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When you’re starting out as an artist, drawing a face is likely one of the skills you’re looking to master. There are plenty of options for how to do this, from cartoon and graphic novel styles to realistic portrait styles used to draw your favorite celebrities or your family and friends.

By following this guide, you’ll learn how to draw a face step by step from both a front and sideways (known as a profile) perspective. We’ll help you go from beginner to accomplished artist in no time!

How to Draw a Realistic Face

Drawing a realistic face is simply basic lines and shading techniques.
Drawing a realistic face is simply basic lines and shading techniques.

Step 1: Outline the Face

Begin your drawing by deciding how much of your paper you’d like the face to take up. Using a ruler, draw a horizontal line at the top and bottom of your paper with two vertical lines around an inch from either side. In the middle, draw another horizontal line. This will form a square in the middle of your paper with the three horizontal and vertical lines extending beyond it.

Creating guidelines helps you to keep all of your facial features proportionate.
Creating guidelines helps you to keep all of your facial features proportionate.

Start drawing a circular curve in the upper section of the page, bringing two curved vertical lines down to the middle line. Both of these should be just outside the outside lines of the square. From these side lines, draw a gentle curve on either side of the lower section of the page, underneath the center square, bringing them both together at the very bottom horizontal line. This should be slightly flatter in the middle to form the chin.

Sketching out the face outline will provide you with a good base to build the rest of your drawing on.
Sketching out the face outline will provide you with a good base to build the rest of your drawing on.

Step 2: Add the Ears and Hairline

Draw the upper portion of a circle inside the original curve at the top of your page. This will create a hairline for you to work from later on. From here, draw a light dotted line about a third of the way up from the middle horizontal line to mark a guideline for the tops of the ears.

Drawing additional guidelines helps to make sure your features are in the right places.
Drawing additional guidelines helps to make sure your features are in the right places.

Take a curved line down each side of the face until approximately halfway down the lower half of the drawing (down to the middle of the cheeks). Inside each of the ears, draw a few ovals and lines to create the inner portion of the ear.

Skillshare teacher Jasmina Susak shows us how to add in the first features on the face.
Skillshare teacher Jasmina Susak shows us how to add in the first features on the face.

Step 3: Mark Guidelines and Start Drawing the Eyes

Across the middle horizontal line, draw five light rectangles. Inside the second and fourth rectangles, draw an oval that overlaps the middle line. Within each oval, draw a big circle and a small circle for the eyeballs, and a slightly curved line over each for the top of the eye. At the top of the guideline rectangles, draw in the eyebrows as curved rectangle shapes. Along the bottom of the guiding rectangles, sketch in curved lines to outline the nose with the tip of the nose resting on the bottom of the guideline.

Guidelines in the middle of the face help you to map out the eyes, nose, and mouth.
Guidelines in the middle of the face help you to map out the eyes, nose, and mouth.

When you’re learning how to draw a face, getting the eyes right is one of the most crucial elements in making your drawing more realistic. Start by going over the circle of the eyeballs in a darker pencil to frame them before adding lighter shading on the inside. Once you’ve shaded the whole eyeball, erase a couple of small spots around the pupil to give the eyes a slightly glassy look. Add in light shading to the corners of the eyes to start building out a more three-dimensional appearance.

Shading the eyes first will help you to see where you need darker and lighter elements.
Shading the eyes first will help you to see where you need darker and lighter elements.

Taking your pencil, shade around the outside of the eye around the oval and up to the bottom line of the eyebrows. Shade in varying degrees of light and dark to give your eyes depth. Once you’ve added this shading, draw longer and shorter lines along the top and bottom of the eye itself to create eyelashes. 

Shading around the eyes can be time-consuming, but enjoy the process of seeing your art come to life!
Shading around the eyes can be time-consuming, but enjoy the process of seeing your art come to life!

To complete the eyes, shade very short lines in the curved rectangles of the eyebrows. Start with much harder and darker shading on the inside corners, getting progressively lighter with your pencil strokes as you work towards the outer edges. As eyebrows are typically thicker nearer the nose, this helps to make your drawing more realistic.

Short pencil strokes will help you create realistic eyebrows.
Short pencil strokes will help you create realistic eyebrows.

