Portrait art tutorial - lesson on the basic structure & proportions of the face.

Face Structure

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Eye lengths of face

Yes, this is a peculiar-looking illustration. But there's a reason behind it. I want to show you how to measure the proportions of the face, to make sure you're getting everything right.

The line of blue almond shapes going across the face represents "eye widths." Each blue almond shape represents the width of one of the eyes on the face. The red lines are there to make the division between each eye-width more obvious.

You will notice that there is an eye-width between the two eyes. And then there is almost another eye width between the edge of the eyes to the outside edge of the head. So, this means that the face is approx. 5 eye-widths across.

It's a good idea to use this "eye-widths" trick a lot when drawing the face. It helps you keep the proportions right. Like, for instance, the nose (from the bridge of the nose to the tip) is about an eye-and-a-half in length. And so forth. "Measure" most of the face this way, just to double-check to make sure you got everything right. Your eye can fool you sometimes. The proportions may look right, while in reality being waaay off.

When you are drawing someone (either from a photograph, or from life) check and see how many "eye widths" each feature is, and how many "eye-widths" are between each of the features. It will save you much time, and erasures. If the eye-widths of the model and the eye-widths on your drawing don't match up, you know you need to do some adjustments! Do this eye-width thing while your drawing is still in its preliminary stages. Much easier to make erasures and adjustments then.

This is a really fantastic measuring technique, and it will help you understand how to keep the proportions of the face accurate, and correct. It will also help you see where you are prone to "distort" the face. (As in, you tend to make the nose too short, or too long, etc. Don't feel bad, we all do this.) Once you know where your weak areas are (in drawing proportions), it will be easier for you to improve your drawings in the future.

Eye lengths of face

Another use of the "eye widths" thing. In this illustration, I show that the head is about 7 eye-widths long. Most heads will be about 6-7 eye widths long. (More like 7 eye widths.) And - notice how many eye-widths are in the forehead. About 3 eye widths. Maybe even a bit more.

Remember to not ignore the height of the forehead. Just like the when you are drawing the back of the head, you must allow enough room for the skull and brain, or your drawing won't look right. A lot of newbie artists don't add enough forehead to their portraits. Since there are no features up on the forehead, I guess they don't pay much attention to it. But it is very important to get all proportions of the head correct!

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