Sketching and Drawing Human Faces
Pencil Sketching Human Faces
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 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.
Sketch Different Facial Angles
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 facial features
Just as a writer outlines a story, likewise a sketch is an outline for the artist. Take a break and return at a later time or day to review, edit, and finalize your work.
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.
- Sketches are the foundation or outline to mark detailed lines
- Learning what to keep and erasing nonessential lines and errors
- Learning new experiences and challenges as each head is unique
- Improving pencil strokes to capture facial gestures
- Understanding and gaining knowledge of line strokes
Every Pencil Line Matters
One Line Captures Emotions
It has been my experience, after wearing out many erasers, how one line can alter a facial appearance. One line can change the appearance of the 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. Lines will detail 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 more demanding of details than fantasy or abstract.
Human Face on Grid Markings
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).
- 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.
Sketching Guidelines for Human Face
Tips for sketching the human face:
- Outline the head shape
- Section off with light pencil strokes the eyes, nose, lips, ears, and chin
- Add eyebrows, neck, and hair
- Shade or highlight the eyebrows, eyes, lips, ears, chin, and hair
- Write self notes, colors, and any dominant or unusual features
It would be helpful to 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 critical for mastering realistic portraits. Perfecting techniques will advance your talent for sketching with live models.