This tutorial will teach you how to draw a skull from the front, the side, and ¾.
I’ll be guiding you through the whole process step by step.
Understanding how to draw a skull is a vital part of understanding how to draw realistic portraits.
This is because the skull is the framework of the head, and all the features of the face are related to the bones, not the skin and flesh around them.
Here’s a quick overview of this tutorial.
- Tools needed
- How to draw a skull from the front - step by step
- How to draw a skull from the side - step by step
- How to draw a skull from a ¾ view - step by step
- Extra tips
- Final words
So, without any further delay, let’s jump right into it.
I’ll be using my iPad Pro, Apple pencil, and the Procreate app for this tutorial.
I’ll also be using my set of 23 Nifty Brushes for Procreate.
However, you can easily follow this tutorial using a pencil and a piece of paper, just avoiding the steps that might not be relevant.
With that in mind, let’s start the step-by-step process.
Drawing a skull from the front - easy step by step for beginners
Skulls come in all sorts of different shapes and sizes, however, actual measurements tally very closely.
Step 1 - Let’s start with a circle
Using a sketching brush, draw a circle.
for the whole sketch, I'm using my gesture pencil from the Nifty Brushes Pack.
Find the center of the circle and draw a vertical line that goes through it.
To finish this step, use the center of the circle to draw a horizontal line.
Step 2 - Divide it by 3
Using the size of the radius of the circle, add an extra section from the bottom point.
This will help you create 3 equal sections on the vertical line you drew before.
Step 3 - Let’s build a grid
From the sides of the circle, draw two vertical lines that reach the line in the center.
Now, draw two horizontal lines to build a grid for your skull.
Divide the middle section in half.
And the lower section in 3 equal parts.
Step 4 - Draw the nose
Make a new layer.
In the middle section, draw the shape of an inverted heart with a dull point.
FOr this part, I used the "main pencil" from the nifty set of brushes.
The top of the nose hole should reach the middle point of the middle section.
Let’s build the nasal bone.
To do this, draw a soft line that follows the inverted heart shape you made before.
Step 5 - Draw the eye sockets
In the top part of the middle section, draw the shape of aviator sunglasses for the eye sockets.
A common mistake for this part is to draw them touching the top line of the middle section.
However, the top of the eye sockets shouldn’t reach the top line and should only go a bit higher than the nasal bone.
Step 6 - It’s time for the cheekbones
In another layer, draw two lines that go down from the center of each eye socket.
They should reach the first segment of the lower section of the grid.
Go back to the layer where you were drawing before.
From this line, draw an “S” shape where the lower curve of it almost touches the first circle you drew.
Continue this wavy line to finish the cheekbone and create the temples.
Step 7 - The skull is not a perfect circle
From the cheekbone, draw a line that connects to the first circle you drew to create a more realistic shape for your skull drawing.
Repeat steps 6 and 7 for the other side.
Draw a line that connects the two sides from the top, this line should follow the first circle you drew but not perfectly because the skull is not a perfect circle.
Step 8 - Let’s put a smile on that face
Find the middle point of the lower section of your grid and create a curved line for the teeth.
DIvide that section in two, to create the top and bottom teeth.
After you’re done with this, start to draw the teeth, to do that, start by drawing an inverted “U” shape with a soft curved line to close it.
Continue to draw teeth, each of them should be a bit smaller than the first two you drew.
Now the canines.
After you’re done with the canines, you’re going to draw 5 “J’s” to the side to create the rest of the teeth.
Close the top of the “J’s” with a curved line.
Do the same for the other side.
Now you finished the top of the skull, let’s work on the bottom part of the jaw.
Step 9 - The jaw
Following the same steps, start drawing the bottom teeth.
COntinue drawing the teeth until the bottom row is done.
From the bottom teeth, draw two curved lines that reach the cheekbone.
Now, draw a small curved line from the cheekbone to the top line of the bottom section of the grid.
Continue to draw the jaw by drawing a wavy line that reaches the middle point of the bottom section.
Draw a wavy diagonal line.
The chin in a skull doesn’t end up at a point, so draw a wavy horizontal line at the bottom to create the chin.
Repeat the same steps for the other side.
Add a line on the inside of the jaw to add some details.
You can also add a light inverted “Y” shape to the chin.
To finish up your skull drawing, draw two small curved lines in between the top part of the skull and the jaw.
This is the back of the skull showing through.
And two small wavy lines at the sides of the jaw.
