How to draw faces the simple way

By Nicole Tinkham

What every beginner needs to know about drawing faces(1)

Do you cringe at the thought of drawing a portrait for fear of seriously messing up the features? I know I do! I can NEVER seem to get placement right and for the life of me can’t figure out what looks off when I’m finished. The eyes are normally too far up and far apart, the nose is always too big, and the mouth too small. Let’s just say I’m a mess when it comes to portraits. If you’re anything like me, this simple guide will be a life changer for you! In this blog we’ll break down the features of the face into BASIC SHAPES, we’ll draw guidelines that will actually help us (not confuse us) and learn easy tricks to get everything lined up perfectly. Read on for the key steps every beginner needs to know about drawing faces.


The key to drawing faces is to look at them as basic shapes instead of complex forms.  Let’s begin by drawing an egg shape. It’s shouldn’t be round but not quite oval either. Next, draw in the jaw line. This will be different on each person so really look carefully. Some people have a very angular jaw line and others have softer edges. See below for example.



Very lightly you’ll want to create guides so you know exactly where to line up the eyes, nose, and mouth. Start by making a vertical line down the middle of the face.  Now make a horizontal line across the face in the center. This is where the eyes will be placed. Draw another line halfway between the eye line and the chin. This will be where the bottom of the nose reaches. Divide the remainder (the bottom of the nose line down to the chin) into thirds and draw your final line. This is where the top of the lips will be placed. See below for example.



Next up are the eyes which can be difficult to position correctly but we’ve discovered a helpful trick! On your “eye line” draw two almond shaped eyes. The distance between the two should be the length of one eye and you should be able to fit 5 almond shaped eyes across the entire face. This will help you learn the correct sizing and placement for eyes. When drawing your almond shapes, keep in mind that the inner corner of the eye typically tilts down and the outer corner can tilt either up or down.



As you may be familiar, the nose is narrow between the eyes, and widens at the nostrils. Use your center vertical line and “bottom of nose” line to guide you in nose placement.  Note: The width of the nostrils should be just slightly wider than the corner of the eyes. See image below for example and keep in mind everyone’s nose will be slightly different.



Begin drawing in the ears at the “eye line” and remember that the ears should be wider at the top and narrower towards the bottom. Since ears can be complicated, try to keep it simple at first until you get the hang of drawing them. See the example below for placement.



For the lips, you want to draw a wide “U” shape that dips below the top of the mouth line. This will be the bottom of the lower lip. Next you’ll draw the top of the upper lip which will reach the “top of mouth” line. Think of the shape as a wide “M”. Do the same exact thing with the bottom of the upper lip only this time make the “M” shape with much smaller curves. Note: The corners of the mouth should line up with the center of the eyes. Use the image below as an example.



Now that we have the basics down, it’s time to add in some details. When it comes to eyebrows, remember that they typically extend beyond the eye and are thicker toward the bridge of the nose. Eyebrows vary greatly from person to person so keep that in mind when working on a portrait.



Hair can be tricky and everyone’s is so different from one another but we have a helpful trick that can help you. As with everything else, look at hair as basic shapes. Take note on the flow of it. Is it straight? Curly? How does it shape the face? Remember to focus on the BASICS to start out. Also, don’t place hair on top of the head. The hairline is usually a quarter of the way down from the top of the head to the top of the eyebrows.

Obviously, there are additional features to add to your portrait but this guide will help you get the basics down. It doesn’t seem so scary anymore, does it? Remember that with anything, it does require lots of practice to really get the skill down. You can always grab your sketchbook when you head to the Doctor’s office to practice sketching patients in the waiting room or just hang out at a coffee shop.

Tell us! How has this guide helped you with drawing faces?? Let us know in the comments!