How to draw a nose

Nose in oil paints

When learning how to draw people, one of the areas beginner artists often struggle with is the nose. Perhaps it is the diversity of shapes that we see every day that makes knowing how to draw a nose all the more difficult. 

In this tutorial, I will offer a quick step by step guide to how to draw a nose. I'll be using oil paints here, but I'm focusing on the core drawing techniques you need to know how to draw a nose in any medium.

01. Start with basic shapes

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First, try to establish the very basic anatomical shapes of the nose. At this point, don’t think about all the intricacies of the shades and highlights. Just focus on basic shapes: triangles, trapezoids and circles.

If you're painting, it's helpful to start by tinting your canvas with burnt umber thinned with odourless thinner – this will help you judge the values of the painting better. Then use a small brush to add in your basic shapes.

02. Make the shapes more realistic

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You can now make use of the basic shapes you’ve sketched and build on top of them. Looking at your reference, sketch in the tip of the nose and nostril wings. Keep in mind that the nose is predominantly made of skin resting upon cartilages or is made of dense connective tissue – therefore it has a very firm structure.

03. Introduce the main colour values

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Block in the main values of the nose – I'm using titanium white and burnt umber. Try and think back to the initial shapes you drew in step one and observe the direction of the light and placement of the shadows. Again, don’t get lost in details. In this step, focus on the basic shapes and values. Remember, however, that the nose openings are not just dark round holes – they have a structure.

04. Move on to the details

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Once the block-in is done, move on to adding details. Now is a good time to observe all the things you have deliberately omitted. Look at the details that are a part of the nose’s shadows, as well as the highlights, and make sure you don’t make the nose 'too perfect'. Pay particular attention to the cartilage below the tip of the nose as this can easily be overlooked.

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