Character Illustration: A Beginner’s Guide to Drawing Fun & Expressive Faces | Vijaya Aswani | Skillshare

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Character Illustration: A Beginner’s Guide to Drawing Fun & Expressive Faces

teacher avatar Vijaya Aswani, Illustrator from India

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

11 Lessons (23m)
    • 1. Introduction

    • 2. The Project

    • 3. Befriend Your Tools

    • 4. All About That Base

    • 5. Using Simple Shapes to Draw Features

    • 6. Inking: Contrast in Stroke Width

    • 7. Using Patches of Color to Make It Pop

    • 8. Adding Your Own Expressions

    • 9. Adding Your Own Flavor

    • 10. Bonus: How to Create An Expression Sheet

    • 11. Conclusion

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About This Class

Have you ever wondered how to draw a face, but don't know where to begin! This class is for you! I will give you tips and tricks so you can draw any face in the simplest way possible. 

First, we'll start off by drawing a base circle. Then we’ll construct our face in such a way that we decide where all the features go before we get to placing them using simple shapes!  Lastly, we'll add in fun additional personal flares for flavour! 

Who is the class for? There’s something for everyone! 

  • Newbie: You can get started right away with any tool you have at hand! 
  • Doodler: There are sprinkles of wisdom (i.e: how to make your mistakes enhance your drawing, putting elements of design to use etc) that you can snatch away through the lesson to have more fun with your art!
  • An illustrator can expand their toolbox and experiment using a different approach.

Why is this class useful?

You can pick up a great new skill in 20 minutes!  Faces are so fun to draw. In my experience, nothing else can make a person feel special as much as a drawing of their face.

Materials / Resources

Any pencil, eraser, black pen, black sketch pen and a bottle cap of approximately 2 inches diameter (Red/pink pen optional)

Meet Your Teacher

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Vijaya Aswani

Illustrator from India


Hello! I'm Vijaya, an illustrator from Bangalore, India. I stalk friendly people in my city and draw strangers at cafes. I'm here to enable more people to begin their journey of expression through drawing, with simple hacks to further dig deeper, explore their creativity and express themselves!

