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How to Draw Different Types of Heads


How to Draw Different Types of Heads

Take a moment and think of your favorite comic artist’s work. The first thing that comes to mind may be the bombastic splash pages or over-the-top action, or just the way they drew your favorite superhero. What you may not think about is all of the variety in each panel.


Which isn’t bad… variety isn’t the first thing you should notice. In fact, a good comic artist’s job is to make the storytelling and drawings as seamless as possible. But, don’t be fooled, your favorite artist has devoted a lot of time to not make any two subjects look the same.


Having the ability to include variety in your art is an underrated skill. In fact, it’s a skill that’s firmly planted in the intermediate artist’s toolset. Only when you have a handle on drawing standard objects or characters believably will you then branch into the realm of variation.


You can change the look and feel of just about any aspect of your art, but in today’s tutorial we are going to hit the ground running and discuss how you can create characters with varying head shapes and faces. And its pretty simple too!


Follow along as we get into all of these topics:

  • Basic Head Shapes

  • How to Modify a Head Shape

  • Big vs Small Features

  • The Math Breakdown

  • How to Make a Character Memorable

  • Working From the Side View

  • Adding Front View Features

  • Practicing the Art


Basic Head Shapes

If you go out to a crowded place and pay attention to the people around, you’ll notice how wildly different everyone’s heads and faces are. This is the basis of why we need to work on making the characters in your story each have distinct look.


But before we can start experimenting with variation, we first must start will a blank slate. In this case, the blank slate is a ’standard’ or basic head shape. This head shape has average proportions with its features and bone structure.


Take a look a this simplified head shape. I’ve removed the features and have just left the construction lines.


Basic Head Model

I won’t be talking about what standard proportions are in any fundamental way in this tutorial, but if you think this tutorial is too advanced or if you want to go brush up on basic head construction make sure to check out HTDC.net's other resources.


Anyway, notice how simple this head is and how it has all the proper marks to show not only the front, but the back of the volume as well.


As we move forward, you’ll notice how important it is to know exactly where and how things connect in 3D space on the head. Like one of my old art teachers used to say, “Always be able to draw the other ear.”


Starting from a good base, like this, is the first step. Now let’s start experimenting!


How to Modify a Head Shape


How To Modify a Head Shape

The goal when creating unique head is really the same as saying you are modifying a head’s proportions; almost like you were molding clay.


I specifically use the analogy of molding clay, because when molding a head shape you will will never be adding more or taking away less “clay”. The total amount you start with will be the total amount you end with but only the proportions will change.


Drawing Spheres

Here’s another way to look at it. Think of a red squishy, bouncy ball toy that kids play with. The ball can be squeezed vertically or squashed flatter but the ball never looses air.


That means the volume is the same no matter how you manipulate it. Now just swap the balls for head shapes and concept is very clear.


Different Head Base Models

That’s the basic concept! Now let’s talk further about what parts of the head we can modify.


Big vs Small Features


Just like when you start to draw, you want to begin with the big shapes and work your way down to the smaller ones. When you first see a person’s face, there is a “1st Read” to how the shapes look…kind of like a visual first impression.


This first impression is based on how the contours curve and generally describe the head and its the first task in front of us. Let’s take a look at a few examples of what I mean.


Drawing Different Head Shapes

Pay attention to parts of the head that are telling the most information and dictating what the overall head shape will be.


Like in this first example, the young girls face is pear shaped but because of her hair done up in pigtails, the general silhouette is now more square than pear shaped. So we just named one aspect of big shapes: the hair.


Next let’s compare the top-right head and bottom-left one. Along with hair, another big contour difference is how much the ears take up space. The top-right head has ears that are more flat and the bottom-left has ears that are more visible, essentially widening the head shape.


Head Variation Through Jaw Shape

Other big shapes to consider are the jaw width in the front view, and neck circumference. Excess fat will also add to how a head shape is contouring. Fat will tack on to the neck and cheek areas.


Everyone's skull is generally the same shape but you can squash and stretch the big shapes and all the features attached will change accordingly. Again as long as you are using the same amount of mass you can rearrange the proportions to your heart’s content.


