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How to Draw the Nose

July 6, 2009

The nose gives many beginning portrait artists a hard time. I think this is because the nose is one facial feature that looks extremely different from what we expect it to. As kids we all drew noses as a backwards comma shape, or a backwards check mark. Or maybe just as a pair of nostrils! These kinds of preconceptions get in the way when trying to draw realistically. With noses, it is essential to look at your reference photo to see where the shadows fall. It is also important to understand the basic structure of the nose. Here are some tips:nose-basicshape

UPDATE: View my step by step tutorial on how to draw the nose.

  1. At its most basic, the nose is a wedge sticking out from the face. The bottom and one edge are most often in shadow. Depending on the light, the nose may also cast a shadow.
  2. The tip of the nose and the nostrils can be shown by three circles.
  3. A more complex drawing of the nose includes the keystone-shaped nose-complex-shapesplane between the brows. This is usually in shadow. Below this shape, the nose is narrowest, widening at towards the bottom at the nostrils.
  4. Hilights are usually found on the tip of the nose, the edge of one nostril, and down the bridge of the nose.
  5. Because we are seeing the nostrils at an angle, we don’t see the whole opening. Nostrils usually appear as just a curved line, or nose-nostrilssometimes as a bit of a triangular shape.
  6. Don’t be worried if your nose only seems to be defined on one side. Depending on how the light hits the nose, the one side may be in shadow while the other side seems to blend right into the rest of the face.
  7. Don’t forget that underneath the tip of the nose and the bottom edge of the nostrils will be in shadow because they slant down towards the face.nose-shaded

Keep these guidelines in your head while you’re drawing and your noses will appear much more realistic. Most importantly, get rid of your ideas about what a nose should look like and really study your reference! All the information you need for a great portrait is there, you just need to look for it!

On the Web:

Stan Prokopenko’s blog has an excellent tutorial on how to draw a nose. He goes into great detail about the structure and anatomy of the nose.

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From → Drawing

3 Comments
  1. thanks for the comment! I think the more I actually sketch in my book, the more I’ll loosen up-and yes, I have to remember that it is for practice, for me:)
    have a great week!
    Trish

  2. MISTER RIGHT permalink

    I WISH EVERYBODY CONSIDERING A NOSE JOB WOULD READ AND STUDY THIS AND THEN FIND AN ARTIST TO MAKE VARIOUS SHAPES AND TYPES OF NOSES ON TO PICTURES OF THEM SELF AND USE PHOTOSHOP TO MAKE A TOTAL FACES.

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