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How to Draw Ears – Step by Step

November 21, 20129 Comments

Make sure to check out the last lesson on anatomy and structure for the ears before continuing.

In this lesson, I’m going to introduce a concept called shadow mapping. Basically during shadow mapping you focus on defining the shapes and edges of the light and dark pattern. But first, let’s start with the very important, linear layin.

Step One – Layin

I’ll start with the angle of the connection to the head. and find the biggest shape of the ear, focusing on getting the width to height relationship and the correct angles of the plane changes.

Now I’ll focus on the complex shapes inside the ear. Make sure to constantly compare shapes to the shapes around it. Keep checking angles and the size relationships of the shapes.

Breaking up the curves into segments of straights makes it easier to design and draw accurately. also, It’s ok to exaggerate shapes if you think it will make for a better design.

layin of the ears

Step Two – Shadow Mapping

The linear laying I have so far, doesn’t change, no matter where the lights source is. It simply indicated the forms. During the shadow mapping stage I’ll focus on the specific shapes cause by the light.

So, I always start by evaluating what angle the light source is coming from. In this case, looks like its at the top left.

light source for drawing ears
shadow mapping the ears

As I map the shadow pattern, I will be indicating either a core shadow or a cast shadow. The core shadows will usually have a soft or firm edge, whereas cast shadows will usually have a very sharp edge.

So, simultaneously I’m indicating the shape of the shadow as well as the edge of the shadow.

Step Three – Separate Light and Shadow

Separate the lights from the shadows. Stay simple and don’t lose control of your values. Try to ignore all the dark halftones and only fill in the shadows. Remember, reflected lights are part of the shadow family. So fill them in as a shadow. The way to make them look like reflected lights is to darken the areas around them, not by lightening them. If you lighten them, they will become part of the light family and that will hurt the form.

A very good guideline to follow is “The darkest light, is lighter than the lightest dark.”

separating light and shadow when drawing ears
In other words, never make your reflected light lighter than your halftones. Of course with the exception of very reflective surfaces like metal and water.

Step Four – Occlusion Shadows

In the deep crevices of all these forms, I’ll add the dark accents of the occlusion shadows.

occlusion shadows of the ear with reference photo

Step Five – Highlights and Halftones

In the final stage, I’ll add some smaller planes in the lights with halftones and defining highlights. Most of the volumes in the ear should be shaded like organic cylinders. Make sure these volumes feel round.

finished ear drawing with reference photo

Want to learn more? Check out the next lesson on how to draw hair!

Filed in: Portrait / HeadVideos

Comments (9)

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  1. Art Carlyle says:

    I like everything about your site. Top notch logo,clean layout,nicely paced videos,good use of humor,valuable information,good approach to marketing. Everything just about a good as it gets in my mind.

    I even bought your DVD and I never draw anything.

    Good luck with your sales. Way to go!

  2. Mary Lacerenza says:

    Best instructions I have ever received. Already ordered your video . Please keep sending work!

  3. Stormslegacy says:

    Thank you very much for posting these! Very helpful. I hadn’t seen shadow-mapping before, it looks like a valuable skill to learn. I feel a little dumb asking but, how do you remember which parts are the lay-in and which are the shadows?

    • I consider shadow mapping as part of the layin stage. I separated it in this demo because its slightly different from the beginning of the layin. Both parts are just about designing shape. The shadow mapping stage though is focused on the shapes created by the light source. The first part of the layin is focused on the shapes of the rhythms and structure (these don’t change no matter where the light source is)

  4. Daniel says:


    Thanks for your guidance to help us in improving our drawings. I would like to ask you a general Question.

    How do you decide the darkness of the half tones. Is it considered part of the light area?

    thanks for the opportunity to give us to ask you questions.


  5. Paulivey Paulivey says:

    Hi Stan, great tutorials but I have just one problem with them. At the end of each stage, could you give me a second so I could see the picture without your hand in the way, and without the onscreen writing?

    Btw, you’re a great teacher and I’m glad you’re teaching me.

    Thank you.

  6. This iѕ ɑ topic whgich is close to mmy heart… Thank you!
    Where are your contact details though?

  7. Ramir Duhket says:

    Hi, Stan,

    In general I am a big fan of yours, but honestly, the drawing you did looks absolutely like an ear without question, but it also does NOT look at ALL like your reference in form or shadow. Can you explain the MANY creative liberties you took and why? The reference seemed like a good one that didn’t need exaggerated much or at all. Just curious, anyway, any light you can shed on this would be appreciated.

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