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Drawing Lesson 17, Part 1 – How to Draw a Human Face

How to Draw a Human Face – Classical Female Portrait

Video Lesson Description

In this video lesson, you will discover How to Draw a Human Face on example of a female portrait with classical head proportions.

The subject of this “how to draw a human face” drawing is Thalia, the muse of comedy in Roman mythology. She was the daughter of Zeus and Mnemosyne, the eighth-born of the nine Muses. These Muses were female companions of the god Apollo and devoted to the art and science.

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How to Draw a Human Face – Constructive drawing

We begin the drawing with the main lines, indicating the position of the head, the central line of the face and two horizontal virtual lines marking positions of the eyes and the mouth. Above the eyes’ line, we draw two more lines that will help define the top edges of the eyes and position of the eyebrows.

The distance between these lines should be measured by pencil or judged by eye. With time, professional fine artists develop an immense sense of measuring by eye. It takes time and practice, and you should aim to be more proficient in this skill.


How to Draw a Human Face
When it comes to the subject of how to draw a human face, you must use one of the fundamental rules of the traditional drawing: you should draw what you know, not what you see.

You can appreciate that virtual lines are just that – invisible lines that could be laid down on a paper or just be in your head. These lines will be a great help to construct right proportions of the portrait.

In this video lesson on how to draw a human face I will also show you how to hold pencil correctly. When an easel stands upright, the pencil can be gripped in such way that gives freedom of movement. With this grip, it is easy to draw horizontal and vertical lines at any angles and lengths.

When considering how to draw a human face, a fine artist must be aware of human anatomy. As explained in the Drawing Academy video lesson dedicated to the anatomy of the skull, the lower jaw starts under the ear, then goes down and finally curves forward toward the chin.

The drawing progress goes from big masses to smaller details. When all major proportions of the portrait are in place, I can start drawing smaller details of the facial features.

How to Draw a Human Face – Female head proportions

According to the classical head proportions, the width of the nose wings is equal to the distance between the eyes.

When drawing eyes, you need to now that the width of an eye is equal to the distance between the eyes. In life, the head proportions differ slightly from person to person. Nevertheless, in classical examples these rules were obeyed by many generations of fine artists and sculptors because they define the perfectly shaped human face, to which we now refer as ideal classical proportions.

The eye is effectively a ball that sits inside of the orbit cavity of the scull. Upper and lower eyelids have their thickness, which need to be depicted for an eye to look realistic. The eyelids cover the upper and lower parts of the eye, following its spherical shape.

The virtual horizontal line of the eyebrows helps to portray them in perspective, foreshortening and at the correct angle. The same goes for eyes. Helping lines become so useful to position facial features in the right places and with the right proportions. This illustrates, once again, that professional fine artists must draw what he or she knows, not what he/she sees.

Another rule of the classical head proportions is that the width of the mouth is equal to the distance between the eyes’ pupils. To measure this proportion, I am making two more virtual lines that go from the eye pupils down to the mouth.

The upper lip’s volume is three-dimensional. Our angle of view distorts the lip in perspective and this foreshortening needs to be accounted for when drawing the mouth. You may see that the female’s right half of the mouth is almost three times shorter than the right one.

Lips are quite curved objects; they start from the corner of the mouth, going up and down as well as being curved from front to back, starting from the front teeth area and going further to the ears.

The female chin has a very soft and rounded outline. This would be different in a male portrait. The under-plane of the lower part of the face is quite visible, as we have the point of view below the head. This also reflects the fact that horizontal virtual lines of the eyebrows, eyes, nose and, the mouth are curved upward. The reason for this curve is explained in the Drawing Academy video lesson about perspective.

The ear sits under an angle to the side plane of the face. Under our angle of view the left ear appears almost without any perspective distortion, this is because the head is turned slightly away from us. The horizontal line that goes from the mouth marks the lower edge of the ear. The virtual horizontal line going from the eyebrow defines the top ear’s edge. The jaw line going upward indicates the place where ear connects to the head.

You have to observe the construction of the ear and depict accurately its anatomy to achieve realistic looking portrait. Every person has a unique deviation of the ear proportions, but the overall construction of the ear is universal for all people.

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