99% of comic panels you make will include human face. Most of it will be close enough to the Ďcameraí, that you can see the facial expression. Learning how to draw a face is totally a No 1. priority when learning to draw. Luckily, drawing faces is also very interesting in its variety and youíll never get bored.
Shape of the head is the starting point. As you know, two major parts of the head skeleton are skull and jaw. Head is, according to it, approximately ball-shaped, with addition of square part for jaw.
This is very important because, in general, in drawing, shaping objects is very important. When learning to draw, first youíll hear is to simplify, break every object into geometrical shapes, and only after to work on detailing the drawing, and I canít agree more. Drawings that do not have a structured geometrical shape as basis look amorphous, unrealistic, even ugly.
With head, amateur artists often donít have a feel on how big head is compared to the face. Result is usually too short head.
This is mostly the problem with attempted realistic drawing: Realistically drawn face with oddly-shaped skull can often be found in webcomics.
Now, let me elaborate on that ball-square composition a bit: First, ball that represents a scull is actually squished on sides, so from front, it looks more like
this: than this:
As for square jaw, in process of detailing a drawing, it will most likely not remain square, but rather take a shape according to the shape of the face artist intended.
But for now, square is good enough approximation.
Notice the place where scull-ball meets square-jaw. In profile, these will be a place under the scull where spine is attached to the head, and a place for nose (on scull, itís actually a hole).
In front view, two places where ball meets square are actually cheekbones. When you start detailing the head, following ball shape with lines:
rather than outlining the face by following the square shape:
forms a marvel-style distinctive cheekbones. I, particulary, donít like this style because not very much people have these sharp cheekbones, and using it on female face gives a male-ish woman physiognomy (most of marvel girls arenít much feminine after all).
Proportions on face:
This is a very well known thing so Iíll be short.
Eyes are in 1/2 of the face height, or rather, head, because you have to take a height of the face counting from the top of the head.
If you take face from the line when hair starts (taking that character isnít bold), eyes are approximately on 1/3 of the height.
Ears are in line with eyes. In profile, theyíll be in the center of the circle that represents scull.
Divide height of the face from chin to eyes in thirds, and youíll get placement of end of the nose, and mouth.
These measures arenít to be taken too strictly. Renaissance painters used golden cut to determine proportions of the face, and it resulted faces sometimes looking a bit weird. Every painter had his system of proportions that he thought will give human face measures most correctly.
If master painters werenít strict and unified when it comes to proportions of the face, you donít have to be either. After all, it all depends on a character you want to draw and sometimes, having eyes at the top of the head will suit your needs just well.
I start from ear because Iíll be short on it. And Iíll be short because I donít pay much attention to it. And I donít pay much attention to it because it doesnít take part in facial expressions and it can be simplified without much harm. For caricature style of mcDuffies, this:
is sometimes enough, or rather, it doesnít hurt drawing much.
Generally, ear is consisted of two elipses, lower one being smaller.
There is a thick border around upper circle, but Iíve also seen people with very this border or no border at all.
Thereís a hole in the middle of the ear, partly covered so it looks like ďC". And, thereís a lot of arches around.
Next picture shows an ear viewed from behind. Itís good to know if you tend to draw characters from various angles.
Pay attention to the way the hair is shaped around ears, especially sideburns - theyíre not just a thing that you can forget to draw.
Of course, that is unless a character has sideburns together with all hair above them trimmed off, but most people donít.
For start, there are most usual ways of drawing eyes in caricatural comics:
Eye is usually describes as two arches with a circular bud in the middle.
Itís not so simple and drawing eyes like this doesnít always give good results - especially if arches are too correct, eye will look unnaturally plastic.
Upper eyelid partly covers the pupil, approximately 1/3 or 1/2 of it. Otherwise, you get permanently astounded characters:
If you draw eye with 1/2 of pupil covered, youíll get a sleepy eye. You can make lower eyelid covering pupil a bit, too.
Easiest step you can take toward better eyes shaping is avoiding lower arch. This instantly makes eye look nicer, but for close cuts just doesnít go if you wanna maintain realistic drawing.
You can draw lower arch partly Ė that also looks nice.
I usually make my eyes slightly square shaped, which takes away that Ďplasticí feel, yet is easy to draw.
I donít recommend using this. It looks peculiar, and affects look of characters in general.
What is eye really shaped like?
