Drawing Faces is Mathy

Face drawing proportions via Bieber |

I’m sure you are aware that there is a way to teach face-drawing through measuring. You’ve probably seen drawings like this one, showing you how to break up the face into even sections.

I mean, what is this? Look at how crazily even the human face is, and how you can segment it up perfectly! This is the kind of stuff that makes my head explode. (In a perfectly proportional way.)

I’ve invited Justin Bieber to lend his face  for this exercise, so you can see a real live example of this, because everyone knows you retain information better when it is current and relevant. I ask you. Who is more relevant than Biebs?
First off, the thing kids universally have trouble with is the placement of the eyes.

The eyes are halfway between the top of the head and chin. (In this case it’s close enough, as his hair defies the laws of nature.) Most kids start off by drawing them up in the forehead somewhere, and won’t believe you when you tell them they’re half way down the face. Show them Bieber:

Bieber's face for teaching kids drawing proportions |

There’s also one eye’s width in between the two real eyes.

Face drawing proportions via Bieber |

Now that they know where the eyes are, show them where everything lines up as a whole. This is the most straight-on photo I could find of him, so you’ll notice a few gaps since his face is slightly turned.

biebs face lines | Art learning from

The bottom of the nose is halfway between the eyebrows and chin, and the eyebrows are halfway between the hairline and bottom of nose. So now you know where that hairline starts under that mop.

How about some more fascinating facts?

  • The corners of the mouth line up with the centers of the eyes.
  • The top of the ears line up above the eyes, on the eyebrows.
  • The bottom of the ears line up with the bottom of the nose.
  • The face is evenly separated in vertical lines form the center of the nose out: to the center of the eyes, to the sides of the face, to the outsides of the ears.
You can go nuts with these measurements, but I would start with showing them they eyes in the center of the head, as well as the width of an aye in between the 2 actual eyes, and go from there. Cool stuff, huh? Just wait until you read this  post on the Golden Ratio.
Related: Using the grid method to draw a portrait is an incredibly helpful way to break a drawing up into manageable parts to copy it or learn to draw larger.

What do you think?

Jeanette Nyberg

Written by Jeanette Nyberg

I'm Jeanette Nyberg: artist, author, introvert, creativity-pusher, color-lover.


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  1. He looks good with a third eye! I do find that measurements and rules of thumb to be helpful when drawing faces and getting body proportions correct! The mind can fool the eye!

  2. Isn’t that incredible?! What is amazing is with all these consistencies there is any room for variation left but of course there is because everyone looks so different. I always have to use the rule of eyes being half way between top of head and chin. It is still just not intuitive for me. This way a great post idea!!!

  3. Aaaah, the Golden Ratio, I am STILL amazed by it. I was obsessed with measuring my own face (and TEETH!) for that perfect number! LOL!

    Stopping by from SITS to wish you a wonderful SITS Day! Hope you enjoy the rest of your week! 🙂

  4. This will be usefull in my 8th grade art project. I have to draw a human face and I’m doing J.K Rowling. Do you have any tips? Its using a greyscale though.


    • Hi Lucia! First of all, I love that you’ve chosen J.K. Rowling to draw. I see that you’ve already found my grid drawing post, so I think that will be super-helpful with this project. My tips would be to draw a couple of fairly quick practice portraits before you start your final project. It will help you loosen up and get used to the lines and shapes of her face. I wish I had done this more when I was in art classes in school. 9it’s all about practice) 🙂 Also, if you haven’t already, it is useful to get a feel for greyscale by making your own reference greyscale. here’s an article on painting one, but you can easily draw one, too. Hope this helps!

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