Attention! in July 2014, Elfwood.com will get a makeover! Read more about the change.

Elfwood is the worlds largest SciFi & Fantasy community.
  - 152980 members, 1 online now.
  - 10218 site visitors the last 24 hours.



Fantasy Art Tutorials in the FARP Section

Drawing the Face and Head

By Sylvia Leung

One of the most important and most difficult things to do for an artist is to draw an appealing face. That doesn't just involve the plane the face is on, but the whole head as well. The right face on a figure can make or break a drawing. Let's try and cover how to draw one, shall we?

The Skull

As every art college student can attest, one of the first things they are taught to draw pertaining to the human figure is the skeletal structure. Every drawing class I have been enrolled in starts with sketching of the skull. The panes of the skull indicate where the muscles and skin attach. The complete knowledge of skeletal structure can help in not only drawing, but painting and sculpture. Animal skeletons supply the same information. Think of it as foundation for a building.

The first step in drawing the head (and anything else for that matter) is to break everything down into simple shapes. Make a rough circle indicating the skullcap, the main body of the entire skull. It is all right not to be accurate to the millimeter since you are probably going to erase your foundation later, but don't draw the jawbone connecting to the top of the skull or something.

From the side view, the jaw extends to the middle of the skull cap. If you are confused, just think of your ear. If you follow the line of your jaw upwards, you will see that your ear starts from there and emerges behind that middle point. At the sides of the bottom of the skullcap is where the actual jaw attaches. The distance between the bottom and the top of the skullcap should be equidistant (the same length) as the bottom of the skullcap to the bottom of the jaw.

Now, for more measurements. Around the bottom of the skull cap is the line where you draw your eyes (pretty much the middle of the eyes). The distance between the eyes should be one eye. The width of your face is about three eyes.

Midway between the eyeline and the bottom of the jaw is the bottom of your nose. Between the bottom of your nose and the bottom of your jaw is the line between your lips. Got all that? There's even more! At the sides of the head, between the eyeline and the bottom of the nose is the ears! That's right, the top of the ear should align with your eyeline and the bottom of the ear should align with the nostrils.

The Actual Facial Features

Now with that out of the way, let's start building on the face. Be fore-warned, this is a HUGE article since the face has many details and nuances that can be fascinating at times. This is one of my times.

The Eyes

The most popular facial features in almost all cultures are the eyes (please ignore the flies). On the left is a photo based drawing of the eye. Notice that the pupil is bigger than most think. That's because the eye is slightly quinted. Even then, the only instance yous ee all of the pupil of the eye is when someone is either surprised or opening their eyelids completely wide.

The eyebrow can come in many styles. Usually, the eyebrows on a female are more fine and delicate whereas a male's eyebrows tend to be slightly bushy and erratic pn how the hair grows. The eyebrows usually extend only a little past the corners of the eye. The eyelid itself tends to be more pushed in toward the nose (touch your own eyes if it helps) and gets more pushed out by the curve eyeball itself away from the nose bridge. With one line, you can lay down an indication of the eyelid shadows near the nose. I'm not sure of the technical terms so bear with me.

The eye itself should be though of in three dimensions. There is a spherical eyeball behind all of the workings of the eye and it moves. The iris of the eye (the color of the eye) pops slightly outward (think of a contact lens). Sometimes, depending on the individual, the opening of the eyelid curves open more where the iris moves around. Ask a friend to look around without moving their head and see for yourself.

Another option that many artists ignore is the little fold above the opening of the eye, what I call eyelid wrinkles. If you place them higher on the eyelid, it'll give the effect of a lazy eye. Place them lower and the eye seems more alert. I state 'them' very loosly because most of the time it's just one line indicating a fold.

Eyelashes are usually thought of as inconsequential, but are one of the most obvious indicators of sex. The more lush the lashes, the more feminine the figure looks to be. In real life, male eyelashes are actually longer than females, but females usually stress them more. In either case, it is another small nuance of the face that should be paid attention to. Most of the time, many artists suggest at eyelashes by making the 'top' line of the eye bolder and/or thicker than the bottom line or gradiate the thickness of the bottom line to the outer edge of the eye. Hopefully, you can see that in the simple line/shadow drawing above.

