A Beginner’s Guide to Drawing Facial Features

If you want to draw lifelike portraiture, knowing how to draw facial features is essential. Below, artist and instructor Lee Hammond shares tips and techniques for drawing realistic faces with graphite pencil, excerpted from her book, Lee Hammond’s All New Big Book of Drawing.

In this step-by-step guide, Lee will teach you how to recreate every aspect of your model’s face: the eyes, nose, cheeks, and mouth. So you understand where we’re heading in this tutorial, here’s our finished product first.

Drawing a Portrait Demo, Step 3 | Lee Hammond | How to Draw Facial Features for Beginners | Artists Network

 


More Resources on Drawing Faces and People

Drawing the Curve of Cheeks, Chins and Noses          Drawing Hair

Drawing Facial Hair            Avoid These 5 Mistakes When Drawing Portraits


Learning to Draw Facial Features

Now, before you can draw an entire face, you must first learn to draw each of the facial features individually. Only by taking one feature at a time can you learn the anatomy well and understand what to look for and what to capture in your drawing.

Drawing facial features: Eyes, Ears, Mouth and Nose in this easy tutorial.

Drawing Noses Two Ways

The nose is the least complicated feature and most closely resembles the sphere, as noted. The five elements of shading are easy to see. It is important to learn to draw the facial features in different poses.

These straight-on and profile views of the nose will give you ample practice. Follow the steps to draw a nose in both views.

Straight-on View

1. Create a Line Drawing

Use the grid method and a mechanical pencil to create a line drawing of a nose in a straight-on view.

Straight-On View, Nose Demo, Step 1 | Lee Hammond | How to Draw Facial Features for Beginners | Artists Network

2. Develop the Lights and Darks

When you are sure of your accuracy, carefully remove the grid lines with a kneaded eraser. Develop the patterns of light and dark with a pencil. Be sure to refer to the sphere.

Add reflected light along the edges of the nose and the rim of the nostril. Add a shadow edge under the tip of the nose to makes it look rounded. Place cast shadows under the bottom edge of the nose.

Straight-On View, Nose Demo, Step 2 | Lee Hammond | How to Draw Facial Features for Beginners | Artists Network

3. Blend

Blend the tones smooth with a stump or tortillion. Very little of the drawing should be left white. Many artists will leave skin tones too light, but only the highlights should be as white as the paper.

Be sure to blend out from the dark areas into the lighter face area, just like you did in the sphere exercise. This makes it appear real.

Straight-On View, Nose Demo, Step 3 | Lee Hammond | How to Draw Facial Features for Beginners | Artists Network

Profile View

1. Create a Line Drawing

Use the grid method and a mechanical pencil to create a line drawing of a nose from a side view.

Profile View, Nose Demo, Step 1 | Lee Hammond | How to Draw Facial Features for Beginners | Artists Network

2. Develop the Lights and Darks

When you are sure of your accuracy, carefully remove the grid lines with a kneaded eraser. Develop the patterns of light and dark with a pencil. Be sure to refer to the sphere.

Profile View, Nose Demo, Step 2 | Lee Hammond | How to Draw Facial Features for Beginners | Artists Network

3. Blend

Blend the tones smooth with a stump or tortillion. Use the dark tones behind the nose to make the edges stand out.

Lighting is crucial. The dark background makes this example look very different from the previous one.

Profile View, Nose Demo, Step 3 | Lee Hammond | How to Draw Facial Features for Beginners | Artists Network

Drawing Male and Female Mouths / Lips

Drawing a mouth can be a challenge. Many beginning artists outline them too much. But it is only when the lips are defined by makeup that the edges are very distinct.

When studying the mouth, you will notice the upper lip is usually smaller and will appear darker than the bottom lip. It creates an M shape.

There are differences between male and female lips. Female mouths are much more defined and seem fuller and shinier. The edges of male lips are more subtle and are described by the shadows around them more than the edges themselves.

Drawing Lips | Female

1. Create a Line Drawing

Use the grid method and a mechanical pencil to create a line drawing of female lips.

Drawing Lips, Female, Demo, Step 1 | Lee Hammond | How to Draw Facial Features for Beginners | Artists Network

2. Apply the Dark Patterns

When you are sure of your accuracy, carefully remove the grid lines with a kneaded eraser. Apply the dark patterns of the lips with a pencil.

Make the upper lip darker than the bottom one. This is because the upper lip angles in, and the bottom lip angles out.