You see that upper arch is correct, and thereís one smaller arch above it, accenting eyelid. This arch can be avoided, no harm done. If you accent it too much, your eyes may look sleepy, but eyebrow can help changing that expression into something else.
Lower arch is actually one stretched ĎSí. In wider cuts on the face itís hard to get a precise look of this ĎSí, and you need practice on it anyway.
One important issue is the direction of the look. This is not as easy as it seems, especially if a character is looking up or down. One of interesting features of my mcDuffies drawing style is, I can rotate their eyes to adjust the direction of their look.
This is far from natural, but in such non-realistic style, it works.
Looking down is tricky part. This:
just does not work. The fact is, when person is looking down, eye looks like closed or half-closed.
Other features of face and head have to be adjusted to intense the impression of looking down. Head, for instance, has to be leaned down a bit too.
Eye from profile:
Or, the way I like to draw it:
This, because it's more similar to the front-look-eye so I find characters more consistent - otherwise face can look differently from profile, than from front.
I read somewhere that eye in profile looks more like this:
But I don't think it looks very good.
I heard from lot of people that drawing nose is specifically a problem for them. If you look at faces of real people, most have their nose slightly hunched.
This is, however, not to be drawn, because on drawing itís distinct more than in real life so it results in unwanted effects. This is not the only real-life feature that I recommend on avoiding in drawing, thereís a whole list later in this article.
Here are some various noses I use:
You might want to exclude the vertical line and leave only horizontal one:
This makes impression of bright light on drawing. And really, in bright light, line of the nose is less noticeable, and shade under the nose is emphasized.
You can draw nose with or without nostril. I prefer it with a nostril, but it takes a bit of practice to get the curve of it right.
Sometimes, a double line is used for nose. It's drawn from manga style, I guess it's a kind of emphasyzing the shadow of the nose:
For the record, Iíll put a few standard caricature noses too.
You can totally simplify it and draw it like this:
But this looks better:
Itís closer to the real shape of the mouth. The most noticeable is a small arch in the middle of the mouth, which is continuing to the shape under the nose. However, lower lip is straight, without this arch, which is visible when mouth open:
Lower lip is thicker than upper. You can emphasize it by drawing line above lower lip larger,
or even by drawing a few vertical lines on it.
These lines can give impression of old, or dried lips, so be careful.
You can decide to emphasize upper lip as well:
Takes a bit of practice to get mouth with a lipstick on right:
Notice how upper lip is a bit wider than lower. In my opinion, that looks better than making them equally wide:
This do not necessary mean that lips are with lipstick, but if you use this way of drawing lips as primer, be careful. This also looks awkward on male face.
Here is another nice way of drawing lips: Be it exterior or interior, light usually comes from above, so thereís logic in shading upper lip.
This looks fine on both male and female face. But it looks weird if you donít draw lower lip.
Another issue I must bring is corners of the mouth. If you look at real faces, those are very peculiar and hard to draw. Good tip is to end corners of your mouth with very small vertical lines:
As most of people know, these lines are noticeable when a person smiles, but also when he isnít. Even when person is sad, they stay on the face:
Itís just that, when person smiles, theyíre most noticeable.
Why is this important to know? Lots of pro artists canít just put smile right. Most of people draw smile like this:
But, although it gives good results, smiling mouth certainly doesnít look like that. It looks more like this:
and the problem with it is, 3-dimensionality of the head canít be fully transferred in 2D drawing. Thatís why artists who try to follow nature instead of finding a way to mimic it with different techniques, sometimes get awkward results.
The smile Iím most satisfied with by far is this one:
As you see, only corners of the mouth are raised into smile.
Below is shown mouth as in confused face.
Here is also a variant of mouth eating:
A bulb is formed in mouth, under the cheek.
Some artists draw mouth like this:
This is drawn from caricature french-school style and I donít think it fits into realistic or semi-realistic style pretty well.
As for opened mouth, problem raises when you have to draw the inside of mouth. The most logical choice is to blacken the whole inside of mouth.
This, however, does not look good. A face looks toothless and mouth is just not convincing. Some object has to be inside the mouth, to break the solid black. Artists usually use tongue Ė hinting it at the back of the mouth helps, although it gives humorous look.
I prefer to use upper row of teeth. Those usually look satisfying.
You can also try to actually draw the inside of the mouth or just not colour it black entirely.
Practice on these a lot. Not because theyíre hard to draw, but because theyíre very important part in creating face expressions.
