Head and Eye Construction


Drawing Eyes and the Head

There are some methods to construct and draw your character's face. I'm going to break down a method I learned from Andrew Loomis' books. If you would like a more in depth description, please search for his work. Most of Loomis' books are free to download or easily found for purchase.
I've been drawing heads this way for a few years and have adjusted the workflow to fit my personal style.
After explaining how to draw guides for where to place eyes and other facial features, we will look at the traits of the eyeball itself.

Let's start with drawing some guides!

Steps for Constructing the Head

First start by drawing a circle. I did this with the ellipse shape tool. I set the aspect ratio to lock at 1:1. This helps make a perfect circle.

You can also freehand this! It does not need to be perfect or neat at all, just in the general shape of a circle.

I continue to use the ellipse tool throughout this tutorial for clarity.

Now we need decide the direction that our character will be facing. I wanted mine to be looking to the left, and up slightly. I drew an arrow here to help illustrate the point and to remind me.
Once decided, draw a vertical curved line along the surface of your circle. You can draw a full ellipse, if you like, to show the other side of the circle. This helps us to think of the circle as a 3D sphere instead.
For this example, I've just drawn a simple curved line.

This vertical curved line is the guide for the middle of the face.

Now we need to draw a second line horizontally. This curved line, or ellipse, will be a guide for our character's brow line.
You can see that I started to draw the ellipses for both curved lines. I am checking that my curves can "fit around" the sphere.

Now we draw another ellipse on the side of the sphere. Humans do not have perfectly round heads so we will use this ellipse as a guide for where to "flatten" or cut off the round sides of the sphere.

Draw an ellipse for the reverse side. Here we are seeing through the head a bit, but it will make it easier to draw the shape correctly.
For the right side, extend the horizontal line across the ellipse to to the other side, following the angle of the head. Draw a vertical line through it, creating a plus + shape.

Erase the edges of the sphere to finish flattening the head. You can also erase the ellipse you drew on the unseen side of the face.

Find the point where the horizontal and vertical curves intersect. Draw a straight line down from this point. This will be the length of your character's head.
To find where the nose goes, mark the middle point between the chin and the brow line.

Since I had the chin marked, I drew a curve from the side of the sphere down to it to create a jaw line.

Continue the jawline up from the middle of the chin to the bottom of the flat side of the head.
You can make the jaw line rigid for a more masculine character, or softer for a more feminine character.

On the flat side of the head, find the bottom piece of the pie that is facing toward the back of the head. This is where we place the ear. I drew a simple C curve for now.

If drawn correctly the top of the ear should line up with the brow line.

Mark the middle point between the nose and the chin to create a guide for the mouth.
Draw an additional horizontal curve between the brow and the nose. This will be the guide for where to draw the eyes.

This step is less necessary, but I like to include it in more realistic or semi-realistic characters. Draw two diagonal lines, one coming up from the chin toward the ear, and a second coming down from the brow to the same point along the eye line.
These guides help mark the edge of the eye socket, and the cheek bones.

These are all the construction lines I typically draw.

From here it's time to clean it up and draw the character!

Using the Construction Sketch to Draw Your Character

I feel like these next steps are fairly self explanatory, but they may be useful. I'll do my best to outline the steps taken!

I work over the construction sketch on a new layer.
Using the existing guides, I draw out eyebrows. The guide I made for the nose marks the bottom of the nose. From this line I draw a triangle out and up to the eye line. It's important to remember the way the character is facing at this stage. Because of the upturned gaze, we can see the bottom of my character's nose.
I also define the ears and the lips.
My character is not smiling widely so we won't see his mouth extend beyond the cheekbone guide.

As I work I switch between white and the original dark brown I used to do the under sketch. I use white to cover up parts of the guide I no longer use, a lot like an erasure that is not permanent.
I continue to define the face, roughly marking the inside edge of the eye socket. I adjust the side of the face, defining the curves, and keeping in mind the shape of the human skull. I decided my character would be fairly masculine and sharpened some of his features, giving him a dimple chin, and more defined cheekbones.
He also got a neck here!

It's good to keep in mind that the original guides are there to help us, but not to constrain our creativity. If you feel your character design would be better pushing the limits of the construction sketch, then go for it! Exaggeration is fun.

