In the first how to draw male heads tutorial we focused on figuring out how to draw the front of the head. It was a doozy, but in the end you had a solid system that literally gave you the power to draw your character’s head from the ground up.
But... When it comes to drawing the same head from the side, it becomes a different ball game. Well… Sort of.
Basically, we are going to crack this cookie open with the same method by starting out with a simple blue print, using the sphere and guideline technique.
You see no matter which way you view the human head, whether it’s from the front, the side, the back, top or bottom; the proportions of the head all stay the same. The cool thing about that is a lot of what you learnt from the portrait tutorial can be recycled into this one.
Beyond the preliminary stage though, things are gonna get a little wackier. Because although you’ll still be drawing in the cheek bones, jaw and facial features – how you draw them will be completely different..
This is the bummer when it comes to drawing heads... Or anything really. Every time you move the head to a different point of view, the way you draw it and its features completely change.
This is where most aspiring artists who try to learn how to draw tend to lose their mind figuring this stuff out.
And it truly does want to make your mind explode! Because to pull it off simply, fast and easy every time, it requires a mental shift in the way you think about drawing. Once that shift takes place, everything else becomes a breeze (most of the time).
So here’s the GOOD NEWS! If you aced the first tutorial you are going to have no problems with this one whatsoever. In fact, if you’ve been practicing, you might even feel confident enough to skip over some of the steps you already know.
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 center 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 center 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, chiseled 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 organizing 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.
Step 7: The Profile Contour
This section of the tutorial is where things begin to get interesting! You see, although the proportions of the head remain the same in every view, the facial features do not.
Since we're dealing with the side view of the head, rather than laying down the individual features separately, you're going to define the front of the face by drawing a single contour line from the brow to the chin.
This contour line basically outlines the silhouette of the brow, nose, mouth and chin.
The feature guidelines laid down in the previous steps will show you exactly where to place each feature. But just in case here’s a quick recap from the top.
1. First comes the brow line
2. Just beneath that sits the eye line.
3. Next comes the nose line
4. And below that the mouth line.
The features themselves will of course vary between the genders, age groups, races and simply through unique individuality.
So however far you pull out the nose and chin, whatever size you decide to make the brow and lips; it’s all completely up to you and the look you want for your character.
But there are a few differences between a masculine face and a feminine face that you might want to watch out for.
Women tend to have smaller, softer features while men’s are more broad and defined. The nose and chin are also slightly larger in comparison to that of a woman. This sharp, chiseled look comes across psychologically as strong, masculine and dominant.
You’ll notice that the facial features all adhere to the straight line we originally defined for the front of the face. So as you push and pull out the features, use it as a guide to ensure everything is aligned correctly.
Step 8: Drawing the Eye
It’s crazy just how completely different the eye appears when viewed from front to side. In the heads profile view, the eye looks almost like a slice of pie. Which makes drawing it super simple! Go ahead and draw it in on the eye line.
A common mistake made when drawing eyes side on is placing them too close to the front of the face. This can cause the entire face to just look… off. And because it’s such a subtle mistake it’s often hard to pin point.
So if your head isn’t looking quite right, try placing the eye further back, away from the front of the face and see if it makes a difference. After all, our eye ball does sit back inside the skull's eye socket.
Step 9: The Eye Brow
Next, draw in the eye brow using the brow line as a guide. Instead of using individual strands, group them together to create the general shape of the eye brow. A few lines can be thrown in later to indicate strands of eye brow hair, but not too many are needed.
The different ways eye brows can be drawn vary from gender to gender.
Generally speaking, the eye brows of a man are drawn lower and thicker, while females tend to have raised eye brows that are more thinned out and streamlined.
Step 10: Sculpting the Head
Up until this point the sphere has served as a worthy place holder for Mr Man’s head. But it’s time now to sculpt that cue ball into something more accurately skull-like.
There are only a few tweaks that need to be made, primarily around the top and back of the head.
Begin by quashing down the top of the sphere. Only flatten it out a little though, we don’t want this guy turning out like Frankenstein’s monster.
Next, push in the bottom quarter of the sphere, at the back of the head, so that it curves nicely into the neck. And lastly, just above the brow, take the forehead in slightly.
