Learning how to draw the human head from the Front, Side and ¾ views is the first step to understanding its basic structure.
The Portrait and Profile views show us a clear layout of the head's proportions and placement of the facial features.
The shape of the skull, jaw, eyes, nose, mouth and ears are all shown within a flat, two dimensional perspective, allowing us as beginners to easily figure out how everything should fit together.
It’s the perfect introduction to learning how to draw the human head, because these direct View Points give us the blue-prints.
If we only ever wanted to draw portraits, we could practice drawing the head from the Front and Side a couple of times over and get it down pat pretty quickly.
Once you become familiar with the construction method and measuring out the placement of the facial features correctly - it becomes easy to get consistent results.
But as a Comic Book Artist, drawing your Characters merely from the Front, Side and ¾ Angle is only tip of the ice berg… in fact, aside from the ¾ View, due to the dynamic nature of Comic Book Illustration, it’ll be a rare occasion to ever have to draw your characters in these flat, two dimensional layouts.
When we draw Comics, we want our characters to pop off of the page. We want to be able to pose and compose them, in action packed sequences that cause them to leap out of the frame – leaving a potent, visual impact on the viewer.
And if we're only able to draw our character's heads from the Front, Side and ¾ Views, we simply won’t be able to pull off a visually compelling presentation for our audience...
The key is to STOP thinking about the head as a flat, 2D image and to instead imagine it as an actual 3D Object that can be turned in space, and looked at from any angle.
If we can move into that mind set, we’ll be able to mentally visualize and construct the head down onto the page from a multitude of unique perspectives.
The problem we run into straight away here is that the head is a rather complex and intricate object to visualize… it’s hard to imagine what it should look like from those less familiar angles.
The solution is simple – make it easier to VISUALIZE!
To do that we need to start out by breaking the head down into very basic forms… and by very basic, I mean just about as primitive as they come.
Step 1: Draw a Sphere
Whether we’re drawing the head from the standard Front, Side and ¾ Views, or more dynamic Top Down / Bottom Up perspectives – we begin drawing it the same way – using the Sphere as a foundation to build the rest of the head off of.
When drawing the Sphere in a dynamic, three dimensional perspective, it allows us the advantage of figuring out the position and rotation of the head, right from the get go.
The Sphere is divided up into quadrants by wrapping a set of guidelines around its surface on each axis. These guidelines help to describe it's geometry - AND they also establish the placement of the head itself, the perspective we’re looking at it from, and the direction it’s looking in.
All up there are three guidelines that wrap around the surface of the Sphere. To make this easier, you can imagine a tennis ball, with three rubber bands wrapping around each axis.
The two vertical guidelines, running from the top of the sphere to the bottom define the front of the face and the side of the head. The horizontal line, wrapping around the equator of the sphere, represents the brow line of the face.
If you don’t yet know how to draw the head from any other angle, besides the regular Front, Side and ¾ Angle views – try this as a warm up exercise! This will help you to get a feel for how the base form of the head can be turned, tilted and drawn at different angles. Start with just the Sphere. Open up your sketch book, and fill up one or two pages with quick sketches of a basic Sphere. Divide each sphere into quadrants as you draw them out, establishing the Front of the face ( and the direction the head would be looking in) the Side of the head and the Brow Line.
The Brow Line is important, because it helps us to figure out if we'll looking at the head from above or below, based on the direction of it's curve.
Challenge yourself to turn and rotate the Sphere presenting it at a variety of different angles. It’s a simple exercise, but this should give you a good feel for determining the size, placement, rotation, and angle of the foundation of the head from a range of different perspectives.
The Sphere is a great place to start, but in order to create the rest of the head's foundation, we’ll now need to build out the face and establish it's proportions.
This follows the same, 3 step construction process we used to draw up the Front, Side and ¾ Angle views of the head.
Rather than being completely Spherical, the top of the head is actually flattened in at the sides. So to capture a closer representation of the craniums true form, the next step we need to take here is to slice off either side of the Sphere to describe the flat, temporal area of the skull… Cutting off the sides of the Sphere at a more dynamic angle that you’re not used to drawing the head on could be tricky, but try your best to picture how the geometry of the sphere should look from the given perspective once you’ve flattened out the form in those areas.
Step 2: Draw The Eyeline
Next, we’ll draw in the Eye Line, just underneath the Brow Line. The Eye Line is important, because it sits at the mid-way point of the overall length of the head.
This allows us to figure out how long the bottom half of the face should be.
In a foreshortened perspective however, the length of that line will likely become skewed. In fact the shape of the face itself will distort to an extent depending on how dramatic the perspective you're drawing it on is. Although there are no fool-proof ways of ensuring that you’re able to draw it 100% accurately at these more complex angles, the general rule of thumb is to remember that the further away forms pull back from you, the smaller and narrower they become.
And on the flip side, the closer they are, the larger and bolder they’ll appear.
Taking that on board, if we’re looking up at an ideally proportioned head, typically the lower half will be slightly bigger than the top half. If we’re looking down on it, the top part of the head will be drawn larger than the bottom half.
In fact, some of the major forms might even begin to overlap and obscure one another.
Step 3: Draw The Face Block
Finally, following the basic construction process of the head, we place in the jaw line. It’ll drop down from the side of the head and wrap all the way around to the chin.
No matter what angle you’re drawing the head on, the steps taken to create a solid foundation will always be the same. The only difference is, the way those foundations are visually drawn down will depend on the perspective and angle you’re drawing your character’s head on.
But the good news is that, because the structure of this foundation is so simple to understand and easy to lay down onto the page – it becomes a billion times easier to visualize it. You can turn that basic geometry around in your mind, comprehending it from an endless amount of angles…
...and you’ll know the method to follow in order to construct it.
Of course, we’re only talking about the foundations of the drawing the human head here. Beyond that basic structure, we can begin laying in the facial features – which becomes easier once we’ve got the proportions sorted out on the base head model. It’s then just a matter of placing the eyes, nose, mouth and ears on to that geometry in a way that makes it actually look like they’re a part of it.
The only catch is that, just as with the depiction of the base model of the head itself, the facial features are drawn differently depending on the angle you’re looking at them from. Their structure completely distorts, so much so, that the only way to truly harness the power of being able to draw them dynamically from any angle you want, without reference, is to understand the underlying principles of the anatomy.
The reason behind why they’re drawn the way they are... We’ll save that for another tutorial though.
For now, I hope this Comic Art Tutorial has provided you with a place to start when it comes to drawing the head from different angles and perspectives accurately.
Again, the ability to break the complexities of human anatomy down into simple geometry is an extremely important skill to master as a Comic Book Artist – and it’ll truly give you the power to present your characters in whatever context they need to be illustrated in.
Thanks for reading, and until next time - keep drawing.
Tutorial by Clayton Barton