How to Draw A Face: 14 Helpful Tips

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Helpful Tips on How to Draw a Face

Helpful Tips on How to Draw a Face
Helpful Tips on How to Draw a Face

Drawing a face and is a skill that many people shy away from because they find it difficult. However, learning to draw a traditional portrait is worth it, and here’s why. If you put your mind to it, the good news is that you can learn to draw a face using a proven method. You are more likely to succeed in the end using these steps.

To draw the face step by step, you will need to follow these necessary steps for beginners:

  • Materials and equipment
  • How to Draw a Female Face
  • Strength and Quality of Line
  • Drawing an Oval Outline
  • Proportions of The Head and Face
  • Centreline
  • How to Draw The Human Nose
  • How to Draw Lips
  • How to Draw The Neck and Chin
  • How to Draw Eyes
  • Drawing the Hair
  • Capturing a Mood
  • The Form of the Face
  • Different Ways to Apply Shade and Tone To a Portrait

In this post, I will describe how you will be able to draw a portrait from start to finish. So if you haven’t attempted to draw a portrait, this will help you. Hopefully, you will be able to create pictures using different methods and materials.

Portrait Drawing Fundamentals Made Simple

Materials and Equipment

Before you can begin your drawing, you will need to gather the right equipment and materials that will help you achieve this task. For more information on drawing tools and equipment, read my post, Artists Basic Equipment List.

  • Establish whether you are drawing from direct observation or copying from a secondary source photograph. It’s always best to draw from direct observation if possible. However, you can take digital photos of the sitter, from which you can produce drawn studies at your leisure.
  • First, you will need some good quality paper, if you are using smooth grade cartridge paper, this will give the shading in your drawing a flat appearance, in contrast, if you are looking to achieve a more textured appearance with the shadow and textures in your picture I would select a textured surface.
  • Next, you will need a good quality artist grade pencil, at least an H pencil layout purposes for contour outlines and a selection of good quality softer grade pencils B to add darker value shading and tone.
  • Optional is a drawing board if you are not drawing from a sketchbook and an easel on which to mount your drawing board.
  • Ruler and proportional dividers.
  • A putty eraser or vinyl rubber, blending stick and some paper towels.

How To Draw a Female Face

Developing an understanding of proportion and how it relates to portraiture will help you create drawings which in the end look correct.

When you first begin drawing a face from scratch, you will need to learn the basic underlying proportions of the head and face, if you make mistakes at this step in the drawing, it will affect the overall success of the portrait at the end.

  • The first thing you will need to do when commencing your portrait is to set a centerline. This can very quickly be achieved will your ruler or measuring with the side of your pencil.
  • The centerline is the primary line from which many of the different characteristics of the face will be drawn.
  • At this stage in the process of drawing your portrait, it is essential to train yourself to draw vertical lines and symmetrical shapes such as ovals. It is also necessary to develop a skill for recognizing when these shapes and lines are out of proportion.

Strength and Quality of Line

Beginners often draw with a clumsy and heavily drawn line, which makes corrections actions challenging to undertake. The depth and quality of line that you draw with is an essential but necessary issue that you will need to focus upon if your portrait drawings are going to succeed.

  • Draw and hold the pencil lightly, this will enable you to draw with a faint contour or outline.
  • This is especially true when you are beginning a portrait, as the proportions need to be drawn correctly.

Drawing Oval Outline

The basic oval shape of the head is the foundation onto which you will draw the main features of the face.

  • This is symmetrically drawn oval which is intersected by a centerline.
  • When you begin to draw an outline of the remember to illustrate it with a continuous line which is lightly rendered.
  • This basic oval contour is the basis of all different portrait drawings which are pivoted at various positions, in both front and side view.

Proportions of The Head and Face

We have touched upon how significant the basic dimensions of the head and face are if you achieve success with your portraits.

  • The first drafting line you will need to draw is the primary centerline.
  • From this line measure halfway down, this can be done with a ruler, proportional dividers or estimated with the side of the pencil.