Another note to heed is that females tend to have bigger eyes. Not to say that females have bigger eyeballs, but the male eye tends to have a more no-nonsense opening. Their eyes are a bit more 'narrow' and 'short' whereas a female's are usually more expressive in their width, hieght, and curves. Again, this can always flux with ethnicity.

The Nose

Moving down the center of a face is the nose. The length has already been covered. The bridge of the nose (I'm not too sure) is where there is an inward curve to the nose directly between the eyes where glasses usually perch. Skull-wise, this place is between the brow ridge and the nasal bone (?). I'm not too good on anatomy, but the sinuses are somewhere around there.

In the illustration above, you can see the bottom part of the nose. The tip of the nose is also thought of as a sphere and the nostrils flare out from the tip. Almost like a three cornered pyramid fo the whole nose, the nostrils rest behind the tip of the nose, kind of connecting it to the rest of the skin/face.

There is usually a dark shadow under the nose. If you are concerned about shading the nose correctly, you can think of the anime style of drawing. Their noses are like a check mark, simple, but there are many variations. The can simply illustrate all the necessary planes and angles.

Don't be afraid to 'play around with your nose'. You can have a 'perky' nose by just adjusting the tip of the nose a bit higher than the nostrils. A nose that has been broken can be indicated by a little bump on the area where the nasal bone would be. A wide nose can indicate a stubborn streak or ethnicity. You are an artist, creating variations is your job.

The Cheeks

Around the nose are the cheeks. People tend to not really concentrate on this expanse of skin, but it can make a character look mean or seductive. Pressing into your own cheeks, you can feel your cheekbones. They are usually low, ending at the same height as the bottom of the nose. Sometimes, on the really chiselled facial features, the cheek bones ride high, making the face look gaunt or long. You can extend the cheeks to make a more pudgy character or draw lines curving inward on the cheeks to indicate that lovely waif look. Never underestimate the power of the cheekbones.

The Lips and Chin

Moving back down and center, we hit that lil' piece of upper lip. There is a center fold which most indicate with a little shaded line for the middle, then a spanse of shadow for the cheek (in the case of severe lighting to the side of the face). Many chose to ignore it because it's not such a character building area, but think about it. On a male, you can fit a thin, sinister mustache or a thick, fatherly mustache. The variations can be fun to explore.

Now for the debatably sexiest part of the face: the lips. The lips themselves are obviously the upper and lower lip. At the center of the upper lip, there is a little nub that is not unlike the prow of a ship. Usually the lips flare up and out from that point (according to ethnicity) and narrow at the edges of the mouth. The lower lip as a center as well, but it does not 'stick out'. Think of perhaps a sausage tied loosely at the center. There are two fleshy parts on the lower lip, more obvious on babies and/or adults with 'cherub lips'. In fact, just look at a cherub ;) Usually (since this differs with certain ethnocity), the upper lip is thinner than the lower lip. On males, the lips are thin to begin with and are slightly wider than female lips.

Under the mouth is a little indentation that separates the lips from the chin. Many tend to forget about this since the bottom lip indicates the 'border' so well. My cure for drawing male lips (where if you draw out the lips completely, they look feminine), is to draw and shade this little indenture. Depending on the source of light, this can be a focal point on whether the drawing is a success or a failure.

The Ears

Easy enough to ignore, but a facial feature, nonetheless. It's really cool to try on earrings on a drawing. The ears themselves are boneless. They are contructed with this semi-hard tissue called cartilage, therefore, you don't have to worry about underlying bone structure. However, ears are shaped differently according to each individual so you can get away with never drawing the same ear twice.

One of the things to keep in mind with so much freedom is how the ear works. The ear has the function of funnelling sounds into the ear canal, therefore it's ridges have the same circular motion of a seashell (forgive me if this is an awful analogy). The ridges can be thought of like wrinkles in fabric that flare from the center, under the little bump of cartilage before the opening of the ear canal. If you can feel on your own ear, the harder the cartilage, the more subtle and numerous the ridges are. It is your call whether to draw in detail the ear or not. I have simplified my ear example for a general feel. If your drawing does not have a cloes up of the ear, drawing more details into it would most likely matter.

Also, don't forget the side burns. :)

The Jaw

What defines the male and female face for me has got to be the jaw.

