How to draw a face?

Welcome to my tutorial about drawing a face. Here I want to explain how to draw a young female face – or a portrait, if you like.

Before you start, a word first: The topic of this tutorial ‘Drawing A Face’ is especially suitable for experienced drawers. It takes some practice to breathe life and naturalness into a face on a piece of paper. It is incredibly difficult to make the face to be drawn look like the face of the real person. So before you draw a face or even a portrait, you should already have some experience. That would certainly save you a lot of frustration.

We will draw a portrait like this:

how to draw a face

One more word about facial expression
You’ve already seen the finished drawing: The woman looks at the viewer relatively expressionless. Neither joy nor sadness change her look. There are no wrinkles on her face, there are no scars that could tell of life. The trenches of time have not yet been excavated. The flawlessness of the skin tells of youth and strength, raves about the desire for beauty. A portrait would do a statement good.

The aim of this drawing course is therefore not to draw distinctive faces, wrinkles or those special features that unmistakably characterize a face, but to describe the basis of all this, explaining the basic procedure for drawing and shading a face. In addition, it is much easier to draw a young face.

Drawing faces – Be careful of first lines

Like I said, don’t get discouraged. Drawing a face is also very difficult for me and always a great challenge, which I gladly accept, but at which I also fail in every now and then.

how to draw a face step 1

Please don’t be surprised, because the picture is so dark, I’ve strengthened the shades of gray a bit, so that you can see even light and thin sketches.

I also start this drawing with a sketch or preliminary drawing on the drawing sheet. With very thin strokes I first try to capture the rough outlines of the eyes. Of course both eyes should be symmetrical to each other. The distance between the two eyes is usually the width of an eye, which of course always varies a bit.

When you have drawn both eyes, then sketch the outlines of the nose. It is naturally between both eyes and about 1.5 times the width of an eye underneath.

I start a portrait mostly with drawing eyes. Many drawers proceed differently, sketching the head first and then placing the eyes and nose. I do it the other way round, starting with the meaningful, with the interaction of the eyes, mouth and nose, with the face physiognomy, the facial expressions, and draw the head later.

Face geometry

I have visualized for you the ‘face geometry’ of this woman and put a grid over the face, this should help you to arrange eyes and nose properly.

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Of course, all you see here is a standardized grid. Each face is absolutely individual and has to be adjusted according to its appearance. You don’t actually draw people or faces into a grid, but you can make an exception.

Don’t forget the eyelid crease over the eyes. It is enough if you indicate it with a stroke over the eyes, and sketch the eyebrows with thin strokes a bit above it.

The outlines of a female face

Once you’ve sketched out eyes and nose, the rest of the outline continues:

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Next, draw the outlines of lips so that the face becomes more expressive. How to position the lips is shown in the following grid. Again, it is important that you only draw light strokes, which you could simply erase and correct. Do not hatch anything at this stage, just sketch.

When the mouth is outlined, you get the impression of what the face looks like and you should do it easier to put the outlines of the head on the paper. As I mentioned earlier, most drawers go exactly the other way around and draw the head first. It is up to you how to proceed.

As you can see, the long hair covers a large part of the head. This is a welcome advantage for us because hair is quite easy to draw and elegantly covers the head shape. You only need to draw one side of the head, but make sure chin and ear are in the right position.

The grid of a human face

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You can use the grid to roughly orient yourself when placing the face elements. But never forget that every face is different. No face is ever absolutely symmetrical, every face is as unique as human being itself. Often one eye is higher and the other lower, the nose is crooked or the mouth a bit warped. All these details form and shape the appearance of faces and make it what it is. The rule of nature says that the more symmetrical faces are, the more beautiful and attractive they are. You can use this knowledge to make less attractive faces benevolent.

If you were able to draw this grid-like ‘face construction’ and the face looks like your template face (the face of the person you want to draw), you already have the hardest behind you. From now on it will be easier.

