How to Draw Human Faces Guide

Faces are one of the most fun, and most difficult things to draw. They are full of expression, curves, highlights, shadows and quirks. This guide will show you how to draw faces and all of their details.

Sketching Heads with Shapes and Proportions

Head shapes by Andrew Loomis.

The human head and face are often the hardest things for an artist to draw. They are complex and contain many different facets that can confuse the artist. Here are some simple principles that can guide a new artist in drawing a face properly.

Examining the Shape of the Face

Head shape names by Andrew Loomis.

A human head comes in many shapes and sizes. The first thing the artist should do when drawing a face is to identify what shape the head is. To do this, the new artist can look at the shapes made by the jaw line and hairline. What do they suggest?

For example, Mel Gibson’s head could be described as a square shape, whereas Angelina Jolie’s head could be described as a rounded triangle.

In the second illustration, below, the model has what is called a heart-shaped face. This means that the hairline is rounded, but the chin area is very pointed. If the artist has a lot of trouble figuring out the face shape, it may be helpful to outline the face in a reference photo with a marker.

Once the face shape is identified, the artist can render an accurate face shape on paper.

Making the Proportions Right

The face itself contains specific proportions, or measurements, that are found on every human’s head. So, when drawing a face, the eyes, nose and mouth are placed in basically the same positions every time. Here is how the artist can determine these positions:

Face ProportionsThe eyes are always halfway down the head, between the top of the head and the bottom of the chin. They are also an eye-length apart. This means that, however long you decide to make the eyes, there will be that much space between the eyes as well.
The artist should divide the area under the eyes into thirds. The bottom of the nose will lie at the one-third line.

On the next third, or two-thirds of the way from the eyes to the chin, should be the mouth. The mouth’s edges should be in line with the middle of each eye. To check this, put your pencil on the middle of one of the eyes. If the lower part of the pencil touches the outer corner of the mouth, it is aligned correctly.

These proportions can vary slightly, depending on a number of factors including race, age and gender, so the artist should always use these proportions as guidelines and not as a rule.

Once the artist knows these basics, the individual uniqueness of a person’s face should be obvious and easier to incorporate into portrait drawings.

The Eyes

Eye Sketches by Andrew Loomis.

First, let’s look at the proportions of the eye to understand how to draw it better. On the average person, the eyes are an eye width apart from each other. They are also halfway down the head.
Next, take a look at eye shape. Are the eyes you want to draw almond? Round? Slanted? Remember that the eye has many other parts than just the eyeball and lids. Draw all the rings of color and black on the eyeball itself. Also, draw the tear duct, the lashes, and the rim of the lid. Don’t forget all those telling laugh lines, either!

The last part to drawing an eye is observing the shadows and hues. The eye’s shadow is darker under the lower lid than on the upper. The creases in the lid are nothing more than saturated shading. Don’t ever use sharp lines when shading the eye.

One last thing on shading, the eyeball must be shaded around to look round. Shade by the tear duct and outer corner, making the very edges especially dark.

For a dramatic effects, make the black of the eye the darkest black in the portrait.

For more read our guide: How to Draw an Eye


When I first started drawing the nose I used lines to try to define it. That was my first mistake. If you take a look at respectable pencil drawings you’ll see that the nose rarely has any hard lines. Usually, only the nostrils have dark, hard lines. The rest is all shading. Define the upper curve of the nose by continuing the line of the brow and shadow under the eye.

The nostrils aren’t always the darkest point in the portrait. Remember, the darker the area, the more it will draw the eye. Do you really want people to look at the portrait’s nostrils first?

For more read: How Do You Draw a Nose?


How to draw a mouth by Andrew Loomis.

Lips don’t seem as hard as the nose, but they can pose problems. The biggest part that you should remember is that lips are soft. The upper lip is usually a little darker than the bottom and the outer edges are not hard lines, but shadows (unless the subject is wearing lipstick). The upper lip is defined by the dips in skin between the nose and lips. Notice how this dip is darker in the middle and lighter on the ridges.

How to Draw Teeth

How to draw teeth by Andrew Loomis.

Drawing teeth well can make or break a portrait. Teeth shape the mouth and add character to a face. If done improperly, the face may seem unfinished or unrecognizable. This tutorial will instruct artists on how to draw teeth properly with simple tips and illustrations.

Step One: Negative Space

First, the artist needs to understand negative space before he can begin to draw.

Negative space is the area around an object, not the object itself. So, instead of drawing squares to represent teeth, the artist should draw the spaces in-between the teeth.



Negative space between teeth.
Negative space between teeth.

In the first illustration, the gap between the two front teeth is drawn. For most teeth, the artist draws the negative space as an inverted triangle, a line, and another triangle. This makes an hourglass shape. The hard lines are softened into curves by shading, since teeth are rarely perfect squares or rectangles.

Step Two: Continuing the Negative Space

Now that the first two front teeth are taking shape, the artist adds additional negative space to continue accumulating teeth.


Drawing teeth, step 2.
Drawing teeth, step 2.

In the second illustration, the hourglass-type sketch is repeated, side-by-side. The artist draws a curved line at the bottom of the hourglasses to connect them. Now, the rest of the teeth are taking shape.

Step Three: Gum and Lip Line

The artist draws the top of the teeth to finish up the drawing.

Many times, the top of the teeth is the lip line. To create the lip, the artist will draw a flared ‘v’ shape over the top of the front teeth’s hourglass shape, as shown in the third illustration.


Drawing teeth, step 3.
Drawing teeth, step 3.

In mouths that are more open, the top of the teeth with be the gum line. To draw a gum line, the artist connects the hourglass shapes with curved lines turned downward, as shown in illustration four.

The teeth are now finished.

Tips and Tricks


Lip Sketches by Alina Bradford.
Lip Sketches by Alina Bradford.

Of course, most teeth are not this perfectly shaped. Children’s teeth often have scalloped edges at the bottom, for instance. Maturity often wears away the bottoms of the teeth, making them smoother as the years progress. An artist can draw children’s teeth by adding a scallop to the curved line that connects the hourglass shapes at the bottom.

Time can also chip teeth. To draw a chipped tooth, the artist will simply draw a curved line at the bottom of the tooth that has a black jagged edge added to it, as shown in the third tooth in illustration four.

Using these tips, an artist can render realistic looking teeth in all of his portraits.

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