Drawing heads and faces that look like actual humans is tricky. Brace yourself for an instant "Nope!" if something seems off, because people spend all day looking at each other. You can't really fool anyone.
That said, getting your drawing to look like a real live person is definitely doable. Follow these basic tips, and once you've nailed them, you're ready for your next challenge: capturing the likeness of a specific person.
1. Start With an Egg Head
Heads aren't perfect circles, and they aren't perfect ovals either. Think of them as egg-shaped, with the tapered end toward the bottom. This obviously varies depending on the person and the angle you're seeing him or her from. But let’s begin with an egg...
2. Sketch the Jawline
If you're drawing a woman, this egg shape may give you a pretty accurate jawline. But let’s say you're drawing a man with a slightly more angular jaw and a flatter chin. You'll want to bring the jawline out.
3. Get the Eyes Right
This is where beginner drawings can start to go off the rails, because most people think of eyes as closer to the top of the head than the bottom. Makes sense: Eyes are the highest facial feature. But it's easy to make the mistake of placing them way too high.
As you can see in this sketch, the eyes are just about halfway between the bottom of the jaw and the top of the head. There's a lot of head above the eyes, as anyone with a receding hairline knows all too well.
But wait, you're probably asking right now: How far apart should the eyes be? And how big should you make them?
Here's a math lesson: A typical head is about five eyes wide. An easy way to think about it is that the gap between the eyes, where the bridge of the nose goes, is usually about the same width as the face on either side of the eyes.
But as with any rule of thumb, remember that it doesn't always apply — only when you're drawing the face head-on in a portrait.
4. Now Place the Ears
Draw a line that runs just above the tops of the eyes, and all the way across the face. Then draw another line across the face, at around the halfway point between the eyes and the bottom of the jaw. The space between those two lines, on each side of the face, is where the ears should go. Depending on the person you're drawing, the ears can stick out a lot or a little, so pay close attention to your subject.
Once you've drawn the ears, you'll have a clear idea of where to put the nose.
5. Add the Nose
The nose should sit right above the line that runs from the bottom of one ear to the bottom of the other one. Noses do vary a lot in width, so keep that in mind. The sides of this guy’s nose extend a little past the inside corners of his eyes.
6. Do the Mouth
The mouth can be tricky, but once you've learned this tip, you'll stop drawing lips that hang way too low, look weirdly small, or take up half the face.
First, find the point halfway between the earlobes and the jawline: That's where the bottom lip goes.
Now, to figure out how wide the mouth should be, think of each corner of the mouth extending to the point where it lines up with the iris in the eyes above. Practice it a few times until it's second nature.
7. Place the Eyebrows
Eyebrows come in different widths, thicknesses and styles, but they're generally wider than the eye below. They also tend to be thickest toward the bridge of the nose, then taper toward the sides of the face and often sweep downward.
8. Sketch the Hair
Don't make the mistake of placing hair at the very top of the head. The hairline is typically about a quarter to a third of the way from the top of the head to the eyebrows — unless you're Sir Patrick Stewart, in which case it's behind the top of your head.
If you're drawing a woman, the proportions are basically the same, except for a few tweaks. Adjust the jawline so it's a little more rounded, make the ears a bit smaller, narrow the neck and you'll have a pretty convincing female face.
Want to draw a profile instead of a full face? Now that you know your proportions, go for it. You can use the same guidelines to draw a head in profile, by just extending your proportion lines across to the side of the face.
At this point you're ready to start drawing a real person's face. Pick someone you know and give it a shot. Challenging? Sure. Just keep practicing and be patient with yourself. You've got all the tools and skills to crush it.
Learn More Now
Get tips on drawing realistic heads, hair and facial features in our free Drawing the Human Face guide.