How to Draw a Portrait in Three Quarter View, Part 7

By Vladimir London in Art Tutorials > Drawing Tips

In each of my previous lessons, I’ve shown you step-by-step how to “build” a portrait of your model, using classical drawing techniques. Let’s continue where we left off, and start adding some features of the mouth and lips:

31. How to place a mouth correctly

Begin by placing a horizontal line to go between the lips. This line is typically located a third of the distance from the base of the nose to the bottom of the chin. This is an ideal proportion, and your model may differ, so measure and adjust if required.


If you’re drawing an open mouth, keep in mind that the lower edge of the top lip usually lands at the halfway point of the upper front teeth.

32. Placing the lower lip

It is quite easy to locate the bottom lip—its lower edge is exactly mid-way from the base of the nose to the bottom edge of the chin. Again, this is an idealized proportion, so be prepared to amend it if your model is slightly different.


As you can see, it would be a mistake to place the mouth exactly in the middle between the nose and the chin (this is a common error). The mouth is actually located a little higher than that.

33. Marking the upper lip

To locate the top of the upper lip, simply draw another line half the distance from the mid-lip line to the base of the nose:


34. Blocking shades of the mouth

So far, we have three parallel lines corresponding to the upper and lower edges of the mouth, and the line between the lips. To indicate the three-dimensional shape of the lips, we can slightly render the shaded areas of the mouth—which are the upper lip and the shadow below the lower lip:


At this step, there’s no need to add a lot of detail; just the basics to create some depth.

35. Drawing a mouth in three quarter view

When it comes to drawing a mouth in perspective, it is important to construct the mouth based on it’s actual three-dimensional shape.

Here’s what you need to know:

The upper and lower lips are curved like a cupid’s bow, resembling an “M” (the top lip)and a “W” (the bottom lip). However they are also curved from the center of the lips to the outside edges. This presents a certain challenge when drawing in perspective.

You’ll notice that the half of the mouth that is further from the viewer will be considerably foreshortened in this view, while the closer half will look “normal” and not shortened.

The simplest way to overcome the challenge of drawing a mouth in perspective is to draw three equal size balls—two at the bottom and one above, all touching each other:


These balls should be constructed in perspective, so the one that is closer to the viewer might partially cover others. The upper ball should sit in the middle of the upper lip and two lower balls correspond to the bottom lip.

Sound strange? It’ll make perfect sense in my next tutorial!

Click to read Part 8 in this series, where I’ll demonstrate how this simple trick will help you draw a perfect mouth.

Portrait drawing expert Vladimir London is a published author and founder of the Drawing Academy, an online class for learning traditional drawing techniques from home—make sure to click through for full tutorials, drawing tips, and more!


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