Tips on Drawing a Life-like Head

The problem most artist have is that their pictures are too flat, so how are you supposed to draw a 3d object on a two dimensional canvas? Here are some concepts that I’ve learned from a book by Andrew Loomis combined with my own experience.


Let’s assume you start your drawings off with a sketch of the face before you start shading. Now trying to create a solid object from this first sketch is quite difficult. It’s hard to see where one edge begins and the other ends. That is why breaking down the head into a group of planes is so beneficial.


The planes on a face are more visibly seen when a harsh light hits it at an angle. These planes are the key to drawing a solid, lifelike, portrait. It’ll help you know which values to give the different parts of the face.


Tip: If you’re not sure what value to give a certain part of the head (how dark you should make it) just remember that the less light a portion of the head receives the darker it will be. The more light it receives the lighter it will be.


Here’s an illustration of the basic planes of the face. I recommend that you memorize the positions of these various planes as it’ll benefit you in so many ways. Sometimes when drawing from photographs it’s hard to tell what value to give a certain portion of the face but if you understand the construction of the head, and the source of light, it will be easy to identify the value you should apply to that area.

 You don’t need to dissect the head into tiny pieces each time you draw a face. The point is to understand the construction of the face, and the balance you need between hard lines and edges, and smooth, soft, lines and curves. The right balance between the two will bring out the depth and character of your drawing, without making it look like something you carved out of stone.



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