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How to Draw Difficult Head Angles: Explained

Next to human proportions being something all artists struggle with, head angles are usually considered a far greater obstacle. Something about them just makes them so difficult to get the hang of -- how exactly do you draw a head to look like it’s facing up or down? Today, let’s learn all of the tips and tricks to getting those difficult head angles looking accurate and proportional.

These tips for perspective are somewhat advanced and will tell you what to keep in mind when drawing heads from different angles.

Not too into reading? Don’t worry; check out instructor Fei Lu’s video on drawing heads at difficult angles.

Drawing heads looking up

Tip 1: Draw the “triangle” for the bottom of the chin

An image of a woman looking up. Her chin is outlined to show off the jawline, and a small diagram of a head is in the top left corner.

When drawing a straight-on head angle, your ball and shield when drawing the head is much simpler to illustrate. However, the “shield” will curve because of the angle of the chin, so that triangle that follows the jawline is very important to getting an accurate looking face.

Tip 2: Make sure the elements of the face echo the curve of the chin

The same image as mentioned previously, now with the nose and mouth lined to show the shapes.

When drawing the nose, lips and eyes, all of them should curve in the same direction as the chin and jawline. This will assist with creating a convincing head angle.

Tip 3: The cylinder of the neck should be wider at the bottom and smaller at the top

An image of a man looking upwards. His neck is outlined with a cylinder so show off the upwards perspective.

Just like how a normal cylinder in perspective would work, the neck should be wider at the bottom and narrower at the top when drawing a face looking upwards.

Keep in mind - Breaking down elements of the face into simple forms is a quick and easy way to get perspective correct, because it's easier to draw geometric forms in perspective than organic forms! For instance, your neck can be drawn as a cylinder and your nose can be drawn as a pyramid.

Tip 4: The eyeline appears higher when drawing this head angle

The same image of the woman looking upwards. More lines are drawn across the face, and two white arrows are drawn to show the spacing of the eyeline. A couple of cylinders are drawn to the left of the image.

When drawing a face looking forwards, your eyeline should be directly in the center of the face. Even though it’s still technically in the center, the eyeline appears much higher on the face when it’s looking upwards because the face is tilted so far backwards. The eyeline curves just as much as the jawline does, so while it still remains in “the middle,” it’s now curved to follow the shape of the face.

Tip 5: You shouldn’t draw too much of the hairline

Just the outline of the image of the woman has been drawn. Hair is partially added around the head and shoulders.

When the face is looking up, you generally won’t see the hairline because of how far back the face is tilted. You could add a small hint of the hairline up top, but overall the majority of the hair will be shown on the sides of the head.

Tip 6: Your iris will be covered by the top lid

Part of the image of the woman. Near the top, there's a drawing of an eye looking upwards.

Because of the angle of the head, your iris will appear to be looking upwards. Since the curve of the eyelids must match with the curve of the jawline, the irises will also be covered up by the upper eyelid.

Keep in mind - The corners of your eyes are different! While the inner corner should be drawn as a “C” shape, the outer corner should be drawn as a sideways “V” (or "y"), but remember that the upper eyelid overlaps the bottom one.

Tip 7: Break up the face into geometric shapes

The same image of the woman looking upwards. Her face is broken up into varying rectangles and triangles.

When drawing the face, sometimes it helps to break up the face into different planes and geometric shapes. While it doesn’t work for everyone, try it out and see if it works better for you to work with geometric shapes rather than organic shapes!

Drawing heads looking down (¾ angle)

Tip 1: Find the circle of the head first

An image of a man looking downwards. His cranium is outlined with a circle.

You’ll need to find the circle of the head when drawing any angle. If it’s kind of tricky to find the circle, as long as you find a little portion of it you’ll probably be able to figure out how big it is. This should always be the base for any head in order to draw your “ball and shield” to get going properly.

Tip 2: All of your curves should curve downwards

The same man as mentioned previously. More of his head is outlined, such as his eyes, nose and ears. Two eyes looking down are drawn on either side of his head.

Just like when the head is looking up, when the head is looking down you’ll want the curves of your eyes, nose, mouth and chin to be curving down as well.

Keep in mind - Your eyelashes on your eyes should also be pointing downwards, but they should thin out towards the corners of the eyes and get thicker going towards the center of the eye.

Tip 3: Even if the individual is angry, the mouth should still be curving like a smile

The same photo of a man looking down. His nose and eyes are outlined, and a face looking downwards is drawn in the top corner. A curved arrow is drawn above it to emphasize the downwards curve.

Even if the individual is angry/upset, you’ll need to draw the mouth overall as though it’s curving upwards so that it matches the perspective. Instead, you’ll draw the corners of the mouth curving down and furrow the eyebrows to give them that angry expression.

Drawing heads looking up (¾ angle)

Tip 1: Your chin, nose, mouth and eyes are all almost the same shape

A new photo of a woman looking upwards, this time from the side. Her chin, lips, nose and eyes are outlined.

While not exactly the same, the chin, nose, mouth and eyes are all similar triangles. This has to do with the angle -- all of the triangles point upwards to mirror the triangle under the chin.

Tip 2: Ears usually start between the eyebrow and the top of the eye

The same photo of the woman, her whole head outlined. The ear is also drawn in, though it isn't visible on the photo of the woman.

When drawing the lines across the face, the ears should start somewhere between the top of the eyes and the eyebrows. They should end approximately at the bottom of the nose.

Keep in mind - Your sideburns can give you a hint as to where your ears start as well.

Tip 3: Know the landmarks of the face first

The same photo of the woman looking up from the side. Her ear and sideburns are outlined, though they aren't visible in the photo.

While drawing head angles is difficult, in order to get a good understanding of them at all you should already have pre-existing knowledge about the landmarks of the face. Drawing different angles is really understanding how to re-shuffle them and put them in different areas to give the idea of perspective.

There you have it! Hopefully, these tips have given you some insight into how to draw convincing head angles. These are very general tips -- everyone looks different and everyone’s facial structure is different, so practice with multiple people in order to give you a wide range of experience!

Want to hone your skills with drawing faces? Check out our portraiture intensive class taught by Fei Lu herself, and check out our art mentorship classes where you work directly with an artist mentor to gain customized advanced learning!

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