Faced With Fear: Conquering Your Fears of Illustrating Faces | Constructing The Face | Melissa Lee | Skillshare

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Faced With Fear: Conquering Your Fears of Illustrating Faces | Constructing The Face

teacher avatar Melissa Lee, allow yourself to fail before you succeed

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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

    • 1.



    • 2.

      Constructing a Proportionate Face


    • 3.

      Exploring Exaggeration


    • 4.

      Reference Recommendations


    • 5.

      Closing Thoughts


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About This Class

Welcome to another session of Faced With Fear: Conquering Your Fears of Illustrating Faces! In this class, Melissa demonstrates how to construct a proportionate face, and shares some helpful tips on exploring the possibilities of how to exaggerate the features for cartooning. Understanding the construction and proportion of the face is the first step towards designing successful characters.

Throughout this series, Melissa guides you through the fundamentals of drawing and coloring feminine and masculine character portraits, from using basic shapes and line to build features to generating and implementing beautiful skin tone palettes. The aim of this series is to provide you with the building blocks and knowledge you'll need in order to feel more confident in your ability to tackle drawing and coloring faces.

All levels of skill are welcome! 

Meet Your Teacher

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Melissa Lee

allow yourself to fail before you succeed

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Hi! My name's Melissa Lee, and I'm an illustrator and surface pattern designer living in the hilly forests of Northern California. Alongside doing freelance and art licensing work (I am a proud Riley Blake Designs fabric designer), I've spent much of my time cultivating my love of sharing what I know and encouraging others to nourish their creative side through teaching online art courses here on Skillshare. I love making patterns, character art, and watercolor paintings. I'm endlessly inspired by animals and nature (whether living today or extinct), science fiction and fantasy, space and astrology, witchy things, and bees.

Always bees.

The classes that I teach on Skillshare focus primarily on surface pattern design, watercolor techniques, and character design. See full profile