Comparison: preliminary drawing and finished picture

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As you can see, at this stage there is no great resemblance to the finished motif. The preliminary drawing and the finished drawing differ considerably. The grey spots/waves of the preliminary drawing on the left result from the digital contrast enhancement. In reality they are not there at all. The left face is drawn with very thin, faint lines. Digital darkening makes it easier to recognize them – but unfortunately also the textures and waves of the drawing paper.

In order to draw an authentic face, its shading is very important. The main difficulty is therefore to insert shadows into the preliminary drawing in such a way that it shapes the desired face in a modelling manner. In the following I will only shade the face.

Your drawing sheet is two-dimensional. To depict the three-dimensional shape of a face, you have no choice but to draw curves with shadows. Think of a ball. How would you shade it? Right: At the front it stays light, at the edges – it is drawn dark.

See you in the next step and remember the knowledge that a head can be shaded a bit like a ball.

Shading a face

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After you have drawn the outline of the face, you must hatch the dark and shady areas – i.e. the lateral slopes of the cheek and chin. The face must be completely darkened and shaded before important details such as eyelashes, eyebrows or lips are added. If you shade it later, you would blur these details a thousand percent and you would have drawn them in vain. So hatch dark areas right now and immediately, and blur them in the next step.

Shading points are located on the entire edge of the head, in places where hair casts a shadow on the face(left), in the eye socket, and on the nose. Be careful on the nose and rather hatch a little less here. The stronger the hatching on the bridge of the nose, the stronger it will appear. With a snub nose, you need nothing to hatch. Also, you need to be very careful with the cheekbones. It’s better to hatch too little than too much, because you can still add graphite later, but erasing the path becomes more difficult as the drawing progresses.

As I’m talking about erasing: Never try to erase a hatched and already blurred large area. It almost never succeeds. By blurring, the graphite is correctly ‘pressed’ into the paper. If you want to erase this gray surface, you often get a smeared, irregular structure. The appearance of the gray surface will never be as smooth as it was before erasing. So be careful.

It’s like life: At the end, the greedy are lost in a meaningless abundance, while the frugal can look back on an accentuated work with a smile. Hatch and blur sparingly!

Work out the two highlights between upper lip and nose by simply leaving their bridge lighter. Both bars run from the upper lip to the nose and then flatten inconspicuously. Hatch left and right but also in between. These two bright bars are the elevations we feel as we pin ourselves between nose and upper lip.

Please do not draw make-up on your face! Not now! It comes much later or not at all. We are not greedy, we do not want to overload anything, we seek the awakening of nature, and this comes by itself or not at all. Leave make-up now!

Blur soft skin

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Cover your hatching with a clean handkerchief. (Use a fresh handkerchief!) Press gently and carefully. Try to blur the graphite as softly and uniformly as possible. You should have blushed something in this way and have some experience. Be really gentle! Drawing is not for gross motorists.

If you proceed carefully enough, you will get a very smooth and flawless facial skin (not you, but the person you draw). From the very beginning, make sure that you do not overshadow bright areas or that they are very easy to overshadow and make transitions to darker areas more fluid.

After the first blurring, you will not get the desired shades of gray that make up the final shading. Shading is a lengthy process that alternates between hatching and blurring, as you will see in the following steps.

Draw mouth and eyes by the way as I described it in my other tutorials. Shade them too before drawing in details.

Model the head with shadows

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The eye gradually gains life. Growing shadows model the shape of the head. It is necessary to hatch further. Hatch and blur alternately and try to model the face plastically with the resulting surfaces. This requires some practice and spatial imagination. If you have already managed to shade a sphere correctly so that it appears three-dimensional on a sheet of paper, you should also succeed in shading a head. Basically, the head is a large sphere with two small holes, an elevation and a transverse trench that never stands still in women. Perhaps this idea will help you with shading. A head is like a planet: while hills and valleys appear on its surfaces, the strangest processes take place inside. Always think of the spherical shape and shade accordingly.

