Tips for how to draw a nose

I was sketching a nose today. It’s one of my guilty pleasures. I know not to copy an image I didn’t take and try to sell it, unless I’m looking for a lawsuit, so I don’t do that. 🙂 But what artist can help the sketch?!
You know the scenario, you are flipping through a magazine, minding your own business… And bam! Someone’s nose screams out at you from the page. You try to ignore it and just browse the article or advertisement, but all you hear is “draw me!!” You can’t take it, you rip out the page and plop open your sketch book.
But now what? Where do you start? Let me give you some of my tips.

So, why is it so hard to draw noses anyways? Realist style noses I mean. The answer is simple, and if you remember this, you will master a good nose in no time.
Don’t look for lines, look for shadows.
Most people, when drawing faces are attracted to the eyes. The eyes are dominated by lines that define their shape and separations and value changes, then they draw lines to block out eyebrows, and lips and jawbones, so it only seems natural to do the same for the nose. Right? That’s what your brain is telling you. It’s what you’ve been doing for the rest of the face, it’s working, keep going.
But the nose is different. It’s a bump on your face the same color as the rest of your face with two dark holes. It’s special little characteristics, are defined by the shadows it makes.
So after all of that, what I’m saying is this: change the way you are looking at it, from lines, to shadows. Draw a nose from layering up shadows.
So rip out your picture and let’s get started:

(I’m using only one HB pencil, since that’s what most people have on hand, if you have a pencil set, go for it! In general build up to dark. You do need an eraser.)
Step 1: place your nostrils. Remember Look at the shadows! Don’t just draw a shape, start shading now, shade in the darkest area of the nostrils and blend it out.
TIP: “Learn the rules so you know how to break them” When we first learn faces we learn symmetry in placement which is good for basics but perfect symmetry is not usually realistic. If you try to make your nostrils look exactly the same it won’t look as real. Study the nostrils on your model photo. Which one is bigger? How are they different?

Step 2: blending out light lines to start your first layer of shadows will help you keep your shading light. I use my finger. You can also use a blending tool. So start laying down your shadows lightly and blend them out to shape.

Step 3: layering your shadows is the key!! Once you have shadows, you’ll notice where your shadows should be darker. Darken them up in those places. Look at you picture and do it again and again until you’ve got many values across the nose area.






Step 4: Erase. Erase where you’ve gotten carried away with blending. Erase where you need highlights. Look at your photo. Where is the value changing. Where is it lighter? Where is it white?
Tip: Make an erase mark and do not blend to make a strong sharp highlight. Erase and then blend lightly and repeat to lighten the value.


Step 5: Imperfections. Imperfections are going to add to your realism quality. Freckles and age marks. Some of us have tons, some of us only have a few… But most of us have something going on that isn’t perfectly gradient flawless skin. Getting the value of these imperfections isn’t super easy, so start light, blend it in a tiny bit, not too much because you don’t want a smudge. Maybe erase a tiny bit and blend again. Add and subtract value until you match the look you are going for.


Final step!: Look at your sketch next to your study. Are your darks dark enough? If they are, great! You’re done. But most people’s won’t be. This is so important. Make sure you go in for that final round of darkening up your darks. Strong contrast makes all the difference. And make sure you have a white area somewhere as well. 🙂


The End!

Disclaimer and tid bits: like I said, don’t try and sell your version of someone else’s photograph. A study like this is for practice. All photographs are copyrighted. I do paint from photographs, but they are photographs I personally take (you might not know: my emphasis in school was photography!) So if you are drawing or painting or sculpting from a photograph, something you intend to sell, make sure you have the rights!

Happy Sketching!


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About ndieckman

Artist. Writer. Yoga Teacher. Wife, and Mom of 3.

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