Drawing the Face

A portrait


Police sketch artists often have to draw pictures of people they've never seen before. As impossible as that sounds, they do have a system that helps them to get the basic layout of the face correct right off the bat. Then, getting the details right will be a lot easier. These are just guidelines, so be sure to really look at your model and draw what you see. Guidelines are only for reference, but it's our differences that really make us look like ourselves. Always look at your model if you're stuck. The artist's job is simply to record what's really there, so the answers are in front of you.

Portrait -- a drawing or painting of a person's face
Proportions -- the relative size of one thing in comparison with another (in this case, facial features.)

You need:


Use these guidelines to help you draw your face

Here's what you do:

1. Look at the shape of your model's face. It is probably an oval shape. Is it wider in the middle, or at the top? Draw a few practice ovals in the air. Make sure your whole arm is making the oval, and not just your wrist. Now draw that shape lightly on your paper. If it doesn't look right, analyze it before you erase it. You might only have to change part of the oval and not the whole thing.
2. Draw a crosshairs on your oval, lightly, dividing the oval into 4 equal shapes.
3. On the center horizontal line, draw your model's eyes. Don't forget to LOOK AT YOUR MODEL first! What shape are your model's eyes? They're not circles -- they're probably sort of an almond shape. There is probably at least 1 eye's width between the eyes, so be sure to leave space in the center.
4. The center horizontal line divides the face in half. Draw two horizontal lines above and two below the center line, dividing the face into six equal pieces.

guidelines for setting up the face -- draw lines lightly!

5. The line above the eyes is for the brow bone. The eyebrows will go just below that line, barely brushing the line (if at all). Eyebrows are shaggy curved lines that repeat the shape of the eye, usually. Look at your model to see the exact shape before you draw it.
6. The line below the eyes is for the nose. Please see my guide to drawing noses, below if you need help drawing the shape. Most noses will fall between the center corners of the eyes, but not all, so don't forget to look at your model to be sure.

Most noses are versions of this basic nose shape. They do vary a lot, so look at your model!
7. The line below the nose is for the mouth. (see guide, below). Most mouths are no wider than the space from the center of each eye to the center of the other.

A mouth is a "M" on top of a "U." Mouths vary a lot, so look at your model!
8. Look at your model's chin. Does it match the curve of the bottom of your face shape? If not, adjust it to match. Some people will have pointy chins, and some will have a strong, square jaw. Adjust your drawing to match your model as close as you can.
9. The top line is for your model's hairline. It seems like a big space, but when you are looking at a person dead-on, you can see part of the top of the head, so we need to allow space for that. Draw your model's hair. Don't try to draw individual strands of hair -- it will just look scribbly, and you can't see individual hairs, anyway. Only draw the shape of individual locks of hair, and add a few lines for strands here and there within those shapes. It will look much more convincing. Don't forget to leave space for ears!
10. Now draw your model's ears. Ears fall on the sides of the head, and usually lie just above the eye line and just below the nose line. On most people, you will only really see a slight cup-shape, and not much detail. Draw what you see.
11. Don't forget the neck! We are tempted to draw the neck below the chin, but the truth is that the neck starts at the bottom of the ears! Necks have to be pretty big to support our big brains, so don't skimp on the neck!
12. Add details -- clothes, jewelry, glasses, freckles, etc… The more details, the more realistic your portrait will look.

Do you recognize this famous portrait?