The head is probably one of, if not the most complicated areas of a comic book character to draw. You’ve got the head proportions, facial muscles and features, AND on top of that a plethora countless expressions, micro movements and emotions that the human face is capable of.
The worst part is if you want to be a comic book artist you got to step up, bite the bullet and face the fact that you’re going to have to become a pro. Because the reality is, our daily lives are full of faces.
When we look in the mirror, when we talk to friends, when we’re at work, when we watch a movie we are looking at faces.
This makes us very familiar with them, and leaves no doubt in our mind whether or not a face looks correct. In fact that’s what makes us attracted to certain faces, and repulsed by others.
So without meaning to be overly critical, the slightest mistakes can be easily caught out, even magnified by anyone you show off your work to.
It’s easy to see why setting out to draw something so complex can be a little intimidating. Especially when drawing it from multiples angles!
This can be discouraging. Heck, it can even cause you to give up before you get started.
Well guess what? Although this might all be true, the human head isn’t actually as hard to draw as you think. I’m not going to go and tell you to collect a bunch of photos or reference material to work from either, because really, we don’t always have reference material or live models at our disposal.
And who wants to be confined to drawing a carbon copy of the observed anyway? We want to pull the gems of creativity from within our creative imagination!
This first chapter will show you how to draw and construct the front of the male head. You can follow along with your sketchbook or tablet as I take you through each of these basic steps. By the end of this first tutorial you’ll be surprised at just how easy drawing the heads of your characters can be.
For this first example, I’m going to show you the process I used for drawing a standard male head. He’s a generic and rather simple looking fellow. No fancy masks, shades, or even goatee.
But if you can draw a basic, proportionately accurate head with ease, you’ll be able to bend and manipulate the standard rules you’ve learnt to create and modify an endless variety of different head shapes, sizes, and builds for your characters – knowing without a doubt that they are gonna look SUPER schmick.
So I’ve created a system for you and it’s going to take a lot of the headaches you’ve encountered out of drawing a perfectly proportioned head. In fact with this simple, easy, and effective technique and a little repetition you’ll have it down in no time.
You’ll be able to give a face to all those super heroes, sexy heroines and evil villains you’ve got flying around in your imagination, and they’re all going to look 100% awesome every time.
Drawing The Foundations For The Front View Of The Male Head
Step 1: Draw a Sphere
To begin draw a simple sphere. I say sphere here instead of circle because you want to start thinking in terms of form instead of flat shapes.
For now, this sphere is going to be the base used to build the rest of the face out from, but ultimately it will become the top of the head.
Step 2: Slice The Sphere Into Quarters
Split your sphere up into quarters by drawing a vertical and horizontal line directly through the middle.
The two lines you’ve just drawn should be crossing over one another in the middle of the sphere. The vertical line running top to bottom is going to represent the middle division of the head, while the horizontal line running across will serve as the eye brow line.
So now you should have a sphere, divided up into 4 equal parts.
Step 3: Lop Off The Sides
Take that sphere and slice off the sides. Be careful not to lop too much off though. You’ve just created the sides of your characters head!
Step 4: Draw The Eye Line
So far, so good! Now let’s add in a few extra lines to help you draw in the rest of the face. Place a line just below the brow line, having it run from one side of the head to the other.
This line will be the eye line.
Step 5: Extend The Center Line
Next extend the center line in the middle of the face, taking it all the way down to the bottom of the chin. Now the really IMPORTANT thing to keep in mind here is that -
The eye line falls directly around the middle of the head. This is going to help you determine how far down the chin should be.
Step 6: Draw The Nose and Mouth Guides Onto The Face
Now, divide the middle line up into thirds where it runs from the eye line to the chin. As you’ve probably already guessed, these two lines are going to tell you exactly where to put the nose and mouth of your character.
Lastly, divide the center line between the brow line and the top of the head in half. This is how you find the hair line.
Step 7: Draw The Jaw
The last step in this blue print is to place in the jaw lines. These lines run from either side of the head, down to the chin and kink outward about half way down.
The sharpness of that kink or angle is going to be determined on how chiseled you want your characters jaw to be.
A sharper jaw will give your face a more masculine appearance, and although that’s a great look for a male character, it’s usually a good idea to soften it up for the ladies.
Step 8: Draw in The Cheek Bone And Outer-Brow Guidelines
Add in some guide lines for the cheek bones, and side of the eye brows. Then erase the bottom half of the sphere, because that’s not going to be needed from here on out.
