Anatomy of Head for drawing

After studying Human Body Proportions, now we will learn about Anatomy of Head. It will include, ‘The Proportions, Shape and Composition of Skull’, ‘How to differentiate between male & female skull’, ‘Placement & Function of Facial muscles’ & ‘How to construct a Human face using standard proportions’.

My name is Lalit Adhikari and we are at LTY. Let’s begin!


Skull is the most complex part of the entire human skeletal structure. It is a bony structure that supports the face and forms a protective cavity for the brain. It is comprised of many bones which are formed by intramembranous ossification and joined by sutures (fibrous joints).

It is the foundation of the head, formed by the Cranium (which consists of the Cranial roof and Cranial base) and the Facial Bones.

We use Face and Hands extensively for various kind of Expressions and Gestures. So, the Anatomy Study of Head which is Skull and Muscles, becomes a vital component of Figure Drawing.

Skull as Art Form and Content

Skulls carry a lot of Meaning & Symbolism which can help to improve the depth of an artwork. Giving a certain freedom to the audience to create their own interpretation of the artist’s expression.

The most common symbolic use of Skull is

  • Representation of Death
  • Mortality
  • The unachievable nature of Mortality

We can often recognize buried fragments of a partially revealed Skull even though other bones might look like shards of stone. Our brain has a specific region for recognizing faces and it’s so attuned to finding faces that it can see faces in emoticons created using punctuation marks.

Anatomy of head blog image 7 at learn that yourself by lalit adhikari
A smiley face emoticon

The human skull don’t always represent something morbid. Rather, it can also represent the Appreciation of Life. It could also mean transformation or transitioning form life into the next realm.

Mexicans favor this belief in their holiday, Dias de Los Muertos.

It can also represent vanity in Human’s life. For example: Charles Allan Gilbert’s All in Vanity.

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Charles Allan Gilbert‘s All in Vanity

It is a depiction of a woman gazing at her reflection in the mirror where the image and reflection is actually a Skull.

Proportion of Skull

We, humans, are all unique in personality and physique. The contour of face and head varies among all of us but there will always be basics to the shape of human head.

Some important points to remember:

  • The length of one eye is same as the distance between our eyes.
  • The length of both our eyes is just about our face’s width.
  • If you want accurate proportions, divide the face into 4 sections, a vertical line & a horizontal line both passing through the middle.
  • The width of one eye is the same distance between the bottom of nose and eye.
Proportion of SkullImage
The Eye Sockets are halfway between the Head & Chin.Anatomy of head blog image 1 at learn that yourself by lalit adhikari
The depth and height of Skull is similar.Anatomy of head blog image 2 at learn that yourself by lalit adhikari
The Facial muscles cover 1/3 of the head Cranial mass covers remaining 2/3Anatomy of head blog image 3 at learn that yourself by lalit adhikari
Images from Gusztav Velicsek

Bones of Skull

Anatomy of head blog image 4 at learn that yourself by lalit adhikari
Bones of Skull
Bones of SkullLocation
Frontal BoneThe Forehead structure that terminates at the brow.
Temporal RidgeThe Ridge that runs along the outer side of the upper Skull. It forms the square shape of the upper Head.
Parietal BoneThe bone along the side of the Head that forms a smooth curved surface.
NasionThe point where the front of the Head meets the Nasal Bone.
Supraorbital MarginThe Ridge above the eyes.
Nasal BoneThe small bone at the top of the Nose.
Orbital CavityThe Eye Well.
Infraorbital MarginThe lower Eye Ridge and the upper portion of the Cheek.
Zygomatic BoneThe Cheek Bone that lies under the Infraorbital Margin.
MaxillaThe upper Jaw Bone that lies under the Nose.
MandibleThe Bone that forms the lower Jaw.
Mental ProtuberanceThe tip of the Jaw Bone commonly known as the Chin.
Bones of Skull

Difference between Male & Female Skull

The proportion varies for both – Male & Female Skull and it is essential to understand these differences.

Parts of SkullMaleFemale
Cranial MassMassive & DeepRounder than male & Tapers at top
Supraorbital MarginRound & appears dullSharper
Zygomatic BoneWell-definedLess pronounced
Supercilary ArchLarge & DistinctSmaller & Less pronounced
Difference between Male & Female Skull

Facial Muscles

The Anatomy of Muscles in Face is related to Facial expressions. Movement of muscles in the Face changes the appearance and expressions. Hence, it is essential for artists to understand the arrangement of the muscles.

It is important to be familiar with the position, attachment and function of the muscles rather than just names. Some muscles are attached directly to the bones at both the ends while others are attached to bones at one end and with other band of muscles at the other end.

Muscles which are directly attached to the bones perform the function of moving the Bone Structure. Muscles that connects to other band of muscles at one end, perform the function of moving Flesh.

For Example: The most important muscle of the Head, is the muscle that closes the Jaw. It is place below & in-front of the ear. The Jaw is also attached to a muscle that spreads out over the sides of Cranium.

The Human Face, comprises of approximately 26 muscles. Out of these 26 muscles, only 10 muscles are responsible for the expressions.

Anatomy of head blog image 5 at learn that yourself by lalit adhikari
Muscles of Face
Muscle NameMuscle Action
MasseterActs to raise the Jaw & Clenches the Teeth. It is associated with Angry or Aggressive states, Fear & Yawn.
Orbicularis oculiIt is the Squinting Muscle. Encircles the Eyes when it is closed, winking or tired. It is associated with closing Eyelids & compressing the eye opening.
CorrugatorIt is the Frown Muscle. It compresses the skin between the eyebrows. It is associated with Frown, Concern & Concentration.
FrontalisIt is the Brow lifting muscle. It draws the Scalp down & depicts wrinkles on two sides. It is associated with Fear & Smile.
Levator labiiIt is the Sneering Muscle. It raises the upper lip beneath the Nostrils. It is associated with Disgust & Disdain.
Zygomaticus majorIt is the Smiling Muscle. It raises the mouth Upward & Outward. It is associated with Smiling & Laughing.
RisoriusIt is the lower lip stretching muscle. It draws lower lip down & neck muscle outward. It is associated with crying & a state of shock or terror.
TriangularisIt is the Facial Shrug muscle. It pulls the corner of the mouth downward. It is associated with sadness, crying & unhappiness.
DepressorIt is lower lip curl muscle. It pulls the lower lip, down & out, around the lips. It is associated with expressing surprise.
MentalisIt is the Pouting muscle. It raises & tightens chin. It is associated with sadness & fear.
Orbicularis orisIt is lip tightener muscle. It compresses & purses lips. It is associated with disdain & repulsion.
Facial Muscles with their Actions

Proportions of Face

The proportions of each face vary but still there are some standards that we need to adhere as an artist.

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Proportions of Face
  • The eyes are halfway between the top of Head & Chin.
  • Nose line is exactly distant from eye line by two eye units.
  • Nose width is exactly one eye until wide.
  • Mouth line is one eye unit from the Nose line.
  • Top of ears line up above the eyes
  • Bottom of ears line up with the bottom of nose.

Lalit Adhikari
Lalit Adhikari

Lalit Adhikari is the Main Author and Admin at Learn That Yourself. He has work experience of more than 10 years in the field of Multimedia and teaching experience of more than 5 years.

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