Drawing Tiny Faces – useful simplification exercise

We are going to look at how to draw tiny faces, to go with our last video about drawing tiny figures.

One reason to do this is because it’s a great exercise – it’ll push you to find only the most important information in the face to capture. You’ll need to leave out anything unnecessary in order to draw that small, and that’s a great skill to develop.

As with the small figures, this small faces exercise was quite uncomfortable for us and presented a lot of challenges, so it made for good practice.

What we are not doing

We aren’t talking about getting special tiny drawing and painting materials and a magnifying glass or something and painstakingly doing a tiny face that way – you’d be able to include details then. Instead, we’re looking at how to draw faces on a small scale with our normal drawing materials – that’ll push us to simplify.

We also aren’t talking about tiny portraits where our aim is a likeness either. When you try this exercise, the aim is to achieve a natural looking face that gets at the expression and direction of the model’s face, but it doesn’t have to look just like them.

Facial features in a few lines

We’re going to need the essentials – eyes and eyebrows, a nose and a mouth, and for this exercise, lets include the rest of the head – the ears and hair – and add the neck and the shoulders so we’ve got the connection to the head.

Profiles

We found profiles much easier for some reason. We mainly just wanted a little line for the upper eyelashes, which from the side often appear quite straight, to which you can add the pupil if that’s visible and maybe the lower edge of the eye. It’s upper eyelashes where you want stronger marks. The lower edge is usually better off lighter. The eyebrows can be strong depending on the model. It’s good to show the shape of the eyeball under the upper eyelid with some tone or even a line.

 

You might be tempted to have the eye too far forward, people often seem to draw the eyes like they are on the ‘front’ of the face. The sockets usually mean that they are further back into the head than we realise.

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For the nose, the important thing to get right is the line for the bottom edge of the nose. Often people will draw this as if the nose sits right on the very front edge of the face, but faces are curving around the skull and the nose has some width to it, so they curve back too and these edges are going to be set back a little bit.

If you have space and things aren’t going to get messy, you may like to indicate the shade under the lower lip and on the upper lip.

Front angles

From the front or a ¾ angle, it’s pretty much the same. We’re most interested in the upper eyelash line, the bottom edge of the nose and the line of the mouth. You can choose if you want to include lines running down the length of the nose. If you do, try keeping them quite light, or just indicate that shape with shade and leave out the lines. It’s usually the bottom of the nose – the tip of the nose and the nostrils and all that – where usually bolder marks are needed. You can also choose if you want to add tone to show the form of the face – the shade under the lower lip, around the cheekbones, in the eye sockets and so on.

Order

There’s a few different ways to approach the drawing. You may like to start with the facial features and then build up the whole head, and then the figure from there. I was focusing on faces and in this exercises that’s how I did it.

You could draw the structure of the figure and the basic shape of the head, and then start to add the face to that [face last], like Mayko is here. Or some people draw the structure of the figure, then start to add just the jawline and chin, and then build up a light outline of the the face from there upwards.

We aren’t going to say there’s a right and wrong order, but we reckon there are pros and cons to each. If you really need to get the head or the whole figure to a specific size, for example you want to draw a few figures together and want them to be in proportion to each other, then it might be harder to start by drawing the faces. Judging the relative distances between the features and understanding how those will later translate to the size of the whole figure is really hard. Here I didn’t really know exactly how big the figure would turn out when I started drawing the face, for example.

If you do have the head size and shape there and start to add features, be careful to not try to force the features to fit onto your pre-existing face shape. Sometimes people try to stretch out the face to try to fit the face shape they drew at the start. Instead, keep initial layers light and be ready to modify the shape you’ve got in place. As you build the information, you’ll have more information to improve the face shape with. You’ll also want to take a step back and look at the whole figure to ensure everything is still in proportion.

Ear

The jawline will curl up to the ear. Look for the line going from the eyebrows around to the tops of the ears.

Hair

We are always saying to draw the hair as a shape, or a set of shapes, simplified as much as possible. That’s more important than ever at this scale.

Stay decisive

The tricky thing about this is that just a small little mistake can have a big impact on this scale. Even if it’s just a line that goes a millimetre long, or a mouth that is half a millimetre too far from the nose. So we aren’t using many lines, but the lines we do use are fairly delicate. That might tempt you to become quite controlling and tentative. Even at this scale, tentative isn’t going to look good. Instead, make good observations, consider the marks you make well, but then be decisive and bold when you make them.

This should be unusual

Hopefully, drawing small is unusual for you. We showed in our last video that even a 10cm drawing is far smaller than our usual life drawings. It’s much easier to create expressive drawings on a larger scale. Sometimes, people starting out with life drawing are intimidated by drawing big like this. But drawing small is actually much harder.

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