The Skull – Front
You are so into starting painting portraits but after trying a couple of times…things didn’t quite work. Yes, I know…I ve been there myself. Here you will find just the right amount of information to get you started – simplified, and easy to follow.
Why you should read this article
If you want to make some progress you need to follow a method; and trust me, there is no better tactic than understanding what lies underneath. Having a good grasp of the skull will help you gradually build your skill drawing and painting portraits. In this article we will look at the structure of the front side of the skull (next article will be about the side view).
For this exercise allow 2.5 hours.
Contents of this article:
- Step 1 – Gridlines
- Step 2 – Important Points
- Step 3 – Eyes & Nose
- Step 4 – Cheek Bones and Forehead
- Step 5 – The Jaw
- Step 6 – The Cranium
- Step 7 – Teeth
- Step 8 – Tone
Now you can download this tutorial in PDF Format. It’s free sharing of knowledge.
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Step 1 – Gridlines
Firstly, we need to define our working space. No need to go crazy with measurements, however it is important to draw proportionally right. You need to draw a rectangle. Put the height in (something that fits your page). Now we have to define the width. The width should be approx 2/3 of the height. ie for 30cm height you will need 20cm width.
When you are ready with your box, you will need to draw a grid. This will be helpful for drawing the skull, it will save you loads of time measuring. Divide the width to 4 equal parts and the height to 3 equal parts. At this stage you must have something like this in front of you:
Step 2 – Important Points
With the grid lines in place our life becomes much easier. The first points to define are the eyebrows line, the bottom of the nose and the bottom of the chin. It is dead easy so far….and actually is the base for a very good and proportionally correct drawing. When we start adding cavities and elements of the skull it will start looking much better. You can see the four bold lines below:
Step 3 – Eyes & Nose
It’s time to start adding some facial elements (well there is no face since we are drawing a skull…but you know what I mean). Eyes and nose are the first things to add. I won’t start explaining every single dimension because this article will become very complicated to follow. I ll highlight the important things you have to look out for. The grid lines and the photos will help you draw correctly all elements though.
Notice that the nose starts between the eyes pockets – not below. The eye pockets come in a small angle – not exactly horizontal.
Step 4 – Cheek Bones and Forehead
The next element is the “mask” bone surrounding the eye pockets comprising the cheek bone and the forehead. I ve included a picture without perspective so it is easy for you to double-check you are on the right way with all the elements so far. Check the size of the eye sockets and the shape of the gap for the nose (I ve shaped the nose a bit better here). Remember…the face is symmetrical; it will instantly look wrong if you break the symmetry with eyes of different size, or at different place (non-symmetrical locations).
Remember…the face is symmetrical; it will instantly look wrong if you break the symmetry…
Try to follow the shape of the cheek bones as shown below. Notice the curve starts at the intersection of the grid lines under the eye sockets and at the same level with the base of the nose. Do not draw the cheek bones too wide. You will need some space later for the cranium (do not reach the edge of your grid).
Step 5 – The Jaw
Having the eyes in place will actually help you a lot with shaping the jaw. The easiest way to remember how to put the jaw together is to follow these 3 rules:
- Edge of jaw lines up with centre of the eye socket (approximately).
- The edge bones of the jaw have the same angle with the edge of the “mask” bone next to the eye.
- The bottom of the jaw is the chin; you have defined this already (the bold line at the bottom of your page).
Step 6 – The Cranium
It’s time to give a feel of completion to our drawing by adding the cranium. This is actually very simple by following our grid. See below the edges. Notice that the top of the cranium is slightly higher than your top grid line. Also, it extends slightly below the joint of the jaw (below the ears).
Step 7 – Teeth
The teeth will be the last element. I ll be completely honest with you; I didn’t count the teeth, my jaw was slightly wider than it should be….I made a mistake (rectified that later though, after adding tone). However, the basic principle doesn’t change. Make sure you show how the teeth root back to the main bone of the jaw (tone will help you show that easier). Also, keep in mind of perspective. The teeth being at the side won’t be as visible as those being at the front.
…and do I need to mention this? COUNT the teeth!
To see the mistake compare the two pictures below with the last picture – see the jaw and number of teeth.
Step 8 – Tone
Tone is beyond the scope of this article. We will look at the basic principles of tone in a separate article (follow CHROMA to get notified). I understand that you might want to give it a go so I ll give some tips and you can use the picture below as a reference picture.
- Add tone to define planes. Eye pockets and gap for nose are very deep (different plane) – add dark tones.
- Behind the mask bone there is a small gap separating it from the cranium. Add tone to show the difference.
- Chin is “round”. Needs some tone and light to show this shape.
Measurements are approximate and not strict to medical/anatomical requirements. However, this should give you a general understanding of how we put together the skull and help you quickly learn the proportions of the human head. I am sure there are questions on the above so please do let me know and I ll try to help as much as I can.
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