Step 10 - Final details
Add some small cracks to your drawing to add to the realism.
Turn off the layer where you have the grid.
Add some finishing details in the eye sockets.
And this is your finished drawing of a skull from the front!
Step 11 - Time to throw shade
I like to start this process by selecting the area where the graphite will be at the end.
So, using the selection tool on freehand, select the area where you’ll add the shadows.
Fill that area with a base color by drawing and dropping the color from the color circle at the top right corner of your screen.
Once you do this, click on that layer and press “select”.
This will make it so you can’t go out of the selected area and it allows me to add shadows without worrying about staying in the lines.
For the shadows, I'm using the "pencil fill" brush from the nifty set of brushes.
I like to make a new layer and on top of this layer, start adding very soft shadows.
I’m using the “pencil fill” brushes from the Nifty Brushes Pack.
Use a 90 or 80% black, this way you’ll have more range of values.
For this step, I go very softly and slowly, just starting to build up the layers of shadow as I go.
Pro tip: The more range of values you have in your illustration, the more realistic and 3D it looks, so start building the values slowly.
Step 12 - Add darker values
Using your reference, start observing where there are darker shadows.
Start to add darker shadows to your illustration.
Take your time during this step and refer back to your reference image constantly.
Continue to add darker values to your skull illustration.
Keep doing this until you like how it’s looking.
Remember to have fun and take your time during this step.
Step 13 - Add texture and finishing touches
Add deeper shadows to the cracks you drew, plus add some texture to your skull.
For this texture, I used the "powdery texture" brush from the nifty brushes.
You can do this with a texture brush or just softly adding cross-hatching to different areas of the skull.
To finish your drawing, take a darker color than the one you’ve been using and add deeper shadows where they should go.
And you’re done, you just drew a skull from the front!
How to draw the side view of a human skull - easy step by step for beginners
Step 1 - The grid
Using a sketching brush, build a grid that is 3 squares in height and 2 in width.
For the grid, I used the gesture pencil from the nifty brushes.
Add half a square to each side of the grid.
From those half squares, divide the one where you want the front to be in half.
Step 2 - Build the skull guidelines
If you break down the skull from the side to the most basic shapes, you’ll find that an oval shape is more accurate than a circle for the top of the skull.
So, draw an oval shape that goes from one side of the grid to the middle of the half-square of the grid.
In the middle section of the grid, draw a line that resembles a mountain from the side for the nasal bone.
From the nasal bone, draw the shape of the maxilla and where the teeth will be.
Now, for the chin, take the same measurement of the half half-square and place it under the grid, divide that in half.
You’ll draw a straight line from the end of where the teeth will be to that point.
Then continue this with a curved line to create the chin.
From there, draw a line that reaches the middle point of the grid and continues to touch the oval shape.
This will be the jaw.
Step 3 - Make it look a bit more like a skull
Divide the middle section of the grid into 3 parts.
Using this measurement, define the jaw.
Continue working on the jaw.
Draw a line that will be the bottom section of the teeth.
Add the guidelines for the teeth.
Continue that line to add more to the skull.
Add the eye socket.
Now, create a wavy line for the temples.
Continue this line to create the top of the cheekbone.
Underneath this, add another wavy line to create the cheekbone.
For the top of the skull, let’s remember that the skull is not completely smooth.
It has some humps, some lovely little lumps… check it out.
For the humps, add some waviness to the oval shape.
Continue this line to create the back of the skull.
Add some cracks and details.
Step 4 - Clean the sketch
Turn off the layer where you have the grid.
Following a reference image, start marking the areas where the shadows will be.
Lower the opacity of this layer and make a new one on top.
Using a more detailed brush, trace the sketch to clean it up.
I’m using my main pencil from the 23 Nifty Brushes set for this.
Step 5 - Add dimension
Start by using the freehand selection tool to select the area of the skull.
Make a new layer and place it underneath your sketch.
Fill this selection with a base color.
Click on that layer and select it.
This will make it so anything you draw, stays inside this selection.
Make a new layer on top of your base color and start to carefully and softly add shadows.
For this part, use a softer fill brush and a dark gray.
For all the shadows, I'm using the "pencil fill" brush from the nifty brushes.
Continue to add shadows softly, don’t make anything too dark yet.
It’s important to have lots of different values in your drawing to make it look more realistic.
Continue doing this until you like how it looks.
Take your time for this step and make sure to have a reference image to help guide you.