Drawing The Head at Different Sizes

Now on to the smaller features! Even though the smaller features have less of an impact individually, when you factor them in as a whole and juxtapose them next to each other, they can make huge differences.


Variation in Facial Features

After you have a base head structure drawn, it’s much easier to tack on these individual features and see what works. The brow / eye sockets, nose, mouth and chin all are features that can be modified.


I will talk later about how to create from using the side view, but for now take notice that I have drawn the center line on the head structure in green.


This is essentially how that head is sculpted from the side view and it will determine how much each of the features will protrude out from the base.


Not only will these features change the shape of the head but it will give a different flavor and vibe to your character creations. Character design is another discussion entirely, but the choices you make when you pick which features to accent will have specific effects on how the character feels.


Great! Now let’s really dive into how we should think about constructing a unique character’s head.


The Math Breakdown


Take a look at the large head shape in the top-left. This head is broken down into what I think are the features that matter most when sculpting a unique head for a character. Let’s go through the breakdown piece by piece.


How to Draw a Unique Head

In purple, is the brow; it’s mostly defined by the skull bone underneath, however a bushy eyebrow can also effect its size.


Next is the ear, in pink. The ear as we already talked about is a feature that directly affects the silhouette.


Now on to the nose, in blue. The nose is very much like the ear, in that, it’s cartilage and it directly shapes the characters head shape in multiple angles.


The cheekbone, in green, is a very important section too. It basically determines the upper facial width, as well as the apparent height and depth of the eye socket.


Next, is the denture sphere or the mouth section. The mouth can be shallow or more rounded with full lips. The teeth and skull have a big part to play in how much the mouth is accented. Lastly is a the jaw and it may be one of the largest factors in head shape.


This is because is determines the width of the face in front view and also the chin protrusion in the side and three-quarter views.


Notice that I have also color coded a list of percentages that describe the amount of volume each part has. These percentages will always equal 100% when added up. The cool part about breaking it down into numbers is that you can easily see which feature takes up the most space.


However, don’t get caught up on the specific numbers themselves. These are only rough guesses and don’t really accurately reflect what is shown visually. They are really just a demonstration that you can do to help yourself understand this concept.


How to Make a Character Memorable


How to Draw Memorable Heads

Like I said, I won’t be getting into character design concepts but I will show you the way to make characters memorable. Along with personality, color palettes, and body type, the head shape will be a big part in how you remember a character.


Check out this example. Character A has average features; all of them with average emphasis. Note that the head looks perfectly fine and actually would be great for an average hero.


Now look at character B. With this head, we have subtracted from the majority of features and added their mass to the nose instead. A feature that is around 30% of the whole will really stand out and that is the whole point. That character will be much more memorable and potentially interesting.


Be careful not to push it too far unless you want an exaggerated look. You don’t have to set up a mathematical system when creating head shapes, but you will want to keep all of this in mind as you draw.


This has been a fun way to explore the variations in head shapes. Now let’s see how to go about creating them for practice.


Working from the Side View


Since the head is symmetrical, one of the best ways to create is to take out the complexity of a 3d view and work in the side view. The best part about the side view is that 4 of the 6 masses are being defined in one drawing. I personally like to work the side view while also drawing it in a 3/4 view as shown here.


Modifying The Side View of The Head

Step one in working with the side view is to set up the base head shape with a proper center line and place marks for the brow, nose and forehead. Now, start to draw in the NEW centerline for your character using the first centerline as a reference.


Remember, where ever you add more mass be sure to take away a similar amount somewhere else on the head. This will insure that the head does not get too imbalanced.


Once you have a good looking side view you’ll need to start taking into account the front view.


Adding Front View Features


Before adding anything to this 3/4, centerline drawing. We need to figure out the width of the cheekbones and jaw. Let’s first take a look at the cheek bones in the front view.


Adjusting The Cheek Bones To Draw a More Unique Head

The main concern when starting to add features in the front view is to always be aware of the side view as well. This is, in part, one of the reasons we are working in a 3/4 view for our final drawing.


To figure out the width of the upper face, I don’t think about drawing in the cheek bone, but instead about the whole eye socket.


It just helps you visualize the volume easier. Take note of how the volume looks. Many instructors think of this area as a mask found on characters like Robin, The Spirit or The Phantom.