Ignore hair, eyelashes and eyebrows, they come later on paper.

Continue to work on the eyes. You can draw pupils and irises now. Try to create rough shades and dark areas before you start to work on details. Don’t forget to keep the light reflection in your eye bright. If you erase it later, you won’t be able to erase it because you can’t completely remove the graphite.

The same applies to the lips. Gently shade them and avoid elaborate details such as small lip wrinkles. In the middle, where both lips meet, it is of course darkest.

You can also darken the eyelid. Between the eye and the crease of the eyelid you can now apply a good amount of gray to a made-up woman like this one, because this area usually appears dark anyway due to eye shadow. However, only apply as much eye shadow as is appropriate for the rest of the shadow. Avoid big black pancakes and do not make pandas with dark circles.

The extent to which the area around an eye needs to be darkened depends on factors such as the depth of the eye sockets, the intensity of the make-up or the light available. Again, do not try to work out the final shade of gray by hatching and blurring once, but try to get a result in several passes (always alternating between hatching and blurring). The aim is to create a smooth skin by blurring.

Simply draw the upper eyelid crease a little darker so that it looks like a dark line. From the area above eyelid crease to eyebrow, allow the dark area to run slightly into the lighter area. Directly under the lower eyelid you can darken the skin as well and then let it run down to a lighter tone. With one eyelid stroke you draw almost the entire eye and let it run out into dark areas. Just blur very carefully and use a handkerchief!

Continue shading, then draw hair

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You can see only a few changes from the previous step, but if you look closely you will notice that the skin now looks much finer, softer and gentler. You get such a soft skin by alternating, slightly hatching and blurring.

Darken the area under the chin and let it run down. This portrait ends at the neck, and a gentle runout looks better than an abrupt end. (That’s a matter of taste, though. You should be creative, artistically free and make your drawing the way you want it.)

You can now sketch the outer hairs at the top right. The goal is to keep improving the preliminary drawing of the hairs. Use many ‘fast’ strokes and draw inward curved(thin!) lines. When drawing hair, it is very important that you always draw through the lines with a single stroke and do not draw between them. Setting it down would cause ugly prongs in the hair. And what woman wants jags in her hair? So do her a favor, grab the pencil far back and draw a nice, curvy line out of her wrist in one movement. Fast dynamic lines. Pen and wrist can be like a compass. Just hold your arm still and pull fast lines swinging from your wrist, so your lines receive exactly the correct stepless vaulting. Rotate your drawing sheet so that the curvature also inclines in the right direction. Lines that you draw from your wrist always lean inwards towards your wrist.

If you draw hair in this way, I recommend that you always do this step by step and always draw/hatch it alternately with the shadow and the face itself. Only then can you achieve that the gray tones of the face, the hair and their gray shades are harmoniously coordinated with each other.

The woman in the portrait has blonde hair, in addition, the picture should be very bright, which is why there is little need for shading. If you draw dark hair, of course you have to apply more graphite.

Note: It doesn’t make sense to draw individual strands of hair now, if the shading isn’t finished yet, you’d just blur them.

You’ve already done a lot. It’s best to sit back for a moment, relax your back and eyes and watch the world outside your window. Whether sun, rain or snow, it is always worth looking out and paying attention to everyday moments, even if they seem so trivial and splashing in the monotony of viscous time. Just relax.

Draw eyes, nose and mouth

how to draw a face step 10

Let’s go on.
Slowly the face gets a shape. Thanks to the shadow!

You have to take the following steps:

The most noticeable part is the narrowing of the nose bridge. Compare it with the previous picture and you will realize that it is much narrower now. The woman hasn’t undergone any nose surgery, no pencil and eraser have changed her. The narrowing of the nose can be achieved by erasing the bridge of the nose as a light, narrow ridge and applying the shadow of the slope of the nose narrower and narrower directly to the side of the bridge of the nose. Now you can see what shadow can do.

The surrounding areas of the nose are lightened towards the cheeks so that the nose doesn’t look as ‘pressed down’ as in the previous step.

