An introduction to facial muscles

Looking natural is fundamental for any portrait that wants to be called “realistic”. To be able to achieve this, showing the skin creases or stretches is necessary. The best way to learn how to draw them accurately is by having at least a broad understanding of the structure of facial muscles. Since we are not aiming for “medical level” studies we will only quickly go through groups of facial muscles and follow a very simplistic method to draw and memorise them.



  • Step 1: Skull – The Base
  • Step 2: Forehead
  • Step 3: Sides of skull
  • Step 4: Eyes
  • Step 5: Nose
  • Step 6: Mouth
  • Step 7: Connecting lips with other areas
  • Step 8: Other Muscles
  • Step 9: Completion



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1. Charcoal sticks or pencils
2. Sketch Pad
3. Kneadable Eraser
4. Ruler or measuring needle

Step 1: Skull – The Base

No need to go in detail how to sketch a skull. We have covered this previously (IT’S ALL IN YOUR HEAD). I recommend you keep this article open in this first step. It will help you remember how to draw a skull easily.

Note: Do not bother sketching the teeth too precisely. This whole area will be cover by muscles.

Step 2: Forehead

To draw this muscle (epicranius) literally just follow the shape of the forehead. Your skull sketch should lead your lines. This muscle wraps to the rear side of the head. It raises the eyebrows and moves the scalp.

Step 3: Sides of skull

This is a rather large muscle (temporalis). It wraps the sides of the cranium. Although the connection is not obvious, this muscle helps closing our mouth. Again just follow the outline of the skull and fill the space by around the forehead.

Step 4: Eyes

You can easily understand the importance of these muscles (orbicularis oculi). They help opening/closing our eyelids and keep the eyes in place (very simplistically….). Just surround the eye sockets. Notice they extend over the cheek bones and the stop before touching the nose (leaving space for the muscles explained below).

Step 5: Nose

The nose is supported by a number of side muscles (nasalis). These control the movement of our nostrils. Another muscle is located at the top of the nose between the eyebrows (procerus). Notice how the muscles wrap around the nose shaping the nostrils and base of nose (nose is a bit wobbly on the sketch below – I ll fix it later on).

Step 6: Mouth

No surprise there is a number of muscles (orbicularis oris) controlling the movement of our lips. Just imagine the amount of expressions and gestures that involve movement of our mouth and lips. Here, I have just sketched the lips and then followed their outline, gradually making more gentle curves. Note the muscles extend to the bottom of the nose.

Tip: The edges of the lips coincide (approximately…) with the middle of the eyes. Also to easily create the shape of the lips try sketching 5 small circles in the shape of X. Then follow the curves of the circles to create the lips (will cover this trick in tutorial soon).

Step 7: Connecting lips with other areas

In this step we will sketch a group of muscles connecting the lips with other areas of the face. Notice the muscles wrapped around the chin (mentalis) and those extending flush to our cheeks. Finally muscles connect with the nose and bottom of eye sockets (levator labii).


Step 8: Other Muscles

There is a number of muscles we didn’t examine in detail. These extend to the sides of the skull (zygomaticus) or wrap around muscles we looked at in previous paragraphs. As these expand and contract control the surface of the skin-our face.

Step 9: Completion

Just to complete the drawing we need to add the ears. Also, to give an impression of volume and depth, adding some tone is necessary. I added some extra black around the eyelids (depth of eye socket) and around the forehead. Make sure you add some shadows around the nose and inside the nostrils.


Brief Summary

This tutorial is a very simplified approach to learning the structure of the facial muscles. Of course our aim is not to provide medical studies level of information. As explained having a wider understanding of the structure under the skin will greatly assist when it comes to observational studies. You will be able to explain why all these shadows or visible on different parts of the face and how these creases occur! I hope you enjoyed the article and found it useful! If you have any questions do contact me below.

Date: 08/08/2018

Author: Iasonas Bakas

Time: 2.5h

The Artist says:

“It is so amazing studying the human anatomy. You gain an understanding of how things work together and then instead of just sketching individual shapes and planes you understand how the body structure works as a whole!”



Art is more fun when you meet the artists themselves! Visit THE ARTIST…


Love Sketching & Painting



14 thoughts on “THIS WILL MAKE YOU SMILE

      1. I draw myself (or just trying? Never know :D), and I find it very useful, because I am rubbish in anatomy. So hard to find proper, easy to follow tutorials; because it is not an easy subject to learn and teach too I guess.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I understand you completely. Thats why i decided to start this tutorials series…so you can easily find a simple step by step guide focusing on what you need as an artist rather than full/complicated anatomical studies. All the tutorials are free to download as PDFs, so please help yourself. I write the tutorials as i go along, studying anatomy from books and through life drawing classes…i publish one every 10 days approximately 🙂 I hope you follow and learn from this small articles!

        Liked by 1 person

  1. Hello, I enjoyed this! I don’t draw that much past regular doodles, because that’s all my skillset will allow, but this was so interesting. I do enjoy reading art tutorials and seeing how much work goes into a piece. Maybe one day I’ll actually attempt – but in the meantime, I’ll keep reading these and draw in my head 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Saeeda 🙂 I am happy you enjoyed reading this tutorial. If you really want to improve your sketching skills, all you need is literally buying a small sketchpad and a pencil. There is plenty of help on the internet and since you enjoy reading tutorials then this will be the best starting point. If you have a small sketchbook with you then practice will be easy and instant 😉 Remember that…practice makes best.

      On another note, I really enjoyed your Green Market post! I love the energy of these markets. They are an amazing place where you can find all sorts of different characters!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Leyla! Thank you very much. It is primarily a way for myself to memorise the human anatomy. At the same time, sharing this information, I think it is very useful for other beginer artists!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Pauline. It is genuinly my pleasure to know that someone has used these notes and found it helpful. I have struggled in the past gathering the right information to allow me start with human anatomy art work and i feel helping any beginners out there is the least I could do! Have you tried incorporating human anatomy in your art?


      1. I read a little about anatomy last year and have considered what I read ever since, but it’s not something I’ve studied in depth. I found your tutorial especially good because you broke it down in a very artistic way, rather than an anatomical way, which can be very complicated for some people.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Exactly! I wanted to keep it short and simple bearing in mind that the reader won’t be interested in the deepest anatomical detail! All you need is a general understanding of what shapes our body. I am happy you found it helpful and easy to follow. Feel free to download the PDF files and make a small collection of these tutorials (this is my intention for the next few months 🙂 ). Enjoy sketching and keep in touch!

        Liked by 1 person

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