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Drawing a nose is not easy. In most cases, just looking at your reference and drawing it is not enough. With all the shadows, shapes, and proportions, you can quickly get confused. What is supposed to be a realistic nose quickly becomes a deformed potato.
But there are people out there who can draw noses. So why shouldn’t you and I be able to do the same? Practice makes perfect, but knowing a few tricks is also very helpful.
We’ll start with a setup that will help us draw the nostrils and nose tip later. To do this, we first need three circles of the same size next to each other.
Now we draw a horizontal line under the circles and a vertical line to the left and right of each of them. Then we mark the midpoints of the two outer circles and draw a line starting from the intersection of the vertical and horizontal lines and passing through the midpoint. At the top, these two lines should cross to form a triangle.
Now we can also determine the length of the bridge of the nose using this setup: We extend our setup by two lengths that correspond to the height of the triangle.
With this setup, we can now approach the actual nose.
The setup doesn’t have to be perfectly symmetrical. My lines are also a bit crooked, but fortunately, even nature (mostly) doesn’t draw perfect noses.
Now you have three circles and three elements: two nostrils and a nose tip. Does each circle represent one element? No.
Don’t be misled by the middle circle, because it has nothing to do with the tip of the nose. We are focussing on the outer two because they help us draw the nostrils. The circle in the middle was just to put the two outer ones at the right distance from each other.
I’ll put it this way: We’ll try to draw the nostrils relatively freely now. I could perhaps break this down further into small geometric parts, but in my opinion, this would be less helpful and would only confuse us unnecessarily.
The question is what shape should the nostrils have. In addition, the shape of the nostrils is also influenced by the shape of the tip of the nose.
If the tip of the nose curves downward, the nostrils also slope downward. If the tip of the nose curves upward, the nostrils also tilt upward. In a nose where the tip is fairly central, the nostrils are relatively straight and horizontal.
It can also be helpful to determine the shape of the tip of the nose in advance to better plan the structure of the nose. For example, a crooked nose may look U-shaped.
For my nose tip, I choose the shape of a rounded diamond. I continue with only very slightly downward curved nostrils. It doesn’t matter what shape you choose: Since the outer circles roughly represent the nostrils, draw the nostrils in the lower area of the two outer circles.
It would be too easy if there was only one way to draw nostrils. Again, you’re spoiled for choice. If you have a round nose tip, round nostrils make sense; likewise, striking nostrils seem to go well with a crooked nose.
However, the outer edges of the nostrils should not extend beyond the outer edges of the circles.
Back to the three triangle heights, we marked at the beginning. We divide the upper section in the middle. The point marks the root of the nose. This is at the same height as the eyes. Above it is the transition to the forehead.
Depending on your preference, you can draw the bridge of the nose straight up, let it run slightly inward, or something else. As you can see, the nose in my example has a slightly wider area below the root of the nose. Above the root of the nose, however, the lines should diverge in an arc, because that’s where the transition to the forehead is, and the lines would end in the eyebrows if the face were complete.
Now we need two new points. They are at the level of the uppermost marking and sit parallel to the centers of the outer circles by the nostrils.
From the new, upper points, we now draw two lines that touch the edges of the nostrils. This is the area where the bridge of the nose casts shadows. It will help us later to make the bridge of the nose look three-dimensional.
To make the bridge of the nose appear three-dimensional, draw shadows to the sides of the lines. However, do not exceed our marked shadow area. If the bridge of the nose is flat, the shadows should be fine and light. But the more it protrudes to the viewer, the darker it should be.
On the lower area of the tip of the nose and the nostrils, there are also stronger or weaker shadows, depending on the depth. Here are the three different nose types again, where you can see the differences.
The transition between the root of the nose, forehead, and eye area also receives a shadow and which is also lighter or darker according to the depth.
I’ve drawn many noses in my life, but during the preparations for this post, I drew what felt like 100 additional noses. It takes varying amounts of time to get the hang of it. Don’t get discouraged if your first few attempts fail. You will learn with each failed nose.
It is best to combine this exercise with a reference. It’s more instructive to apply dry theory to a real nose because what you ultimately want to do is draw real noses. When you have it mastered one day, you won’t need any guidelines at all, because then your hand will be trained enough.