Step 9: Draw The Ears
To place the ears, all you have to remember is the top of the ear directly aligns with the brow, and the bottom aligns with the nose.
Ear tip: From the side, the ear is always going to look wider then if you’re viewing the face from the front.
Step 10: Draw The Neck
The neck is relatively simple to draw from some angles, and yet a little more difficult from others.
Viewing the head from the front, the sides of the neck actually come down directly from the bottom of the ears.
As the two long, band-like muscles extend downward, they taper into a V shape at the centre of the collar bone. The rest of the neck then extends out into the shoulders.
When drawing the neck of your character, keep this in mind – The neck is one of the main elements that determine how strong, weak, masculine or feminine looking a character appears to be.
Typically, the older, weaker, younger or more feminine a character is, the thinner their neck will be. So instead of coming down from the ears, the sides of the neck would come down from the mid-section of the jaw line.
The stronger, more masculine character types will of course have a thicker, wider, neck.
STOP and go back through these steps another two to three times. That’s right. I want you to redraw what you just drew a few more times so that you have three to four base heads all lined up next to one another.
Going back through these steps will help cement the technique into your brain so that this whole process becomes more automatic, easy, and speedy.
REPETITION IS KEY with all of this stuff. Believe is or not, after a while you won’t even have to think about these steps when you sit down to draw your heads. It’ll be as second nature as walking.
Step 11: Draw The Eyes
Okay, let’s get onto the good stuff, starting with probably the most important feature on the human head - the eyes! You can already guess where you’re going to place them, but how you place them is what’s important.
The eyes are of course placed side by side on the eye line, which if you’ve made it this far, will fall around the mid-section of the entire head.
As a general rule, there should be one eye width between each of the eyes. Any closer or further apart and you might find that your character looks kinda cross-eyed or like an alien.
Step 12: Draw The Nose
Below the eye line, the face is typically divided up into equal thirds. That means two lines will be cross sectioning the face between the eye line and chin. The first line is the nose line, the second the mouth.
Let’s deal with the nosey part of the equation first…
In terms of proportion, the width of the nose (nostrils included) will be the same as the gap between the eyes, in other words, the width of one eye.
Noses can be a little tricky but the easiest way to get your head around it is to try and visualize the nose as a tapered, triangular block or wedge that has been glued to the face. Because really, that’s basically what it is; a triangular block with nostrils attached.
Step 13: Draw The Mouth
And lastly the mouth is dropped onto the line below the nose line.
The length of the mouth is about as wide as the half-way point of each eye, the left corner of the mouth lining up with the left iris, and the right corner of the mouth lining up with the right iris.
There are a large variety of ways to draw the mouth of a man, so it really comes down to personal preference and style. Still, here’s a few things you might want to keep in mind for the guys.
Draw The Opening of The Mouth: Giving a man full, voluptuous lips is a sure fire way to make him look feminine. If that’s the look you’re going for, then by all means add some lipstick and glossiness to boot. But if not, sometimes it’s better to leave a man’s mouth as a simple contour line where the lips meet.
Define The Base of The Bottom Lip: You can still add lips into the mix here, but be careful if you want them to look manly. The bottom lip should be drawn in as a slightly, upward curved line.
Draw In The Top Lip: You could also leave it at that if you wish to but there’s always the option of throwing in the top lip as well. Again, keep it thin with less volume then the bottom lip.
You can draw the mouth on neutral if you like, but keep in mind that the eyes and mouth of a person are probably the most expressive parts of the face.
If your character is a jolly Joe of a chap then try out some arched eyes and a nice big smile. If he’s got a chip on his shoulder then give him a glare more low-brow then the terminator and a mouth that looks like it just ate a lemon. You’ll see the difference!
Step 14: Draw In The Eyebrows
Rather than constructing the eyebrows out of individual strands, I simplify them down into a clump of eye brow fur. A few lines to indicate individual strands are drawn in later on, but not too many.
This helps define the shape and thickness of the brow. Because we a drawing the eye brows of a man here, they are plastered on quite thick in comparison to the slim, streamlined eyebrows of a woman.
This is another major difference between the two sexes. Thinner, higher eye brows come across as feminine, while thick, lower brows look manlier.
When it comes to human expression, eye brows are highly potent. So ask yourself what your character is feeling. Are they sad and depressed or are they happy and joyous?