So let’s simplify this ‘mask’ and draw it in the 3/4 drawing.


Adjusting The Eye Sockets To Create Head Variation

See how simply I’ve drawn in this width of the cheek bone? To start out, I think of this shape as a piece of paper folded in half. Start with the middle line of the folded paper shape. Then draw the upper and lower halves.


This lower half is the cheek bone and will dictate the outer contour of the face. Great! Let’s add the jaw in a similar way.


Defining The Base of The Jaw

Find where your jaw bone stops in the centerline that you’ve already drawn and then find its width by making marks on the left and right sides of the center line. These marks should be symmetrical, just like your eye-socket shape.


Now imagine the curved line that would connect the jaw mark we just made to the side of the chin. With the centerline, the eye socket and the jaw all etched in, we can now see how the head would fully shape, to some degree.


Use some contour lines and make a silhouette to finish this shape. To really flesh out the head of a character, knowledge of the planes and musculature will be needed, but this simple head shape is a great start.


Drawing a Unique Outline for The Head

Awesome work! I know that these simplified head shapes are not all that compelling but with a bit of creativity and finesse you’ll be able to make unique looking characters that feel real to your audience.


Let’s move forward and I’ll bring all of these concepts together in a final drawing.


Practicing the Art


The art of variation is really grounded in how well you know the foundational head construction. So your unique heads will only look as good as your basic head. As they say, you have to know the rules to know how to break them.


But that doesn’t mean now isn’t a great time to start pushing your imagination with creating new head shapes.


I recommend you give an attempt similar to what I have here. Pick a few different character archetypes to make heads for and create a simple story around it. I thought a group of friends would be a great example for this practice. First, here’s the final image that I came up with.


Drawing Memorable Heads That Stand Out

The basic scene is of a group of friends where there’s a little tension between each unique character. Adding a little story for your characters to be unique within is a great way to spark your creativity and drive yourself to create diverse looking head shapes.


So, I’ve added a muscular but stocky guy, a more slender skater punk, a hero type with a strong look and an attractive, girl-next-door type. The main hero seems to be a new member of the crew and so I separated him from the group by pushing him into the foreground.


I’ve also added a romantic look between the girl and the hero. To add more tension I’ve given the punk character a protective / jealous expression.


Let’s break down the head shapes and bring all the concepts together.


How To Create Variation Between Different Characters

Okay, first in red is the overall shape. This works hand and hand with all the other features (drawn in different colors) but it illustrates the overall silhouette I was going for. The hair and ears really influence this overall shape.


Notice how the body builder friend has an overall egg-shape to his head because his ears stick out, his neck is thick and the hair on top is slightly sloped to a point.


This greatly differs from the skater who has a longer, skinnier face with an extreme mohawk haircut. His head shape is very elongated.


For the girl, I’ve used the her hair to soften the edges of her face and also tried to used round shapes where ever possible to keep her attractive nature unified.


Last, I gave the hero some angular features for his jaw and nose. I made his chin a bit more prominent and drew his neck pretty muscular to add to the heroic feel.


Make note that because I made the other characters extra unique, the more average-looking hero stands out as well. It’s all about contrast.


Awesome! I hope your character heads came out great.


Wrapping Up


This art of varying your shapes for characters will be one that develops with time, creativity and mileage. Don’t neglect studying basic head construction either because it all adds to your skills with varying the proportions.


I would also draw from comic books and life. Find some of the coolest and most unique characters that you like and try and replicate what makes them so interesting.


I hope you had a great time working your way through this tutorial. Feel free to post your character head creations with links to your images in the comments.


The ever growing community at howtodrawcomics.net is a fantastic resource if you are looking to improve your art. So jump on any of the social media pages to get feedback on your work by fellow aspiring artists and professionals alike.


HTDC.net also offers paid courses on various different skill sets if you are looking for an extra creative boost.


If you have any questions regarding this lesson, please leave a comment or DM me on Twitter with my account @catapanoart. And, lastly, if you’d like to see some of my professional work or want to check out my cyberpunk racing adventure comic called STAR CIRCUIT head over to veraviastudios.com for more info.


Thanks for reading.

-Joe Catapano


Tutorial by Joe Catapano


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