The Skull

  • To understand the forms of the face, it helps to understand the underlying structure of the skull.
  • Simplified, it looks like a loaf of bread + a wedge of cheese!
  • The advantage of breaking it down into simple forms is to make it easier to visualise at varying angles.


  • Rough guides on average proportions:
    • Eye sockets about the halfway between top and bottom of the head.
    • Eyebrow ridge at the top third.
    • Base of nose at the bottom third.

Skull3 Skull2

  • Most interesting for artists is probably how the forms of the skull relate to the forms of the face.
  • Top half of the face has very little muscle/fat so the form is mostly determined by the bone:
    • The relatively flat expanse of forehead.
    • Eyebrow ridges that shade the eye sockets.
    • The shadowed area between the brows (glabella)
    • On some faces you can see part of the eye socket (usually that inner lower corner has a highlight).
    • The Cheek bones which extend all the way up to the temples. There’s a significant change of plane/light there.
  • The bottom half of the face is a lot more fleshy:
    • The main bony structure visible is the jaw.
    • The rest of the area is softened by fleshy cheeks.
    • The nose is mostly fleshy but should note the bony bridge, especially the little break between where bone ends and cartilage begins.
    • The mouth also follows the shape of the teeth quite closely. (I was so surprised when I saw old photos of my grandpa before he got false teeth, bottom half of his face looked totally different!)


Side note: I got this very nice replica skull off ebay. For a plastic skull it’s got a great level of detail and I’ve learnt a lot from being able to refer to it while sketching an actual face. Also being able to hold it and feel all the changing planes from a tactile point of view helps everything sink in.


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