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Detailing the Head

The basic head and all of its features are now laid out. Now it’s time to move onto the details.


Detailing your drawings is actually the easiest part of the entire process. In the beginning, when you start out drawing, the first few steps are the hardest and the most important. But then it kind of gets easier as you progress through each phase.


This is because constructing the head’s blue print and its features takes up the most amount of mental energy. At this stage you’ve got proportions, perspective, features, composition and a whole bunch of other technical knick knacks to think about. Sure, it doesn’t take as long as detailing, but it sure does strain the brain.


Details, such as rendering and shadows are a lot simpler though.


Because the only thing that really needs to be kept in mind as you work is lighting and form. Don’t get me wrong, it still requires some effort, and can actually be quite tricky at times, but it’s not as important as getting the base correct. In fact can be the most enjoyable part of a drawing! 

Before you move on I have one last, very important thing to say to you….




Why you ask? Well, because all of those precious details are going to be built on top of that blue print. This means if the blue print doesn’t work, all the detail in the world won’t save you.


You see if there’s an issue with the base drawing, it’s more than likely going to be a BIG issue. It’ll be something like the entire head being out of proportion, skewed, or not being drawn in the correct perspective.


And if it needs to be redrawn, you sure as hell want to make sure you’re not erasing the last two or three hours’ worth of detailing you’ve just slaved away at.


Do yourself a favour and ensure that your base preliminary sketch is looking exactly the way you want it to – because once you move on to the following steps, the overall structure of the head should really be set in stone, if you want to save yourself from a lot of wasted time, energy and tears.

It's All in the Details...

Okay, now onto the details, and how to go about them. 

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.”

Personal style is a big player when it comes to detailing your drawing. Ask yourself what kind of look do you want for your art work?


After all, you are the artist. Maybe you are drawn to the clean, slick style of your favourite anime and manga artists. All you would need to worry about is using the Line Weights to polish off your art work. Or, you might use both the Line Weights and the Shadows to give 

your comic art a Noir, Sin City type of style. Heck, you might combine all three like I do, to get the ultra-detailed, grunge style we all know and love from the kings at Image and Top Cow.


Experiment, and see what works for your style. But, if you know how to pull off the slick Line Weights, Dramatic Shadows, and Intricate Rendering you’ll have the option to pick whichever one you like!

Step 15. Line Weights

Let's begin by polishing up the contours of the drawing using Line Weights. Line Weights actually originated from inking, and referred to the varying thicknesses of a line made with a single brush stroke. Since Line Weights are an important topic and deserve a separate tutorial dedicated to them alone, we’ll only cover them briefly for now. Here are the main points to keep in mind.

  • Line Weights refer to the different weights/thickness/heaviness within a single line. The line may begin thin, thicken up in the middle, and then fade out again at the end. For example, the chap’s mouth above is a single contour line. However it’s not the same thickness all the way through. It starts out heavy at the corners, thins out in the middle then bulks back up again at the other end. If you observe closely you can see that not a single line in the drawing above has the same amount of thickness all the way through.


  • Line Weights can also be used to indicate the direction of a light source. Simply use a heavy weight on the dark side and a thinner weight on the light side. To put it another way, the further away an area of the form is from the light, the heavier the line should be. 


Step 16. Shadows

After finishing up with the Line Weights your drawing should already look less flat. Now let's take it to the next level.


Lighting, shadows, and rendering are a big deal! And they are all huge topics, so to keep on track we’ll leave the complex explanations for another time. For now here’s what you need to know.


Shadows are one of your closest allies when it comes to lighting. And in saying that, a major factor in getting your shadows to look right is by keeping the light source consistent throughout your entire image.


So the first step you need to take is to decide where the different light sources are coming from in your drawing. Once the lights are nailed you’ll have a fairly good idea where heavy black shadows are going to cast. 


There are usually at least two light sources found in most drawings. You can get away with one, but two will make your art work pop that much more.

There are usually at least two light sources found in most drawings. You can get away with one, but two will make your art work pop that much more.


Those two light sources will typically come from an environment light, and a direct light. You can have more than two light sources, in fact if you can manage three your drawing will look even more ace. But bear this in mind:



The more light sources you've got, the more complex the shadow casting will become.


Try to keep things simple in the beginning. Focus on the larger forms and the shadows they’ll be casting. Look out for any protruding or receding forms such as the nose, eye sockets, cheek bones, jaw and brow – There’s a good possibility that they’ll be casting shadows. It’s also worth noting that the more those forms protrude or recede, the larger their cast shadow will be. In fact this applies to all forms.  The larger the form, the larger the shadow.

Step 17. Rendering

Rendering is achieved with the combined effort of rendering lines (feathering) and cross hatching.


The rendering lines or feathers each have their own Line Weights applied to them, starting out heavy at the base and thinning out as they are pulled from the shadows.

You should now have a nicely lit scene, likened to that of a noir style. And if you like the look of it, go with it!


If not… maybe you’d like to add a sprinkle of rendering to that already tasty looking cake.


Just like with the shadows, rendering adds that extra bit of depth to your drawing by helping to describe the different forms in a more refined way.


Here are a few nifty functions rendering has to offer your drawings:


  • Softens out a hard black edge or shadow.

  • Graduates values from dark to light.

  • Defines the form of objects and figures.

Because we are using the rendering method to describe form and shape in our drawing, it’s important to really try to get into that three dimensional mindset.


How do you switch to that mindset? Start thinking of the different forms in your art work as 3D primitives.


For example, instead of viewing the arms and legs of your character as arms and legs, think of them as cylinders instead.


Now wrap those rendering lines around the forms according to your light source.


Soft shadows are the other main use for rendering. Soft shadows are created using feathering technique to create a gradient from solid blacks into fully lit areas.


In the example I’ve used rendering in this way to create soft shadows around the neck.

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