step 3

Soften the Edges

Change you straight “plane change” lines into soft arcs and you will end up with something similar to this.

Step 4

Outside Cartilage Ridge or Helix of the Ear

The cartilage that follows the outside of the ear called the helix actually starts from inside the ear behind the ear flap called the tragus, look closely in the mirror to observe this. The helix follows the ear but transitions into the ear lobe.

Step 5
Adding the Tragus ,and the Antihelix

Now we add the tragus which transitions into the “?” shaped part of the ear called the antihelix. Once we add these features we have a very accurate contour drawing of the basic ideas of the human ear. Study the ear and draw to become more familiar with this fascinating feature.

How to Draw the Human Head

Drawing a Portrait From The Classic “Egg” Shape

This is a continuation of last month’s art tip developing a portrait from an egg shape. Where we learned how to divide the oval based on eye spaces for a generic placement of the features. In this tip I will execute an actual portrait using the method.

Step 1
Starting with the Oval

Draw in an oval. Be careful to measure the proportion of how tall the head is to how wide using a pencil held in your hand and extended at arm’s length use the tip of the pencil and your thumb to take proportional measurements. I forgot to do this and instead jumped right into the drawing and I had to go back and do some major revisions to my drawing that could have been avoided if I had taken more care.

Step 2
Measure off the Eye, Nose and Mouth Lines

Establish a centerline, 1/2 of the Oval for the eye line, 1/4 nose line, and 1/8 mouth line. From there look for the small variances in the person’s features. Measure the features, everyone’s eyes, nose, and mouth will vary being slightly longer or shorter than the standard proportions (example the nose is usually halfway between the eyes and chin. Some people will have a nose slightly longer or shorter.)
Try to get as close as possible to that person’s unique proportions. Use your pencil and thumb to gauge accurate proportional measurements. After measuring the head I moved the chin line a little lower. I also reestablished the width of the head after observing the width of her head was about the same as the length from the bottom of her chin to her eyebrow. I then marked the eyebrow line. I then measured and marked where the forehead ended. The distance from the brow to the forehead was the same as from the chin to the nose.

Check the following relationships and measure them (remember these are proportional measurements. Using pencil and thumb.) 
1. Eyes to the Chin
2. Eyes to the Top of the Head
3. Nose to eyes
4. Nose to chin
5. Head width across the eye line to chin to brow
6. Compare brow to hairline against the nose to chin.
Mark off all the relationships you note while comparing these areas.

Step 3
Drawing in the Features Using Basic Shapes

I begin to draw in the basic eyes, nose, mouth, and eyebrows ( I will do detailed art tips on drawing the individual features later.) These basic shapes allow me to observe the basic relationships between the features and allows me to see what I may have missed and what needs to change.

Step 4
Modify and Refine

After all the remeasuring I saw a couple of needed changes. I noticed I made the head too long, her head needed to be a bit wider. The eyes were slightly too close together especially after widening the head so I moved the eyes(this is why I kept the features simple so changes would be much easier to make.) I redrew the nose, changed the mouth slightly, and redefined the shape of the hair as it defines the forehead. Below shows me in the process of making the changes I have listed.

Step 5
Recheck and Refine

After getting everything redrawn I noticed I still had the face too long so I modified the width by about a 1/16th of an inch. I widened the space between the eyes by about 1/32nd of an inch. I redrew the lips widening them about 1/16th of an inch and finally widened the nose just under 1/8th of an inch. These little changes really helped. Look at the final sketch below.

Special Notes
Taking it to the next level.

If I was to make this into a finished drawing there are still some modifications that need to be done. First I would redraw the eyes a little they are not symmetrical enough, same with the nose it too needs to be more symmetrical, and the lips again need to be more symmetrical. The features as they are were actually the way I drew them, but there are times you want to play those variances down and this is certainly one of those times. These modifications would strengthen the drawing’s consistency.

Learn to Draw the Head from the Egg Shape