The bridge of the nose and the tip of the nose are the highest points of a face. They should always be very bright because they are directly illuminated by the light. At the approach of the nose between the eyes you need to draw a small shadow again because the forehead has a small slope at this point. It is best to take a close look at the nose and its approach in the picture, describing it with words would slip into the strange and very confusing.

Here is a detailed picture of the following drawing step, which takes place between the tip of the nose and the mouth.

how to draw a face step 11

The brighter you erase the tip of your nose, the more puffy it becomes. The adjoining areas describe slopes and must therefore be dark. Basically, the tip of the nose is like a small ball whose highest point shines.

The nostrils are very bright at the top because they are lit up by light from the front and have little gradient. At the end of the nostrils, where the nose roots in the face, they cast a small shadow.

The nostrils are certainly the darkest part of a face next to the pupils and the opening between the lips(if any). Do not draw them black, otherwise they will stand out inappropriately. In addition, we do not want to draw a pig nose. The shades of gray should be somewhat coordinated with each other. Below the nostrils a dark area runs towards the lips, but it becomes brighter the further down you go. The slope to the lip causes this brightening.

The skin over the lips is generally very light because it is inclined upwards and is therefore directly exposed to light(sky, lamp, etc.). A nice contrast to the lip is therefore mandatory. Starting from the two tips of the upper lip, two bright bars run in the direction of the nose. Do not forget them.

You should have shaded the lips adequately in the steps before, so that you can now draw in details such as lip wrinkles. I use both the pencil(for smaller wrinkles) and the cardboard pencil(for wider wrinkles). You can get moisture and shine by rubbing light strokes with an eraser next to the dark lip wrinkles. I described this in more detail in my tutorial about drawing a mouth.

Below the lower lip lies a very dark spot, which is however limited by the immediate chin approach. You can shade it quite dark.

If you compare the picture with the picture from the previous step, you will see that with a different, more refined shade, the whole face appears different again. Correct shading requires a lot of practice and a good three-dimensional imagination. Shadows shape the face. Shadows hidden, shadows concealed, shadows drawn like a pencil.

But not only large shades but also smaller details make the portrait look much more lively:

how to draw a face step 12

We look into a human being’s eyes first. (Most people do that – some even look somewhere else.) That’s why you should draw eyes in a very detailed way. As you can see, the eyelashes are still missing. Until now it was only a matter of shading the skin and the eyelid sufficiently, which has now been achieved. Also the eyelid crease above the eye is now darkened appropriately.

How to draw the eye in detail, I have explained in another tutorial in great detail, which is why I just briefly touch this. A striking contrast is enormously important! Especially between pupil and reflection(a single reflection instead of two is sufficient) as well as the white eyeball and its enclosing eyelid, striking contrasts are an absolute essential.

Then draw eyebrows quite simply: draw many small strokes with a pointed pencil in the direction of the hairs.

Shade the face even better and draw more hair

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The improved hair is now immediately noticeable. Many long, thin lines make them appear much fuller. You should blur them little or nothing, all shades can be created by many small lines drawn in the direction of the hair. Try to work out a few strands by more or less emphasizing and dragging some of them. These strands of hair can be created randomly because you have accidentally drawn a few lines too strongly, but they can also be drawn in a targeted way by orienting yourself on the previous drawing of the hair and refining it further. It is important – as I have already explained – to pull hair completely from top to bottom out of the wrist in one stroke, because otherwise they will appear stepped and angular.

You only need to draw the ear and shade its rough shape – you can hardly see it. You can darken the area between ear and hair a lot, because there is hardly any light.

The woman’s chin hasn’t been much talked about yet. It is enough if you shade it strongly at the very bottom to draw the curvature that is characteristic of each chin. Some people have a small depression in the middle of the chin, which you can erase as you wish (or hatch and do not even blur it and leave it bright from the beginning). With this face it is omitted.

