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!

How to paint a self portrait like a pro

By Nicole Tinkham

How to paint a self portrait like a pro

Have you ever painted a self portrait? If not, we strongly suggest giving it a try. Here’s why. Working on a self portrait is unlike any other painting you’ll ever do. It can be a challenge but you’re sure to grow as an artist by doing it. You have total control over the subject because you are the subject! You’ll have to really focus in on the fine details and take a good long look at yourself. But don’t sweat it; you can always do it over and over again if you don’t like it the first time. Here are 6 of our top tips for painting a self portrait like a pro to help you get started.
1.    Do a preliminary drawing FIRST.

We recommend  doing a preliminary drawing first before taking paint to your canvas. This will help you get your proportions right and allow you to make the necessary changes. Here are just a few tips to getting proportion just right, something many artists struggle with when doing portraits:

* The space between the eyes should be the length of one eye.
* The edge of the mouth should be aligned with the pupil of the eye.
* The tops of the ears should be aligned to the eyebrows.
* The bottom of the ears should be a little lower than the bottom of the nose.

2.    Lighting is everything when doing portraits.

We know how important lighting can be when working on a painting or any artwork for that matter but it’s especially important when doing portraits. The correct lighting will help you achieve contrast. For portraits, we recommend placing a light on one side of your head a little bit above the head. This will give you the perfect shadows on the face.

3.    Use a mirror in addition to a photograph.

One challenge that you may face is your set-up. You can work from a photo but we also recommend using a mirror. Why a mirror? In the art world we prefer to work from real life and only use photos when we need to. When doing a self-portrait, using a mirror is as close as you can get to working from real life. Be sure that your mirror is positioned next to your canvas where you don’t have to twist or move around a whole lot to see in it. Consider using a second mirror so you can paint more of your face. This gives a 3D effect.

4.    Show yourself as you really are.

This will probably be the most difficult part of painting your self portrait. You want to show yourself as you really are. That means every wrinkle, blemish, and crooked tooth. We often want to forget these things and choose to not see them but in the case of improving as an artist you must see things as they really are. You will only improve your skills as an artist if you really focus on this.

5.    Have fun making different expressions.

When doing self portraits, the possibilities are endless. You are free to play around, get a little goofy, and make any expression you can come up with. For this, you may want to use a camera and work from a photo. Take a bunch of different photos and when considering which one to work with look at what the expression portrays. How do you want your painting to feel?

6.    Just get started

Self portraits can be intimidating but the best way to get over your fear of starting is just to do it. Remember that if it doesn’t turn out how you had wanted, you can always give it another go. Keep going and keep practicing. There are always new techniques to try so don’t give up after your first one. You will eventually nail this and have a killer self portrait!

Take a deep breath. You can do this! Remember to make it your own personal style. Your self portrait can be fun and colorful. Paint in a way that excites you and makes you want to do another. It is a painting of you after all so make sure it reflects your own unique personality. Tell us, what are some of your best self portrait painting tips? Leave a comment below and we’ll add it to our list.