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Drawing Portraits: Proportions of the Head

June 17, 2009

Portraits can be one of the most challenging and rewarding things you will ever draw. No two people look alike, and drawing portraits requires that you use your observation skills and pay close attention to detail. Even though every face is different, there are some general guidelines to help you when it comes to the proportions of the human face. This tutorial will take you through the steps of sketching facial proportions.

First, the shape of the head is oval, slightly narrower at the bottom than the top.

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Draw a horizontal and a vertical line through the center of your oval. The vertical line will help you place the nose, and the horizontal line tells you where the eyes should go. It is a misconception that eyes are at the top of our heads. There’s actually just as much head above the eyes as below, so we put the eyes in the middle of the oval.

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Make four short marks to indicate the corners of the eyes. Keep in mind that the space between the two eyes is the same as the length of one eye. The space on either side of each eye is the length of approximately half an eye (or just slightly more). Draw in your eyes, don’t forget about the tear duct!

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For the nose, draw a short line just short of halfway between the eyes and the chin. Another slightly longer line will be the lips, again drawn just short of halfway between the nose and the chin.

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Next, to draw the nose, start from the inside corners of the eye and go straight down. These points will be the edge of the nostrils.

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The corners of the mouth can be found by drawing a line straight down from the center of the pupils.

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To find the placement of the eyebrows, you will use the corners of the eyes and the tip of the nose. Go straight up from the inner corners of the eye to find the inside edge of the brow. Draw a line from the tip of the nose through the outside corner of the eye for the end of the brow. Womens eyebrows are usually higher on the face, thinner and more arched. Men’s brows are thicker, lower, and less arched.

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 Ears are actually bigger than you might guess. The tops of the ears line up with the eyebrows and the bottoms of the ears line up with the bottom of the nose.

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The hairline generally comes about halfway down the forehead. Also, don’t forget the neck! It’s thicker than you might think. The neck is almost as wide as the head itself.

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By keeping these proportions in mind, you will have an easier  time in placing facial features with in the face. However, it’s still very important to pay close attention to your reference. These proportions are guidelines, not rules, as some people may have slightly different proportions. Also, it’s the subtle differences in the shape of the face, the shape of the eyes, nose, and mouth that makes us all unique. These proportions help you figure out where to put the eye, but you still need to observe and draw the unique shape of that eye.

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