Hari's Corner

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Study of faces - how to draw cartoon faces (a cheat sheet)

Filed under: Tutorials and HOWTOs by Hari
Posted on Wed, May 9, 2012 at 12:04 IST (last updated: Sat, May 19, 2012 @ 19:16 IST)

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Not being artistically trained, I have always had trouble drawing human faces in comics/cartoons. Somehow or the other, It's very hard to convey certain information from the simple lines of the comic or cartoony style. Unless you've studied human anatomy or attended an art course where they teach such things, age and sex is a bit of a bother to convey to the reader. However, here in this short study, I will attempt to show how to draw faces in a simplified manner using certain cues.

First of all, here's a cheat sheet of sorts.

Study of human faces

Young Woman's face

Conveying youth is slightly tougher than conveying age. Here are some of my tips:
  1. Face shape should be oval and should end in a pointed chin. However, to convey youth, the cheeks should be reasonably rounded. (older women can be more angular and facial features tend to be more prominently lined).
  2. Nose should be delicate.
  3. Mouth should be small and lips not too thick but not thin either. However, this is subjective.
  4. Neck should be thin and shoulders should be slightly sloping and not too broad.

Small Child's face

To draw a small child:
  1. Face should be rounder and not oval.
  2. Eyes tend to be larger with more black area than white. Delicate nose.
  3. Thick but short and full mouth. Almost no chin to speak of.
  4. Almost no facial lines.
  5. Neck should be thinner and not too long.
  6. Additional cues which can be used is curly and thick hair.

Older man's face

To draw an older man's face, the shape of the head is important. Here are some of my tips:
  1. Jug shaped head - narrow at the top and broader at the bottom - with a large chin with lines conveying double chin flab and sagging cheeks.
  2. Smaller eyes with furrowed eyebrow and puffiness - shown by lines under the eyes.
  3. Larger nose.
  4. Facial lines along cheekbone to give a gaunt appearance.
  5. Thinner mouth - lips almost invisible.
  6. Additional cues: lined forehead.

Actually it's far easier to draw an older man because of the amount of information that can be conveyed with the facial features.

Younger man's face

  1. For a younger man's face, the jug shape needs to be reversed and made a bit squarer.
  2. Chin is prominent and broader.
  3. Eyes are normal sized. Nose is reasonably prominent.
  4. Mouth is larger, but lips are thin.
  5. Neck is broader and shoulders are squarer and not sloping.

Of course, a lot of these cues are stereotypical and are used as techniques purely in a comic style. In real life, the variety of faces is too many to generalize as above. But because cartoon/comic is a simplified format, a lot of such techniques are useful as visual cues. However, using the cues, it is possible to create a wider variety of characters by slight variations in shapes and lines.

Drawing faces can be fun and hope this article has been of some use to you. Practise is the key!

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