Refining The 3/4 View Male Head And Drawing In The Details


Let’s bring this drawing home with some fine-tuned detailing and refinement. So far our brains have had a good work out, dealing with all that techy, proportional and perspective stuff. Now we can take it

a little easier, because from here on you’ll just be building upon what’s already been established. So here are the nuts and bolts you’ll need in your detailing tool bag. 

How to Draw Comics | How to Draw Head Portraits 1

Details consist of 3 elements:


  • Line weights – “Refinement of lines using varying weights to indicate stroke direction and overlapping.”

  • Shadows – “Used to indicate light sources. Shadow work can also greatly enhance mood and drama.”

  • Rendering – “Blends solid shadows into highlights. Also aid’s in the depicting of form.” 

Now your personal preference and style is going to come into play a little bit here. For example if you like to keep your art work simple, clean and sleek, applying line weights to the contours of your drawing is really all you’ll need to do to get the job done.


On the other hand you might have a more dramatic, gloomy feel to your art style, filled to the brim with foreboding shadows and dimly lit

lighting set ups. In that case you’ll likely want to douse your drawings down with a generous serving of shadow work.


Of course if you’ve got a hunger for grungy detail and intricate rendering, your comic book art work may summon the power of all three to bring it to its final evolution.  

How to Draw Comics | How to Draw Head Portraits 1

Whatever the case may be, use your best judgement. There’s no cold hard rules for detailing, just try your hand at the detailing elements and experiment as much as you need to until you find something that works. If you’ve got a favorite comic book artist with an already established style that inspires you, start off there.

Use their rendering techniques, observe their use of shadow and the slickness of their lines, but understand why they do the things they do and the effects it has on their comic book creations. And over time your art work will take on an identity of its own too.  


Here’s something most budding comic artisans aren’t aware of. Lines consistent in thickness not only look unnatural, but they flatten out the depth and perspective within your drawing leaving it levelled, lifeless and amateurish.


What you want is for your drawing to be distinctly defined, dynamic and visually appealing. The way you’ll achieve that is through stylizing the contour lines themselves using a special technique called Line Weighting.


Line Weighting is the art of Varying the thickness or heaviness within the contour lines of your drawing to help accentuate form, depth and lighting direction.


In short, Line Weights are the varnish used to make the drawings you create pop with the pizazz of a seasoned pro.

How to Draw Comics | How to Draw Head Portraits 1


So what’s so special about Line Weights anyway? Well turns out they’ve got a couple perks to offer your pictures.


  • To begin with, Line Weights have a knack for being able to indicate light direction even in the absence of shadows and rendering. Pulling off this optical effect is easily achieved by keeping the Lines of your drawing thinly defined on the light side of the form but bolder on the shadowy side. 

  • Another way Line Weights enrich your work is by enhancing depth and distance within the scene. The way this works is by thickening up the contour lines of the forms as they extend into the foreground, then thinning them out as they recede backward. What’s happening here is that the bolder, more dramatically defined contours capture the viewer’s attention first, and then lead them into the rest of the image.

  • Lastly, Line Weights also come in handy for outlining the key forms of interest within your art work. This is achieved by thickening up the outline of the form’s silhouette, while leaving the interior details subtly thinner.


Now there are a few other nifty Line Weight trinkets you can use to make your art work flourish, but for now, these three should do the trick. I don’t want to understate the significance of Line Weights because they are an incredibly important topic. As such, they’ve got an entire chapter unto themselves, tucked away into the extensive library of tutorials available here on the site. 

How to Draw Comics | How to Draw Head Portraits 1


For now, here’s what you should keep in mind when applying Line Weights to your drawing.


  • Typically, forms or shapes closest to the foreground will receive the dominant lines. As you work, keep in mind where those forms overlap so that you get a good sense of which contours need to be thickened up where to create that hierarchy of depth.

  • When applying Line Weights, the edges of a line are usually thinner than the middle body. In other words, that Line might begin thin; thicken up in the middle and then taper out again at the end.

  • There are exceptions to this rule of course, especially where two lines meet or intersect. The Line that merges into the adjacent Line will typically thicken up at the end, right where they make contact. This comes into play more so when drawing hair or clothes.

  • Line Weights are also applied where one form overlaps another. This helps to distinguish and separate the two, but also brings the top form forward to increase depth and diamention.   


So go ahead and solidify your sketch with a Line Weight run over. What you should end up with is a clean looking, spit shiny version of your original sketch. 


With the Line Weights setting the mould of our finally sculpted drawing, let’s work in some of the more intricate details.


In a genre consisting of black and white line art alone; comic artists don’t have the luxury to simply shade in the gradients needed to

describe form and dark to light value blending. But thanks to the etching masters of yore, we’ve managed to find a way around it.


Here’s a quick overview of how this black and white form of Rendering, also known as ‘Feathering’ or ‘Cross Hatching’ works.


Fig 1. Rendering is achieved through a series of render lines that wrap around the form, also known as ‘feathering’. A single render line is a simple line with Line Weight applied, being thicker at the base, and gradually thinning out at the tip, almost like a needle.

Fig 2. Rendering lines can be cross hatched over one another to increase contrast between the light and dark values inside the gradient.

Fig 3. Through this gradient, render lines work together to indicate a light source, while also helping to describe the form and shape of an object.

Fig 4. By applying the same rendering techniques to hair, the layering is made more obvious, and in turn gives it more depth.

