How to Draw a Skull [Anatomy Basics]

Why would I draw a skull? you might be asking yourself. I want to draw people, not biker tattoos.
True, but drawing the human face is complicated enough, still considered to be one of the most challenging aspects in visual arts. Learning the underlying structure, the skull, is one of the first steps towards mastering the anatomy of the face, while also offering quick guides for realistic proportions.

Drawing the Skull in Front View

First, let’s start by breaking everything down into simple shapes, trying to find the accurate proportions.
So, let’s draw a circle – it doesn’t need to be perfect. Find its middle, and add another half of its length in the bottom, basically splitting the image into 3 equal parts. This is going to be the height of our skull.Skull Front ViewNow let’s add the jawbone. Notice how it starts curving towards the chin about halfway through our third division.

Skull frontFind the middle of the entire structure. Where the red line crosses, in the middle of the face, is where the nose bridge starts. Above it, where the dark line marks the end of the first third of the face, is where the brow is. The second dark line, marking the second third of the face, is where the nose ends. The mouth is about halfway through the third part of the face. With these markers in place, we are ready to proceed – still, keep in mind the shape and depth of the eye socket – this is where the eyeball should fit, beneath the edge of the brow, so make sure you draw it large enough to accommodate the eyeball.

skull front viewAnd we’re almost there. The jawbone is still missing though – the jawbone is about the length of the nose (the bottom of the second third), and it is  curving downwards toward the chin. Let’s also clean up the drawing and see what we have so far.

Skull front view

Drawing the Skull in Side View

Unfortunately, simply knowing how to draw an object in front view is not enough. We need to know and understand the structure in 3 dimensions, so that we can simply rotate it mentally and draw it in whatever angle we need. So, let’s take a look at drawing the skull in side view, while following the guidelines we already established when drawing the front view.
This time around, we will start by drawing an oval shape, not a circle, and find the middle. From side view, the shape of the skull is not perfectly round.

Skull side view
Curve the jawbone in the middle of the third segment, just like we did for the front view, and start adding details, according to the guides.
Notice where the nose cavity is, there is actually a hole, starting at the nose bridge. Also, the cheekbone curves towards the back, ending in the middle of the skull- right where the ear should be.Skull side view

Drawing the Skull in ¾ View

Now we know how the structure of the skull looks like in both side and frontal view, so we’re ready to start turning it around and see how it looks from a 3/4 angle.
Start by drawing a slight oval (it’s still not a perfect circle, but it’s not as squished as the side view), finding the middle and defining the plane of the face.Skull 3/4 viewNow we know where all elements are, so we can start sketching them in, but always keeping in mind that the structure is viewed at an angle, so it needs to follow the perspective.Skull 3/4 viewWe can push this one further, by adding more details and shading it. A quick Google search for reference images of skulls might come in handy, or you can simply paint it from your imagination. As you can see in my process, I started by blocking in large areas, then added details and color variation, scratches, cracks, the teeth, etc.

skull shading process
The most important thing, though is that we are not drawing the shape of a skull, but we are trying to represent the form of the skull, a 3d structure which exists in 3d space on your canvas and serves as the basis for drawing the human face.

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