Drawing Lips, Female, Demo, Step 2 | Lee Hammond | How to Draw Facial Features for Beginners | Artists Network

3. Blend Tones and Light Highlights

Blend the tones smooth with a tortillion. Be sure to create the tones of the skin around the lips to make them look realistic. Use a kneaded eraser to lift the bright highlights of the lower lip to make them look moist and shiny.

Drawing Lips, Female, Demo, Step 3 | Lee Hammond | How to Draw Facial Features for Beginners | Artists Network

Drawing Lips | Male

1. Create a Line Drawing

Use the grid method and a mechanical pencil to create a line drawing of male lips.

Drawing Lips, Male, Demo, Step 1 | Lee Hammond | How to Draw Facial Features for Beginners | Artists Network

2. Add Dark Tones

When you are sure of your accuracy, carefully remove the grid lines with a kneaded eraser. Add the darkest tones first with a pencil.

Drawing Lips, Male, Demo, Step 2 | Lee Hammond | How to Draw Facial Features for Beginners | Artists Network

3. Blend and Lift

Blend the drawing with a stump or tortillion to remove the white of the paper. Deepen the dark areas with your pencil and then lift light areas out with a kneaded eraser.

Drawing Lips, Male, Demo, Step 3 | Lee Hammond | How to Draw Facial Features for Beginners | Artists Network

Drawing Smiles

Mouths become much more difficult to draw when the teeth are showing. When drawing teeth, never draw a hard line between each tooth. Because the teeth touch, a hard line would make them look too separate by representing a dark space.

They should also have some shading applied. Teeth are dimensional, so leaving them white would make them look flat. As the teeth recede into the mouth, the shadows get darker. The bottom teeth are always a bit darker too since they do not protrude as much.

1. Create a Line Drawing

Use the grid method and a mechanical pencil to create a line drawing of a mouth and teeth. Each tooth must be perfect to create a good likeness.

Do not draw hard lines between each tooth. For accuracy, draw the shapes of the gum line and the edges of the teeth.

Drawing Smiles Demo, Step 1 | Lee Hammond | How to Draw Facial Features for Beginners | Artists Network

2. Apply Dark Tones

When you are sure of your accuracy, carefully remove the grid lines with a kneaded eraser. Apply the darkest tones with a pencil. It is darkest inside the mouth. The upper lip is darker than the bottom lip and does not have bright highlights.

Drawing Smiles Demo, Step 2 | Lee Hammond | How to Draw Facial Features for Beginners | Artists Network

3. Blend, Add Shading and Lift

Blend the tons smooth with a tortillion. Apply some shading to each tooth to make sure they look dimensional. Lift the highlights of the bottom lip to make them look full and shiny.

Keep the lines between the teeth subtle. Use a kneaded eraser to soften where the touch.

Drawing Smiles Demo, Step 3 | Lee Hammond | How to Draw Facial Features for Beginners | Artists Network

Drawing Eyes

There are many components to the eye and all of them are important. Here are a few hints to help you:

  • The iris and the pupil are perfect circles when the eye is looking straight at you. If turning away or looking up and down, they become ellipses.
  • The pupil is always perfectly centered within the iris.
  • The pupil is the darkest part of the eye. Fill it in as dark and smooth as possible. Leave an area for a catch light.
  • The catch light should be half in the pupil and half in the iris. If the photo shows it blocking the pupil, move it over.
  • The lower lid thickness below the iris is very important. Never just draw a line under the eye. This small detail gives the eye dimension.
  • Patterns within the iris will vary depending on the color of the eye and resemble a starburst.
  • The white of the eye needs to be blended to resemble a sphere shape. Never just leave this area (the sclera) white.
  • The lashes on the upper lid come together to make a dark edge called the lash line.
  • The upper eyelid recesses, making the eyeball take on a sphere shape.

Now let’s move on to drawing an eye.

1. Create a Line Drawing

Use the grid method and a mechanical pencil to crate a line drawing of an eye.

Drawing Eyes Demo, Step 1 | Lee Hammond | How to Draw Facial Features for Beginners | Artists Network

2. Lay in the Patterns and Blend

When you are sure of your accuracy, carefully remove the grid lines with a kneaded eraser. Lay in the patterns of the iris with a pencil. Use pencil lines that resemble a starburst pattern or wagon wheel spokes.

Leave an area open for the catch light (half in the pupil and half in the iris). Blend things smooth with a tortillion. Use a kneaded eraser to lift the catch light and increase the patterns in the iris.