Step 15: Draw The Pupil And Iris
Without an iris this guy’s going to look like a lifeless zombie.
Hey, sometimes this is the look you’re after; especially for villains or supernatural-esque characters. In this case however, we’re going to keep him as a normal, non-creepy/possessed, average Joe.
Place a small dot, into the eye. Where you place this dot depends very much on what direction your character is looking in, as this is going to be the pupil. In the example, he is just sinisterly looking straight ahead at you.
Then simply draw in the iris around the pupil.
Now add in some eye lashes by darkening the upper eye lid and fade the bottom of the eye out from the corner.
The more intensity and thickness added to the eye lashes, the more feminine your character will look so keep it toned down for the manlier characters.
Step 16: Draw The Anatomy of The Ear
The ear is a cluster of bumps and grooves, making it a tough cookie to crack when it comes to drawing.
It has an outer structure that makes up the overall curve of the ear and an interior that I’ll refer to as a cup of cartilage. We will cover ear anatomy in another section, for now simply try to replicate the ears I’ve drawn onto the guy in the example.
Step 17: Draw The Hair Line
The hairline is placed between the top of the head and the brow. This can of course vary, depending on hair loss, and crazy hairdo style statements.
Step 18: Outline The Shape of The Hair Style
To make our lives easier, instead of drawing in the hair as individual strands, we’ll be using ‘bangs’.
You can think of bangs as clumps of hair that are grouped together similar to what you might have observed on manga, anime or more cartoony characters.
This simplified approach not only saves time but it’s also amazingly effective at helping to direct the style and flow of your characters hair.
Make Sure The Drawing is Structured Well
Alright, the hard part is done! Let’s wrap this up.
Believe it or not, the really difficult part is over and done with. It’s all that techy stuff like the planning, the measuring and the constructing that sucks up the most amount of brain power. You can relax now; from here on out everything else is just icing on the cake.
BUT this does bring us to the first very important point I want to make before taking this any further,
MAKE SURE THE BASE IS SOLID!
Because all the icing in the world ain’t gonna make a bad cake taste good. Right now it’s easy to make tweaks where needed; nothing is necessarily set in stone. But it is PARAMOUNT that you get it right before moving onward to the details. If it’s not one or two little mistakes, but the whole foundation is off instead… best erase it and start all over again.
It hurts, it sucks, and it’s a punch in the guts. But trust me; better to kill your spawn now before it grows into an abomination with makeup.
Because Funnily enough, the foundation as important as it is takes the least amount of time to draw. No less, make no mistake; it IS the most important part.
The details built on top of the sketch take a lot longer, but they don’t require a lot of thinking. You can relax more, talk on the phone, listen to some music; now you’re just drawing on top of what’s already there. Personally it’s also my favorite part because this is the point where things really begin to come together.
Details Consist of Three 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.”
In the end how you use these three methods is completely down to your preference. If you’re natural style leans more toward the clean cut manga or anime for example, you might opt for using only the Line Weights to polish off your drawing.
If your natural style resembles more of the Noir, Sin City type you might simply combine the Line Weights with some thick dramatic shadows, leaving very little or no rendering at all. Then again, maybe you, like me, are a long-time fan of Todd McFarlane, Greg Capullo, Marc Silvestri or David Finch and want to jam as much detail as possible into that final piece of shiny comic art work.
In the next section you’ll learn how to use all three elements to take your base drawing all the way through to a final piece of penciled comic book art. Try them all out and see what works best for you.
Step 19: Refine The Drawing
Let’s refine the drawing and clean around those rough edges. So what are “Line Weights”. Well… They are your friend for starters, and they are what will save your drawing from coming across as flat and indistinct.
Since they are so special, we’ll go into Line Weights more extensively in another tutorial. For now here are a few pointers:
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 20: Drawing In The Shadows
As I said before, you could simply refine the lines and be done with it. Really, weather you leave your work clean cut or gritty it’s all personal preference. I am however a glutton for punishment so I throw in all the details I can!
Again, these two are fairly big topics to cover so they’re going to get a tutorial all to themselves. But here’s a quick rundown.
Let’s deal with the shadows first.
As you’re drawing, keep your light source in mind and constantly ask yourself “where the heavy black shadows should end up.” Is there a light coming from the left or right, and how far back or forward is it? Is it coming from above or below?
