Drawing a Sphere Is the Gateway for Drawing Faces
It may seem unnecessary, but to start learning how to draw facial features, it’s important to take a look at a sphere. By slowing down and analyzing the shape, you’ll see that the sphere is found repeatedly in the human face. It’s visible in all rounded and curved surfaces you find on the face, especially the cheeks, nose, and chin. And, like when you are drawing a sphere, every aspect of the face contains the five elements of shading: Cast shadow, shadow edge, halftone, reflected light and full light. (Learn more about these five elements here.)
If you want to draw lifelike faces, knowing how to draw the rounded parts of the face is essential. Below, artist and instructor Lee Hammond shares tips and techniques for drawing realistic faces with graphite pencil, excerpted from her book, Lee Hammond’s All New Big Book of Drawing. Lee starts with a refresher on the anatomy of the sphere and the shadow shapes that can be found on the surface of this shape.
In the three drawings, below, you can see the different areas of the face where the sphere is very obvious within its shape and form.
Remember: The five elements of shading will always be seen in everything you draw as you see in the diagram above. From complete light to total shadow, there are several shades in between. See how and where these shadows are created? Be mindful of them as you create the rounded shapes of the face: the nose, the chin, and the cheek. Drawing a sphere and identifying the parts you see (as above) is a great exercise to get you warmed up for portrait drawing.
Materials you’ll need:
Mechanical graphite pencil
Stump or tortillion
The nose closely resembles a sphere. It is actually made up of three distinct spheres — each nostril and the ball of the nose.
Create a line drawing of the nose. Then develop the patterns of light and dark with a pencil. Be sure to refer to the sphere.
Add reflected light along the edges of the nose and the rim of the nostril. Add a shadow edge under the tip of the nose to makes it look rounded. Place cast shadows under the bottom edge of the nose.
The chin also resembles an elongated sphere. You can see the reflected light along the edge and the cast shadow on the neck. Be conscious of the direction of the light on the face and how it hits the chin. Here, the light is reflecting more sharply on the right side of the chin. the left side is slightly darker.
The sphere is seen in all rounded areas of the cheek. The five elements of shading are clearly visible. In many ways this area of the face is the closest to resembling an actual sphere. Take inspiration from the sphere diagram above when you draw and shade the cheek. Practice drawing a sphere before you draw the cheek for good practice!
Love drawing and shading facial features and want to start with the best of the basics? Check out A Beginner’s Guide to Drawing Facial Features now!