There is a great freedom in drawing eyebrows, cause theyíre very moveable, and on different faces they often take different shapes and positions for emotions.
A great freedom applies for a kind of eyebrows youíll pick for character face too. My advice is not to pick too thick eyebrows for female face, but then again, there are a lot of women with thick eyebrows too.
Also, most of eyebrows are not equally thick along the length, but are thicker in part closer to other eyebrow.
Shaping eyebrow like this also helps expressiveness of the face.
Youíll notice that eyebrows are much lower and closer to eyes than I usually draw them:
Matter of style, I guess, but it doesnít help my drawings looking more realistic.
Major features of face shape are forehead, cheekbones and chin.
Cheekbones can be more or less distinct. They can even continue all the way beside mouth, down to the chin. Or they can be not visible at all.
Chins can be pretty variously shaped but once you pick one for your character, you gotta be consistent. The only change you can make later is, when character under great stress, grinds his teeth and tightens muscles on his face. Chin gets a bit more square shape then.
Forehead can be more flat, larger and sticking out (which can be made by shading under the forehead) or even smaller.
Important part of the look is the line that hair forms with the face. Often, people have various bangs:
But when they donít (for instance if they have pony-tail) that line is shaped approximately as distorted letter "M".
If remember my art classes in primary school well, these are major face shapes:
However, I have a feel that I forgot at least one common face shape.
Face shape is a very important feature of the character, and it also helps distinct characters from each other. When seeing a face, first thing you notice is actually its shape. When drawing, you should try to make reader distinct your characters from each other at first look. Thatís why you should apply varicosity of face shapes to your drawings.
Ok, I gave a few ways of drawing each facial feature. You could pick a way of, for instance, drawing nose, and use it all through comic, but I recommend, varying those ways, depending on lightning of scene, camera angle, and, of course, artistic choice.
Shading face, whether it is done by hatching, gray tones or thick black, depends on lightning in particular scene. Artists usually have sheets where they keep record of any shade arrangement on face theyíve seen, so I wonít elaborate on that. For the record, hereís a few common:
Peculiar choice of lightning in scene results in expressive shade on face, which is very beneficial for emotions in the entire scene. The example for expressiveness of lightning that youíll find in almost every drawing or film book out there is that lightning from below gives face a menacing look. So much about originality ;-)
But overall rule from film directors, I donít know how much it can be applied to comics though, is that if you want to emphasize emotions of a character, youíll put a main source of light behind him. That way, all lines on face will be noticeable. And opposite, if you want to cover emotions and make scene less tense, youíll put main source of light in front of face.
Iíll just talk about most often and natural lightning, which is disperse light that mostly comes from above, and from one side Ė left or right.
In that case, shade pertains in two places: At the side of the nose and on cheekbones.
If light is more concentrated, also under eyebrows, at the side of the face and at some other places.
Shade of the cheekbone is usually achieved by a set of hatching lines following the line of the cheekbone. Sometimes, only a few lines are enough.
Carefully: You should keep the direction of those lines along the main line of cheekbone, or you may get unwanted effects if you direct them, for instance, toward the eye.
Here, we got more a 'blush' effect than regular cheekbone shade.
Take care that face is symetrical. Both cheekbones (of which one is visible as shade) have to be at same height. Also, take care that one cheek is not chubby, while the other one is skinny, or that cheekbone isn't sharper on one cheek than the other.
The other place where you may safely place the shade is side of the nose:
Basically, cheekbone line, line at the base of the nose and more or less visible lines under the eye, form a triangle. This triangle is a hill that will last keep out of shade at that side of face, even if the rest of the side is in shade:
Notice how, at the chin, shade crawls under the lip:
Note that some of these lines evidently exist on face, but they shouldnít be drawn. Drawn, they just donít look good, as theyíre more distinctive on drawing than on real face, making drawn face look older, or ugly. Effect is much different than in nature.
Use when drawing older people; Also, when character is raising eyebrows; Sometimes, you can use them to add expressiveness, strong emotions, to the face (they can become more visible due to lightning).
Lines between eyebrows:
Use them for angry or stressed expression. Some people have such face that these lines are always visible. Due to this, they always look a little angry.
When eyelid line is more emphasized and drawn further from the eye, face gets a sleepy or sensual look.
When itís closer to the eye and more subtle, face gust gets more natural look. Eyebrows are there to form emotion on face and cover the impression eyelid could give.