Drawing Eyes Demo, Step 2 | Lee Hammond | How to Draw Facial Features for Beginners | Artists Network

3. Continue Blending and Shading, Add Eyelashes

Blend the skin areas of the drawing to create the form and contours. Shade the white of the eye to make it look rounded like a sphere.

Add the eyelashes with very quick strokes that taper at the ends. They grow in layers and clumps, so do not make them go all along in a row.

Notice how the lashes on the bottom grow from the lower edge of the lower lid thickness. You can see how much dimension the lower lid thickness gives to the look of the eye.

Drawing Eyes Demo, Step 3 | Lee Hammond | How to Draw Facial Features for Beginners | Artists Network

Drawing Noses and Eyes Together

Once you learn the anatomy of the eye and how to draw it realistically, it is important to understand how to put two of them together along with other facial features like the nose. Here are some guidelines to remember:

  • The space between the eyes is one eye width.
  • Both eyes should be directly across from each other.
  • If you draw a vertical line down from the corner of the eye, it will line up with the edge of the nose. (This can change according to different ethnicities.)
  • Both eyes must be looking in the same direction. The pupil and iris must be the same in both.
  • Place the catch light in the same place on both eyes (half in the pupil, half in the iris).

1. Create a Line Drawing

Use the grid method and a mechanical pencil to create a line drawing of a nose and eyes together. Notice how the vertical line drawn down from the corner of the eyes lines up with the edge of the nose. Place the eyes directly from one another.

Drawing Noses and Eyes Demo, Step 1 | Lee Hammond | How to Draw Facial Features for Beginners | Artists Network

2. Apply Dark Tones, Fill in the Shadow Areas and Eyebrows

When you are sure of your accuracy, carefully remove the grid lines with a kneaded eraser. Apply the darkest tones with a pencil.

The pupils of the eyes are the darkest areas. Fill in the tones of the shadow areas and the eyebrows. The eyebrows should be shaded in as a shape first, before the hairs are applied.

Drawing Noses and Eyes Demo, Step 2 | Lee Hammond | How to Draw Facial Features for Beginners | Artists Network

3. Blend and Apply Highlights

Blend with a stump or tortillion. Very little of the paper should be left white, even in the whites of the eyes. Use a kneaded eraser for the small highlights seen in the brows and patterns within the pupils.

Drawing Noses and Eyes Demo, Step 3 | Lee Hammond | How to Draw Facial Features for Beginners | Artists Network

Eyes from an Angle

This project will help you see things from a different vantage point. When you draw facial features of a person who is at an angle, the rules change.

The features look distorted due to the perspective. In this view, the profile of the nose is blocking one of the eyes and only a small portion of the face is showing on that side.

1. Create a Line Drawing

Use the grid method and a mechanical pencil to create a line drawing of eyes in a slightly angled pose. Notice how this angle blocks the view of part of the face.

The irises and pupils now are vertical ellipses, since the eye is not looking straight at you. The perfect circle is now changed due to the perspective.

Drawing Eyes at Angle Demo, Step 1 | Lee Hammond | How to Draw Facial Features for Beginners | Artists Network

2. Apply Darks, Add Shadows and Blend the Eyebrows

When you are sure of your accuracy, carefully remove the grid lines with a kneaded eraser. Apply the darkest tones with your pencil to create the shadows. The pupils of the eyes are the darkest areas. Blend the shapes of the eyebrows to a gray tone.

Drawing Eyes at Angle Demo, Step 2 | Lee Hammond | How to Draw Facial Features for Beginners | Artists Network

3. Blend and Lift

Blend the skin areas with a stump or tortillion. Use a kneaded eraser for the small highlights seen in the brows. Create the patterns within the pupils and lift the catch lights.

Drawing Eyes at Angle Demo, Step 3 | Lee Hammond | How to Draw Facial Features for Beginners | Artists Network

Ears

Ears are one of the most difficult features to draw. They are made up of strange shapes. We don’t particularly pay much attention to ears unless they have earrings or are larger than normal. Either way, they are not shapes that we often think about.

To draw a good portrait, you must learn their anatomy to make them look convincing. It is a good idea to practice drawing ears in a variety of angles and poses, too. Practicing all views is important if you want to be proficient in portrait drawing.

Ear, Front View

This is a typical front view of an ear seen on a portrait. Much of the anatomy is blocked by the hair. Only the protruding part of the earlobe is visible.