Step 4: Complete the Nose

Continue shading down from the eye along the center guideline and rough outline you already created for the tip of the nose. Shade up into the outline of two small ovals for the nostrils. Start shading a slightly lighter shade as you move toward the center of the nose from the left side to create a shadow.

Darker and lighter shading techniques allow you to frame the face with shadows.
Darker and lighter shading techniques allow you to frame the face with shadows.

Repeat the shading on the right side of the nose and into the center, but be sure to keep your pencil lighter on the right side than the left to maintain the shadow that you’ve already created. You can also use an eraser to add in a lighter line down the middle of the nose to give the appearance of a shine in contrast to the shadow.

You can already see your face starting to take on a more three-dimensional look.
You can already see your face starting to take on a more three-dimensional look.

Step 5: Draw in the Lips

As you did with the nose, start to go over your light outline that you previously drew for the lips and teeth. Shade between the teeth in the darkest pencil that you have to hand. With your next lightest pencil, start shading from the bottom of the upper lip and move in an upwards direction to the top of the lip, getting slightly lighter with your shading as you go.

Using different types of pencils will help you to create the realistic look that you’re after.
Using different types of pencils will help you to create the realistic look that you’re after.

For the bottom lip, shade with your dark pencil around the outside edges and become gradually lighter as you move towards the middle of the lip. You can use your eraser to help keep the middle lighter. Once the lips are completely shaded, draw short and dark lines from the middle of the lips and move outwards to give the illusion of plump lips.

Keep an eraser on hand as you draw to lighten shading and erase mistakes.
Keep an eraser on hand as you draw to lighten shading and erase mistakes.

Step 6: Complete the Skin Shading

Start from the left side of the face and work from the outside to the center. This will help to keep the shadow effect that you’ve already started on the left side of the nose. Shade with your darkest pencil along the outside edge of the face, moving lighter as you approach the underside of the center of the eye. Keep the shading light here until you start to reach the dark shading that’s already in place next to the nose.

Adding darker shading on the side helps to mirror the shadow effect across that side of the face.
Adding darker shading on the side helps to mirror the shadow effect across that side of the face.

Working up to the forehead, keep your shading light as you move up the outside edge above the left eyebrow. As you shade towards the hairline at the top center of the face, keep your pencil as light as possible. The middle and right of the forehead should be some of your lightest shading to highlight the shadow coming down the left side of the face.

As you shade, think about where light would naturally hit the face and lighten your touch accordingly.
As you shade, think about where light would naturally hit the face and lighten your touch accordingly.

Continue to shade lightly across the right side of the face, adding in slightly darker shading directly underneath the center of the lower lip. As you move onto the neck, shade from left to right, keeping the dark shading for around three-quarters of the neck with a small triangle of lighter shading on the right side. Finally, shade the inside of the ears on both sides in both light and dark patterns to reflect where light would naturally fall.

Fill in some of the finer details as you go.
Fill in some of the finer details as you go.

Step 7: Add Hair to Your Face Drawing

Finally, draw individual curved lines from the center of the top of the head that curve down around the side of the face. The lines should be darker in the middle and become gradually lighter, before darkening again along the left side of the face.

Hair can be as simple or as complicated as you’d like it to be. Take your time and don’t worry about being perfect.
Hair can be as simple or as complicated as you’d like it to be. Take your time and don’t worry about being perfect.

You’ll repeat this on the right side of the face with lighter shading, bringing the lines around the edges of the shoulders and face to complete your drawing.

Your realistic portrait is complete!
Your realistic portrait is complete!

Learn More Complex Face-Drawing Techniques!

Portrait Art: How To Draw Faces.

How to Draw a Female Face

Not all face drawings need to be completely realistic. Experiment and have fun!
Not all face drawings need to be completely realistic. Experiment and have fun!

Step 1: Outline the Face

Start by drawing an oval shape that tapers inwards from the middle of the oval. This will form the outline of your face. From here, draw two small ovals in the middle for the eyes and begin outlining where you want the nose and mouth to be positioned.

Most face drawings begin with the oval outline. This gives you a good base to work from.
Most face drawings begin with the oval outline. This gives you a good base to work from.

