When learning how to draw a face you need to understand
the structure, proportions and the various parts that make up the face
Before I offer you some kind of guideline for the structure, proportions and the various parts of the face, I need to make it clear, that whilst it is really important to get a good understanding of the components that make up the face, it is not an exact science by any means. If you have ever researched the topic you’ll know what I mean, you’ll find there is a lot of conflicting information and many offering some kind of proof to back up their own particular theory. I am sure no one is deliberately trying to mislead us of course; I believe it is because humans are very diverse beings and there are just so many variables to take into account.
Some examples of the variables included within those diversities :-
• Gender of course
• Natural variations of frame size of the body
• Whether a person is overweight or underweight
• Age to some degree
• Distinguishing racial features
• Hereditary features
• Mixed racial DNA
• Added to which each individual person’s DNA is unique so the combinations when two people becoming parents is almost infinite
If you add to that the problem of subjectivity, emotional sight and the fact that people really do see the world around them differently to you and me. The part of me that is a qualified psychologist is only too aware how that concept escapes many people. If you ask anyone, are you aware that everyone sees things differently? Most will answer yes I understand that, but then, when we judge people for their views, beliefs and opinions we judge them with our own set of views, beliefs and opinions as if that is the only benchmark that makes sense. Consequently, we often fail to see what other people see and what makes perfect sense to them. I don’t want to delve too deeply into that side of human psychology right now, but the point of what I am trying to explain is why there isn’t just one simple, straightforward, universal formula for all of us all to agree with and to follow.
Just one final point that I hope summarises for you a lot of what is written above, and that is when I am looking at a face, what I see before me is heavily influenced by the emotional half of my brain and the sum total of all my life experiences, understandings, preferences, learnt prejudices etc and not just what the logical half of the brain perceives and evaluates. More on the emotional aspects and subconscious influences on the page headed “How the emotions influence us when learning how to draw”
In my research I have seen many diagrams much more complex than my own, and with a lot more detail and also some very well thought out formulas of relationship of different parts of the face to each other, but I have kept my illustrations simple in the hopes that it serves as enough of a guide for you to begin the process of tackling faces. To give you an idea I put together a mixture of what I found to make the most sense to me and hope that you find it helpful.
I have tried to keep my illustrations simple with not too much detail on each because I found many illustrations with too much detail a little overwhelming and complicated.
A good starting point is the general proportions of the head from the front or the side. As a rule of thumb when looking at the face from the front (not including the ears) it is approximately two-thirds of the height of the face.
When looking at the side of of the face at the widest points it is usually slightly less than the height, maybe seven-eighths of the height of the face.
It is not unusual for artists to make the eyes their initial starting point. Some information suggests that if you draw a line across the centre the eyes start just above the centre and others suggest they start just below the centre. From my own illustration you can see that both can be correct so obviously approximately near the centre of the head is not going to be badly out of proportion.
There doesn’t seem to be too much disagreement with the width of the eyes and the spacing in between them, but only the proportions they take up across the face. Some believe that if you divide the width of the face across into 5 equal parts then make each eye one fifth and the space between the eyes one fifth then apportion the last two fifths equally one each side. Another school of thought splits the width up into 4 parts with the eyes and the space in between them equal and the last quarter split into two equal parts. I believe because of the multiple variations the human face both answers will be correct sometimes and for the rest of the time somewhere in between. As I say not an exact science but at least quite a good basic guide.
Using the same illustration you can see the nose is central and usually just a bit wider than the space between the eyes. This is a typical situation where again it becomes obvious that it is not an exact science. For example some cultural differences where the nose can be much wider
By drawing a triangle from the centre of the nose between the eyes it is an easy way to ensure that you should get the mouth proportioned about right.
Generally the ears start in line with the top of the eyes and finish just under the nose, but not all ears are the same length of course, so as with the sample on the right it could finish lower, possibly somewhere near the top of the mouth. I believe it is fairly accurate to say that from the side view, the ears are not in the centre but mostly nearer the back than the front. In this particular example the centre of the ear is 57% from the front of the head or 43% from the back of the head. So it would be a realistic guide when drawing the ear to position the front of the ear at the half way mark and then probably make the width approximately one sixth of the width of the side of the head .
For the final guide the face is split into 3 sections, with the top third including the hair, hairline and most if not all of the forehead. The middle third including the eyes around the centre and the nose. The final third with the mouth and chin. The bottom third is further sub-divided to show the mouth just above the centre line.
In summary, as previously stated, there is no precise set of rules to the get the structure and proportions of human face exactly right for every face, we are all unique. There are just so many variables, combinations and possibilities and to make matters even more complicated we need to consider the angle we are viewing the face at. All the above examples are working from the assumption we are looking directly at the face on the same level. A simple example would be to take a tall glass in your hand and hold it directly in front of you upright. As you tilt the glass towards you or away from you, observe how the rim becomes either more circular or more oval, and the height of the glass becomes shorter or taller. I know it is kind of obvious in one sense but it is about making your drawings more realistic and drawing what you actually see rather than calling on our preconceived ideas of how things or people should look.
However you begin your journey there is no real substitute for experience through practise and trial and error. Just remember nobody ever learns anything by getting it right first time, it is only when we make mistakes that we know what to correct or work on to improve our efforts. If you can see your embarrassing disasters along the way as being a positive thing, and then viewing them as learning what not to do next time then your journey will be less frustrating and it will be easier to maintain your passion to learn.
If you are interested in finding out how to do excellent and realistic pencil portrait drawings and you want to learn the secrets of how to draw a face then maybe take a moment to Check out my home page.
Was this helpful at all ? Feel free to leave a comment even if it is a genuine criticism, I never want to stop learning.