Find me on the gram: @spreefirit

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1. Introduction: Hi, I'm Vijaya Aswani. I'm an illustrator from Bangalore, India. I run a brand called Spreefirit. I love big fat Indian weddings with all its dance and drama and color. When I'm not attending one, I am at home in my studio, living these through my Indian wedding cards. Bangalore is home with all it's tall trees and welcoming people. I stalk the friendliest ones & draw strangers at cafes. Along this process, I learnt a tonne of tips and tricks to draw just about any face in the SIMPLEST and EASIEST way possible. For this class, we're only going to need a pencil, a black pen, a black sketch pen, and a bottle cap to draw your circles. But mostly for your inner critic to disappear that tells you can't draw faces because I bet you, you can. In case you're inner critique is still hanging around, we're also going to learn some mind hacks to SHUT IT DOWN. Without further ado, let's get started! 2. The Project: Have you ever imagined your face to look super aesthetic in your head but when you put pencil to paper, it just doesn't come out the way you'd imagine it. Don't worry! today, we're going to use a simple five-step hack to draw your faces and the little things that you can do to make it look exactly the way you'd imagine it to be. We're going to draw two extremely different faces, and the possibilities this five-step hack has, I think you'll be able to draw just about any face with a lot more confidence. Drawing a face doesn't have to be as complex as you think, you just have to simplify complex shapes. So loosen up your hands, wiggle your fingers, don't stress about getting it right. The best art happens when you're having fun. Let's get started. 3. Befriend Your Tools: You must have heard an artist never blames their tools. That's because they don't just make do with what they have, they just make the best of what they have. Whatever tools they have right now work just fine. Let's get started with the pencils first. How does a pencil feel to you? Think about that for a second. To me personally, I love the crispy, crunchy sound of the pencil against the paper. Just try to capture the essence of your tools and then just make the best of them. We don't exactly have the liberty of an undo button with a traditional drawing. But if you use your pencil right, you just might be able to. We're going to learn more about that in the next lessons. First, pick up your pencil as lightly as you can, but firm enough to be held against the paper and draw your circles. Keep thinking light and lose. These are just doodles, these are just rough circles. They don't have to look perfect. It's just a warm-up activity. You are getting your fingers used to the paper. You are just warming up. Just think light and lose and keep doing this until you're comfortable with your pencil and paper and you're just feeling more confident that, okay now I'm ready to draw. 4. All About That Base: Once we are all warmed up, let's draw a single circle this time, again with a light and loose pencil, but just in case you're still taking some time to warm up, here's a hack for you. Just use a bottle cap and that's what I'm going to use right now. Use a bottle cap, hold it against your paper, again, light and loose pencil, and simply trace it out. I emphasize on using the light, and loose pencils so much, just because there's just more scope for mistakes, you can erase it out or even just keep it to have a little more of a sketchy look. After you're happy with your circle, we're going to run a horizontal line in the center, and a vertical line in the center, making a big plus sign, that way you get the center of your face. We're going to go ahead and extend the center line, this is the height of your face, then we're going to run two parallel lines starting at these two points, here and here. These lines are going to be a little shorter than this line, and that simply makes up for our jaw line. Don't worry you can have it pointed right now, you can have a chiseled jaw line if you like, or we could add little natural curves to it later. Next, we're going to run a parallel line to this, light at the bottom of the circle, right here. You see this little rectangle, this would be the height of your ear, just make a circle, doesn't have to be very defined shape. Just going to make two massive circles, don't worry right now I know it looks huge, but once all the elements come in place, this will also finally look in place. There you have your structure ready! 5. Using Simple Shapes to Draw Features: Let me introduce you to the character that we're going to draw today. We can call her Nikita. Just so that you get a little bit of a direction of where we're heading. I've already pre-made a little character who we're going to call Nikita, just so that we know which direction you're headed at. We have to have our Pizza base ready for all the cheese and the topping, so that's exactly what we have done today. We have our base ready for all the toppings, our toppings being nose, eyes, mouth, all the features, and it has a place to fit in. Now, we're going to draw indicators for all of our features just so that we know exactly where all of the features go, usually we just get confused with that it's supposed to be and get overwhelmed by the whole process, but it's super simple, I promise. We're going to first start with eyes placement. You see this line, we're going to draw another same line right under it. This makes for a very tiny rectangle, but make sure this height isn't too much. This is where your eyes go, this is where your eyebrows go, and this last space is for your mouth. We can just go ahead and skip the nose because we have the creative freedom to do so, and it just adds a little cuteness to it. Let's start with the eyebrows. I love drawing eyebrows simply because eyebrows just enhance your face, enhance your expression so much so that's why I like to draw a little bit of thicker eyebrow. This is just going to be a slanting rectangle that goes upwards, just to have a really happy, really expressive face. On this line, this is your eyebrow line, the first line is always the eyebrow line, do not confuse it with your eyes, which often happens. As you might have guessed, we're going to draw the eyes on the second line right here, they're going to be closed eyes because when you're smiling excessively, the cheeks push up and close your eyes to show very, very happy face. These are going to be really subtle curves, so don't make it too curvy, you can add eye liner if you like. There you go. You can start your stroke with a thin width, then make it thicker, then thin again, thin, thicker and thin again, just to add a little bit of contrast to your strokes. Once we're done with that, you can pause. If you're taking time you can pause of course, you can add two dots right under your eyes, not too much distance here, make sure there's not too much distance here and join these two dots. Then simply make a half circle. I know it's a big wide smile, but it works. It just works. We're going to add a small stroke here to indicate the chin, and that's it, your expressions are ready. We're next going to hop on, to our ears and the hair. Ears is going to be just a small curve at the top of the ear because this is what is visible the most, and they're the little thing that comes out here I don't know what it is called, but just that here and here. Just the most visible parts of the features, you don't have to complicate it by getting inside all of the details. We're going to draw a little lopsided bun just to add a bit more dynamic to the character, it is just on top, it just look fairly simple. We're just trying to make it more interesting, as interesting as it could be. Going to add strands coming out of the bun. Again, just for a little bit more fun, we are trying to have fun with the character and the hairline. The hairline needs to be fairly simple, not occupying too much space on your face because you want to concentrate on the expressions. There you go, we are almost ready. 