How to Draw a Face – an Easy Step-by-step Guide For More Realistic Faces

You’re here most likely because you’re having trouble drawing faces. Follow this guide, and I promise you that you will be able to draw better, more accurate faces than ever before. 

My face sketches after a few weeks of learning this method.

This method of drawing faces was a game-changer for me. I’ve always had trouble drawing faces, but I’ve improved a lot just by following this method. 

This method might seem complicated at first, but it is quite easy to implement and understand once you’ve used it a few times.

I spent a few hours over these few days writing and preparing this guide to teach you how to draw a face. I’ve also included a few exercises you can do to improve. I hope it helps!

Step-by-step walkthrough of how to draw a face

Here’s the complete tutorial on how to draw a better face. Don’t just read through this article. Pull out a sheet of paper and draw along with it!

Step 1 – Draw a Circle

You can opt to use tools like a compass or a circular cut-out to draw circles. Or, you can just eye-ball it. This circle would be the base of your face drawing and represents the round part of the human skull.

Step 2 – Cut out two sides and find the center line

Draw two vertical lines just slightly towards the center on each side of the circle. This is because the human skull is not perfectly round if you look at it from the front view. It is flatter on the sides. Draw a line down the middle. This center line will help you place the facial features more accurately. Without it, you will have a hard time finding the center.

Step 3 – Find the hairline, eyebrow line, nose line, jawline

First, draw the eyebrow line. You can just draw a horizontal line down the middle of the circle in most cases. Then estimate where the hairline should be based on the reference photo (if you are using one, and you should be!). Draw a horizontal line there.

Measure the distance between the hairline and eyebrow line. Then measure down from the eyebrow line using that distance. This is where your nose line is, and it is where the bottom of the nose sits. Measure the same distance down from the nose line. Draw another horizontal line. This is where your jawline sits.

Note: Where these lines sit would vary from person to person. For a generic/average person, these lines are equally spaced apart.

Step 4 – Draw in the jawline

Start with the chin. It can be rounded or more rectangular depending on the person. Then connect the base of the chin to the side of the head in the correct shape according to your reference photo.

Step 5 – Find the eye line and draw in the eyes

Draw a horizontal line down the middle of the top of the circle and the jawline. This is usually where the eyes sit. Divide up five equal spaces on that line from side to side. The eyes should be on the second and fourth space. You should be able to fit another eye on the side of the face and in between the eyes.

Don’t be frustrated if you can’t draw them properly. You can redraw them, and you will get better with practice.

Also, it’s a good idea to start with the eyes because eyes show important emotions, and people often focus on them first. It’s hard to make a drawing look good if you draw them incorrectly. Work your way down from the eyes to the lips.

Tip: If you need to measure something, you can simply use your pencil. Hold up your pencil, line up the tip of the pencil, and mark with your finger where that object ends. You can easily compare proportions with this technique.

Step 6 – Draw the nose

Draw two vertical lines down from the inner edges of each eye. This is where the edge of the nose should fit in. I find it very helpful to use geometric shapes to block out the nose before you commit your lines. Block out a spherical or triangular shape on the tip of the nose. You can use circles for the nostrils and a trapezoid for the dorsum (long part of the nose). 

Step 7 – Find the mouth line and draw the lips

Draw two vertical lines down from the inside edge of the pupil. The edge of the lips should fit in there. 

Then divide the space between the nose line and jawline into thirds and draw the horizontal lines. The mouth line, where the top lip meets the bottom lip should sit on the top horizontal line.

The top and bottom edges of the top lip both have a slight “v” shape. For the bottom lips, try drawing an oval shape before drawing them in.

Step 8 – Draw the eyebrows

Draw in the eyebrows on the eyebrow line from earlier. Eyebrows should extend slightly beyond your eyes in both directions. Try to draw your eyebrows with lines flowing in the same direction of the eyebrow hair.

Step 9 – Locate and draw the ears

The height of the ears usually fits between the eyebrow line and the nose line. Some people have shorter ears, but most people’s ears fit between that space. Ears can also vary on how much they flare outwards.

Step 10 – Draw in the hairline

See where the hairline sits based on the reference photo and draw that in. Draw in the outer outline of the hair as well as any shapes you can see in the hair. This will help when you finalize the details of the hair.

Step 11 – Make any adjustments you need

After finishing the steps above, it’s important to check the proportions and shapes of everything you drew so far. Take 5 minutes to observe your work and compare proportions. Fix any errors you’ve made. This will save you a lot of time because you haven’t added a lot of details or shadings to the drawing yet.

For my sketch, I found that I drew the jaw to be too narrow so I adjusted the sides of the jaw to be wider.

Step 12 – Add in details, shadows, and highlights

finished piece on how to draw a face
More refined sketch of a generic male face.

The final step is to add in any details, shadows, and highlights you see on the face. Flesh out things like the top crease of the eyes or eyelashes. If you’re having trouble drawing the finer details of each facial feature, try practicing only that feature. Get a close-up reference photo of an eye or ear, then observe and draw that.

Slowly add in shadings to give the face more form. Think of your face as having three main values: light, medium, and dark. Then finally add highlights by erasing and adding whites (you can buy white pencils if you are working with traditional mediums). Now you’re done!

Side note: This way of drawing faces is called the Loomis Method. Andrew Loomis (1892-1959), an American illustrator, developed the Loomis Method for drawing heads. You can apply this method to get more accurate proportions and structure compared to simpler methods.

More exercises to help you improve

Now that you know how to draw a face, here are some drawing exercises that you can do to improve your face-drawing skills.

Spotting proportions practice

Practice observing a portrait photo of a face. See if you can spot the proportions.

Find a reference photo of a face you want to draw, then lay a tracing paper over it or create a new layer in Photoshop. Mark down the geometric shapes of the face and compare the proportions of facial features. See if you can identify if the ratio matches the ones shown above.

Note: the proportions can change depending on the angle of the face. Faces also come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes so the proportions are not always exact.

Draw separate parts of the face

Nose study – Risoru

If you’re having trouble drawing a particular facial feature, like the eyes, then you can practice drawing only the eyes. Use close-up reference photos and draw them in different variations or angles.

Draw faces with different angles

Head practice from different angles – Matthias Kinnigkeit

Now that you know how to draw a face from straight ahead, try drawing them from different angles. This can be challenging if you’ve never done it before. You can do the spotting practice from above before you attempt so you get an idea of the proportions from a different angle. The principles like finding the hairline, brow line, nose line, and jawline are roughly the same.

Draw faces with different expressions

Faces with different expressions – Joao Andias

Here’s another challenging exercise, find a photo of someone crying, laughing, smiling, smirking, or any other emotions. Then draw that person. Facial expressions can sometimes throw off the proportions so it can be harder at first.

Draw stylized faces

Stylized faces – Bev Johnson

Once you know how to draw a realistic face, you can experiment by exaggerating or minimizing facial features to stylize your work. I don’t recommend doing this at first because it’s very important for you to first learn realistic proportions. But, you can try this for fun and dive more into it once you get better at drawing realistic faces.

What to do next

Now that you know how to draw a face, practice drawing a lot of faces and you’ll quickly see improvements. But, it’s also important to be well-rounded so check out our article on drawing ideas for beginners.

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