Often times, how-to art books explain everything but the very basics. Most of them make you feel like you would have to be somewhat of an artist already to even try to do what they tell you will work.
For me, it was so extremely helpful to find out what composes a person’s face, and where to put things. The eyes, nose, etc. So I have made a very straight forward list for you, that I hope will be helpful in figuring things out. Please, it is not actually a hard thing to learn if you have the right foundations to start from (a good attitude about drawing is great too.). So relax, it’s not scary. If at first you don’t succeed, try again.
- The eyes. If the person in the picture is looking straight at you, you will have five eye widths at the level of the eyes. In other words, the width of one of the eyes will be the width between the side of the head and the eye, and between the eyes. The eyes are also placed exactly in the middle of the head from top to bottom.
- The nose. This is a facial feature that is almost always gotten wrong. The length of the nose is basically the same as the width of the eye. The wings of the nose should be at least as far over as the inner corner of the eyes.
- The mouth. The mouth is placed a third of the way between the nose and the bottom of the chin; that is, being the closest third to the nose. If the person is smiling, the edge of the mouth will be directly below the pupil of the eye (if the person is looking straight at you.).
- The ears. The ear tops generally are in line with the eye brows. The bottoms are generally in line with the bottom of the nose.
As far as the rest of the face, play around with it! It’s no science.
Other important tips
- Go off a picture. Truthfully, the best place to start drawing realistic faces, is to grab a nice black and white photo and copy it, and preferably a friend or family member. Doing it this way, you will be able to get a far better picture and learn how the shape of the eyes, ears, mouth, nose, and everything in between, is composed. After several of these portraits, you can step out and try a simple sketch using the tools you have learned. But in general (and this goes for experienced artists too), you will always have to have a picture or model to go off of to get the picture to look like a specific person. Help hint: Using a grid is the easiest way. You can purchase drawing grids, or make your own by drawing a quarter inch grid on a clear sheet to place over your original picture. You then lightly draw another grid of the same size on you drawing paper which you will erase after the sketch is complete and before the shading is started.
- If all else fails, go stand in front of a mirror, and just stare at yourself for a good long while; noticing where different things are placed, how far apart, and how they are shaded in a rather general way. But it is NOT my suggestion to try to start here. It can all be too confusing if you don’t have too much of an idea what to look for. Where I like to use this is when I am sketching freehand (not off of a picture), and forgot where on earth something is placed or how it is shaded.
- Lastly, have fun! It’s truly not a science. People come in all shapes and sizes, so if you flub up… don’t worry. Just try again!
I would also like to point you to another post, Feeling Hopeless? I Was Too! where I share more, as well as some great links!