Skip to Content

7 Face Proportions for Drawing Better Portraits

Hey there, fellow aspiring artists! So, let’s talk about one of my many struggles in the art world – drawing faces! Trust me, I’ve spent the past year trying to get this right, and I’ve realized that nailing those face proportions is like finding the Holy Grail of portrait drawings.

So, in this post, I’m going to share seven face proportions that have been my trusty companions during my adventures in portrait drawing. These proportions are based on the average adult face, but even if you’re drawing someone with a face that defies the norm, these tips will help you figure out exactly what makes a particular face so unique.

1. The human head fits in a perfect square when viewed from the side whereas the front view of the face can be boxed inside a slightly tall 4:3 rectangle.

First things first, when it comes to side views, the human head fits neatly into a perfect square. But when it’s facing front, it’s more like a slightly tall 4:3 rectangle. Easy, right?

In most cases, the head’s front view fits snuggly into a 4:3 rectangle, but if you’re drawing a macho face, you can go for a 3.5:3 ratio to add a dash of squareness.

Now, when you’re tackling a side view, keep the overall proportion of the head in mind – think perfect square. That means the width from the nose tip to the back of the head is the same as the height from the highest point on the skull to the lowest point on the jaw. Voila!

But wait, when drawing from the front or a 3/4 view, things get a bit more complicated. Depending on the angle, the overall proportion of the head will be somewhere between that of the front view and the side profile.

2. The front of the face can be divided into three equal segments:

a) the forehead,

b) the nose, and

c) the jaw.

Now, here’s a neat trick. No matter the shape or size of the face, you can usually divide the front into three equal segments – forehead, nose, and jaw. That’s like finding a cheat code for portrait drawing! Who knew?

The length of the forehead, from hairline to browline, is usually equal to the length of the nose from nose base to browline. And guess what? The distance from the base of the nose to the chin is also equal to the height of the nose and forehead. Talk about coincidences!

But hey, things might change a bit when you’re drawing a face tilted up or down. Foreshortening, my dear friend, can play tricks with these equal thirds. When in doubt, sketch a box in the perspective of the head first and this will make it easier for you to divide the segments correctly!

3. The area of the face between the nose and the base of the chin can be further divided into three equal segments:

a) the philtrum and the upper lip,

b) the lower lip and the dip below the lower lip, and

c) the chin.

Getting the proportions of the lips right can be a big struggle. One thing I learned from the Loomis Method that has been a game-changer is that you can split the part of the face below the nose into three equal segments

  1. upper lip and philtrum,
  2. lower lip and the depression between the chin and the lips, and
  3. the ball of the chin. So cool right?

Of course, these proportions only apply when drawing someone with minimal face expressions. These proportions will vary if you want to draw a more expressive face (and drastically when drawing someone yawning).

4. The gap between both eyes is equal to the width of one eye and also equal to the width of the nose from the front view.

Now, spacing the eyes too wide or narrow is where many beginners, including yours truly, make a mistake. But worry not! Just make the gap between both eyes equal to the width of one eye in a front view. And here’s a fun fact – that gap between both eyes is also usually the width of the nose.

When drawing a 3/4 view, one eye appears larger than the other. It’s all about perspective, folks!

But here’s a good rule of thumb when drawing a person in three-quarters view, use the average width of both eyes to space them apart. Trust me, it’ll look spot-on!

5. The height of the ears is about the same as the the length of the nose measured from the browline downwards and are also aligned horizontally.

Now, let’s talk ears – those weird little things sticking out of our faces. They’re about the same height as the nose or slightly smaller on some faces measuring around 80% of its height.

And not only are the ears and the nose about the same height, but they are also parallel to each other.

6. Ears connect to the side of the head at its horizontal center or slightly further back towards the head.

And guess where do those ears connect to the head? Right at its horizontal center or a bit towards the back.

7. The eyes are placed in the verticle center of the head.

When I started drawing portraits, I used to place the eyes way above where they should go and I think it is something many beginners get wrong as well because we tend to underestimate how tall the head is past the hairline.

The eyes are actually right in the middle of the head, vertically speaking. So, divide that head into two halves, and there you have it – you’re at eye level!

So, these are my secrets to face proportions in drawing. But hey, if you want to explore the differences between male and female faces, I’ve got another article for you that explains just that.

Happy drawing, everyone! And remember, even if it feels like you’re drawing potatoes, keep practicing, and you’ll soon create art that’s a-peeling! Okay, that was a terrible pun. I’ll show myself out now! 😉