Techniques and Tips

Drawing the Nose

Drawing the Nose

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Understanding the basic structures of the various facial features goes a long way in achieving a realistic depiction. (An excerpt from Drawing Expressive Portraits)

By Paul Leveille

The features are what make human faces so interesting. For example, each nose has a bridge followed by cartilage and two nostrils, but some noses are thin while others are broad; some are turned up and others are hooked; and so on.

Here I’ll explain the basic structures of the nose and how to draw them.

By a Nose

One of the most distinctive features of the human head is the nose. It protrudes more than any other feature and gives the face depth and character. Although the variety of nose shapes seems endless, all noses have the same basic triangular form: narrow at the top, and wider and fuller at the bottom.

The upper part of the nose, the bridge, is formed by bone. The lower part consists of five pieces of cartilage: Two pieces make up the tip, two make up the wings of the nostrils, and one divides the nostrils. (See The Structure of the Nose, A.)

The Structure of the Nose

A Seen from below, the five pieces of cartilage that make up the lower part of the nose are apparent. The nostrils are closer together toward the tip of the nose and get farther apart toward the cheeks.

B The skin lies smoothly over the bone of the upper nose, usually catching a highlight. Highlights on the tip of the nose will make it appear to come forward.

C Drawing the nose at different and unusual angles will help you understand its shape.

D Though there are all kinds of nose shapes, all noses are basically thinner and narrower at the bridge and fuller at the bottom. Some even have a ball- or bulb-shape at the bottom.

A Nose in Three Steps

1. When first drawing the nose, simplify it into a wedge-shaped series of planes.

2. To define the subtle shapes of bone and cartilage within the wedge shapes, start to draw the rounded forms of the bridge, the tip of the nose and the nostrils. Notice how the bulb part of the nose tapers into the bridge.

3.Continue by rendering the light and dark areas. Save the white of your paper for the highlights, or lift them out with an eraser.

Paul Leveille paints portraits of nationally and internationally distinguished clients and also conducts portrait painting workshops and demonstrations around the country. He lives in western Massachusetts. See his website at

This article is excerpted from his book, Drawing Expressive Portraits, © 2001 by Paul Leveille, used with permission from North Light Books, an imprint of F+W Media Inc. Visit your local bookseller, call 800/258-0929 or go to to obtain a copy.

Watch the video: how to draw faces, eyes, nose, mouth. skillshare (August 2022).