To top it off you might even have two or three light sources to juggle. If you can keep it simple in the beginning, these shadows really won’t give you a hard time.
Taking our head as an example, simply keep in mind that any protruding or receding forms, such as the nose, eye sockets, cheek bones, lips, jaw and brow will cast a shadow.
Of course it also depends on how you’ve sculpted the face. For instance, say your characters head isn’t so gaunt, chiseled and bony; maybe instead it’s rounder, cheeks fuller and less sucked in. That would mean that those forms would cast less of a shadow or maybe no shadow at all.
And the other super key thing to keep in mind with shadows! The larger the form, the larger the shadow it’ll be casting.
Step 21: Render The Head and Hair
Rendering compliments shadow nicely when properly combined. It’s really just another way to describe the shape and form in what you’re drawing. Rendering is done through a combination of rendering lines (also known as feathering) and cross hatching. Each render line or ‘feather’ starts out thick at the base, gradually thinning out until it reaches the top.
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.
The trick is to think in a 3D mindset instead of a 2D mindset. After all that’s the whole point of going to all this trouble, to describe what we’re drawing as a 3D object inside 3D space. To make it look like it’s literally sticking out of the page.
Let’s pull this all together. To create volume and form through rendering, curve or wrap the feathering around your object. In the face example, you can see this going on around the cheek, chin and neck areas.
Sometimes you’ll also want to use this rendering technique to create a gradient from dark to light on softer shadows. I’ve used this mainly around the neck area.
That’s it! We’re done!
If you made it this far, give yourself a MASSIVE pat on the back - because this stuff isn’t as easy as most people think it is. In fact, learning how to draw is without a doubt one of the most mentally challenging and draining tasks one can undertake.
It takes an incredible hunger to truly harness the talent within you; it demands sacrifice and an unbreakable determination.
But if you pour your heart and soul into refining your abilities, you will be victorious and what you get back in return will be 1000 fold.
You’ll find with time that the more put into practicing and studying, the easier all of this becomes. Your creations will flow out of you more and more naturally. It’s like physics; you’ll get out what you put in. This I can guarantee you.
You might not be satisfied with your skills in drawing.
But right now, it doesn’t matter what level of skill you’re at. Your art is not what defines you; you are what defines your art. Knowing this will give you the ability to transform it into something far and beyond what you could have imagined.
I can say this with absolute clarity – because I have been where you are. I still am to an extent.
Even when I knew my art work sucked, the anatomy was off, the proportions were incorrect, when what was transferred down onto paper was some skewed up, distorted version of what I had envisioned within my mind I knew this...
...That I would take the disappointment, uncertainty and the embarrassment, learning from every mistake; so that failure became an invaluable lesson. And with those lessons, I would make every single drawing better than the last.
Needless to say, a step by step how to draw method like the one you’ve just gone through always helps.
Sure he’s a simple, and generic looking fellow, but he is constructed with all the classical proportions of the human head. He will serve as a solid base for you to come back to and work from again and again.
Ultimately though, through practice and experimentation you will find your own way of doing things. And that’s just the natural pay off you’ll receive drawing after drawing. Slowly but surely your style and artistic identity will shine through.
Tips For Drawing The Front View of The Head
Before I go, here’s a last look at a few extra tips that will hopefully help you out even more along the way!
Not every person is the same. Some people have round heads with big noses and thin mouths; some have chiselled cheek bones, with a squared off jaw, tiny eyes and a low brow glare. Experiment and mix it up a bit!
These rules aren’t strict, and once you know how they work feel free to modify them to get the exact look you’re after. The easiest way to get a variety of different faces is to 1: adjust the length of the overall head, or 2: vary the spaces between the nose, mouth and chin. They don’t always have to be a perfect 1/3 apart.
When rendering out hair, try to think of the bangs as 3D folds, layered on top of one another. In the darker areas of the hair, you’ll tend to find more details, shadow and rendering; as the hair gets lighter those details will become less.
For me to guarantee your drawing success, you have to make a 100% commitment to cement this method into your brain. You’ll do this by going through the steps at least another 10 more times.
Draw 10 different heads, each with different features, hairstyles and expressions, but maintain the correct proportions in the base construction with all 10.
This shouldn’t take long, maybe half an hour to an hour depending on how fast you can smash these out. Afterward not only will you be capable and confident, you will be BLOWN away by how easy it is for you to give your comic book characters cool looking heads!
Tutorial by Clayton Barton