Just take in these two fine examples. There is no definite shape to the jaw, you'll just have to feel your own. There are perhaps... five main points: the chin, the two corners where the jaw bends into the head, and the two joints where the jaw connects to the skull. Aside from that, almost anything can be variant.

A wide, 'square' jaw would indicate a strong male, and a graceful, smoothly curved jaw would indicate a female. Generally, males have wider chins than a female and the female's chin is rather pointy.

A question some people might forget is if they want to put facial hair onto their males. I think it is all according to the character you want to create. Beards tend to hint at maturity or intelligence, goatees to be on the rebellious or even sinister of males, and mustaches indicate a fatherly feeling and are rarely used on guys anymore. Again, these are only generalizations, but a good thing to keep in mind.

The Hair

Oh my daaaahling, your hair is just faboo! Well, most of the time, many many artists have problems getting the hair down just right on their figures (oh, I remember the horror...). My cure (Mylanta! ::slap:: 'Scuse me, I'm getting tired) was to think of the wind. One thing to always look at are other people's art if you are not sure (but NEVER forget your foundation learning).

Comic book art has my vote on best hair (depending on the artist, of course). Another good thing to look at are cartoons. Generally, the best way to draw hair is to sketch in where you want it to 'flow' and draw in or shade in the details.

Another technique that got me to really get the knack for drawing hair was to think of the wnd. Most pinups (drawn or not drawn) have wind blowing through their hair. The more exaggerated, the better! At first, just draw wavy lines that spread out from ome point and/or draw wavy lines that all flow one way. After a while, merge the two while thinking of a hairstyle. If you're not sure, I repeat, look at someone else's drawing... look at serveral other artists!

Symmetry and Miscellaneous

Ever had that feeling that the face you just drew is insanely imbalanced or just not look right for some reason? That could be caused by symmetry. Like folding a paper with wet paint on one side, you get a mirrored, identical image on the other, previously blank side. Many artists solve this problem by holding their pictures up to a mirror. I solve the symmetry problem in another way.

Remember this skull? The line I drew is also the axis on which a head can be turned. Like a swivelling computer chair or the axis on the earth, the axis separates the face into two halves (oh, like the hemispheres of the brain!... I need a break). You can also picture separating the two halves of the face as such, making sure of the tilt of the skull. The eyes lie on one plane and so do the ears, the corners of the jaw where they hinge on the skull and so on. Some basic structural drawing of the head in different angles and perspectives will help a lot so don't stress it. Always make preliminary sketches before making a final piece of work.

Shading the face could be another article in itself. The basic foundation of shading would be that horrible sphere and one light source. Beleive me, that technique works. After getting the sphere, shade different shapes (always think in 3D) and you should get the hang of most object shading. I hope to have talked about shading each individual facial feature along with how to shade them, if not, get back to me on what needs expansion.

Expressions are also fun to manipulate. Usually on fantasy pictures, there are either blank expressions of the philosopher or aggressive expressions (my term: 'pop-a-cap-ish' since the figures look like they're going to beat someone [a bad guy] up). Perhaps a humorous approach on a piece would loosen it up if you are stuck or tired of drawing the former type of figures. I have only recently been toying with emotions (I laugh therefore I am desperate for jocularity) and here are my 'confused' expressions that I wear most of the time. With the position of the eyebrows, the curl of lip, the openness fo the eye, and even the wrinkle of the nose, you can change your drawing entirely. You can try laughter, calm, exasperation, disgust, curiousity (really difficult to do), and evil glee. Best thing when working on expressions is to try your won expressions in the mirror. Sorry if I am taking the animator's view on drawing, but we are merely actors with pencils.

Wrinkles are rarely drawn on the face since not many artists draw 'old people'. Wrinkles can establish that your character is wise, distinguished, and/or stressed. Wrinkles are most commonly drawn at the far corners of the eye (crow's feet) and at the corners of the mouth (laughing lines). The other place more commonly ignored where wrinkles lie are above the nostrils and they flare down to meet with the mouth's laughing lines. Wrinkles can make a plain face far more interesting so never be afraid to look at an old person (unless they have a big problem with it) and do some practice sketches.

