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How to Draw the Head from Any Angle

August 14, 201266 Comments

Assignment: Draw the Loomis Head

Take a bunch of pictures of either yourself or someone else and then use them to construct the head using the Loomis method. Focus on getting the up and down tilt correct. Make sure to make careful measurements that I mentioned in this video and keep your lines clean. Remember that every person has individual proportions that will be different from the average loomis head. At this point, just draw the average proportions. Once you’re comfortable with that, you can try to capture the distinct characteristics of the person you’re drawing.

If you’re having trouble drawing the circle or oval of the head, spend some at the beginning of each day warming up your hand with a lot of circles and oval.

Post your drawings in the Portrait Facebook group for feedback 🙂

Check out the Premium Portrait course to support the lessons and get access to every portrait video.

Drawing the Head

In this first lesson I’m going to attempt to summarize and simplify Andrew Loomis’ approach to drawing the head. Here we go.

If we take the head and remove the eyes, nose, lips, and ears we are left with 2 simple masses. A ball for the cranium and a boxy shape for the jaw.

Draw the head using the Loomis method
The cranium is spherical, but with flattened sides. So, chopping off a slice from both sides gets us a very close representation of the cranial mass.

Drawing the side plane of the head

When drawing the head, I’ll start with a ball and draw an oval to indicate the flat side plane. The sizes are important here. Make sure the ball is a perfect circle. Don’t be sloppy. The oval is a bit more tricky. The height will always be the same, no matter what angle you’re drawing the head from. It’s ⅔ of the height of the circle. From the center and top of the circle, divide that area into thirds, and this will give you the top of the oval. Do the same at the bottom.

angle of the head circle measurements

Finding the Left and Right turn: The width of the oval will depend on the direction the person is looking. Compare the size of the front plane to the size of the side plane. The top portion of the oval falls on the corner of the forehead, where the front plane meets the side plane. This area is usually rounded and so it’s open to the artist’s interpretation. I’ve found that it usually lies near the end of the eyebrow.  The line on the front plane represents the brow so pay attention to the angle from one brow to the other.

Draw the head at any angle

Finding the Up and Down tilt: The vertical tilt is indicated by an angle along the side plane. If the head is tilted up, the angle will point up and if the head is tilted down, the angle will point down. The degree of the tilt will determine how steep to make this line. I like to use the angle from the ear to the brow.

Draw the head tilting up and down

Then, at the base of the vertical line, draw a curve identical the the brow line. This represents the bottom of the nose. Drawing the same line again from the top of the oval brings you to the hairline.

The face can be broken down into nearly perfect thirds, chin, nose, brow, and hair.

sections of the head portrait drawing 

We can use the measurements we’ve already found to find the where the chin should be.Drawing the head - Placing the chin and hairline

Observe the general shape of the jaw and draw in the major angles starting from the brow and ending at the side plane of the head. It’s usually about halfway into the oval, or a little bit farther back.

How to draw the jaw on the head.

Now that we have the foundation of the head established, we can finish it by putting in all the features! Don’t worry, I’ll explain this step in more detail next time. Each feature deserves it’s own lesson.
angles of the head portrait

Let’s go through that one more time.

  1. Start with a circle for the cranium
  2. Oval for the side of the head
  3. Angle to show the person looking up or down. I’ll go with a subtle down tilt.
  4. Draw an identical curve to find the nose
  5. Double that distance to find the chin
  6. Attach the jaw
Angle of the head drawing

Now you have a 3D representation of the head ready for the features. This approach is really good to establish the perspective of the head. A good exercise is to try to think about the head as a simple elongated box.

Draw the head in perspective by simplifying it to box form
The angles on the front plane of the face such as hair line, brow line, nostrils, lips, and chin will be the same as the angles on the front plane of the box. The angle from brow line to ear is the same as the angle on side plane of the box.

These angles are really important because they establish the head as a 3-d form in space.

With this basic structure properly established, it becomes much easier to add the features in the right place.

This may seem overly technical with so many details to remember but with practice it actually becomes very easy so get that sketchbook out and practice it a hundred times with a variety of angles! You’ll find you improve much quicker than you think.


Drawing the Head and Hands – by Andrew Loomis

This video summarizes this book. The full version is a great resource.

Like what you learned?  Check out the next lesson How to Draw the Head from Side View!

Filed in: FundamentalsPortrait / HeadVideos

Comments (66)

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  1. Susan B. says:

    Excellent. I hope to see more of these videos. I’ve watched the first eight? several times, and learned something new every time. I’m not a new artist, but struggle nonetheless. Please keep these coming. Thanks.