Centre Line

  • Once the centerline has been drawn the rest of the feature on the face can be positioned and located.
  • Halfway down your centerline mark a point where the eye level can be drawn, again remember to draw this with a faint line at this stage in case you make a mistake when drawing it.
  • Subdivide the line into 5 equal sections, with the middle two parts being the points where the eyes will be drawn.
  • The nose will be located halfway down the bottom half of the face
  • Plus the mouth will be drawn beneath the nose, again halfway down in the space from the nose down to the chin and jaw.

How to Draw a Human Nose

The drawing of the nose, in particular, can cause problems for students who don’t know which methods to employ when drawing it.

The simple and most natural method to draw any of the individual features of the face is to break that element into its most basic forms or shapes.

  • The nose can be separated into three separate sections. The bridge of the nose, the ball or tip of the nose and the nostrils.
  • First, you will need to consider the wide variety of different shaped noses you can draw, as everybody is different and each nose unique.
  • The primary method for drawing the nose involves drawing one larger circle, overlapped by two smaller circles each side.
  • It is always advisable to use this formula whatever size nose you are drawing.
  • Begin by drawing around the edges of the two smaller circles, which previously drew. These represent the nostrils of the nose.
  • Next, draw the tip of the nose.
  • To draw the shape the nose you will need to apply to shade onto both sides of the bridge and down towards the tip of the nose,
  • Apply a slightly darker shadow which can be graduated to a lighter value at the side of the nose.
  • To give the tip of the nose more definition, it is a good idea to draw a darker line around the nostrils beneath the nose.
  • Have a long look at what you have drawn and continue to blend and improve any inaccuracies that may have occurred, you can use a blending stick to help you achieve this.

How to Draw Lips

Once you have completed drawing the nose, you can progress down to the next feature of the face which is the nose and mouth.  

  • To begin illustrating the mouth and lips, it is best to draw a faint cross and centerline. Both the top and bottom lips of the mouth shall be drawn around this framework.
  • The mouth and lips are basically split into six different parts, the upper and lower lip, cupids bow and the philtrum above the upper lip. Plus lateral commissures to both sides of the mouth.
  • Consider the shape and size of the mouth. Are you drawing a mouth which is slightly open? Are you drawing full lips or long thin lips?
  • As a front view of the lips is symmetrical begin drawing the top lips over the centerline you have outlined. This in many cases will be smaller than the bottom lip.
  • Next, progress onto drawing the lower lips below the centerline, you can leave small space through which the teeth can be drawn.
  • Focus upon applying shade and tone with a pencil is the next priority, remembering to hold the pencil lightly in the center and shade according to the contour of the lips.
  • The shadows will be darker inside the mouth and at the side of the lips where the upper and bottom lip join. Progressively build up and blend the shadow on the lips using a 4B graphite pencil and a blending stick. You can use a putty eraser to add highlights and lighten areas of shadow if required.
  • If the mouth is open, you can draw in the front teeth on the upper jaw. Again it will be best to apply a darker shadow towards the edge of the mouth.
  • Once all of the different parts of the mouth are drawn, you can progress onto adding fine surface detail onto the lips and mouth. These subtle details are important as they will make the drawing look more authentic.

How to Draw The Neck and Chin

  • For a front profile of the face and head, the chin is drawn simply at the bottom of the face.
  • To begin as with the other separate features of the face, draw with a faint line. You will need to consider the shape of the front and the chin carefully.
  • A rounded chin will have a softly curved appearance while a more chiseled jawline and jaw can be drawn with a straight line.
  • Once you have established the form and shape of the chin and jawline, you can progress onto apply shade and tone onto the neck which will be drawn directly beneath the jaw.
  • Draw to simple parallel lines from the height of the mouth which extends down towards the chest area.
  • Two further curved lines can be drawn curving away from the neck to outside the shoulder areas.
  • Both of these methods should be practiced and developed using a sketchbook or on a separate piece of paper as they can be difficult to master at first.

How to Draw Eyes

Many novices new to drawing portraits will struggle with getting the depiction of the human eyes right in their first portrait. As mentioned earlier in posts,  I believe that it’s best practice to draw the eye using a set formula then progress onto developing different drawings. To do this read my post 20 surprising ways to draw the human eye.

