How to Draw a Portrait in Three Quarter View, Part 8

By Vladimir London in Art Tutorials > Drawing Tips

In Parts 1 through 7 of this series, I’ve demonstrated how to “build” a portrait using classical drawing techniques—and we’re almost finished. Today, I’ll pick up the tutorial where we left off last time and show you how to complete the lips and ears:

36. Drawing the outlines of the mouth

Last time I instructed you to put three circles as the base of the lips—two for the lower lip and one above them for the upper lip. In today’s lesson I’ll explain how these circles can help us to define the outlines of the mouth.

The top circle coincides with the central part of the upper lip (see the image below). The upper lip’s groove divides this circle approximately in half.


The bottom outline of the lower lip goes around the lower circles (giving it fullness) while the line dividing the upper and lower lips curves around all three circles, resembling a cupid’s bow.

37. Defining the contours of the mouth

With main outlines of the mouth in place, we can further define the contours of the lips. At this step, those “virtual circles” we used earlier are redundant and can be erased altogether. It’s now time to observe model’s unique mouth shape and adjust the lines of the mouth you’ve drawn to achieve the necessary likeness.


As you do, make sure that the correct linear perspective is in place, so the half of the mouth that is further away from a viewer has more foreshortening than another half.

38. Checking the virtual angles of the mouth

When defining the contours of your model’s lips, you should still double-check the angles that are typical for a mouth—the upper lip’s top points connected with the lower lip bottom points form two lines that go diagonally to the prominent points of the chin.


Yes, every person has an individual shape to their features, but in general, the upper lip protrudes more forward than the lower lip and the lower lip protrudes more than the chin. This protrusion is usually forms a trapezium plane that is based on six points of the chin and lips (marked with red dots above).

You can either draw those lines and dots or simply keep them in mind as you draw. If your drawing varies too much from those standard ratios, check your model very carefully to see if you’re making an accurate depiction of her features or not.

39. Drawing the ear

We laid out the outline of the model’s ear a few steps earlier, and before we go further with it, now is a good time to double-check its main proportions: the height of the ear is equal to the height of the nose, or the distance between the line of eyebrows and the base of the nose.

Additionally, the ear’s height divided in half will typically give us its width.

As you begin to add more detail inside the ear, you can divide the height of the ear in three equal parts and draw them one at a time. The three parts are:

• The antihelix, at the top, which forms the top outer rim of the ear
• The middle third contains the concha—the ear’s bowl
• And the lower third is the lobule, or earlobe


Notice that the curve of the antihelix is echoed by another raised, curved rim inside of it, which is called the helix and surrounds the central ear canal. At it’s top, the helix splits into two arms like the character “Y” and extends up towards the antihelix.

NOTE: The ear is somewhat complex, so at the we’ve created a separate video lesson entirely on how to draw the ear. I recommend that video for more helpful information.

40. Defining the side plane of the head

The curve where the forehead changes into the side plane of the head is an important “landmark”. Usually, at this border tonal values will change from light to dark.

We’ve already marked this border in a previous lesson. Now it’s time to double-check its location and apply light tonal shades to differentiate these two planes of the head.


Click here for Part 9 of this series—I’ll show you how to achieve a likeness to your model, and how to finish your portrait in a realistic style.

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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