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How to Draw a Smiling Mouth with Teeth – Tutorial

January 31, 2010


Everyone knows that the eyes are what can make or break the likeness of a portrait. What you may not realize is that teeth are almost as important! Like the eyes, everyone’s teeth are unique. It’s not enough to slap a few big chiclets into someone’s mouth and call them teeth, you need to study your reference to get just the right shape and size! This tutorial will show you how I approach drawing teeth and give you some general pointers.

Here is our reference photo, set up and gridded in Corel Draw.




First, start with your 2H pencil and draw your grid lines. Then, following your reference, draw the shapes that you see. Draw the contours of the lips and the teeth, but also draw the major shadows and highlights that you can see.

When drawing the teeth, pay close attention to the corners and edges. How flat are they at the bottom? How rounded are the corners? How much gum do we see? Notice how we see all of the front teeth, and as we get to the corners of the mouth we see less and less of each tooth.  It might seem stupid, but make sure you get the right number of teeth!

Also, remember that the center of the lips may  not necessarily line up with the center of the top teeth, and the center of the top teeth may not line up with the center of the bottoms.




Erase your grid lines then, still with your 2H, shade in the values that you see. Shade in everything but the highlights, layering the graphite to get the shadows. Don’t press hard or you will indent the paper! Blend with your tortillon.




Now grab your 2B and begin shading in the midtones. Here I’ve shaded the lips, the creases beside the mouth and the shadows on the teeth. Careful to avoid your highlights! Notice how the only definition of the lips is a slight difference in value at the edges. In the center of the upper lip, there is almost no definition because of a sort-of diffused highlight. We’ll add that later. Be careful that you don’t shade too heavliy between the teeth. This line is often not as dark or as regular as you think it is. Keep it soft. Blend.




With your 2B, shade in the darkest shadows. These include the corners of the mouth, the shadows under the teeth, and the shadow cast by the upper lip.Remember that the edge of the upper lip isn’t a solid, heavy line. Look at the reference and notice how it is darker in some areas than others. Blend out your shading.




Lastly, you can use your kneaded eraser to pick out the highlights. Because the teeth are wet, the highlights will have a sharper edge. I used my tortillon to draw a very light line around the highlights on the teeth to create that edge. Don’t forget the highlights that you can see on the gums, as well as the faint one on the upper lip.



Be sure to check out my other portrait drawing tutorials!


From → Drawing, Tutorials

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