To draw the human face well, we need to know how to recreate every part of the head. The ears might not seem significant, but understanding how to draw an ear accurately will add to the overall realism of your subject.
Learn how to draw an ear with this simple, step-by-step tutorial.
Understanding the anatomy of the ear
When you really look at an ear, it seems pretty strange — almost alien-like. There’s a central canal that goes toward your brain, which is surrounded by sturdy cartilage that has ridges and valleys. In addition, there’s an earlobe, which can be attached or detached from someone’s head.
Before drawing body parts, I enjoy referencing the book Atlas of Human Anatomy for the Artist. It features detailed images that give me a better understanding of how the ear works.
Tools needed for this exercise
Pick up your favorite drawing paper and pencils to complete this tutorial. I used two pencils — one is HB (a standard pencil lead) and the other is 3B (softer lead that produces strong darks).
You’ll also need a reference photo — I used a clear image of my own ear. You could snap an ear-selfie, take a photo of someone else’s ears or find a photo online. Even better, you could also challenge yourself and draw directly from life.
Step 1: Start with a basic outline
Start by drawing the basic shapes. When looking at all of the detail of an ear, it can be hard to know where to begin. That’s why I start with a large shape that defines the overall structure of the ear. You don’t need to draw any refined lines at this point — just general, blocky shapes. They’ll help you figure out the placement and scale between parts of the ear.
Once you have the outside of the ear drawn, work inward, breaking down the smaller parts into general shapes. You’ll notice that the inside of the ear has its own distinctive shape with smaller sections. Continue working inward so that you accurately convey every part of the ear.
Step 2: Refine your outline
Once you have your small and large shapes blocked in, it’s time to refine them and take them from blocky to curvy. Again, start from the outside and work your way in, adding curves to your rigid shapes that mimic what you see in your reference photo.
Step 3: Begin shading the ear
Using the lighter pencil, start to shade the overall form of the ear. Remember, it’s a rounded body part, so to give it this look, add shading to the edges — like the earlobe — and reserve the lighter parts for the middle.
Apply shadows — light to medium in tone — to the entire form. Again, I’d recommend working from the outside of the ear to inwards. That way, shading won’t seem as confusing or daunting.
Step 4: Finish with the darkest shadows
Once your overall shading is complete, grab your softest lead pencil and fill in the darkest areas of the ear. Most likely, this will be the ear canal and the area around the outer ridge. Use this dark pencil sparingly, and only concentrate on the parts that need it.
Tip: When looking at the ear straight-on, it’s often the body part that appears closest to the viewer. It will catch the most light and need the least amount of shading.