Drawing a Realistic Head: Bringing Faces to Life

While capturing a likeness can be a challenge, heads and faces are some of the trickiest things to draw. Let’s focus specifically on drawing better facial features. Because we spend all day looking at people, we are very aware when something is a little off in a portrait drawing or painting.

Stages of Drawing a Head

Get more tips for drawing a realistic face! Learn how to draw better faces that jump off the page with our free drawing guide.

While lots of repetition and direct observation are the most important things you can do to sharpen your skills, here are some useful tips to keep in mind as you practice drawing a head.

1. Know your proportions.

Heads are not perfect circles, and they are not perfect ovals either. You can think of them as kind of egg-shaped, with the tapered end toward the bottom. Of course, this varies depending on the actual person and the angle you are seeing them from. But let’s start with an egg…

draw a head

2. Refine the jawline.

If you are drawing a woman, this egg shape might do well to describe her jawline, but let’s say we’re drawing a man with a slightly more angular jaw and flatter chin. Let’s bring the jawline out.

jawline

3. Where to place the eyes?

Well, we have a tendency to think the eyes are closer to the top of the head than the bottom because they are the highest facial feature. But that’s not really the case.

add eyes

As you can see, the eyes are just about halfway between the bottom of the jaw and the top of the head. There is a lot of head above the eyes, as any of us with a receding hairline know. But I skipped a step here — how far apart should the eyes be? How big should they be?

4. A good rule of thumb is that the head is about 5 eyes wide.

That means the gap between the eyes where the bridge of the nose is located is about the same width as the face on either side of the eyes. Like any rule of thumb, it’s important to remember this isn’t always the case, and that this applies only to drawing the face head-on in a portrait.

wide eyes

5. Now let’s place the ears.

Locate the tops just above the eyes, and bring them down to a point almost halfway from the eyes to the bottom of the jaw. Depending on the person, the ears can stick out a lot or a little, so there’s not a good rule for that other than careful observation.

Well, what do you know — after drawing the ears, you now have a great idea about where to locate the nose!

ears

6. Add the nose.

Noses do vary quite a bit in width, so keep that in mind. The sides of this guy’s nose extend a little past the inside corners of his eyes.

nose

7. The mouth is a bit trickier.

Rather than the mouth itself being halfway from the earlobes to the jawline, use that halfway point for the bottom lip. The width of the corners of the mouth often extends to about the location of the iris in the eyes above.

mouth

8. Eyebrow placement.

This is another feature that varies greatly from person to person. Do keep in mind that each eyebrow is generally wider than the eye below it. They also tend to be thickest toward the bridge of the nose and taper toward the sides of the face, where they often also sweep downward.

eyebrows

9. Don’t make the mistake of placing the hair on the very top of the head!

The hairline is typically about a quarter to a third of the way from the top of the head to the eyebrows. Or in Sir Patrick Stewart’s case, behind the top of the head.

hair

These proportions work just as easily for a woman. Adjust the jawline to be a little more rounded, make the ears a bit smaller and the neck a little narrower and you have a pretty convincing female face.

face

The other cool thing about knowing your proportions is you can use them to draw a head in profile, too! Just extend your proportion lines across and you have a great way to keep your head proportions consistent.

drawing heads

Get more tips for drawing a realistic face! Learn how to draw better faces that jump off the page with our free drawing guide.

49 Comments

lee

Thanks a lot really awesome tips: ) I love to draw & I’m gonna try n draw my baby girl

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Troy

Boring didn’t help me at all……
Just kidding. This helped me alot

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vanaly

the model shown has EQUAL sides… it is impt to tell students that ‘equal sides of a face’ are rare… it is also important, if experimentation is your goal; to understand the chemical properties of your media, and how they interact with one another… otherwise… we are just making mud pies…

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shultzie

so, if everyone’s face varies, how are you supposed to teach that to someone? You would be wrong every time, right? So, I think we all get that the best thing to do is to make each side the same, and the author clearly states how people are different.

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bill ponton

I really enjoyed/learned some basics from these tips. Thank you!!!<3

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ARICHA MAHIL

/I WAS WATCHING YOUR WEBISTE ON WED /. I AM I AWANT TO NOW IF I CAN HAVE YOUR PERMISSON TO USE YOUR AS A FREFERENCE FOR MY ART BOOK I WANT TO MAKE .

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Tazz

I think this is good if you’re drawing from the mind. Otherwise it all depends on the persons face shape, eye length/width/placing, some people have a bigger eye than the other, some people have a different nose placing ect. Otherwise it might not turn out as expected.

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larry

this small tips on facial and doing poses will help me with art that now

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benjamin k. malot

i have improve my drawing since your online learning and tips if could be possible i will send my portraits to you to check out.iam from kenya.thank you and God Bless You.

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Ryan

Well no one needed you to comment but you did right ? Learn to be nice or be quiet <3

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Mark Marler

My name is
Elsa the email is on the honey names. I like to thank you for the faces tip I have never draw or sketch. It going to be my first jus be doing the base.

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Mark Marler

yes I’m retired and Puerto Rican and my English is no very good So happy you was able to understand. Thank you

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Dona McGilvary

This is the best set of instructions for drawing the human face that I have ever seen. The very best!

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kaitlyn

i dont really like this face but it is cool it would take a long time to get write lol

xd

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sarn

I have just started to try and draw at a class, this tutorial has helped me enormously, I just need to practice practice! Thank you so much.

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rosalyn

this is the most coolest thing ever!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
# follow me on twitter :-)

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rosalyn

he he he I love tttttttttttttttttttttttthhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiisssssssssssssssssssssssssss :-(

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Beth h

Thank you so much for making illustrating easy to understand. Even other books and DVDs seem to make it so much more complicated. Your method takes the fear and frustration out of leaning so the artist can be a success

Reply

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