You know those furry things that live just above your eyelids? Yes, the eyebrows! Each eyebrow is as unique as a fingerprint— no two are exactly alike. This helps make us all unique and fantastic creatures of nature, but it can cause a real headache if you are just learning to draw faces. There are “tricks” that I like to use when drawing eyebrows, and that is what I am going to share with you in this tutorial.
The eyebrows are really fascinating if you think about them. They are made of hair, but don’t grow like the hair on our heads. They sit in an odd place, on our brow bone, which is not on our eyes, nor on our forehead. They just sit there, protecting our eyes from falling debris, right? Not exactly. Have you ever been talking to someone and known exactly what they were thinking or how they felt about what you just said? It’s the eyebrows!
In order to show expression with eyebrows, you first need to know how to draw eyebrows realistically.
Placement of the Eyebrow
To place your eyebrow correctly, use the top of the nostril crease for a guide. The innermost edge of the eyebrow should generally line up vertically (line A). The arch of the brow will peak at approximately a 45 degree angle (line B). The outer edge of the brow creates a line from the nostril crease through the outer crease of the eyelid and water line (Line C).
Next, you want to very lightly sketch out a basic shape for the eyebrow. If you tend to be heavy-handed, I suggest using a pencil graded 2H-HB.
Drawing Realistic Eyebrows
Start adding in individual hairs. Again I suggest using a lighter grade pencil. Draw the hairs in the direction that they grow, easing up on the pressure as you lift the pencil off of the page. Think “press and lift”. Never “color” in a solid value. This will make the eyebrows look cartoonish. Remember, the goal is to make the drawing as realistic as possible. You may occasionally stray outside of the outlined shape. That is okay. The outlined shape is just a guide. That is why you drew it lightly.
You can easily erase or draw over the guide as needed. Also, if the areas where your eyebrow hairs strayed from the guide bother you, you can always erase them as well. (Drawing lightly when beginning any drawing is always a good idea.) The eraser is just as valuable a drawing tool as the pencil! I prefer white acrylic erasers. Some artists prefer gum erasers, some prefer kneaded erasers and some artists grab whatever is handy! I also use an electric eraser— they are great for highlights, especially when drawing any type of hair, like drawing the eyebrow.
Think about how the light is going to hit the eyebrows and add some lowlights with a softer (darker value) pencil, or more pressure. This is another place you can use your eraser for drawing, whether you have gotten too dark or just think you need to add dimension. Shading in the eyebrow hairs and then using the eraser for highlights creates a realistic thickness to the hair.
Use the same process for the other eyebrow in the opposite direction. Don’t stress too much about making the eyebrows perfectly symmetrical. It seems counter-intuitive, but nothing on the human face is perfectly symmetrical.
If you do draw the eyebrows in perfect symmetry, something will appear “off” to anyone who views the drawing. It may be subconsciously, but the viewer will know something is not right. Near symmetry is a good idea, however. There are set standards of beauty in Western culture where certain women have been considered to be an example due to their nearly symmetrical features. If you wish to see an example, consider Marilyn Monroe or Halle Berry.
When using a real person for a reference for your drawing, you will have an easier time illustrating a more realistic symmetry. When creating a drawing of a fictional person, beware of making them too perfectly symmetrical if realism is your goal.
All of the previous “tricks” can be used when drawing eyebrows with expression. The main difference will be how much distance you put between the eyebrow and the upper eyelid. A surprised or startled eye may have a lot of space between the upper eyelid and the brow, but of course never more than the skin can possibly be stretched. You would not draw the eyebrow next to the hairline, for example. Conversely, when the person is angry or concentrating very hard on something, their eyebrows will push closer (lower) to the eyelid and slightly angle inwardly toward the inner corner of the eye.
No Two Eyebrows Are the Same
As I mentioned before, every eyebrow is unique! The eyebrows in this article are pretty basic. The most important part of drawing any facial feature is to use a reference. Some people have very thin, light eyebrows. Some people have bushy, unruly, dark eyebrows. Some people (such as the amazing artist Frida Kahlo) have the infamous “uni-brow”. Every type of eyebrow will use the rule of drawing the hairs in the direction the are growing (or groomed). All hairs will use the pressure rule and will have a light source that creates darker shaded areas.
Also notice that the skin has a smoother texture than the eyebrow. I used a blending stump to make a smoother skin texture, and cast shadow to make the eyebrows look more three-dimensional. I laid down a small bit of graphite just below the eyebrow drawing and smoothed it out with the blending stump, or tortillon. I continued this shading technique around the rest of the eye for a consistent texture. Remember, when drawing the eyebrow, it is not smooth. The hair-like texture is very important and easily created by varying the pencil and eraser marks within the eyebrow.
I hope you found this tutorial on drawing eyebrows useful! Attaining mastery with anything takes a lot of practice. Practice using the techniques I have outlined here and your eyebrow drawing is sure to improve. Happy drawing!