Perfect Your Portraiture by Learning How to Draw a Face Step by Step

How to Draw a Face

Stock Photos from Golubovy /Shutterstock
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Portrait drawing has long had an important place in art history and remains a popular subject for contemporary artists. If you too are a creative who wants to carry on this tradition, it’s important that you know how to draw a face. Human faces are one of the most challenging subjects to sketch—especially if you’re trying to capture the likeness of someone. But once you know the essentials, the entire process is demystified and easier to approach.


Learn Facial Proportions

How to Draw a Face

Stock Photos from mrkornflakes/Shutterstock

So, how do you go about drawing a face? One of the first things you’ll want to learn is proportions. When you understand the general size placement of the eyes, nose, and mouth, you can begin the sketching process without trepidation.

Here are the basic proportions to memorize. Notice how the eyes inform nearly every measurement.

  • The eyes are halfway down the head and approximately one eye-width apart.
  • The nostrils line up with the edge of the eyes.
  • The nose is about the length of one eye width and serves as the vertical middle of the face.
  • The head is about five eyes wide.

Not everyone will have features that fit into these specific sizes; you need to be aware of your subject’s unique facial characteristics and use these proportions as a reference. So, before you commit to drawing, compare different aspects such as the space between their eyes. Is it the width of one eye? Or, is it longer? Maybe shorter? Make sure you check first and don’t assume—you’ll save yourself a lot of trouble later.

Another thing to consider before you learn how to draw a face is understanding how to sketch a skull. Doing this can have a big advantage—you’ll know exactly what’s underneath the skin. Sketching the eyes, for instance, will be a lot easier to grasp once you see the deep eye cavities we all have. Check out our step-by-step tutorial for how to draw a skull.


How to Draw a Face in Three Ways

How to Draw a Face

Stock Photos from Anton Zabielskyi/Shutterstock

The straight-forward view is the most popular way to render a face, but it's not the only way in which people are pictured. You'll want to familiarize yourself with three viewpoints: straight-forward, three-quarters, and profile (side view). These are the most common ways to draw the face and the ones you'll use most often. Each employs the same techniques for sketching, but there are different considerations you must take into account with each view.

Grab your favorite pencils, paper, and source photos to get started.


Next: Learn how to draw a face in three different ways.

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Sara Barnes

Sara Barnes is a Staff Editor at My Modern Met, Manager of My Modern Met Store, and co-host of the My Modern Met Top Artist Podcast. As an illustrator and writer living in Seattle, she chronicles illustration, embroidery, and beyond through her blog Brown Paper Bag and Instagram @brwnpaperbag. She wrote a book about embroidery artist Sarah K. Benning titled 'Embroidered Life' that was published by Chronicle Books in 2019. Sara is a graduate of the Maryland Institute College of Art. She earned her BFA in Illustration in 2008 and MFA in Illustration Practice in 2013.
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