How To Draw Heads

How To Draw Heads

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How To Draw Heads

Drawing the human head is a fundamental skill for artists of all levels. Whether you're a beginner looking to develop your drawing skills or an experienced artist seeking to refine your techniques, mastering the art of drawing heads is essential. A well-drawn head is the cornerstone of portraiture and character illustration. This comprehensive guide will take you through the steps to draw heads, covering the key principles, proportions, and techniques to create realistic and expressive portraits.

Understanding the Anatomy of the Head

Before you start drawing, it's essential to have a solid understanding of the basic anatomical structures that make up the human head. This knowledge will serve as the foundation for your artwork, allowing you to depict heads accurately.

The Skull

  • The skull is the bony structure that forms the foundation of the head. It includes the cranium and the facial bones.
  • When drawing, think of the skull as an oval or egg shape.

Facial Features

  • The face consists of various features such as the eyes, nose, mouth, and ears.
  • Study these features in detail to understand their shapes and proportions.

Proportions of the Head

Proportions are crucial when drawing heads. While there's room for creative interpretation, it's essential to get the basic proportions right for a realistic portrayal.

The Loomis Method

  • Andrew Loomis, a renowned illustrator, developed a method to simplify the head's proportions.
  • The Loomis method divides the head into various landmarks, making it easier to draw. These landmarks include the hairline, brow line, nose line, and chin.

The Golden Ratio

  • The golden ratio is often used in art and design to achieve aesthetic balance.
  • In portrait drawing, the golden ratio suggests that the distance between the hairline and chin should be divided into thirds: one-third for the forehead, one-third for the nose, and one-third for the chin.

Consider Individual Variation

  • Keep in mind that not all heads are identical. People have various head shapes and feature placements.
  • Observe and measure the specific proportions of the person you are drawing to capture their unique characteristics.

Step-by-Step Guide to Drawing Heads

Now that you have a basic understanding of head anatomy and proportions, let's dive into a step-by-step guide on how to draw heads.

Sketching the Basic Shapes

  • Begin with an oval or egg shape to represent the skull.

  • Divide the head into thirds using the Loomis method: hairline, brow line, nose line, and chin.

  • Sketch light guidelines for these landmarks.

Placing the Facial Features

  • Start by placing the eyes on the horizontal line, usually aligned with the brow line.

  • The width of one eye can be used as a reference to maintain proper spacing between the eyes.

  • Position the nose along the vertical line, roughly at the bottom of the nose line.

  • The mouth should be placed slightly below the center of the head, near the bottom of the nose line.

Defining the Features

  • Refine the shape of the eyes, making sure to capture the unique characteristics of your subject.

  • Pay attention to the eyebrows, eyelashes, and any wrinkles or creases around the eyes.

  • Sculpt the nose by adding details like nostrils and the bridge of the nose.

  • Develop the lips and mouth, considering factors like the shape of the lips and any expressions.

Drawing Ears

  • Position the ears between the brow line and nose line, typically in line with the eyes.

  • Study the specific shapes and details of the ears, as they can vary significantly from person to person.

Hair and Hairstyles

  • Draw the hair, considering its volume, style, and texture.

  • Take time to observe the direction of hair strands and how they fall around the head.

Shading and Rendering

  • Use various shading techniques to give the head dimension and depth.

  • Pay attention to light sources and cast shadows to create a realistic three-dimensional effect.

Tips for Realistic Portraiture

Achieving a lifelike portrait goes beyond mastering the basic steps. Here are some additional tips to enhance the realism of your head drawings:

Study Anatomy

  • Continuously study the anatomy of the head and facial features. This knowledge will help you depict the subtleties of the human face accurately.

Practice Regularly

  • Like any skill, drawing heads improves with practice. Set aside time for regular practice to refine your technique.

Observe and Analyze

  • Pay close attention to people's faces, both in person and in photographs. Analyze the unique features and proportions that make each face distinct.

Experiment with Different Styles

  • Don't be afraid to explore different drawing styles, from realism to caricature. Experimenting with various approaches can broaden your artistic horizons.

Use References

  • References, such as photographs or life models, can be invaluable for honing your skills. They provide a visual guide for proportions and details.

Explore Expressions

  • Experiment with different facial expressions to convey emotion in your portraits. Understanding how expressions change facial features is essential for capturing character.

Don't Rush

  • Take your time when drawing heads. Rushing can lead to mistakes and a lack of attention to detail.

Seek Feedback

  • Sharing your work with peers or instructors and seeking constructive feedback can help you identify areas for improvement.


Drawing heads is a fundamental skill for any artist, and with dedication and practice, you can master this art form. Understanding the anatomy of the head, applying proper proportions, and refining your technique are essential steps in creating realistic and expressive portraits. Remember that each head is unique, and capturing the individuality of your subject is a key aspect of portraiture. Whether you're drawing for fun or as a serious pursuit, the ability to draw heads will open doors to endless creative possibilities. So, pick up your sketchbook, grab your pencils, and start your journey towards becoming a proficient head artist.

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