Drawing People Drawning

How To Draw A Portrait Symmetrical And Consistently

Maybe you have experienced this yourself: it’s already difficult to draw the different parts of a human face. It takes a lot of practice to create nice and lively noses, eyes, lips and hair. But even if you mastered these it’s not all you need to learn to draw portraits!

Assembling these different pieces into a picture of a face is even more difficult. All pieces have to be on the right place. And what makes it even more difficult is symmetry: it’s not enough to draw one eye on the right place, the other eye must be in proper position, too … and both eyes must be symmetrical.

The same is true for lips, the nose, the ears and so on. Failing to create symmetry (even by slight deviations) makes the portrait look awkward and distorted.


So how can this be fixed and avoided?

It’s all about using helper lines to create a first layout to guide you.

When looking frontally at a face or a portrait you see, you can easily add some lines to find the correct positions for all details:

  • One line through the center of the face – along the axis of the nose
  • One line through the eyes … in the mid-height of the head
  • On this line between the eyes must be enough space so a third eye could fit in
  • The nose tip is halfway between the eyeline and the chin or at one third of the head’s height
  • The mouth’s position is about 2/3 to halfway between the nose tip and the chin

Sounds easy? Well it is, but only as long as you draw faces in perfect frontal view. And that’s the reason for most problems beginning portrait artists encounter! Most probably you are trying to draw faces in some kind of non-frontal view.

Once you do this all the simple helper lines I told you need to be adapted to follow the three dimensional shape of the face. So you better use these steps:

  • You start with an egg shape for the head. The point will be the chin so it should point to the bottom.
  • Now we add the vertical center line that runs through there were the nose should be. But this time it’s a curve following the egg shape of the head
  • Then imagine the egg to be cut horizontally in two parts. That’s where the eye-line appears
  • On the eye line add some marks where the eyes should be placed (remember to leave enough space between for a third eye). Don’t forget to take the distortion into account, the eye that is on the opposite side of the face will appear much shorter.
  • For the nose tip and the lips place some small marks on the center line accordingly
  • Now you know where to add which parts of the face, you just need to insert the details
  • To make sure the details don’t look to flat, give them a detailed and shaded appearance and also add some more details for the eye brows, the rim of the nose and the lips

Following these steps should help you to put the parts together. Also you can use this to draw a first sketch for portraits that should resemble a certain person. Just sketch the details and correct their position and proportions until the sketch resembles the original. Then and only then it’s ok to start filling in the details.

Follow this guidelines and you will easily find out how to draw a portrait symmetrical and consistent.