Sunday, May 1, 2016

Drawing the Mouth

Focus on the Facial Features: The Nose

Understanding the basic structures of the various facial features goes a long way in achieving a realistic depiction. (An excerpt from Drawing Expressive Portraits)

By Paul Leveille

The features are what make human faces so interesting. Although most features are constructed similarly from person to person, each individual still exhibits subtle and not so subtle differences. For example, each nose has a bridge followed by cartilage and two nostrils, but some noses are thin while others are broad; some are turned up and others are hooked; and so on.

Here I’ll explain the basic structures of the nose and how to draw them.


How to draw a mouth | Paul Leveille,

Watch Your Mouth

The face’s most animated feature is the mouth, which is constantly changing with every mood and expression. The lips derive a good deal of their shape from the teeth and bone that the lips wrap around. The next time you see a person smile with his lips parted, notice how the upper lip gets its shape as it is stretched across the teeth. In the drawing at left, the upper lip gets slimmer as it’s pulled back across the teeth in a smile.

Although it’s best to consider the upper and lower lips as a unit when drawing them, each is shaped differently. The upper lip consists of three shapes and has a steeper slant inward toward the teeth, while the lower lip has two shapes and is usually fuller than the upper lip (see C, below).

Women’s lips are usually fuller and darker than men’s lips. The ends of the lower lip in a man usually fade off into the surrounding flesh, with very little difference in tone between the lip and the flesh.

The Shapes of the Mouth

How to draw a mouth | Paul Leveille,
A The skeletal shape of the closed mouth is similar to a barrel. Hold this thought when drawing the lips.


How to draw a mouth | Paul Leveille,
B Using the cylinder or barrel shape helps when drawing the lips at different angles.


How to draw a mouth | Paul Leveille,
C The upper lip has three shapes and the lower has two.


How to draw a mouth | Paul Leveille,
D In a smile with parted lips, usually only the upper teeth are visible.


How to draw a mouth | Paul Leveille,
E By drawing a line from the tip of the nose to the chin, you can see that the lower lip recedes below the upper lip.

Paul Leveille paints portraits of nationally and internationally distinguished clients and also conducts portrait painting workshops and demonstrations around the country. He lives in western Massachusetts. See his website at

This article is excerpted from his book, Drawing Expressive Portraits, © 2001 by Paul Leveille, used with permission from North Light Books, an imprint of F+W Media Inc. Visit your local bookseller, call 800/258-0929 or go to to obtain a copy.


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