Level: Beginner

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1. Introduction: Hey everyone, welcome to another session of my series, Faced With Fear: Conquering Your Fears of Illustrating Faces. My name is Melissa, and I'm a designer and illustrator based in Northern California. Throughout this series, I take you through the fundamentals of illustrating and digitally coloring faces. In this class however, I focus on how to construct a proportionate face. But I'll also share some helpful tips on exploring the possibilities of how to exaggerate the features. Understanding the construction and proportion of the face is the first step towards designing successful characters. My goal with these classes is to provide you with the basic building blocks of drawing faces, and hopefully to help you get over that initial fear of starting out. As before, you don't need any prior illustration or character design experience for this, and no software is required. So let's get started! 2. Constructing a Proportionate Face: As I said in the intro, understanding the construction in proportion of the face is the first step towards designing successful characters. Essentially, drawing varied faces involves starting with a simple, accurate construction, and then simply altering the angles of the features. This will go a long way towards bringing life and character to your heads no matter what style you're going for. But, if the essential construction of the head is off and it's not cohesive, it looks wrong. Probably because we know instinctively and inherently what the face is supposed to look like, so it's easy to see when it looks off. I'm going to go over the basic rules of an average proportionate face. But when you're cartooning or caricaturing, you can and will break these rules. It's just that you have to understand the construction first before you can successfully exaggerate and distort your characters. Without further ado, a proportionate face is broken into three equal sections. Well, they're not quite equal, but it's pretty close. It's the head to the top of the eyes, the eyes to the bottom of the nose, and the nose to the chin. The tops of the ears lineup with the top of the eyes, and the bottom of the ears line up with the bottom of the nose. The inner corners of the eyes line up with the sides of the nostrils, and the outer corners of the mouth line up with the center of the eyeballs. If your pupil is centered, the middle should line up with the mouth. Also, the space between the eyes is about the same size as the width of one eye. If I take this, you see, it fits almost perfectly between them. Once I have the basic head shape drawn, I always find the eye line first and everything else follows. The eye line goes through the center of the eyes and it's pretty much the halfway point of the head. On a profile view, the ear falls along the central line of the head, and as you can see, the middle of the eye still lines up with the corner of the mouth. Here's an example of this breakdown working on a character that I designed specifically to be in a more realistic, proportionate style. As you can see, everything pretty much lines up. On a proportionate face, you may also find the golden ratio, which is 1-1.618. It can help you identify feature placement on a conventionally handsome face, if that's what you're going for. You'll find the golden ratio all over the place, in art, in nature, in architecture, everywhere. Another thing that's important to keep in mind is the bone, cartilage, and muscle groups of the face, and how they affect the pull and stretch of the features. This really informs how you draw expressions. Probably the most important ones to consider are the cheek bands here in purple. Especially for characters that are older and have more lines in their face, these muscle groups are helpful with learning where to put those contour lines. But, it also applies to young characters as well, like if they have really strong dimples or if their smile is really big, you'll want to know how the cheek muscles work. That doesn't just apply to basic proportionate faces. It really applies to cartooning as well. I have some examples here. The cheek line starting at the nostril lines up with the bottom of the mouth and top of the chin, and over here, it lines up with the bottom of the chin, and obviously here it's really evident. That's a good thing to keep in mind. It really helps you inform how you angle the features in the face and how you can line up arcs like this throughout your designs. When it comes to drawing the head at different angles, the eye line is still really important. The direction and angle of the eye line dictates the angle of the nose and mouth lines, and to a certain extent, the chin line. If you were to tilt the head up and down, you'll notice that the ears act as the anchor point as they don't move much at all up or down. You also want to pay attention to the width and height of the head as it tilts. The width stays the same while the height or length changes. The eye distance doesn't change unless the head is turning at an angle to the left or right. As the head tilts up, the features move up, and as the head tilts down, the features move down. While again, the ears stay in basically the same spot. It's helpful to apply a grid to this because then you can more clearly see where the features end up depending on the direction of the tilt. I talk a little bit more about drawing the face at a three quarter turn, as well as demonstrate drawing a couple of different characters in front view profile and three-quarter turn in two of my other classes in this series. You can check that out if you're interested. That is basic head construction for a proportionate head. Moving on, I'm going to talk about exploring the possibilities of exaggeration. 3. Exploring Exaggeration: In this video, I'm going to talk about exploring the possibilities of exaggeration and cartooning and some different techniques you can try if you're feeling stuck. You always want to establish your basic head shape first, which will help you figure out the style. If you start with really simple shapes and follow your guidelines, you can build on top of them to make more detailed designs or just keep it simple depending on what style you're going for. One thing you should try to do is avoid the bowling ball. Avoiding the bowling ball simply means to vary the size and position of the eyes and nose. When they're the same size, the face looks stiff. This is a simple way to add appeal to your designs. You can also try contrasting your shapes and seeing what designs you come up with. Just start with really basic shapes and use them as a guide, or you can try using actual objects for shape inspiration. Then try not to stray too far from the original shape at first as a challenge for yourself. This is a similar technique, but this time try pushing just one design. I started by drawing an idea based off of reference and then using contrasting shapes, I made a bunch of different designs of the same character. I also changed the spacing of the different sections of the face as well. As you can see, I've put the eye, nose, and mouth lines in different spots on each face. That's just a really easy way to have variation within your designs. Something else I like to do is to use the warp tool. I have a drawing, and I'm just going to make another copy of this layer by hitting Command or Control J. I have another copy, and I'm turning off the first layer. And making sure that the top layer that I just made is selected, I'm going to Edit > Transform > Warp and it brings up this. In case you haven't used this tool, it's basically just a grid of anchor points and anchor bars that you can move around and experiment with. This is just a cool and quick way to find different shapes that you might not have thought of. I went from this...to this, which I actually think I like a little bit more, but it's a bit fuzzy because the warping sometimes distorts the texture. If I wanted to make this a nice clean drawing, I would just turn the opacity down, create a new layer, and redraw it. My last tip is one of my favorite tips that I've learned, which is to use the T-shape in the face to help guide your exaggeration of the features. I find this really helpful when I'm trying to come up with multiple designs for the same character and I feel stuck. It's really similar to just changing the lines spacing, but this time you're just focusing on the eyes and nose. The bottom line is to experiment. Some things will work for you, and some things won't, but that's okay. Learn to embrace your bad drawings because it's all leading you to better designs in the future and to becoming a better artist. Try to stay loose and relaxed, and don't stress the details when you're exploring. I've uploaded a PDF of this slide under the Projects & Resources tab, so you can refer to it again if you want to. 4. Reference Recommendations: I like to give a reference recommendation in all my classes. So this time I'm recommending the Draw the Head From Any Angle YouTube series by Proko. It's really, really awesome, nice and succinct and super-helpful. He really does go over every single angle you could imagine and breaks down the face and head in a way that's similar to what I just showed you. If you struggle with that, this is a really useful tool. Another thing that I find really useful is this app called the Handy Art Reference Tool. It's for iOS and Android. I believe it's a $1.99 to start and then you can buy an animal skull pack for an additional $1.99 if you want. But it does come with hands and feet in different poses, a skull and different head types that you can move around and pose how you want. You can also change the lighting direction and color, which is pretty neat. Since I started using it a couple of years ago, they've added a lot more to it. There used to just be, I think one head, a skull, and a bunch of hand poses. But now there's something like 10 different heads. So it's really useful and even more worth the price than it used to be. So it's a really useful reference tool, especially if you struggle with difficult head angles like most people do. It's definitely worth the price. So check that out. 5. Closing Thoughts: The project for this class is simply to post a practice sheet of basic faces, and if you want to include more cartoony heads, please feel free. I pretty much just want to see the evidence of what you've taken away from this lesson. If you want to learn more about how I draw the specific features of the face, check out my other classes in this series on drawing feminine and masculine faces and coloring skin in Photoshop. Being an artist takes a lot of patience and dedication, but if you put the time in and you really dedicate yourself to practicing as much as possible, you will improve. I know it's easier said than done, but try not to compare yourself to other artists. You don't know how long they've been drawing, or what experiences they have, or how unskilled they were when they started out. You don't have that perspective, and everyone improves at a different pace anyway. Don't give up. Just keep practicing. If you love this, if it's what you want to do, then you'll do it, and you'll improve with time. Thanks again for taking this, and I wish you the best of luck!