I cover up more of the guides and draw in some circles for the eyes. Eye's are spheres set inside of the eye sockets. The eyelids are laid over the tops and bottoms of the eye, but the skin will still keep the round shape. Starting with a circle helps to keep the general constraints of the shape in mind.
If your style leans more toward exaggeration found in anime/manga or cartoons, you can stretch the circle into an ellipse or even another shape entirely!

I also round out the eye socket shape in this step.

I draw the eyelids now. I create a new layer for this step usually, so I can tweak things as needed without needing to redraw my guides repeatedly.
I keep in mind the shape of the eyeball beneath of the lids. This creates puffiness and recesses in places. The center of the eye is rounded outward while the top, bottom, and sides recede into the skull. This can cause a fold above the top eyelid where the skin wrinkles.
I personally find heavy lidded characters attractive so you'll see this theme throughout my work.

I continue to define the shapes of the face, curving the nose instead of leaving it sharp, and cover more of the guides.

Now it's time to add the irises. These are the circles of color we see and the most striking feature of the eye. I will go into more detail below on the shape of the iris.
For now we are just going to draw a circle inside of the eye.
You can also do this on a new layer and draw beyond the eyelid and erase the excess. This can make getting the right shape easier.

I finish covering the last of the unneeded construction lines and polish up the sketch.
I add a dark pupil and some light shading along the inside of the eye socket.

You can continue polishing up your head as you want! Ink it, paint it, whatever you like!

Examining the Eye

Let's have a look at just the eye itself. There are a lot individual parts that make up the eye. I won't be explaining the anatomy from a scientific standpoint, but rather from an artistic one and what "we see" when we look at an eye.

Just like a sphere the eyeball has a round 3D shape.
There is the sclera: this is the white of the eye.
The iris: this is the colored portion.
And finally, the pupil: the dark center that can change size based on internal and external factors.

There is another portion we don't usually see unless we view the eye from the side.
That is the cornea. This is kind of like a little domed lens that fits over the iris.
From this angle you can see that the pupil is inset. It does not protrude and will be seen as a thin oval or ellipse as the eye turns away from the viewer.

This oval shape widens as the eye turns toward the viewer.
Just as the iris is set inside of the eye, the pupil is set inside of the iris. Both follow the same perspective as the eye moves.

Here is an example with the eye looking almost straight ahead at the viewer.
You can see how the eyelid obscures part of the iris as the expression changes. We usually do not see the full white of the eye unless the expression is of great shock, causing the seen character to fully open their eyelids.
You may want to draw the waterline on the eye lids and the tear duct. This is often a stylistic choice and lends itself more toward realism than anime. It's also a detail that is often omitted when we are viewing the character from farther away.

Additional Examples

Here I am including two more heads drawing with the Loomis construction method. My goal with these was a to show different face shapes and expressions. You are not at all limited to only realism or semi-realism with this method!

For this character I wanted them to have chubbier cheeks.

I also exaggerated their eyes more to give them a cuter look.

After the head was constructed, I added hair, defined the eyes more, and made her cheeks stick out even more!

Here I have completed the basic construction.

I lower the opacity of my construction sketch and adjust the features to fit my character. I pointed the chin a bit and extended the jaw down to fit with the open mouth.
As we talk our jaw moves and this can change the "shape" of our head.

The same goes for our eyes! By changing our expression the shape of our eyes changes.
Try it out! Grab a mirror, squint, grin, scowl, raise your eyebrows! One of the best ways of learning is observing and there's no better way to bring your characters to life than to make them more expressive.

Here I wanted the eyes to be turned away. I kept in mind the placement of the iris and how the shape becomes more oval as it moves out of sight.

I erased the excess oval lines, drew in the pupils and gave her lips!
I also added a bit of a waterline and the tear ducts as it suits my style.

And my head is done!


I feel like this is an important topic as we tend to look at peoples' faces first and I hope I covered it well enough!

Please let me know if you learned anything, or if I missed anything!

Thanks so much for reading!

About the author

My name is Rachel Marks, but I'm better known as FalyneVarger. I have been drawing for most of my life. I started working commercially about 10 years ago and have created artwork for books, games, comics, and more non-commercial commissions than I can remember.

I'm @falynevarger in most places, but you can find me online at any of the links below!



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