How to Draw the Head in 3/4 or Side View

A common approach to drawing the head from 3/4 or side view is to use a 2 step construction approach. The first step is to draw a ball for the cranium, followed by drawing the frontal plane and jaw. Below is an example by Andrew Loomis (Fig. 1).

how to draw a head step by step Andrew Loomis

This tutorial will introduce a more fluid and gestural approach to drawing the head. The focus is on the major gestures, or “thrusts” as Steve Huston refers to them, and their relationships to one another. We’re also want to keep our lay-in simple, by using geometric shapes. The first shape we will use is the “pie”.

Step 1: Using The “Pie” Shape

The geometric shape we will use to capture the head in side or 3/4 view is called the “pie”. The name comes from the resemblance to a pie slice or wedge. We get the pie shape by connecting the major thrusts of the head.

The first major thrust is the frontal plane of the face. To get the frontal plane, simply draw a gesture through the point of the forehead (sometimes will be defined by the edge of the hairline) and the tip of the chin (Fig. 2).

How to draw a head-step 1-figure2

This defines where the features of the face will lie and the general length of the subject’s face.

The next step is to draw a line through the point of the forehead to the back of the cranium (Fig. 3). Often times this point will be hidden because of hair. In this case you will have to rely on intuition to guess or estimate where that point is.

How to draw a head-step 1-figure 3

To develop this intuition, first observe and then use your minds eye to imagine the subjects cranium. With that line and shape in mind, confidently make your mark. Through study and practice of drawing from life, your judgement and observation will naturally improve.

The final major thrust is drawn through the back of the skull to the tip of the chin (Fig. 4).

How to draw a head-step 1-figure 4

As you can see. you’ve created a pie shaped triangle. However, it really has all the essential movement and information that the rest of the drawing can be built upon.
Step 2: Grounding The Head

Having captured the pie shape, draw 2 thrusts for the neck that will anchor our head to the torso (Fig. 5).

How to draw a head-step 2-figure5

The key is observation and good estimation. Use the point of the back of the head as a guide for the back of the neck, and the point of the chin as a guide for the front of the neck. The key is good observation, confident estimation and fluid marks. As you make your marks, always consider their relationships to the whole.
Step 3: Laying In The Features

First, I plot the major anatomy such as the brow ridge, bridge of the nose, mouth and mandible (Fig. 6). At this stage, I still want to stay fluid and rely on observation and instincts. I don’t want to get too caught up in measurements and structure.

How to draw a head-step 1-figure 6
Step 4: Fill in Cranium and Locate The Ear

Next, I draw a fluid curves for the jawbone and then follow the rhythm up around to give me the back of the ear. Then, I more accurately fill in the cranium, or shape of the hair, hats, etc. (Fig. 7). Of course, I could also add as much construction as needed to guide me when adding details, light and shade.

How to draw a head-step 2-figure7
Step 5: Begin Lighting & Shading

Satisfied with the lay-in I can flesh out the features and add light and shade (Fig. 8).

How to draw a head-step 5-figure 8
For reference, here’s a step by step diagram of this process. For more info on lighting and shading, check out the head drawing tutorials and videos.

How to draw a head step by step
The great thing about this approach is it’s fluid nature. It’s also a good way to quickly establish the tilt of the head. Fig. 9 below is an example of the always tricky up-tilted head. Fig. 10 is a down tilt. The numbers are the stroke order.

How to draw a head looking up

How to draw a head looking down

Below are 2 step by step diagrams for reference.

how to draw a head looking up step by step

how to draw a head looking down step by step

A lot of this approach is inspired by the work and teaching of Steve Huston. You can view his work here.

For homework, find yourself a live model session and try drawing your 3/4 or side view heads using  the pie shape and major thrusts. It will be great exercise in observation and intuition and really add some dynamic ‘punch’ to your head drawings.  As always, I would love to see your drawings and progress so please leave a comment below or drop me a line.

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50 thoughts on “How to Draw the Head in 3/4 or Side View”

  1. I have tried and failed to use the circle method so many times that I have been avoiding all types of side angles which obviously REALLY limits me. I just tried this and got it immediately. Thank you so much. I can finally move forward!!!

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