And Lastly... (YAIY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)

Drawing styles is one of the things many draw-ers worry about. Anime/manga/ real life/ bastract, etc. are all valid forms of drawing. Preferably, it is best to learn and study all the styles, then make up your mind about what will be your own style. For instance, my own style was originally anime based, then slowly merged into a slightly more realistic style. I can also aways merge back into a more anime style, but still retain my own unique vision. Nothing is 'wrong' because it is your own vision.

Wow, that was a lot to darf out. If you have any questions or additions (please, additions!!!), then e-mail me. This is Sylvia Leung, Loth gallery 11, Zone gallery 3, and Wyvern 'sylvial' signing off... and taking a really long nap. >^..^<~



Book recommendations
   The Artist's Complete Guide to Facial Expression
A wonderful, unique resource for any artist depicting human heads and faces. As a professional who needs to recreate realistic human expressions in the computer, I keep it by my desk. Every step, from initially designing the head to every muscle involved in a pose, is explained and illustrated in detail.
[More info!]

   Dynamic Figure Drawing
Figure drawing is the most essential--and the most difficult--of all skills for the artist to learn. In this book, Bruce Hogarth, one of the founders of the School of Visual Arts in New York, introduces his own revolutionary system of figure drawing, which makes it possible to visualize and accurately render the forms of the human body from every conceivable point of view. 300+ drawings & diagrams.
[More info!]

   Atlas of Human Anatomy for the Artist by Stephen Rogers, Peck
I practically live by Peck's "Atlas of human Anatomy for the Artist. e's a bit long-winded and scientifically technical, but if you're erious about accuracy, you'll know the figure down to the tiniest bone. ince bones are the base, it's the best place to start. He's got bones, uscles, joints and limbs from every angle, plus this description of exual differences, a section on age, race, varieties of physique, some hotos, beautifully rendered bone drawings, "Agents of Expression", and n and on... --Jennifer, Gallery 33
[More info!]

In association with Amazon.com

FARP Article Guestbook

30 Jun 200845 Sarah~Tex~
It’s great don’t listen to these amitures who cuss at it
2 Jul 200845 Lee Knight
Its nice, but as said it is rather negligent to many parts of the face that are important. Age is a big one. Second its always nice to see a good explanation on drawing facial hair. You don’t see many of those.
17 Jul 200845 Anon.
24 Aug 200845 Anonymous
you need to show more ways of facial experasions, im not an artist but i take art from people like you guys and draw like it but i show my fealings thankyou so much for posting these pictures people like you guys help build confidence in my work :11 thanxxx bye
16 Oct 2008:-) Caitlin E Wesch
This is really good. Don’t listen to the dumb-*** who cussed at you. 2
24 Oct 2008:-) Marco A Salazar
I understand how and why you wrote it this way. It was very informative the only thing I thought it was lacking would be age of the face, but you did a great job with everything you did write. My hats off to you. Thank you for the tutorial, I actually learned something.
18 Nov 200845 Anon.
none of yall *****s can draw
12 Jul 2009:-) Byron Reeves
Very nice guide.
9 Mar 2010:-) Eden Halt
thx, i finally can draw a mouth!
24 Dec 2010:-) Noah Twitch Chastain
Will all dipsticks that cant take instructions please exit the building? *cough* Anon6Jun *cough* Yes, you..
Page: [1] 2 3
Not signed in...

   Private message?

Back to the FARP main page.

The collection of art and writing tutorials in the Elfwood Fantasy Art Resource (F.A.R.P.) is a part of Elfwood.
The FARP logo was created by :-) Miguel Krippahl (The muscular guy in the FARP-logo) and :-) Thomas F Abrahamsson (The text and general graphic design). Those sections written by volunteers are copyrighted to Thomas Abrahamsson and the respective writer. Elfwood is a project once founded by Thomas Abrahamsson.

All rights reserved. Unauthorized Reproduction of the graphics, writings, and materials on these pages is absolutely prohibited! You may consider all material on these pages protected and copyrighted, unless otherwise noted. You may NOT use the images found at the FARP or Elfwood pages on your home pages! All of these images are copyright protected! Everything you see here represent the collaborative effort of the Elfwood community and Thomas Abrahamsson. Please read the Legal Disclaimer for more info on warranties/etc for these pages!


Elfwood™ is a site for Fantasy and Science Fiction art and stories. The site was founded by Thomas Abrahamsson and is maintained by helpful assistants and moderators, owned by the Elfwood AB corporation.