How to Draw A Face: 14 Helpful Tips

Are you looking to improve your skills when it comes to drawing faces? Whether a beginner or an experienced artist, there is always something new to learn. In this blog post, we will share with you 14 helpful tips for drawing faces. So whether you’re sketching from a reference photo or starting from scratch, these tips will help you create realistic and beautiful portraits every time.

This post will outline how to draw the face accurately and proportionally. 

As a general rule, draw a face. Start by sketching the head and face's basic underlying structure and proportions. From this, you will be able to add the details of the main features and appearance as you proceed with your drawing.

Tips on Drawing Faces

Before you begin drawing, you must gather the right equipment and materials to help you achieve this task. Pencil and paper are the more important.

Tips on Drawing Faces
Portrait Drawing
  • Establish whether you are drawing from direct observation or copying 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, I would select a textured surface if you want to achieve a more textured appearance with the shadow and textures in your picture.
  • 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 to mount your drawing board.
  • Ruler and proportional dividers.
  • A putty eraser or vinyl rubber, a blending stick, and some paper towels.

Related Posts:

How To Draw a Female Face

Understanding proportion and how it relates to portraiture will help you create drawings that, 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 of drawing your portrait, you must train yourself to draw vertical lines and symmetrical shapes such as ovals. Developing a skill for recognizing when these shapes and lines are out of proportion is also necessary.

Strength and Quality of Line

Strength and Quality of Line
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 you draw with is an essential but necessary issue that you will need to focus on if your portrait drawings succeed.

  • Draw and hold the pencil lightly. This will enable you to draw with a soft contour or outline.
  • This is especially true when you begin 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 a symmetrical oval, which is intersected by a centerline.
  • When you begin to draw an outline, remember to illustrate it with a continuous line that 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.

Drawing Proportions Face and Head

We have touched upon how significant the basic dimensions of the head and face area 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

  • How to draw a basic face. Once the centerline has been drawn, the rest of the features 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 if 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 natural method to draw any of the face's features 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 is unique.
  • The primary method for drawing the nose involves drawing one larger circle, overlapping two smaller circles on 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 previously drawn. These represent the nostrils of the nose.
  • Next, draw the tip of the nose.
  • To draw the shape of the nose. You will need to apply 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 nose tip more definition, drawing a darker line around the nostrils beneath the nose is a good idea.
  • 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. 

  • It is best to draw a faint cross and centerline to begin illustrating the mouth and lips. The mouth's top and bottom lips shall be drawn around this framework.
  • The mouth and lips are split into six parts: the upper and lower lip, cupid's 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 slightly open mouth? Are you drawing full lips or long thin lips?
  • As the front view of the lips is symmetrical, draw the top lips over the centerline you have outlined. This, in many cases, will be smaller than the bottom lip.
  • Next, progress on drawing the lower lips below the centerline. You can leave a small space through which the teeth can be drawn.
  • Focus on applying shade and tone with a pencil is the next priority. Remember 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 lips 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 the different mouth parts are drawn, you can add fine surface detail to the lips and mouth. These subtle details are essential to 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 carefully consider the shape of the front and the chin.
  • A rounded chin will have a softly curved appearance, while a more chiseled jawline and jaw can be drawn straight.
  • Once you have established the form and shape of the chin and jawline, you can progress to applying 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 methods should be practiced and developed using a sketchbook or on a separate piece of paper as they can be challenging to master at first.

How to Draw Eyes

Many novices new to drawing portraits will struggle with depicting 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.

  • The crosshair center point is the first line to draw when beginning a drawing of the eye. 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.
  • A common mistake is to draw using rigid straight lines, which will make a flat, awkward drawing appear.
  • 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 highlighted 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 person's character being depicted.
  • For example, to hair straight hair, it is best to use a faint free-flowing line that 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 hair's surface to 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 moving in different directions.
  • Progress onto drawing different hair types, for example, male and female, and long and short hair.

Capturing a mood

  • The materials you choose to draw with will reflect the sitter's spirit.
  • 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.

  • You can use many different drawing methods to add shade and tones to a portrait. I've written a complete guide on applying 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 suggest you progress on 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 overlapped by a more extended oval. The oval represents the front of the face, so the same rules of proportion 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.
  • Subdivide the bottom half of the face. To mark a point for the nose. Subdivide again below the 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. The pivot point is based in the center of the circle. This will give the impression of a portrait that is looking upwards.
  • Practice drawing a series of small sketches on the side of the head and face. This will let you practice the skill of drawing the head from different angles.

Which Drawing Method Should You Use?

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.

Recent Posts

How to Draw A Face: 14 Helpful Tips