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There are two key roles that Rendering plays in comic book art, the first being to help describe form and secondly to help blend pure black shadow into pure white light. The effect of Rendering itself is achieved through a series of Lines that are strategically spaced and cross hatched over one another to create a light to dark gradient of varying contrasts.

So how does all of this talk of Rendering apply to our ¾ angle male portrait?


Again, it comes down to a preference of style, but if there is one big mistake comic artists make when it comes to faces it’s that they reach into the Rendering cookie jar way too many times.


Don’t be over indulgent with the Rendering, less is often more especially on the ol’ noggin. But just to gauge how much you should be throwing in here, take into consideration the scene’s lighting conditions. If the character is situated inside a dimly lit environment where shadows will inevitably be cast, you’ll need a healthy serving of rendering to help blend in those shadows and define the subtle concavities of the heads structure.


On the other hand, if that lighting set up is reasonably bright, you won’t need as much rendering to get the job done. In fact, if you go too overboard, your pristinely drawn character is only going to wind up messy and inconsistent in tone. Keep the Rendering proportionately balanced where necessary in relation to your style.

Muddying the key forms of your character in an engulfment of unneeded detail is the last thing you want.


As you can see with this guy, the only Rendering going on here at this point is the light suggestion of form and muscle structure around his eye sockets, cheek bones and lower lip. Nothing too fancy, but just enough to indicate those subtle forms.

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Next, to take the three dimensionality of your drawing into maximum overload, we’ll add some shadows into the mix to enhance the depth of those forms.


It’s important to note that there’s actually two main types of shadow you’ll commonly make use of when drawing. Let’s start off with soft shadows. Soft shadows, like normal shadows, show up around the form as it turns away from the main light source.

Except these shadows don’t just stop and end, they slowly blend from pure black into highlight. That soft, dark to light transition is of course achieved through Rendering.


Then there are hard shadows, also known as cast shadows. Instead of softly blending into the lit areas of the form, these shadows are cast by the object itself, resulting in a hard edged projection onto whatever underlying form it hits. Just like a shadow puppet.

Turning our attention to the example head here, you can see both types at play. The head and nose, being the two predominant forms are casting hard shadows onto the neck and face, according to the lights direction.


You’ll notice that these shadows in particular have no render blending taking place whatsoever. Observe also that the sizes of the hard shadows are proportional to the forms casting them. 


Downward toward the neck we discover more thick shadows, the difference here however is that Rendering Lines are used to graduate them out into the light.


Beyond that, there is relatively little in the way if dramatic shadow work on this guy’s head. Some light rendering around the face is all that’s really needed to wrap things up here.


So how will you know where and how much shadow should be added to your characters head? Well it’s quite simple. First you want to de-complicate the entire process by breaking your head down and thinking of it in terms of simplified mass.


Once you’ve done that there’s only one key question you always want to be asking yourself, “Where is my character in relation to the main light source?” If you know the direction from which your primary light is coming from you’ll get a pretty good idea straight away as to where those shadows need to be cast or laid in.

How to Draw Comics | How to Draw Head Portraits 1
How to Draw Comics | How to Draw Head Portraits 1


This guy has looked like the walking dead for long enough; it’s high time we add some pupils into those empty eyes.


The rest of the eye is made up of two parts, the iris, and the pupil. When I’m drawing in the eye I like to start with the Pupil first, and then draw the iris around it.

Unless the eyes are wide open in surprise or shock, it’s likely that almost the entire top half of the iris, and partly the bottom will be hidden behind the eye lids.


To top it off, you might want to add a cast shadow across the top of the eye and a glinting reflection.


At this point our character’s head is just about done and dusted. But that uncanny resemblance to Lex Luther needs to be addressed with a luscious, full head of hair.


From a distance, hair can look a little intimidating to tackle. But if we dismantel it and backwards engineer it into a simple step by step method it’s actually a fairly straight forward process.


The first thing I establish before anything else is the hair line. It outlines the area of the head from which the hair of your character will sprout from. 

How to Draw Comics | How to Draw Head Portraits 1
How to Draw Comics | How to Draw Head Portraits 1


With the hair line drawn in, the next step is to draw out the hair itself.


When it comes to drawing hair I like to start out real simple by lying in a base out line that defines the general shape of my character’s hair style. This makes sense because naturally, individual strands of hair actually do clump together.


But another reason the general shape of the hair is nailed down first is so that it can serve as a directional guide for flow and overall formation as the finer details are worked in. This ensures that the style remains contained and consistent. Think of it as applying the gel that'll keep everything in place.


After your characters hairdo is all blocked in, detailing is just a matter of breaking up the large hair ribbons, into smaller ribbons. To maintain that suave style, as the ribbons are splintered off into smaller portions have them conform to the general flow and direction of the parent ribbon. 


Remember to make good use of Line Weights as the hair is refined. Give it some lift and volume too by emphasising the layers with some

rendering. To get that slick fullness, the underlying locks of hair need

to gradiate out from those above. So those Rendering Lines need to be pulled out across the lower ribbon, where two layers overlap.


When it comes to drawing hair, you’ll need some patience. With all the styling, defining and rendering that goes into it, it’s going to take some time. On top of that, it can also be a real struggle to get the hang of, so if you’re looking for a definitive edition Hair tutorial, dedicated to thoroughly taking you through the entire process you’ll find it right HERE.

How to Draw Comics | How to Draw Head Portraits 1
How to Draw Comics | How to Draw Head Portraits 1
How to Draw Comics | How to Draw Head Portraits 1

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