  2. Glenn Doughty says:

    Stan I want to thank you for your “drawing head, eyes, nose” series. They are excellent and deeply appreciated. How kind and big of you to freely share this with the public. I sincerely hope that all leave you a donation, which I will do shortly.

  3. Jan V says:

    I recently subscribed to your email newsletters and have just watched this video for the first time. It is excellent, detailed but not too long to absorb. I love the smiley face and music and that you imposed the lines over your face. great work. great communication. Thankyou.

  4. Keith says:

    Excellent stuff!
    Determining the width of the sideplane is obviously important for drawing an anatomically accurate face. How do you determine that though, other than making an educated guess? Also, when does it touch the back of the head, disappear around it, or make it show?

    • kathleen says:

      Good question. I’d love a reply, too.

    • TC says:

      I’d like to know that too, as well as at what angle you see the side oval attach to the top and bottom of the head circle vs what angle it just touches the bottom and top 3rd of the head circle (when you’re measuring for its height). My heads end up too tall and not wide enough and I’m really getting annoyed :/

      • tamilore says:

        Stan the way you described the head is amazing but i am confused about one part though. There is a a region that start at the top of the ear and curves down to the outside of the chin. there is also a a region that start at the bottom of the eye and curves down to the outside of the chin. which one is correct.

  5. Excellent, very nice tutorial, thank you.

  6. Jaylene says:

    Very well explained. Thank you.

  7. Buckler says:

    Great stuff Stan! I’m greatly appreciative of all of the sources you put out for us aspiring artists. Thank you!!

  8. Buckler says:

    Do you ever find yourself using the oval before the circle?

  9. Chester Micek says:

    Your instruction is the best I have found on the internet; however, I’d like to see more exercises that develop the lesson. Put another way, this lesson is an excellent quickie precis of an hour lesson. It’s good; I watched it seven times and I was able to pause it. Still, for me, it was as if the lesson were on fast forward. To put my comments in perspective: compare the first lesson on the head to the first lesson on the figure. I bought them both because they are both good, but the figure lessons are better subdivided, better paced, and have better examples. The first draw a head at any angle was too past and information thin for me. Still, it is the best bang for my buck.

    • Chester, thanks for your feedback. I’m glad you like the content. I try to make the best content on the web and glad you think it is 🙂

      You’re right, the figure course has much more content and examples for each lesson than the Portrait course. I made the figure course after the portrait, and so I made a lot of improvements in my format. Really that’s why the Portrait course is half the price. I started by uploading a few short tutorials on youtube and it grew into something much bigger. Though it’s a bit overwhelming, I’m not complaining.

      I want to possibly make a supplemental portrait course with more details and more examples. I have so many ideas of things I want to do. So little time!!

      • ph3 says:

        Well – I really like your lessons. Figure drawing is very good – got it premium and love it. But the head… – Im struggling with it a lot. Actually combinging basic head shape and features together seems to be a trouble. So I wanted to ask – if there is going to be an extended version of portrait drawing as you planned? I would gladly purchase it, as many of other ppl I guess 🙂

        • I’m planning on doing an advanced portrait course after the anatomy courses are complete. So, it will be a while. It will include head anatomy, facial expressions, variations of age, gender, and race.

          • says:

            I look forward to these immensely.

          • Yograj Chamlagain says:

            It’s glad to know but It’s been years since you said so. how many years we will need to wait for advanced portrait course?

      • Yograj Chamlagain says:

        But when will you make this course it’s 5 yeast past. I would buy and so many like me

  10. DL-Draw says:

    How can I download these videos in case the internet stops 🙂

  11. These supplemental plans are labeled A through N, and cover
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  12. Tana says:

    Hi Stan,
    I’m loving your tutorials, the best around that I’ve found anywhere.

    I’d like to ask also if you could get out a supplemental portrait course with more details and more examples. It would be great to have examples of all the heads to download with the notes you give us.

    Thanks and blessings!

  13. David bryant says:

    stan im having trouble keeping the portions of the head balanced when i draw them at different angles any tips on this. I was able to do this correct on your to views of the head but i become lost when i try to angle the head . thanks for all your videos im a premium member and love it !!

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  15. Pat says:

    Good tutorial, a tad too quick but great nonetheless. I was wondering if you have any tutorials on how to divvy up the features so we get a likeness of the person we are drawing as I can’t find any here. Thanks..

  16. windel says:

    i really love watching your videos, i learned many things and the best thing is that you make it fun to watch it. i really want to learn how to draw realistic portrait, do you have any manuals along with this videos? did you published any tutorial books?

