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Constructing the Base Head

Step 1. Draw a Sphere

When drawing the human head, whether it be from the front, side, top or back, the first step we take is always the same.

Alas, let’s begin by drawing down our trusty sphere. The reason this sphere is the first and most important step is because it’s the base that everything else will be built upon.

You’ll notice that I’m using the term sphere here instead of circle. The reason for this is because it’s important to start thinking in terms of 3D objects and form instead of flat, 2D shapes. 


Ultimately, the sphere will help form the top of the skull. The bonus here is it can actually be used as a rough guide to figure out size of your head.

Step 2. Slice into Quarters

Divide the sphere into two halves by slicing it top to bottom, straight down the middle.

Now divide it again except this time, draw a horizontal line across the sphere, from left to right. The sphere should now be divided up into 4 equal quarters. 

You might be asking, "What exactly are these lines for?". Well, the vertical line running from the top of the sphere to the bottom is going to separate the front of the face, from the back of the head. As for the horizontal division, it'll serve as the the brow line for the time being. 

Step 3. Level Out the Sides

Draw a smaller circle in the centre of the sphere, where the two lines intersect.


It may look like the technical drawing of a donut right now, but this flat, circle actually forms the side of the skull, also referred to as the temple..

Step 4. Feature Guidelines

It’s time to place in the guide lines for the eyes, ears, mouth and nose. There are a few lines to draw in and memorize, but if you can get the order right, drawing the faces of your characters will be a piece of cake.


Keep in mind too, that where you place these feature guidelines, and the distance between them always stays the same no matter which way you are looking at the head. From different angles, they may become visually skewed thanks to perspective and foreshortening – however the proportions never change once they’re defined.


So although these simple lines are easy as pie to jot down, they are one of the most important and necessary elements to learn correctly when it comes to drawing heads! So these suckers are not to be underestimated.  


The Eye Line

The eye line is drawn in just below the brow line.

Viewing the head from the side, you can see that the eye line doesn’t run all the way across the sphere. This is because you are looking at only one half of the face! So to save confusion it’s only taken as far back as the temple.  

The Chin Line

Draw in a line that extends down from the brow to the bottom of the chin.

This new guide line does two things. Firstly, it forms the front of the face and secondly, defines its length.  

On a classically proportioned head, the eye line will always be found around the middle. Keeping this in mind will help you decide how far down the chin line will be drawn.

The Jaw Line

Now that we’ve figured out the length of the head lets place in the jaw line.


To define the jaw, draw a curved line from the centre of the sphere, down to the chin. That line should kink outward in the middle to create the top side, and bottom half of the jaw.


Turns out, when it comes to portraying gender, the jaw plays an quite an important role. If you observe the subtle differences between the sexes closely, you’ll find that a masculine face typically has a sharper, chiselled jaw line while the feminine face is curved and soft, rounding out at the kink.


Here we are drawing the profile view of a male head and so you can see how the angles of the jaw are more defined. 

The Nose and Mouth Line

Figuring out where to place the nose and mouth is fairly straight forward. Simply break up the bottom half of the face into equal thirds.


That will give you two, evenly spaced lines between the eye and chin lines. The first line is where the nose is placed; the second shows you where to draw the mouth.


Now you have to remember that not every face is the same! In fact the entire world is made up of people whose heads are all different shapes and sizes. The placement of the eyes, nose and mouth lines are in a large part responsible for all that variation.


For now, we’re going to stick with the classical proportions, but once you feel confident enough, feel free to mix things up. You can experiment a by adjusting the distances between those guide lines. 

Ear Placement

Viewing the head side on, the ear sits snuggly in the middle of the sphere.

The top of the ear aligns with the brow, while the bottom connects onto the jaw and aligns with the nose.

Step 5. Draw in the Neck

Okay, great! The facial feature guidelines are all set up and ready to rock and roll.


The next step is to draw in the neck.


Necks are a simple yet complex matter. Really, at its primitive form the neck is no more than a cylinder that the head swivels around on. It's the muscles wrapping around this cylinder that cause things get messy.


To break it down here is the main muscles to keep in mind when drawing the neck.


The first set are two large, bands of muscle that stretch from the bottom of the ear down to the collar bone.


From the side of the head that muscle (whose name is far too long to remember) starts out just beneath the skull, right behind the ear, and stretches across to the front of the neck, attaching itself to the collar bone.


The other muscles form the back of the neck, and curl round to the shoulders like a hood. They are made up of two large muscle tubes that drop down from the back of the skull, and spread out to connect to the shoulders.


One thing to remember with the neck is that it’s another major factor when it comes to different genders and age groups. A thick neck will cause your characters to look masculine and strong, whereas a thin neck will usually suit younger, older, or more feminine characters.

Step 6. The Cheek Bones

Lastly, draw in some guide lines for the side of the brow and cheek bone. This line separates the front of the face from the side plane.

Well that just about wraps up the basic layout for our head. It looks pretty simple and it is defiantly far from a finished. But it’s the most IMPORTANT part of this entire process. Think of it like a blue print that everything else is built on top of. If that blue print isn’t correct, then everything else built on top of it won’t be correct either!


The cool thing is, once the base is all set up, we are on the home run. From here on out you can be certain that the drawing of your head will be perfectly proportioned, and you’ll know exactly where to place down the facial features.


One of the greatest obstacles I was faced with when learning how to draw heads was the overwhelming amount of information that I needed to remember. So when it came time to draw, all my


thinking was dedicated to the technical aspects such as facial anatomy, proportions and perspective. This in turn caused my creativity to suffer terribly!


But by working in this way you are organising your mental thinking process down into manageable, bite sized pieces. Once memorized, this formula takes care of the guess work for you.


So with the base finished you can now get a little more creative!


BUT! First you need to go back through these first 6 steps another 2-3 times. Practice and repetition is imperative to turning what you’ve learned into an automatic process. To really cement this into your brain, start filling up your sketch book with these base constructs. 


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