Drawing of Ear, Front View | How to Draw Facial Features with Lee Hammond, Beginner’s Guide | Artists Network

Ear, Side-Angle View

This side-angle view shows the complexities of the ear. It is certainly not a typical pose, but you never know when you may have to draw a person in an unusual pose.

Drawing of Ear, Side-Angle View | How to Draw Facial Features with Lee Hammond, Beginner’s Guide | Artists Network

Drawing Ears

This exercise will help you learn the anatomy of ears. They are made up of many intricate shapes that all nestle together. The grid method helps to make them appear more like a puzzle.

Here are some things to keep in mind when drawing ears:

  • The outer ear overlaps the inner ear.
  • The inner ear has an area that resembles a Y. Look for it in every ear you draw.
  • The skin of the ear is different. It is more oily, so highlights can appear very bright.
  • There is a protruding area of the inner ear that acts like a cup.
  • The earlobe often resembles a sphere.

1. Create a Line Drawing

Use the grid method and a mechanical pencil to create a line drawing of an ear. Look at it like a puzzle of interlocking shapes.

Drawing Ears Demo, Step 1 | Lee Hammond | How to Draw Facial Features for Beginners | Artists Network

2. Apply the Darks

When you are sure of your accuracy, carefully remove the grid lines with a kneaded eraser. Apply the darkest areas with a pencil.

Create shadows underneath where the outer ear overlaps the inner ears. Resist the urge to outline too much. Let shading create your edges.

Drawing Ears Demo, Step 2 | Lee Hammond | How to Draw Facial Features for Beginners | Artists Network

3. Blend and Lift

Blend the drawing with a stump or tortillion. To make it look realistic, lift out highlights with a kneaded eraser.

The ear is a bit shinier than other skin, so the highlights should be bright. Remember the five elements of shading and the sphere when focusing on the earlobe.

Drawing Ears Demo, Step 3 | Lee Hammond | How to Draw Facial Features for Beginners | Artists Network

Putting it All Together | Drawing a Portrait

Now that you’ve learned how to draw facial features from the eyes to the mouth, it’s time to put everything together into a portrait. Do not do this project before you have done the proper practice work. Go back and practice all of the facial features first.

And, before moving on to this demo, be sure to practice drawing hair. I covered this topic in another post, which you can find here.

Here are some tips for drawing portraits:

  • When you want to draw facial features, start with the eyes. This helps create a connection with the viewer and starts to capture the personality of your subject.
  • When you finish the eyes, move down and finish the nose, then the mouth. This is called the triangle of features.
  • Allow the darkness of the hair to help create the lighter edge of the face. Placing tone behind the face reduces the chance of things looking outlined.
  • When drawing hair, apply your pencil strokes going in the same direction as the hair growth.
  • Always remember the five elements of shading with everything you draw.

1. Create a Line Drawing

Use the grid method and a mechanical pencil to create a line drawing of a female face. Go one box at a time and be very careful with the shapes.

Drawing a Portrait Demo, Step 1 | Lee Hammond | How to Draw Facial Features for Beginners | Artists Network

2. Apply the Darks and Start Building up the Hair

When you are sure of your accuracy, carefully remove the grid lines with a kneaded eraser. Apply the darkest tones.

Start with the eyes and then move down to the nose and mouth to create the triangle of features. Apply some dark tone next to the face to help create the light edge of the face. Start to build the hair using long pencil strokes.

Drawing a Portrait Demo, Step 2 | Lee Hammond | How to Draw Facial Features for Beginners | Artists Network

3. Blend and Lift

Take your time finishing. The face must be blended very smooth with a stump or tortillion. Little of the drawing should be left pure white; only the highlights in the eyes and on the nose appear white. As you complete the face, refer to the previous exercises on individual facial features and keep the five elements of shading in mind.

The hair in this portrait takes a lot of time. Use very long pencil strokes to create the length. Blend everything out smooth and then lift bands of light out of the hair with a kneaded eraser.

Drawing a Portrait Demo, Step 3 | Lee Hammond | How to Draw Facial Features for Beginners | Artists Network

Keep Practicing

Now that you have learned how to draw facial features, keep practicing. Lee Hammond’s All New Big Book of Drawing includes tons of quick step-by-step drawing demos geared toward beginners in both graphite and colored pencil (including how to draw facial features in colored pencil). From drawing realistic faces to creating lifelike animals, this resource has it all. Enjoy!


More Resources on Drawing Faces and People

Drawing the Curve of Cheeks, Chins and Noses          Drawing Hair

Drawing Facial Hair            Avoid These 5 Mistakes When Drawing Portraits


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