  17. Selsky says:

    Hey Stan, love the video, it’s helped me more than I could have imagined. I’m confused about one thing though. You say that the height of the oval never changes and stays consistent, but wouldn’t it change if the subject (viewed as a profile) were to tilt their head right or left?

  18. Teri says:

    Thank you so much for adding the images on here!
    It’s easier to understand what’s going on when I’m reading it and not looking at the video!

  19. Rachel Burns says:

    Thank you so very much for posting all this! Especially the text and images separate–it helps so much to be able to read and hear what you’re saying.

    I’ve learned more from your videos than I ever had by trying to learn alone!

    • You’re welcome! I’m currently working on updating all the other lessons as well so check back frequently!

      • tamilore says:

        Stan the way you described the head is amazing but i am confused about one part though. There is a a region that start at the top of the ear and curves down to the outside of the chin. there is also a a region that start at the bottom of the eye and curves down to the outside of the chin. which one is correct.

  20. Pat says:

    How do I use this method while trying to get a realistic likeness?

  21. Mario D'Amelio says:

    Proko is the number one. enjoy it!

    • Edward says:

      Indeed. His explanations are not time consuming and detailed at the same time. You could learn an hours worth of information within a 10-minute explanation of his.

  22. Thomas Wiederhold says:

    Hi Stan,
    I read a few of the comments above, about the head video being too brief, or too little detail. I found it difficult to use at first, because it was a different approach to what I have seen before. So I watched it a few more times, and drew the circle and the oval and all the other lines, and then contemplated my drawing. All this has been over this last week. Today, Sunday, I just started drawing two of my frieds, and the drawings have started VERY well. And NO problem with the likeness. I’m really pleased!
    Can`t wait to watch more videos.

  23. Ana Windham says:

    I am just beginning to learnng how to draw the human figure. Have enrolled in a life drawing and sculpture class. Want to improve so I can gain speed. I found your head tutorial very clear and easy to understand. Great template for stating. Look forward to viewing the others you have done. Thanks, Ana

  24. Ezmerelda Thunderpants says:

    Why he look like mr clean

  25. Pat says:

    I love the way you explain how to draw. HOWEVER, I am not interested in drawing people, so I do not purchase any of your lessons. If you decide to expand to include animals, I would definitely be interested.

  26. joe says:

    one tiny detail re you video. How come the blue lines move as you move your head?

    • Sean Ramsey says:

      They’re there to help you visualize the drawn lines on a real face.

      • joe says:

        As if I didn’t know that! But what I want to know how these lines MOVE as he moves his head. In other words they are not drawn on the screen but part and parcel as the subject.

  27. Sean Amador says:

    Hey “Proko”,

    I just wanted to let you know that I have shared your content with my Animation class at “The Art Institute” and my teacher wound up posting up for every one of her future classes to see because she enjoyed the concepts you hit on and your delivery very much. Thank you for helping me become a better artist, this tutorial will and has helped many beginning and adept artists. You rock!
    Thank you and take care.

    -Sean Amador

  28. Pankaj singh says:

    Hi Stan,

    “I’m planning on doing an advanced portrait course after the anatomy courses are complete. So, it will be a while. It will include head anatomy, facial expressions, variations of age, gender, and race.”

    You wrote above in 2015 and its already 2017 end and i am not seeing anything like that. Please let us know if it will be available in 2018 first quarter as i am planning to buy the premium version. Appreciate your efforts!

  29. dan jakes says:

    i like it. woooow. make more, it triggers my emotions

  30. Invisible says:

    In the video, theres a line that starts from the chin to the top of the ears. But in the description below, why is the line starts from the chin to the forehead?

  31. Deepthi says:

    Hi Stan,

    How do we determine the centre line going from the head to the chin. I could not get it.

  32. Jem says:

    This was definitely very useful. I generally struggle with combining proportions and perspective, and this tutorial was a little miracle. The only issue I’m having is the size of the forehead tends to be a little too small, and I’m worried about it throwing the proportions off.

  33. Verica says:

    Great stuff. It helps a lot.!

  34. Winnie says:

    I’m a new struggling artist and I like your illustrations….. would need some help though

  35. Victoria says:

    Is the centerline angle for the face and sideplane parallell or does it depend on the face?

  36. Amy says:


  37. Hands-down, this is the best Loomis explanation I’ve ever seen. And I’ve seen a lot of them! Thanks so much for all of the free courses. Hopefully I’ll be able to enroll in one of the paid ones if we ever recover from COVID!

  38. Maria says:

    Great tutorial 🙂 when I was looking for something that could help me to improve my art I found this now I don’t have to worry that I will draw a potato instead of face

  39. Noella says:

    I’m very Happy to see the head structure drawing, now i understand. Thank you for sharing the How 🙂

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