Step 11: Draw in the Nose
When drawing the head from the side, the nose is one of the easiest steps. This is because we already have the silhouette of the nose defined. So all that’s needed now is the nostrils!
Draw in the nostrils just below the ridge of the nose, and use a smaller single line to indicate the back of the nostril hood, where it meets the cheek.
To help determine how far back the nostril should be drawn, observe the angle of the nose’s silhouette. Now visualize a line with that same angle, running from the tear duct of the eye, down to the nose guideline. This will indicate the contour line of the cheek, but more importantly it’ll tell you where to place the back of the nostril hood.
Keep in mind that at a very simplified, primitive level, the nose is simply a wedge, stuck to the front of the face.
Step 12: Place the Hair Line
The hair line falls about mid-way down, between the top of the head and the brow line. This can always depend on the kind of hair style you might want for your character, or if they are balding the hair line might recede further back. It all comes down to your character and their individual preferences.
Step 13: Draw the Ear
Ears are a difficult thing to draw from almost every angle. In fact sometimes it can look like a completely different form from various points of view.
So I’m not going to lie to you. It’ll take some time and practice to get comfortable enough drawing the ear from the front, side and back.
The outer structure of the ear defines the overall curve, and inside that outer structure sits the interior which could be described almost like a fleshy cup full of bumps and grooves.
We’ll have a closer look at the detailed anatomy of the ear in another tutorial dedicated to it specifically, but for now simply copy the ear in the example or even better, find an ear reference to work from so that you can start memorizing its construct.
Step 14: Draw the Hair
When we sit down to draw hair it can really leave us scratching our heads. So here is a simple method you can use to give your characters literally any hair style you desire.
Rather than drawing the hair out as individual strands, what you want to do is clump an entire cluster of hair together into what is commonly known as a ‘hair bang’. By using bangs, it becomes a lot easier to layer hair and have it flow into whatever style you like.
If you have ever seen the eastern drawing styles of Anime and Manga there are great examples of how bangs can be used to draw hair everywhere. For example, Goku from Dragon Ball Z has a fairly crazy hair style!
But if you look closely it isn’t drawn with individual strands, in fact it’s simplified down into clumped groups of hair. It’s almost like he went to town on his hair with a giant tub of gel!
Well you want to go about drawing the hair of your characters in the same way. You can always add extra details later on, but starting out like this will enable you to get the shape and style of the hair correct first.
When drawing the hair it is important to note that the bangs are layered upon one another. In the example below you can see how the front bangs are combed back and layered on top of the back hair bangs.
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….
MAKE SURE THE BASE IS SOLID!
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 favor 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 favorite 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
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.
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.
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.
Well folks, we have yet again reached the finishing line.
Learning how to draw is a huge task to undertake. And if you’ve made it this far without turning back you're doing well.
In all honesty it’s taken me years to get to this point and I am still learning new things, still refining my style, and still… Yep, I’m still screwing up and making mistakes just like you.
The drawing methods I’m showing you are basically a compilation of everything I know! And I want you to take that knowledge with you on your own artistic journey.
Because my hope is that these tutorials will let you skip a lot of the ground work I had to make in order to reach the level I am at today.
It’s not all sunshine and roses though. Despite all the knowledge and learning you’ll take away from what I’ve got to share with you, the one thing I can’t give you is the experience and mileage it takes to truly harness and refine your skill.
Learning how to draw, and drawing well takes practice. There is no magic pill or way to get around it. You’re going to make mistakes, and you’ll learn from them, evolving and becoming better and better each and every time.
As the great Greg Capullo once said to me,
"It’s like physics. You’ll get out whatever you put in".
And the deeper your roots, the taller your tree will grow. The practice is a necessary foundation, and the only way to get to know who you are as an artist.
So in saying all of that, after you’ve gone through this tutorial, turn over to the next page of your sketch book and go through it again, page after page.
That way you’ll not only be able to learn my method off by heart but you’ll be able to assimilate it and use it in your own way.
Thanks for reading; I hope you’ve enjoyed this Free how to draw comics tutorial. Until next time, goodbye and keep drawing!
Tutorial by Clayton Barton