How to Draw Basic Facial Proportions

Introduction: How to Draw Basic Facial Proportions

About: sarah | artist | classical music enthusiast | lover of wisdom | marvel fan | aspiring writer

As any good artist knows, drawing facial proportions correctly can greatly influence the final drawing. If proportions are slightly off, it can make the final drawing look awkward, lifeless, and off-putting. Some artists are masters at drawing faces not using proportions in a more abstract style. Others prefer a semi-realistic style that is based on human proportions but differs slightly to display the artist's style. Yet others prefer to draw people realistically, drawing what they see in front of them on paper in a way that makes it difficult to tell the difference between the two. Whatever your case may be, I hope this instructable helps you draw your subject the way you want them to turn out. So, let's get started!


You will need...

  • a pencil (graphite preferred, but erasable colored pencils can be extremely useful in this process)
  • an eraser (regular, hard ones are preferred, but kneaded erasers can be used as well if you know how to use them properly)
  • a piece of paper (I use toned paper due to personal preference, but normal, white paper is just as good a material to use)
  • a ruler/straight edge
  • some patience for yourself.

I consider patience to be one of the most important parts of this process. You might be trying something new in drawing proportions correctly, or this might be a new way of drawing them. In either case, remind yourself that all new situations will come with a few mistakes, and having the patience to correct them and perseverance to keep trying until you get a result you like is a key step in this process. If you feel frustrated and need a break, take it. I find that taking a break always helps me analyze what I've done wrong in the process and correct it.

Step 1: Drawing the Guide Lines

Draw a box that is approximately 16 cm by 22 cm. If you want to scale it, keep in mind it's about an 8:11 ratio. This box will contain the proportions of the face.

Step 2: Dividing the Box Into a "Grid"

Divide the box into three boxes with a width of 6cm. There will be one box left that has a width of 4cm, for a ratio of 3:3:3:2. Next, divide the width of the box by five. If you are using the measurements given, it's about a 3.2 cm width per box. This ratio is 1:5.

Step 3: Dividing the Box Further

Divide the boxes further. In the lowest box, draw a line about 4cm high. You should now have two boxes in that one box, with the bottom one being 4cm and the top being 2cm. Do this to the box above as well, but the top two boxes are to be left alone. This is a 2:1:2:1:3:2 ratio.

Step 4: Why Are We Drawing a Grid?

You may be asking yourself this question. This grid is drawn because it helps us place the features of the face on the actual face much more easily. On this grid, each facial feature gets its own spot.

Step 5: Dividing the Boxes in Half

Next, we need to divide the boxes in half, width-wise. Draw the lines dividing the boxes in half as dotted lines, so we can tell the difference between the boxes.

Mine may appear slightly faint, due to the lighting and the fact that I'm using a colored pencil.

For reference, this is what the face will look like now.

Step 6: Determining Some of the Angles in the Face

Ugh. Angles. It feels like I'm repeating my geometry class as I'm writing this. Basically, some old, white guy, who lived long ago, said some random stuff about angles and how they equal each other or are proportional to each other or something, and everyone believed him and made it a law or theorem. I'm not going to delve into this theorem since geometry was my least favorite math class, but since the face obeys the laws of science and nature, we kind of need to use them.

The first angle has its vertex at the center of the fourth box. One of the legs (for lack of better term on my part) of the angle extends to the middle of the third box at around the fifth inner line. The other leg extends to the middle of the first box at the fourth inner line.

The next angle is nearly exactly the same, but it's flipped. One of the legs also extends to the middle of the third box at the fifth inner line, while the other extends to the middle of the last box at the fourth inner line.

The result of these two angles crossing kind of looks like a star. Also, in the middle box (the third one from either side) draw a line through the center. I kind of forgot to do this earlier.

The face should now look something like this:

Step 7: Drawing in the Outline of the Head

Now, you can draw in the outline of the head. I found it easier to start with the chin and the neck, moving my way up to the ears and the hairline. You can also draw in the hair.

Step 8: Drawing in the Facial Features | the Nose

The nose is like the centerpiece of the face.

There are several ways to draw a nose, including the three-ball method where you draw three balls and a rectangle and trapezoid.

There's also a method where you can look at the actual anatomy and structure of the nose.

The two angles made should help you out with the curvature of the nares.

Step 9: Drawing in the Facial Features | the Eyes

My personal drawing style is not necessarily realistic (I consider my style more semi-realistic) and as a result of that, I made the eyes a lot larger than they might usually be. However, in general, the eyes should fit in the lower half of the second and third box in the third row from the bottom.

Step 10: Drawing the Facial Features | the Eyebrows

As for the eyebrows, some wise person once said that eyebrows are more like sisters than twins. The eyebrows are placed almost on the fifth line from the bottom, or the fourth interior line.

Step 11: Drawing the Facial Features | the Philtrum

The philtrum is the curvy part below the nose that goes into your mouth. The curve rests right in the angle made before the second line from the bottom. When drawing it, don't make it too defined; the philtrum isn't the focal point of the face.

Step 12: Drawing the Facial Features | the Mouth

I personally find the mouth to be the hardest part of drawing faces. You can use the intersection of the angles to place the corners of the mouth. The angles created in the middle of the face can help out with making the curvy part of the upper lip. Finally, add in the upper and bottom lip, stretching out the corners to the end.

Step 13: Fix Any Mistakes.

If you've made any mistakes during this process, fix them. For example, I made the ears too tall for my liking, so I will shorten them a little bit.

Step 14: Erase Any Lines

I am skipping this step since I want to be able to show the final drawing with the proportion lines.

Step 15: (Optional) Shading

You can shade if you'd like to. I just got a brand new set of Derwent charcoal pencils from a friend, and I wanted to try them out.

I am not super thrilled with how the shading turned out, but I don't think it's too bad either.

Step 16: Admire Your Work!

Wow, great job! You've drawn a face!

Keep in mind that not all faces are shaped the same. Variations in the position of the jaw and nose can greatly impact the final image.

Here's the original drawing I based this instructable on:

Here are some links that can help you out with drawing facial features proportionately!

If you're interested in checking out more of my work, check out my Instagram @sarahm_art

Be the First to Share


    • Game Design: Student Design Challenge

      Game Design: Student Design Challenge
    • Big and Small Contest

      Big and Small Contest
    • Make It Bridge

      Make It Bridge