  • The first line to draw when beginning a drawing of the eye is the crosshair center point. This is the position where the pupil and iris are drawn.
  • Ensure that these lines are drawn with a slightly curved line, which will suggest the 3-dimensional forms of the eye.
  • I common mistake is to draw using rigid straight lines, which will give the appearance of a flat, awkward-looking drawing.
  • The next stage is to draw the pupil and the iris with a faintly drawn line.
  • Progress onto drawing the details of the eyelids around the edge, this will look more authentic if you draw with a double line contour.
  • Apply some light areas of tone around the eyelid, this will create the illusion of a three-dimensional eye.
  • Next, you can begin to draw the fine details.
  • The iris and pupil will need a high lighted reflection, this detail will make the eye come alive.
  • Progress onto adding fine lines around the pupil, these will vary in intensity and strength to convey the color of the eye

Drawing the Hair

  • Human hair can be drawn in many different ways and can be drawn to reflect the character of the person being depicted.
  • To hair straight hair, for example, it is best to use a faint free-flowing line which conveys the direction and form in which the hair is moving.
  • Tone, shade, and highlights can then be applied to the shapes that have been drawn.
  • To finish using a blending stick and putty rubber shadows and highlights can be added to the surface of the hair the refine the overall look.
  • To complete the drawing of the hair use an HB pencil to draw fine lines, this will give the impression of loose hair which moving in different directions.
  • Progress onto drawing different types of hair, for example, male and female, and long and short hair.

Capturing a mood

  • The materials that you choose to draw with will reflect the spirit of the sitter.
  • Using charcoal will create a strong looking severe portrait.
  • Lighter pencils will allow you to explore the form of the face and head with subtler shadows.

Additional Questions

Different Ways to Add Shade and Tone To a Portrait.

  • There are many different drawings methods you can use to add shade and tones onto a portrait. I’ve written a complete guide on how to apply shadows to the face, where I have described how to create realistic-looking drawings.
  • Graphite Pencils have already been discussed earlier in this post, using soft grade B pencils is an excellent method, to begin with, if you are a novice drawing for the first time.
  • Graphite sticks are a great way to create a bolder artistic quality of line, in fact, this may be the perfect choice for the artist who enjoys working in this style.
  • Conte sticks and chalk pastels are also a medium for choice for many artists. Again this type of drawing medium will allow you to create a bolder expressive drawing. Fine marks can also be achieved when Conte sticks are broken.
  • Chalk pastels are great for creating contrast in your drawings and can be used to create bold and expressive portrait drawings.

How to Draw a Face Looking Upwards

  • When you are attempting to draw the face for the first time, it is best, to begin with, a front view. However, once you have mastered that method, I would suggest that you progress onto drawing the head from the side and then from the more difficult three-quarter viewpoint.
  • This is slightly more advanced to start this portrait by drawing by reducing the profile view to its purest form.
  • Begin with basic outline shapes by drawing a large circle which is then overlapped by a longer oval. The oval represents the front of the face so the same rules of proportion which were used to draw the front of the face will be applied here.
  • The eye-level is marked at the halfway point between the top of the head and the bottom of the chin.
  • Again subdivide the bottom half of the face to mark a point for the nose, subdivide again below then nose to mark a point where the mouth will be drawn.
  • To take your drawing to the next stage, pivot the eye level by twenty to thirty degrees. With the pivot point based in the center of the circle. This will give the impression of a portrait which is looking upwards.
  • Practice drawing the of the side of the head and face by drawing a series of small sketches, this will let you practice the skill of drawing the head from different angles.

Which Drawing Method Should You Use?

  • When drawing the side of the head and face, you can begin by using an H pencil. This is a good choice if you are looking to draw with a light faint clear line when drawing small sketches.
  • Progress onto drawing with a graphite stick, charcoal or black ink which is a great way to produce an immediate and expressive quality of line in your portraits.


I hope you have enjoyed reading this post if you want to learn more about drawing portraits, please visit, my post, portrait drawing tips for beginners.





Ian Walsh is the creator and author of and an Art teacher based in Merseyside in the United Kingdom. He holds a BA in Fine Art and a PGCE in teaching Art and Design. He has been teaching Art for over 24 Years in different parts of the UK. When not teaching Ian spending his time developing this website and creating content for the improvedrawing channel.

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How to Draw A Face: 14 Helpful Tips