I donít really know how to use this one well. But it can add to expressiveness pretty much. For instance, it emphasizes smile: Besides the shape of mouth, smiling also affects the shape of eye. Thus eye squints, lower eyelid is clearly visible, sometimes lines next to eyes too.
Lines next to eye, outside:
Generally, those are age lines. But besides using them o draw older faces, you can add them to the smiling or twitched face even if theyíre not usually visible on that face. Iíve also seen it used on face of grown-up male, to add to his masculinity.
Lines below eye:
Be careful with those, because theyíre of that kind of lines that can cause unwanted effects on drawing. You mightíve been in situations of drawing portrait of someone and, even though those lines are clearly visible on his face, when you draw them, they just ruin the entire look.
Still, these lines can be used to add to lack of sleep, stress, headache, tiresome. I usually draw them in form of shade, with dots rather than full line.
This is another variant of drawing these lines.
This one gives a look of older face. Guy clearly has bags under his eyes.
Here is a more subtle variant of these lines:
It adds ages or weariness in a very subtle way.
You can draw under-eye lines in more layers if you wanna get a bit grotesque face:
Lines between eye and nose:
These are arches further from the eye. They actually mark the base of the nose. I usually use them in closer cuts when I have to add more details to the face and fill space. Theyíre mostly harmless to use.
Line behind the nostril:
I personally think that nostril is enough and adding this line draws too much attention to this part of the face. But I guess itís a matter of style. You can add a small shade behind them.
Line next to nose and mouth:
These lines separate area under the nose from the rest of the face. This line is highly to be avoided, it gives face chubby or disgusted look:
Other than if you want your face to look chubby or disgusted, donít draw it. Not even when you draw a face smiling.
Lines under the nose:
Add it or not Ė your choice. In my opinion, faces with these lines drawn, look more feminine.
You can also use them only in closer cuts when you need more detailing on face.
Lines that separate teeth:
On caricatures, they look funny:
but in realistic drawing, I suggest you avoid them. They give impression that person hasn't really got cleen teeth. Leaving space white or just accenting edge of the teeth rows, will be enough
Even if character doesnít wear stubble or moustaches, a few subtle dots on chin can add to expressiveness, for effect of weariness, for instance.
Holes at corners of the mouth:
I mention them earlier, as the great help for mouth to look more real. They exist on face, more or less emphasized:
Theyíre most emphasized when character is smiling, of course. Making these dots into ďVís" gives the effect of smiling that Iím most satisfied with:
For better effect, you can add holes in cheeks, outsiding ďVís".
But attention: some people have holes in cheeks when they smile, some donít. Be consistent.
Vein on forehead:
Now, these are giving the impression of great stress, fear, anger, tense, etc. Effect is comical but some people really do have large veins on their forehead stick out when theyíre under the stress.
people with office jobs usually have it because of the posture of the head while watching at the table or computer screen. Older or chubby people also have them. It may appear on face of person that doesnít usually have it too, if position of the head is such:
Although it canít be used on any character or in any situation, itís a great tool for achieving variety in faces and expressions.
There are two tricky places in outline of the profile. One of them is under the mouth:
Upper lip sticking out, while lower is slightly drawn back, mouth actually directed down Ė itís hard to get it, result can be too rough face. Some artists avoid this by drawing mouth like this:
In realistic drawing, it looks weird.
The other tricky spot is the hill in line with eyebrows.
This hill is not much higher then eyes. I actually draw it at much higher position because I draw eyebrows higher too, and, as said, hill is precisely between eyebrows.
You gotta practice a small hole above it, that is the beginning of the nose, and try not to make forehead too big.
Differences between male and female faces?
Often artists resolve this by applying totally different technique on drawing male and female faces.
I strongly oppose to this, as itís too big deviation from nature and usually leads to drawing females as sweetened, over-beautiful dolls.
Often, artists draw female face as if it always wears make up:
Although this face is supposed not to wear make-up, it looks as if it does. Result is, females in certain comic always wear lipstick and eye-shade, even when theyíre coming out of the swimming pool.
You simply gotta practice on making shape of female face more gentle, with softened angles, features smaller, eyebrows thinner (although itís not a rule). This actually goes for male artists, opposite goes for female artists, because they tame female face as default, and they have to learn to make male face more rough, robust, with sharper angles.
I think thatís all I can say. If you have a problem with drawing certain element of the face, you can pass me a message, Iíll try to figure it out, and putting an answer in this tutorial will make it better.