I have been going to weekly life drawing classes for three years now. I am very happy I am making some progress and I am also still learning and sometimes struggle with proportions. I find it helpful when drawing a portrait to have some rough guidelines for the location of important landmarks on the average person. Of course there can be a great deal of individual variations, but knowing what these variations are compared to the “average” basic proportions of the face can help with achieving a likeness.
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So what are the basic proportions of the face that can be useful when drawing a portrait?
Symmetry of the face
It is helpful to trace a vertical line in the middle of the face before you start drawing so you can refer to that line when drawing the features. Nobody is totally symmetrical and if you can spot some asymmetry on your model and render it accurately, it will help a lot with likeness.
Eyes in the middle of the face
The first most obvious thing to know when drawing a portrait is that the eyes are situated halfway between the top of the head and the chin. Depending on the hair style, you might have to guess where is the top of the head. We give a lot of importance to the eyes so we intuitively have a tendency to place them higher on the face.
Space between the eyes
If the model is looking straight at you, the average person has a space of one eye in between their eyes and one eye on the side of each eye.
The face is about 5 eyes wide.
Placing the ears
The ears are situated in an average person somewhere between the top of the eyes and the beginning of the eyebrow arch.
You can divide the face into 3 equal thirds:
- one third goes from the hairline to the eyebrow
- one third goes from the eyebrow to the lower part of the nose
- one third goes from the nose to the chin
You can divide the face in 3 thirds to help find the length of the nose.
As always there are individual variations, on my profile picture you can see that I have a low hairline.
The outside of the nose usually aligns with the inside corner of the eye.
Mouth and chin
The under part of the lower lip is situated halfway in the space between the end of the nose and the chin.
Usually the outside corners of the mouth align with the pupils when the person is looking straight forward.