Sketching and Drawing Human Faces

Updated on August 9, 2018
Tricia Deed profile image

Tricia Deed enjoys and relaxes with her hobby of painting portraits with acrylic paints. Then writes about what she has learned.

Pencil Sketching Human Faces

Artist sketching human faces.
Artist sketching human faces. | Source

Are you a people watcher? Do you observe people during various activities at shopping malls, beaches, mountains, sporting events, children playing, and many other activities?

Do you always have a sketch pad and pencil at hand to capture as quickly as possible an interesting face with a unique facial idiom? Watching people with their range of emotional facial expressions provides an endless supply of portrait drawings. Portrait artists take every opportunity to study faces in order to make the most of their final drawings and paintings.

Sketching Guideline

Capture critical outlining.
Capture critical outlining. | Source

Sketching Portraits

Sketching is a quick outlining of a subject or an object. It is an outline for future details. The details are the essential markings for the finished product. A sketch is a visual reminder or shorthand of notations highlighting building elements which will be used in the finished product.

The portrait artist draws details of the eyes, nose, lips, ears, and lines which indicate a particular human emotion or an identifying mark such as a scar or a birthmark. When painting the face; the skin needs various shades of tint and shading for defining identity details.

Most of us make the mistake of drawing the human head, fill in the features, look at our work, and quit. Have you done this?

Wait a minute. Do not quit and walk away from being a portrait artist so quickly.

Practice Drawing Lines

Practice sketching many faces and note the changes which occur. Pay attention as to how to correct lines for the desired outcome. ..
Practice sketching many faces and note the changes which occur. Pay attention as to how to correct lines for the desired outcome. .. | Source

Benefits of Practice

Practice makes perfect. Think of practicing as rehearsing to become a master. Be patient with the learning process. Everyone progresses at a different rate.

  1. Sketches are the foundation or outline to mark detailed lines
  2. Learning what to keep and erasing nonessential lines and errors
  3. Learning new experiences and challenges as each head is unique
  4. Improving pencil strokes to capture facial gestures
  5. Understanding and gaining knowledge of line strokes

Every Pencil Line Matters

Give careful concern to each line of your drawing.
Give careful concern to each line of your drawing. | Source

A Line Adds or Subtracts from the Portrait

It has been my experience, after wearing out many erasers, how one line added or deleted will alter a facial emotion or the identity of the portrait's face. One line can change the appearance of an eye, ear, nose, and mouth which in turn changes the complete appearance of the face.

One line can add a smile or sadness to a face. Detailed lines illustrate age, worry, frowns, and other facial gestures or emotions. Every line you sketch on your canvas will undo or redo facial appearance. There are faces expressing happiness, sadness, loneliness, depression, doubt, fear, hate, laughter, and more.

Portrait artists will make many detailed changes to acquire an accurate facial description. Reality portraits are demanding of details than fantasy or abstract.

Human Face on Grid Markings

There are general rules of measurements for the human head; however, there are individual variances.
There are general rules of measurements for the human head; however, there are individual variances. | Source

Basic Facial Measurements and Tips

There are basic lessons of measurements to learn and memorize for drawing eyes, eyebrows, noses, lips and ears. The head can turn and tilt but the measurements will remain the same. The changing angles may cause confusion and you may find that you and your eraser are becoming the best of friends.

Draw a circle.

  • Draw a long vertical line dividing the circle in half.
  • Draw a line on either side of the lower end of the circle meeting towards the end of the vertical line which marks the end of the chin.
  • Draw a horizontal line halfway on the vertical line (eye placement).
  • Draw a horizontal line one-third upward from the end of the chin (marks the nose tip).

Measurement Tips:

  • The width of the eye is the same as the distance between the eyes.
  • The eyebrows are placed above the eyes on its protruding bone structure.
  • The nose starts at the lower end of the eyes and its tips ends at the 1/3 horizontal mark. The nose is usually the distance between the eyes.
  • The lips are often the width distance from the middle of one eye pupil to the next eye pupil. The lips are a short distance below the nose tip.
  • The ears are usually the length from the eyebrows to the tip of the nose.
  • The width of the neck is from ear to ear and curves before meeting the shoulders.

These are general measurements; modifications will need to be made.

Do not expect each portrait to be a masterpiece. However, as you continue to study, practice, and develop your talents the better you will become.

Facial Sketching

Organize your thoughts, your composition, and the procedure order, In other words know what you want and execute your plan of action. .
Organize your thoughts, your composition, and the procedure order, In other words know what you want and execute your plan of action. . | Source

Sketching Guidelines for Human Face

Tips for sketching the human face:

  1. Outline the head shape
  2. Section off with light pencil strokes the eyes, nose, lips, ears, and chin
  3. Add eyebrows, neck, and hair
  4. Shade or highlight the eyebrows, eyes, lips, ears, chin, and hair
  5. Write self notes, colors, and any dominant or unusual features

Sketch a face from a magazine or a photo. Then make a more detailed drawing and see how close the finished portrait duplicates the face. This is helpful for mastering realistic portraits. Perfecting techniques will advance your talent for sketching with live models.

How to Draw Faces

Portrait Artists

What type of portrait drawing do you enjoy?

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Questions & Answers

    Comments

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      • profile image

        Tricia Deed 

        21 months ago

        Charm,

        Many artists have to practice to become very skillful in their choice of art form. We are all artists, it is a matter of recognizing our specialty niche.

        I too drew ugly faces when I first started. It was years later when I tried again, and it worked. I can only guess that time and perspective changes helped to release the skill sets which were necessary.

      • charm_baker profile image

        Charm Baker 

        21 months ago from Los Angeles, California

        Great article. I've always envied people who can draw. Even when I was a little bit good at it, I could NEVER do faces. They always looked deformed (no offense to deformed folks :-)

      • ChitrangadaSharan profile image

        Chitrangada Sharan 

        21 months ago from New Delhi, India

        You made it sound so easy--A well written and illustrated hub about drawing human faces. I like to draw and paint as well. The tricky part is to bring the desired expression on the human faces one draws so that it conveys the story we want .

        Thanks for sharing your expertise!

      • lions44 profile image

        CJ Kelly 

        21 months ago from Auburn, WA

        I have struggled with this for years. Now I'm going to try your method. It's really easy to understand. Thx. Sharing everywhere.

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