Many individuals have been taught the incorrect way to draw a nose. Learning something incorrectly makes it even more challenging to learn the correct method. This applies to any skill, not just drawing. Most of us were probably taught to draw a “L” shape or maybe a “w” shape with an additional “u” when attempting to draw a nose.
Drawing a nose in this manner is far from realistic. If you’re aiming for a cartoonish nose, then that technique might be suitable. However, for a realistic depiction, careful observation of the subject is crucial.
The Key is Observation
Observing your subject closely is essential when drawing anything, especially noses. Realistic nose drawings involve studying the values, which provide an impression and illusion of form. To achieve this, ensure that your drawing includes a full range of values.
Drawing lines can help establish the nose’s shape, but it’s the values that create the desired form in your drawing. Your artwork should incorporate the darkest shades, lightest tints, and the grays in between. It’s important to note that no two noses are identical. Observation is truly the key to successful drawing.
Try to identify the locations on the nose where these values are present and observe the subtle changes that occur in the highlights (light values), midtones (middle values), and shadows (dark values).
Drawing a Nose from a Frontal View
In this lesson, we will explore various ways of drawing a nose and examine multiple examples. It’s logical to start with a frontal view to better understand the nose’s structure and identify the elements to include in our drawing.
Before drawing any lines, let’s analyze the nose’s form and simplify it into a system of planes.
Understanding the Planes of the Nose
A nose can be broken down into basic planes, comparable to a chiseled form. By removing the nose’s curved shape from our minds and simplifying it into flat, rigid planes, we gain a better understanding of its structure.
Recognizing these planes not only helps us draw the form accurately but also guides us in shading. Shading, or the range of values, ultimately creates the illusion of a three-dimensional form.
In the image below, you can see an example of a nose from a frontal view, simplified into basic planes. As the form changes direction in space, it creates new planes. The top, middle, and bottom sections consist of three planes each.
During the initial stages of drawing, you may find it beneficial to sketch these planes first. This way, you can focus on the form before adding any nostril lines or shading.
Drawing the Perceived Lines
When learning to draw, many of us start by sketching lines to define the boundaries and details of objects. It’s natural to instinctively look for lines when drawing any subject, including the nose.
However, a nose doesn’t possess distinct lines. Our minds simplify changes in value or contrast into “perceived lines.” In the case of a nose, these areas include the shapes of the nostrils and the outer edges of the nostrils. This is because we notice strong contrast in value in these regions. In reality, the value changes gradually, without creating a clearly defined line.
We can position the perceived lines we observe using the planes of the nose. By using the outer boundaries of the planes, we can mark the nostril’s outer edges. The shapes of the nostrils can be positioned using the bottom planes.
Shading the Nose
Understanding the planes of the nose not only helps us establish the basic structure and position perceived lines but also plays a crucial role in determining value locations.
In the example below, the light source originates from the upper left corner. This results in lighter values on the left side of the nose, closer to the light source. Consequently, the plane facing the light source will appear lighter. Darker values are found on the opposite plane, specifically the right side of the nose.
Since the light source also comes from above, you’ll notice darker planes underneath the nose. However, there is a slight highlight in certain areas as well.
The bridge of the nose protrudes outward. As a general rule, protruding objects receive more light and appear lighter in tone. They also tend to cast shadows underneath. In this case, the bridge of the nose receives the strongest light. The values developed in this area should be slightly lighter than those on the left plane of the nose.
Now that we have a basic understanding of value locations and their intensity, we can begin the shading process. However, it’s important to note that “shading” is somewhat misleading as it implies only addressing the dark values or shades. In reality, shading involves developing a full range of values, considering both the light values (tints) and dark values (shades).
If you’re working on white paper, you may choose to leave the highlight areas untouched or lightly apply graphite to depict them. On toned paper, as shown in this drawing, you can add highlights using a light drawing medium. In this case, a white charcoal pencil is used.
Before adding highlights, start with a light application of H graphite pencil to establish the darker value locations. Use a blending stump to smoothen the texture and work the graphite into the paper’s tooth.
Once the darker value locations are established, define the highlights using a white charcoal pencil. Blend the highlights gently with a blending stump.
Next, gradually darken the shades to increase contrast. Use a softer and darker graphite pencil to darken the nostril areas and the shadows on the right side and underneath the nose.
If necessary, add additional highlights to extend the value range and contrast. After each application, gently blend the values with a blending stump. As you develop the values, notice how the nose’s texture emerges.
For more in-depth guidance, including an illustrated eBook and video tutorial, check out the course “Portrait Drawing the Smart Way.”
Remember, practice and observation are vital when it comes to drawing realistic noses. Keep refining your skills, and with time, you’ll be able to capture the intricate details and nuances of this facial feature.