Draw two arches over each eye and lightly draw short pencil lines between these for the eyebrows. You can also add more detail to the nose and mouth at this point in your drawing. Add an L shape to the left side of the nose arch and repeat this on the other side but backward. Shading a little under each of these will create the nostrils.

Start to fill out the space between the two arches you made earlier for the lips. Draw a line between each of the curves with a small dip in the middle to show where the lips are separated.

Adding in light sketches as you go helps you to see your progress but gives you room for errors or changes.
Adding in light sketches as you go helps you to see your progress but gives you room for errors or changes.

Step 2: Fill in the Facial Features

Within the eye ovals, draw two circles with darker shading on either side. This will make your eyes stand out from your drawing. You’ll also want to start adding some light shading on the inner corners of the eyes, up the sides of the nose, and down both cheeks. 

Light pencil strokes are the best way to keep your face drawings simple.
Light pencil strokes are the best way to keep your face drawings simple.

Step 3: Add the Hair

As you’re working through these steps on how to draw a female face, you’ll start to see your picture come to life. But don’t forget the hair! Working from the center of the top of the head, draw wavy lines down each side of the face to create a messy and curly hairstyle. Taking these down beyond the neck helps to frame this section of the face.

Keep the hair simple when working on a picture like this to fit with the overall look and feel.
Keep the hair simple when working on a picture like this to fit with the overall look and feel.

How to Draw a Face From the Side (Draw a Profile)

Drawing profile or side faces was common in the 19th century. Learn how to draw them in this step-by-step tutorial.
Drawing profile or side faces was common in the 19th century. Learn how to draw them in this step-by-step tutorial.

Step 1: Draw the Face Outline

When you want to learn how to draw a face step by step, it’s common to start with a head-on view. But drawing a face from the side, also known as a profile, is another great skill to master. 

To get started, sketch a circle freehand with a vertical line from about one-third of the way towards the bottom of the circle and down. It doesn’t matter how long this line is as you’ll only be using it as a guide.

As with face-forward pictures, the profile starts with a simple circle and line approach.
As with face-forward pictures, the profile starts with a simple circle and line approach.

Along the right side of the circle, draw a vertical line down as far as you’d like. Depending on how long you would like your face to be, pick a point on this vertical line and draw a slightly curved line up to the bottom edge of the circle where the middle vertical line meets the edge. Lightly sketch a horizontal line through the middle of the circle at the top of the middle vertical line to form a T shape. On the left side of the middle vertical line, draw a curve from the middle horizontal line down to the vertical line for the side-view of the ear.

Adding in curved lines as you go helps you to see where different facial features will be.
Adding in curved lines as you go helps you to see where different facial features will be.

Step 2: Begin Adding Facial Details

From the bottom left curve of the circle, draw a light line down for the back of the neck and another line underneath your chin curve on the right. About halfway down the circle on the right, draw a line outwards that then curves back in towards the circle. This will form the nose.

Adding in the nose and mouth first helps you to figure out where the eyes should be positioned, as shown by Skillshare teacher Gad Ounelfe.
Adding in the nose and mouth first helps you to figure out where the eyes should be positioned, as shown by Skillshare teacher Gad Ounelfe.

Just underneath the tip of the nose, draw a short line inwards (towards the middle vertical line) with a short line above and below to form a sideways M shape for the lips. Moving back up to the top of your T-shaped guidelines, draw a sideways V with dark shading at the widest end for the eye. The front of the eye should be roughly in line with the back of the nose and lips to ensure that everything is proportioned correctly.

Make sure that your eyes, nose, and mouth are all aligned to keep your profile in proportion.
Make sure that your eyes, nose, and mouth are all aligned to keep your profile in proportion.

Step 3: Finishing Your Side Profile

Above the eye, add a curved eyebrow and begin adding in the details for the ear. With your pencil, go back over some of the features that you’ve already added so that they’re darker and more prominent. From here, you’ll be adding the final touch—the hair.

Draw swooping lines over the top of the face circle and along the left side. For a ponytail, add a half-oval or knot shape with wispy lines coming from this as individual hair strands.

Adding in simple pencil strokes for the hair is the final step in finishing your drawing!
Adding in simple pencil strokes for the hair is the final step in finishing your drawing!

Once you’ve added the final touches to the hair, your profile drawing is complete!

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