Step 6 - Darker shadows
Now, use a darker version of the color you were using before and add darker values to the darkest shadows of your skull illustration.
I added a bit of texture with the "powdery texture" brush from the nifty set.
Step 7 - Final details
Add a bit of darkness to the cracks.
As well as some light and texture to your skull drawing.
Continue doing this until you’re satisfied with how it’s looking.
And you’re done!
That’s how you draw a skull from the side view.
Easy tutorial to draw a skull 3/4 view - step by step for beginners
Step 1 - Let’s start with a circle
Draw a circle.
For the sketch, I used the "main pencil" from the nifty set.
Draw a curved line to define where the center of the skull will be from this view.
Add a curved line that crosses the first one.
Draw an oval shape standing to the side of the skull.
This will help you define the side easier.
Draw a vertical line inside that oval shape.
Step 2 - Measurements
Take the measurement from the point where the two curved lines cross to the bottom of the circle.
Use this measurement to create 3 sections.
From the middle of the bottom left quadrant of the oval shape, draw a soft straight line.
Draw some loose guides for the jaw.
Step 3 - The features
Let’s start with the nose.
From the point where the two curved lines cross, make the top of the nasal bone.
The nose doesn’t reach the bottom of the circle.
Draw the eye sockets a bit higher than the nasal bone.
Using the oval shape as a reference, draw where the temple that is closest to you will be.
Underneath that, draw a wavy line to create the cheekbone that is closest to you.
On the other side, draw a line that loosely resembles an “S” to create the other cheekbone.
Continue this line upwards to create the other temple.
Continue this line to draw the top of the skull.
Step 4 - The jaw
Divide the bottom part of the grid into 3 parts.
Use the first section to create a curved line.
This will be where the top teeth are.
Divide that first section in half using a curved line.
Add the top teeth.
Draw a soft line to create the jaw.
From the cheekbone that is closest to you, draw a curved line to define the jaw.
This line will show you where the bottom teeth will be.
Add the bottom teeth.
Step 5 - Where will the shadows and details be?
Use your reference image to define where the shadows will in your drawing.
Also, take the time during this step to add some cracks and details to your sketch.
Turn off the grid and that is the loose sketch for your skull illustration.
Step 6 - Clean up the sketch
Lower the opacity of the layer where you drew the sketch and make a new layer on top.
With a more detailed brush, trace the sketch to create your linework.
I’m using my Main pencil from the Nifty Brushes Set.
Step 7 - Add the shadows
To start this step, just like in the two previous tutorials, you’re going to use the selection tool in freehand and select the area of your skull.
Make a new layer and place it underneath the linework.
Fill this selection with a base color.
Click on that layer and press “select”.
Now you can add shadows without worrying about staying in the lines.
On a new layer, start to add values to your illustration.
I like to keep my reference image close by during this steps.
I’m using the pencil fill brush from the Nifty Brushes pack because it’s a soft filler brush.
Keep slowly building the values for your illustration until you’re happy with how it’s looking.
Step 8 - Details
Using a more detailed brush, add a bit of darkness to the details of your skull.
Using a darker color, add more contrast to the darkest areas of your drawing.
With the eraser tool, bring out some highlights.
To finish up your skull illustration, add some textures.
For this I’m using the "powdery texture" brush from the Nifty Brushes pack.
And there you have it!
An easy way to draw a skull from a ¾ view.
Though you don’t get to see the bones in detail, the skull is the foundation of the face.
This seems pretty obvious, however, most people don’t realise how important it is to understand the skull in order to draw a realistic portrait.
Understanding the measurements in the skull will give us the correct placement for the features of the face.
Which can be even more important than the features themselves.
One good thing to remember is that the skull is fixed into position and is immovable, with the exception of the jaw.
Once the skull reaches maturity, it will stay the same through life.
The skin and flesh on top of the skull however, is ever changing and evolving with time and age.
You can see that we can place the same grid of 3 squares of height and we’ll find the features of the skull in the same positions.
Once you understand where these go, and roughly how the skull looks, you’ll be able to draw realistic portraits easier.
Another thing to keep in mind is to add a great variety of values when you’re shading.
This will help your illustration look more realistic.
It all comes with practice of course!
I hope you found this tutorial useful.
If you end up drawing the skull, shoot me a DM on instagram.
I would love to see the work you create and would be more than happy to give you a shoutout on my stories.
Also, if you have any tutorial you'd like to see me do, drop a comment below!
I hope you enjoyed this tutorial and found it useful.
Until next time.