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Portrait Drawing for the Ultimate Beginner: The Face

Updated on April 23, 2014

Drawing the Human Face

There are many different shapes of the human face. The standard shape is an oval or ellipse. I often use this shape in examples to simplify drawing the face, but there are many other shapes to consider. Not everyone's face is shaped like an oval. Just as everyone has different body types, we also have different facial shapes. Below are some examples:

Oval-Shape Features are equally rounded from the top of the head to the chin; No distinctive features (i.e., cheekbones & jaw line); Face is slightly longer & wide.

Circular-Shape This facial shape is longer & wider than the other shapes; No prominent jawline; Round hairline.

Triangular-Shape The jawline is wider; Face tapers from jawline to forehead.

Square-Shape The sides of the face are straighter (forehead, cheekbones, & jaws are aligned); Face is long as it is wide.

Rectangular-Shape Face is slightly oblong; Jawline & hairline are square

Inverted Triangle-Shape Face is slightly longer than it is wide; Forehead is wider; Chin is pointed; Jaws are narrow.

Heart-Shape Facial shape is the same as the inverted triangle, but the hairline has a widow's peak.


When drawing the face, you first want to determine which facial shape you want to draw. Below is an evaluation on how to draw the baby, adolescent, and adult faces:

(l-r) Front View; Side View; 3 Quarter View
(l-r) Front View; Side View; 3 Quarter View

Baby & Childhood. The shape of a baby’s & child's face is drastically different than the adult face. It is rounder & less angular. When we're younger, we have “baby fat”. As we grow older, we lose this fat. The shape of the head is less of an oval/ellipse and more of a rounded-square shape. Because the baby’s face is smaller his or her features are more compressed & are divided into smaller parts starting at the eyebrows, which are depicted in the following image.


(l-r) Front View; Side View; 3 Quarter View
(l-r) Front View; Side View; 3 Quarter View

Adolescent. An adolescent is between the ages of 13-17. The face has become more firm and less “chubby” like a baby's. The shape is similar to that of an adult’s, just a smaller frame and no prominent shapes (e.g., square, heart, etc.) are formed yet. Starting at the hairline, the facial features are divided into three parts.

(l-r) Front View; Side View; 3 Quarter View
(l-r) Front View; Side View; 3 Quarter View

Adult. The adult face comes in many shapes as shown above. The face is fully developed so it will take on a prominent shape depending on weight, genes, or other factors. The overall shape is slightly larger.

In this portion of the lesson the differences between a man’s face and a woman’s face will examine .

(l) Man;  (r) Woman
(l) Man; (r) Woman
  • The man’s face is more angular & the jaw line is more squared. This is not to say that a woman’s face cannot have the same features, but these are more common in men. The brow line or the brow bone can also be heavier in men.
  • The woman’s face is more rounded, less angular, and the features are more subtle.

Lightness & darkness are important when drawing the face. If you want to emphasize light, you have to decide which direction you want the light to come from before you draw your figure. Lighting can create a certain mood (ex: natural sunlight on the beach or a spotlight on a dark stage).

You have just learned the different facial shapes, types, and lighting. It is now up to you to decide how you want to draw the face!



Key Points to Remember

-The first step to drawing a face is deciding which facial shape you want to draw.

-Although there are many different shapes of the human face, start with the standard oval.

-The baby, adolescent, & adult faces all have unique characteristics.

-The shape of the baby’s head is more of a square shape divided into 4 parts starting at the eyebrows.

-The adolescent & adult heads are divided into 3 parts starting from the hairline.

-The man’s face is more angular & the woman’s face is more subtle.

-Have patience!!

-Don’t be hard on yourself & have fun!!

-Keep practicing!









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    • Kalilah L profile image
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      Kalilah L 9 months ago from Michigan

      Thanks greg. I'm glad to know that I can help people with these art lessons. It's never too late to take art seriously.

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      greg 9 months ago

      I really enjoy your articles. Have loved art all my life. Find articles very helpful. Wish would have taken it more seriously when young.