You need to darken the ‘ditch’ between the lower lip and the chin and let it run outwards.

The contour of the entire face(the visible ‘frame’/’edge’ from ear to chin) can be brightly drawn with an eraser. If this contour lies over a dark surface, it will get an appealing contrast. In this picture this would be the case for the chin, but also for the right half of the face(her left), because the hair behind it is very shadowy and dark. But more about that later.

Not to forget the lips, which you can add more wrinkles.

Continue to model the head and blur the skin more softly

how to draw a face step 14

The differences to the previous step can almost no longer be named with words, but are clearly present and make the face appear more realistic overall. The head is now much better shaded. Dark areas of the entire head are further blurred and darkened, making it more vivid and three-dimensional.

A difficult part to draw is the open hairline above the ear. Here I tried to cover it with hair, which looks pretty fake and unsuccessful. In the next steps I will correct this mistake again.

With an eraser you can erase a light outline around the mouth. This makes the lips shiny and creates an excellent contrast to the skin and chin.

Draw eyelashes over eyelid – straighten nose

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It’s getting to be! With eyelashes the woman looks much more feminine. One likes to look into such eyes.
Because the facial skin and the rest of the head are now shaded satisfactorily and finally and nothing more has to be blurred, you can now begin to draw smaller details such as hair and eyelashes. On eyelashes I go into a detail picture much more accurate.

At first I lightened the bridge of the nose again and straightened it by a clearer and more distinct border to the adjacent gray scale. I darkened the slope to the nose next to it and blurred it even softer.

Note the light spot between one eye and the base of the nose. (I mean the place where the tears flow). It should be very bright and run down to the darker side. This highlight gives the face more liveliness. On the following detail picture you see this bright point of line again very well. (Look at the skin below the spot where the tears might come from.)

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A few more words about the eyelashes and the eye in general:

After you have properly shaded the eyelid, you can draw eyelashes over it or erase bright gloss effects. Eyelashes are not straight lines! They are always curved! Likewise, they are never arranged at equal intervals, but grow almost randomly out of the eyelid. Eyelashes are hair and as such they fall out and grow back, which means that they are different in length and strength. Therefore, make sure that they do not all look the same, but rather grow out of the eyelid by chance and that they are bent differently and even of different lengths. Of course, you achieve beauty through a healthy amount of balance and symmetry, but don’t create a robot where eyelashes sprout at exactly the same 0.3mm intervals. This seems strange.

Beauty cannot be expressed in words or measured. The most beautiful things are those that create an overall picture of unobtrusive naturalness.

Eyebrow hairs have a certain direction. They always grow towards the middle bridge of the eyebrow. The upper hairs grow slightly downwards, the lower ones slightly upwards. Here, too, the same applies as with the eyelashes: All hairs should be placed randomly, of different length and strength, and always slightly differently curved.

Shade the forehead

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We are(already) approaching the near end. I fixed the mistake at the hairline top right by erasing the structure of the hair and hatching and blurring a dark area over it. The area should be nice and dark, because the hairs above cast a well visible shadow. I hatched and wiped a similar shadow on the other side of the face. The further outside of the head you are, the more shading you can get, because the gradient and the round shape of the head are made clear. Together with the shadow of the hair this place can become very dark. At the forehead one should work out the round form of the head particularly in detail, since nothing else is here. If you like to draw wrinkles here, you can erase them and draw them with gray on the upper side.

All eyelashes were extended and emphasized a bit more. Depending on face and eyes this can happen more or less strongly. Many women strive for long eyelashes and an eye-opener, which cuts the air sharply. Decide for yourself how long and strong you draw eyelashes.

You have probably already seen that the lady’s mouth looks a bit strange. It is too wide. It is believed that she bites her teeth hard. In the next and last step I will correct this mistake.

The last step – make everything a little better

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The picture is ready now. We look into a flawless face that unfortunately does not tell much.