6. Inking: Contrast in Stroke Width: This has to be handled with a lot of care. You have to go very slow with this cause it's much smoother and it's going to glide against your paper. Let's outline the face to begin with. We're going to start on the outside and then get inside the details as we have been doing until now. Inking is my favorite part of the process. I just get lost at the flow and it's so therapeutic to me. You have to go super slow, steady, and really carefully, you have to press your pen really hard against the paper, but at the same time, glide it. I enjoy the slowdown in the process since here going super quick and making very doodly drawings before this. 7. Using Patches of Color to Make It Pop: Are you seeing your face come alive now? We're going to use our black sketch pens now, and going to mark here and here to fill it up. We're going to make sure that there are no white spaces left to when we're coloring with the black sketch pens because we want to make all of these black patches POP against the white paper. We're going to use the most important elements of design, that is contrast. Contrast is making two elements that are strikingly different in relation with each other to make it look more attractive or more strikingly visible like a black patch against white paper, like something very circular against something very edgy. A big shape against a small shape. Here you go. Your Nikita is ready! 8. Adding Your Own Expressions: We're now going to draw a real life person! Our muse, Mr. Pramod Shankar. I'm Pramod Shankar, and I like writing poetry about the little things that you see everyday. Unlike drawing a coffee mug or a vase, that is still life You're drawing a living, breathing person with flavour, with character, with charm, with charisma, and we're going to try and figure out how to add all of this in lines and strokes and in your drawing. What do you first notice about Pramod uncle's face? Is it the beard? Is it the round glasses? However interesting these details might be, we're just going to do the same thing we did before, draw the outer details first and then get into the more interesting details so it's not so overwhelming. Again, we start with a circle first. Whatever the shape of the face might be, we're always going to start with a circle. We're going to repeat the process again, where we have our plus sign, the centre point. We're extending the centre line, sides of the face. This time uncle's face is, if not longer because of the beard, we're going to make it much longer, and you can see approximately where his beard ends. That's how long these lines are going to be, and simply join them. We're going to draw a line just at the bottom of the circle. We can see uncle has little bit of elongated ears, so draw longer ears these time. We just want to make the character look more like him. Another line right under the first line, not leaving much space because there is very less space from your eyebrow to your eye line. Here you go. This time we're going to add the nose simply because nose is a prominent feature for Pramod uncle, and my favorite part, the beard. Go crazy with your strokes. It doesn't have to look perfect, you just have to enjoy your drawing. You can have as many strokes as you like, it's just going to make it look sketchy. If you don't like the strokes, you can just erase them. When it comes to the beard, I think a lot of new artists make this mistake of drawing hair which has a lot of details, has a lot of strands. We have to just focus on your OUTER SHAPE. 9. Adding Your Own Flavor: Usually in most of my drawings I like to exaggerate if a person is wearing glasses, make the glasses pop outside of the face so that they're more visible. If the glasses just fit in this space, it's really not adding any flavor. So just make it pop like one big, happy, Santa Claus. Again, very bold circles since we're focusing on simple bold shapes. Adds so much more character to it, doesn't it? Getting to the features, we are just going to start the same way. First, the eye brows. Here you go. When you're actually drawing a real person, you can use the same hack, but spend some time observing them, not just their visual cues, but also their vibe and flavor. This may not literally translate into your face, but I'm sure it will play a role in bringing your face alive. We can also literally add a story line to your face, like he's a very lovable person. So we have a call-out with a little love heart. Share your [inaudible] sketches as he would love to see your rendition of him, and I would love to see the styles you've used, the personality you have brought out in him. 10. Bonus: How to Create An Expression Sheet : Welcome to your bonus class! I wanted to sneak in my most favorite part of learning how to draw a face, and that's making an expression sheet. This is a little bit more advanced than what we have learned in the lessons above but if you've understood the basic stuff, nothing is too far fetched. Let's dive right into it. Creating your own expression sheet is so much fun and the best way to bring about some originality into your drawing. Especially if you're using your own face, you'll have so much freedom to experiment. As we have done before, we always start with the circle, pick out the major features, and define the face. That's smiling. We're picking out simple bold shapes, not too many details, and placing it in our structure. That is excessively smiling. We can add little blush in there too. It's important to exaggerate like how this face has very wide eyes. The eyebrows could be a little more curved up to enhance the emotion. We are making a laughing face here, and it's important to communicate an expression the most dramatic way possible. You can use your daily emojis as an inspiration as well. Have you heard the term, why the long face? Your face actually gets long when you're sad if you notice. You will start to notice these little things when you observe your own expressions, study your own expressions, and it is so much fun to do so. Next is our teeth grinding angry expression. Here is a little tilt on the face just to reinforce the angry expression. You can exaggerate and show more of the teeth. I'm going to make her red in anger, and have all the hair flying about. The ears popping and the bigger glasses, add more life to the character. Think about what you would add to yours, according to your face, according to what accessories you like to wear. Since this is going to be a blushing expression, you're going to have a lot more red on the cheek. When it's an expressive expression, use features out of the face too. Like now we're making an excited face so all the hair is flying about. Like how probably a child would react without being very socially appropriate. All your faces do not need to look identical. The whole point of drawing an expression sheet is by the end of it, you've drawn your character enough to know what features suits it best. You know exactly what your face needs, what it doesn't need, what character it is, and what story is attached to it. Of course, do not forget to share your expression sheet below. Just have fun. 11. Conclusion: Congratulations! You have now drawn two entirely different faces. one cartoon face and one live face. I hope you're feeling more confident now, I hope the process was easy for you to follow. You can keep repeating the process until you're more comfortable with it, you can add more of your own stuff and go crazy, have all of your creative freedom and use it. Just remember the little pointers, you start with the outer shape and then get into details, hold your pencil light and loose, use big bold shapes. Remember contrast and give your art and your art supplies a lot of love. Definitely gift your favorite person a drawing of their face, and show them to us! I will also be reviewing your Pramod Uncle and Nikita drawings so do not forget to upload them. Thank you for being a part of 'How to draw faces' Wishing you the ultimate joy of making art.