In order to be able to draw a realistic face without references, you need to know how to understand faces. So we'll explain a way of observing your surroundings and then show you how to make notes for yourself visually. You can use whatever drawing technique you’re most comfortable with, but don't use erasers while studying.
The common problem with depicting faces and their volumes is that most people have no knowledge about the empty spaces between eyes, nose and mouth and all around them.
You have to be in control of these flat surfaces, and know how they behave and fit together. If you could draw these empty surfaces then the main facial elements would be pushed into the right position automatically.
But how can you draw something that isn't there? The answer is to translate volume information into lines and use them as a construction basis for your drawing.
Here we'll give you one thing to observe for each step, that you later have to turn into lines. We'll also provide some examples of how to do it, using Photoshop for sketching and colouring, together with a Wacom Intuos graphic tablet.
01. Learn shadow language
Here are the main planes of the face. Notice the empty space between eyes and ears, and how small the face is. For the surrounding planes, use shadow lines – the area where light turns into shadow.
Even under different lighting some shadows share the same lines. Some ethnicities have their own shadow language. Collect and use them.
02. Keep faces in proportion
What we won't teach here is how to draw the eyes, nose and mouth. Rather, we add the idea of using mimic and gesture lines to locate the face.
The base for the lines here are wrinkles, folds, mimic folds and highlights. Don't skip the studying of proportions here – take a ruler and a book and start making up your own rules.
03. Add shadows and volume
Here we ink the construction lines and add shadows and volume. Since we employed shadows and mimic lines as construction for the face, we can now use them to find the fitting rendering for the face. It makes life so much easier.
If you study the face by yourself you'll know how to use these lines. Don't worry, you'll get there.