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Drawing tips basic proportions of the face

Portrait drawing : Basic proportions of the face

Learn the basic proportions of the face
Learn the basic proportions of the face

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.

You might also be interested in the following post: Life drawing techniques and methods, a quick overview

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 eyes are situated 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.

he 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.

the ears are between the top of the eyes and the beginning of the eyebrow arch.

The nose

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 into 3 equal thirds for the basic proportions of the face

You can divide the face in 3 thirds to help find the length of the nose.

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.

The outside of the nose 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.

location of the mouth and chin for the basic proportions of the face

Usually the outside corners of the mouth align with the pupils when the person is looking straight forward.

outside corners of the mouth align with the pupils