SKULL IN A BOX
How to draw a Skull in 3D
This article brings together knowledge from the last 2 tutorials dealing with the skull. However, we focus on the volume and perspective rather than details of sketching the face or the side of the skull (we dealt with those in detail here: IT’S ALL IN YOUR HEAD and THE BRIGHT SIDE). This is the last one of the “Skull” series and attempts to create a very simple and quick method of sketching the skull in 3 dimensions. While the previous articles helped you memorise the proportions of the skull and its various components, here we will see how all these things connect to each other and work together to form the skull.
- Step 1: Sorting perspective first
- Step 2: Grid Lines and Important Points
- Step 3: Eyes and Nose
- Step 4: Completing the face
- Step 5: Visualising the Volume of the Skull
- Step 6: Forming the Forehead
- Step 7: Forming the Cranium
- Step 8: Drawing the Jaw
- Step 9: Teeth, Nose and Completion
- Step 10: Adding Tone
Sharing knowledge is a passion. Now you can download this tutorial in PDF Format ...and yes! It's absolutely free → PDF Tutorial Download
Author: Iasonas Bakas
1. Charcoal Sticks
2. Kneadable Eraser
3. Sketch Pad
4. Ruler or measuring needle
Step 1: Sorting perspective first
This is a very simple step. All we have to do is create a simple frame in perspective. This will be our guide sketching the front side of the skull. A horizontal line will be your horizon and two points at either end of the line will be your vanishing points. Sketching the frame should be easy. If you need more help have a quick read through this: TRY A DIFFERENT ANGLE and WHAT ARE YOU LOOKING AT…?
Step 2: Grid Lines and Important Points
With our “perspective frame” in place we can now sketch a simple grid to help us locate some important points of the face. Divide the frame in 3 equal parts vertically. Divide the frame in 4 parts horizontally – be careful; we are drawing in perspective which means that these 4 parts won’t be equal! As you move further away these need to be smaller. For ease follow the image below.
If you want to understand why we are creating the grid, it is explained thoroughly here: IT’S ALL IN YOUR HEAD. Similarly, thatexplains why we need the “important points” shown as short bold lines below.
This grid will just provide some rough guidance while sketching rather than being a strict boundary for us. Don’t worry if it is not perfect!
Step 3: Eyes and Nose
For the construction of the facial features we will mainly be following IT’S ALL IN YOUR HEAD. If you have already read this, then it will be very easy and straightforward to understand what we are doing.
First of we need to indicate position of the eyes and nose. The bold marks sketched in the previous step will help you in this. Notice the nose starts between the eyes. Remember to sketch in perspective. Your grid lines should guide you!
Also, notice that the one eye socket is smaller than the other one. We are drawing in perspective so this makes sense! The one being further away will be slightly smaller and flatter. The nose sketched here is just the outline; in reality it projects from the surface of the face. We will look at in one of the following steps.
Step 4: Completing the face
To form the rest of the face we need to show the cheekbones and jaw. Obviously at this stage we only need a rough outline. Follow the picture below.
Remember that the chin coincides with your bottom bold mark. The chin is positioned on the symmetry axis of the face (it is in the middle).
Make sure the cheekbones are on the same level (in perspective of course – follow your grid lines). If they are on different levels the face will immediately look wrong.
Don’t get bogged down with details at this stage. We will be amending stuff as we go along. We just want to have these outlines in place to help us form the face proportionally correct.
Step 5: Visualising the Volume of the Skull
In this step we will draw some lines that we won’t use at all! They are critical though to help your eyes understand the volume of the skull. Trust me, with these lines in place your drawing will start looking like a 3d drawing instead of a strange flat face.
Just connect the 3 corners of your frame outline with your vanishing point on the left of the page. See the picture below.
Step 6: Forming the Forehead
Now we can visualise the volume of the skull. It is time to make our drawing 3d. The first step is to define the forehead. To do so we need to sketch the frontal bone (bone above the ridge of the eye brows). All you need is literally two lines.
Remember that the frontal bone slopes less steep than the bone at the rear of the skull. Try to follow the curve of the line as shown here:
Step 7: Forming the Cranium
Our drawing has already started looking like a skull. Before we move on to drawing details we have to complete the volume of the cranium. The cranium finishes slightly below the ear hole (approximately same level as the cheekbone). To help you define that point it is worth adding the zygomatic bone at this stage. This starts from the cheek bone and is pretty much parallel to your grid lines terminating at the left vanishing point.
In the sketch below the ear hole is indicatively shown to give us a reference point.
Step 8: Drawing the Jaw
Our skull cannot be complete without showing the jaw. The way it is sketched below is very rough but should allow you to understand how it relates to the rest of the skull structure in space. The joint of the jaw with the cranium is located just in front of the ear hole. Also, it is obvious that the jaw extends and meets the chin. Pay attention to how the jaw is hidden behind the cheek bone.
I find helpful thinking of the jaw as a separate box hanging from the skull. The way it is currently drawn reflects exactly that. It is very angular; in reality the jaw and the chin interface is more round. This can be picked up later when adding tone and by observation.
Step 9: Teeth, Nose and Completion
With our skull outline pretty much complete, we need to pick up any details before we start adding tone. The first element we need to look at is the teeth. We have 32 teeth which are symmetrically positioned. Their shapes and sizes vary and of course…they are not perfect! Reflect that on your drawing (don’t make your skull looking like Superman). Since we are drawing in perspective keep in mind that not all teeth are equally visible. Some of them will show on their side while others will be fully visible. Don’t forget to show the roots of the teeth back to the main bone of the jaw and the skull.
We also need to finalise the nose. We have the outline already in place. All we need to do is show it projects slightly. By drawing the nasal bone in a slight angle between the eyes the nose will immediately come to life. Just complete the shape. The bottom of the nose connects to the cheek bone.
Step 10: Adding Tone
As previously, tone will be covered by another tutorial. However to be able to complete your drawing I would recommend starting from the darkest areas. Those area the interior of the nose, the eye sockets and the area around the zygomatic bones. Gradually build your tones as shown below and on the cover photo of the tutorial.
We learnt how to draw the skull in 3 dimensions. Purpose of this article was to show how the different elements connect together and how their volume sits in space and in perspective. Exhaustive details have obviously been left out (read previous tutorials for those). Finally, this drawing is far from perfect; however it gives an understanding of how the skull should be drawn and hopefully following these steps, you will be able to draw the skull in any angle.
If you have gained an understanding of how the skull defines the structure of the head , you have succeeded at this stage. We will be looking at muscles and skin in the near future. That will complete our knowledge regarding the construction of the face (portraits).
The Artist says:
“It is so amazing studying the human anatomy. You gain an understanding of how things work together and then instead of just sketching individual shapes and planes you understand how the body structure works as a whole!”
Art is more fun when you meet the artists themselves! Visit THE ARTIST…
Love Sketching & Painting