Observing the Profile View

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Your first step is to look at your model, and face up (yes!) to what you see, and significantly, what you don't see. For example, how much do you actually see of the profile eye? Actually, only one piece of the white, a slim disk for the iris, almost nothing of the pupil, and little, if anything, of the tear duct. The mouth can appear pretty minimal as well, in contrast to the frontal view.

What about the nose? Well, you can see a great deal, but only half of it. And what do you see in the center of the overall image of your profile source? Not much. Just the sideburn area in front of the ear.

Beginners tend to compensate for this "too little/too much" situation by making their own alterations. The ear begins to drift toward the nose; the eye enlarges; the mouth grows fuller; the nostril becomes smaller. Since beginning artists have a tendency to superimpose half the frontal face symbol onto the profile view, you'll need some help to keep your profile portrait true to the facts. Following the steps in the next exercises should do it.


Even though the profile is angular rather than rounded, a light oval is still a useful way to begin. Just as for the frontal view, for the profile, you'll use the same series of level lines to position the features in correct proportion to one another. Block in your profile features to left or right of the oval edge, depending on the direction your subject is facing. 1 Sketch an eye-level line halfway down the oval. Place the bridge of the nose on that line, slightly indented from the oval. Try to record the negative-space shape you see created by the indentation of the bridge.

Profile View Nose Drawing
Make your oval very pale, and keep your blocking-in lines sketchy and light. You'll be drawing over them as you develop individual features.

2 Sketch the chin level extended out beyond the oval. If your model's chin is tilted up or down, draw this line according to the tilt-but all horizontal lines should remain at right angles to it.

3 Sketch a vertical line from the bridge to the level line of the chin. This line represents the midline and also provides a safety net to keep you from recessing lip and chin features back too far and onto the oval.

4 Sketch level lines for nose and lips. Extend them onto the vertical midline. Both the skeletal base of the nose (not the tip) and the center teeth (under lips) are now marked on the midline where nose and chin-level lines meet it.


The relationship of facial features to one another in profile is the same as in the frontal view. The back contour of the nostril still lines up on a vertical with the tear duct and the corner of the mouth with the front of the eyeball. But since details of tear ducts and pupils are difficult to see in profile, how can you draw correctly what you can't see clearly because of angle, distance, or shadows that make it impossible to find details? Line up general shape references for key features and explicit shapes if that is the extent of what you see. Accept the limits of what you can see, and your drawing will work. Don't make up details or move closer to your model to gather details, then apply them to a drawing done from a distance. The result will be an odd, unconvincing blend of near and far references. Instead, create an impression that duplicates your actual viewing experience. Draw value shapes with soft edges that produce an image with suggested, rather than specific, details.

1 Draw the eyeball as an oval bisected by the eye-level line. Leave space between it and the contour edge of the bridge.

2 Sketch diagonal lines on the oval to suggest upper and lower lids. Build lids over the eyeball, which is set back slightly underneath the lid overhang. Lids are like a protective awning that closes over the eyeball.

3 Draw the iris as a flat disk within the oval, with its top curve hidden by the upper lid; the pupil lies on the contour edge, closer to the upper lid, not in the middle of the visible portion. We see only a bit of the white of the eye. Avoid adding the iris on top of the eyeball, making the surface seem to protrude.

4 The eyebrow is generally formed by a sharp angle rising from close to the bridge, then a longer line that mirrors the angle of the crease or upper lid line. A value shape is more accurate than lots of hairs.

Use directional lines to develop your profile drawing. Brow, lash, lip, chin, nose, and neck contours are all built with diagonal lines. All features placed on the oval break through it to some degree: The forehead angles back in toward the top of the head; the nose, along with the mouth and chin, protrude outward from the oval.

Contour Lines Human Chin

5 The distance from the back contour of the eye to back of the ear is the same as from eye level to chin level.

6 The contour line from base of the nose to upper lip may angle back or protrude forward. This contour begins under the nostril opening, not under the fleshy back of the nostril. Don't line it up on the midline, or you won't have left room to suggest upper teeth. Avoid giving the face a toothless look by paying careful attention here.

7 The base of the lower lip is on the vertical midline. Use your pencil as a plumbline to see which features lie to the right and left of this line. If your model faces left: The nose, mouth, and front of chin lie left of the line; eyes, brows, ears, rest of the chin, neck, and hair, line up primarily to the right; base of lower lip, bridge, and forehead line up nearest the midline.

"This is the first formal art course I've ever taken. My prior experience was limited to drawing my favorite cartoon character in elementary school. Once I entered high school, because of scheduling conflicts, I never took advantage of the art course offered. Now, in this class, the written guidelines to drawing a profile were a real help. I drew an oval and then ran a vertical line down the right side to guide me in drawing the facial features, then proceeded according to guidelines and instruction. Being a novice, I was very pleased with the outcome of this drawing." —student bob pingarron


Look at your drawing from a distance to see if you have fallen into a "profile pitfall." If you kept your lines sketchy, you can still fix wandering features, then apply values and final touches. Here are possible "pitfalls" and how to recover from them:

Problem: Does the eye seem to bulge because you have put in more white than you actually saw there? Solution: Reduce white by bringing upper and lower lash lines closer together.

Problem: Is there too much iris or too dark a pupil? Solution: Place iris within oval and erase the intensity of the pupil.

Problem: Are the mouth and nose too far back onto the original oval? Solution: Line up key features along a vertical to ensure accuracy. Begin the upper-lip contour under the nostril opening, not at the back of it.

Problem: Do the lips look too full? Solution: In profile, the lower lip usually appears fuller than the upper. Both lips are built along diagonals. Make sure you haven't mixed in the frontal view here.

Stippling Drawings


Look for more paintings of profiles. Copying them can be fun and productive. If you didn't collect enough inspiration from your first trip to the library, go on another treasure hunt. Find family members to model while watching television. The profile face in repose is what you need, so avoid drawing during sports playoffs; too many excited expressions there!

Simple Drawing Face Profile


These drawings show how varied the contour line is from person to person in portraying nose length, brow angle, and how much the mouth and chin protrude.

drawings by students rebecca smith (left) and patricia p. spoor (below)

"I've learned that it all has to do with the shapes. It's not, 'This is my son' or anything like that. Just start to look at what's there in front ofjou. "

-student kathleen leitao



Drafting Figure Angle And Length


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  • aman
    How to paint profile view of eyes?
    8 years ago

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