The face in profile – tips on the mouth, nose and eyes

This video is filled with tips for drawing facial features, including the mouth, nose and eyes. In case you prefer, we’ve also written out the lesson below with screenshots.

Putting in a rough structure

Draw the overall shape of the head with light but bold strokes as we’ve described in past videos. Don’t worry too much about correctness in terms of proportions yet. It’s easier to correct proportions than it is to change timid, tentative lines into lively ones later on.

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Roughly position the ear if it’s visible. If it’s not visible try to guess and mark its position. You may have to correct the position later on, but for now use it in order to move forward in drawing. The ears tell you the direction the head is pointing. The tops of the ears help to mark out the lines that goes round the head at the level of the eyebrows. The bottom of the ear indicates the start of the jawline. So that’s why we’re starting with the ears.

Add the line which connects the top of the ear and the eyebrow. Remember that these initial lines don’t have to be exactly right – the point is that they are a starting point.

Follow the jawline, using the inner edge of the bottom of ear as the starting point, and then position the chin. The jawline doesn’t need to be nuanced, it can be very simplified and loose, but should follow the main angles. Nuances in the curvature of the jawline can be looked at later. Also, unless you are a lucky or really experienced, the chin will probably be in the wrong place. We will correct it later with alignment to other features, so we really need to keep these initial lines very light. You’ll see that Mayko makes loads of changes during the drawing.

Add the shape of the shadow under the lower lip, if the lighting is from above. For lighting from below, mark the outline of the light area under the lower lip. This shape of tone under the lower lip can be kept pretty simple.

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The mouth & lips

For closed mouths, see the heart shape which is formed by each side of the mouth. Sometimes, as with this model that has full lips, you can actually draw a lying down heart for each side of the mouth. You can then look at the shapes of the shade on the underside of the upper lip.

If the lips are less full, you can still look for that heart shape, which may be a bit thinner, but you wouldn’t necessarily draw in that shape. Instead, you’d use it as a sort of visual framework to help you see the shapes of the shade and draw those in. Drawing in the lines around the mouth can sometimes be too strong, giving too much weight to the mouth. Instead, just suggesting the shape by drawing the tones created by the lips is enough.

Seeing the heart shape helps Mayko a lot – you may or may not find it useful in your drawings, it’s just another thing worth trying out.

One other thing about the mouth – pay attention to the alignment of the corners of the mouth so that you get them in the right place, and also the direction of the corners of the mouth – the angle that they’re at.

The nose

To keep things simple, we could think of the nose in 3 sections. There’s the bony part at the bridge of the nose – the bit that is part of your skull. At the bottom there’s a section with the tip of the nose and the nostrils. Then there’s another bit that joins the two.

So from the top of the nose in profile, there’s 3 lines going down to the tip – the bony part, then the sort of transition part in the middle and then the tip. In some people, the lines are very smooth and appear as one.

When drawing the bottom section of the nose, we can draw the shape created by the nostrils and the tip of the nose. It can be useful to look for the pentagonal shape – 5 lines that enclose the nostrils and the tip of the nose.

There’s two that run around the side edges of the nostrils, one along the bottom of the nostrils to the bottom of the tip of the nose, a short one that runs along the tip of the nose and then another that runs from the top of the tip of the nose to the top edge of the nostril.

Now, there are all sorts of noses out there, so there’s no rules that’ll apply for everyone. This pentagonal shape can be a good way to start seeing the shape of this section for a lot of noses. Have a look for this shape when you’re watching TV.

The eye socket

Before talking about the eye, lets quickly consider the eye socket. The depth of the eye socket (distance inwards from the bridge of the nose) deserves a bit of time and care to get right. It varies between people, but in most cases there is some depth here and it’s a good idea to capture that. You don’t want the eye to be floating around on the face. Lightly draw the shape of the shade within the eye socket, to settle the eye into the socket.

The eye

This is going to depend a lot on the angle and how open the eye is.
An open eye viewed from the side sort of looks like a triangle with two longer sides running along the lower and upper eyelids, and shorter curved on running along the surface of the eye. How open the eye is determines how fat or thin the triangle is. Then for the upper eyelid and eyelashes, Mayko likes to look for a French policeman’s hat – that curvature of the hat being similar to the curvature of the eyelid, and the little brim being like the eyelashes.

Thinking away from ‘eye’ to other shapes can be helpful, because obviously eyes don’t always follow the classic ‘eye’ shape we have in our minds. So thinking in terms of different shapes can be helpful.

Sometimes, you can barely see the whites of the eye and the pupils, for example because the eye is facing downwards or is quite closed – if that’s the case, you don’t need to try to force the standard idea of an eye. You don’t need to clearly demarcate the white and the pupil just because you know it’s there. Draw the shape that you see. If the whites are vaguely visible, you can soften the tone there, but you don’t need to make it very distinct.

For the eyebrows, try to see the shape they create. Don’t view them as single lines, and don’t look at them as strands of hair, but as simplified shapes with varying width.

Alignments

Whatever you are drawing, make a habit of checking alignments when you place it. What is vertically aligned with the corner of the eye? What is horizontally aligned with the bottom of the ear? Also, make a habit of checking negative space. For example, look at the shape of the negative space from under the nose to the chin.

What to emphasise and what not to

This is a personal preference, but we like to be careful with these lines that link the corners of the mouth to the nose (called nasolabial folds) – they can be quite prominent on a face but when you draw them too strongly, it can have a big impact on a face. They can be gently hinted at with gentle changes in tone, rather than emphasised with lines or strong tone.

The cheekbones and jawline can also be described either with lines or more gently, just hinted at with tone. Often just tone is enough for the the cheekbones and jawline, and lines aren’t needed, but it depends partly on the person – some people have very strong cheekbones or jawlines, and on your style and on the lighting.

 

Wrapping up

Keep in mind that in life drawing, you don’t always need to achieve a good likeness – your drawing can sometimes get bogged down and you can lose momentum and precious time if you want the drawing to look just like the model. Also, remember that details like these are secondary to overall movement and gesture in the pose.

There’s so much we are excited to make, so if you haven’t already be sure to subscribe. If you enjoy our articles, try signing up to our newsletter below, and also it would be cool if you told any friends that are learning to draw as well about our channel. We’ve really appreciated your comments and messages – thank you so much for those. See you next time, and good luck with your drawing practice.

JOIN OUR NEWSLETTER
Every few weeks, we'll send you an email with one to three quick and useful tips to improve your figure drawings. We'll spice the emails up with some great figure drawings to inspire you as well.
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