I adjusted the exaggerated width of the mouth by erasing the corner of the mouth and wiping a small shadow over it. Basically it is enough to remove the dark gap between the lips on the edge. The changes of tiny nuances cause enormous changes in a face. Nevertheless, I didn’t succeed in smiling. Maybe you can do it?

The improved hair is striking. As described before, I draw them with curved lines, which are quickly pulled through without settling. Individual strands and hair structures should be emphasized. If necessary, you can also do this with an eraser or another pointed eraser and erase light hair areas, shiny areas or light reflections.

At the top right of the hairline I erased some small hairs with an eraser and small pointed erasers into the dark hair shadow. (Maybe with a sharp eraser edge – cut erasers.) In addition, the ear underneath was worked out more beautifully.

By the further darkening of the neck the contrast of the chin increases to the hair hanging over it.

The contour of the right cheek as well as the contour on the chin I erased again brightly, so that the skin stands out beautifully from the underlying surface. (White ‘light frame’ on the face.)

Eyelashes and mouth have also been improved, as you can see in the following two detail pictures.

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The eyelashes are clearly stronger and longer. I erase their upper side brightly to create a nice contrast to the underlying skin. They are illuminated by the light and are therefore bright at the top.

The eyeball has tiny veins on the inside. With a very sharp pencil and really minimal pressure you can draw these veins. If you want to create a Suffob, this is your chance now: Draw veins in the eyes.

Bright spots and glossy effects can be erased one last time. You can find such bright spots in the reflections in the eye, on the skin of the lacrimal gland, and on the edge of the eyelid to the eyeball. The skin under the eye should also shine towards the nose. Use an eraser or a very sharp eraser.

Eyebrows are fine and thin on the outside and condense in the middle of the brow. Note this when improving your drawing.

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Finally, you can also erase bright shiny areas on the nose and mouth. You should lighten the tip of the nose, the complete contour of the lips, the two elevations between mouth and nose and also the shiny areas on the lips. The shadow of the upper lip(which falls on the lower lip) must be very dark. Lip wrinkles should be randomly placed again and should not follow an obvious pattern.

Why is it so difficult to draw a face?

Ultimately, there are few details such as the width and length of the mouth, eyes and nose, as well as the intensity of shading, that determine the appearance of a face. In addition, of course, there are the position, the distance and also the size of the elements mentioned above, as well as numerous other factors that make each face appear individual.

Since we see a lot of faces every day, we are particularly struck by the features of a face. Unfortunately, all this happens subconsciously. Sometimes we can’t exactly explain in words why James’ face looks different from Peter’s – except for obvious factors like hair, eye color or age. We recognize all this unconsciously. The information is stored as a picture in our minds. We recognize the person immediately, but could never draw him from memory or explain why this face is this face. There are simply too many details required that we could never enumerate or describe individually. Only in interaction do they result in the individuality of a face.

We recognize an error in a portrait drawing of a familiar face immediately, but often we can not explain what is wrong in detail. To make matters worse, we react much more sensitively to human faces than to those of animals. We can distinguish animal faces much more laboriously because we are less likely to deal with animals. Monkeys always look the same, don’t they? The same for cats or dogs – not to mention guinea pigs, they are so shaggy that one could confuse them with pillows and have no real face at all. It would be easier to draw animal faces because mistakes are not immediately noticeable.

In fact, certain animal faces have as many characteristics and peculiarities as a human face. (Except for jellyfish.) We are not skilled enough to differentiate them and think that they all somehow look the same. The same applies to people of other races: We are simply not used to distinguishing their faces. We don’t notice their peculiarities because we specialize in the face type of the people around us. And because we react so sensitively to familiar facial patterns and immediately recognize any discrepancies and peculiarities, it is so difficult for us to draw faces and portraits and reproduce them precisely – mistakes and tiny deviations from the original are immediately noticeable. It is actually impossible to draw a perfect portrait. In interaction with the various facial elements, we immediately recognize discrepancies and believe that the face on the portrait looks different than the original face – and indeed it does.