It is this study of human facial anatomy and the art of facial portrait sculpting that, I believe is the most vital aspect of what has helped me achieve natural, realistic results for my patients who come to me and place their trust in my abilities to reverse the signs of aging on their face and body…or to simply help them achieve a more attractive appearance.

As in cosmetic medicine and surgery very little of the skill and knowledge required to sculpt a human face is about the technical knowledge of how to do the actual sculpting or which tool or brushes to use. In fact perhaps the biggest portion of the knowledge required is about the anatomy, and proportions and the knowledge of the actual subject matter.

As doctors you may have varying backgrounds in art. Some of you may have not had any artistic training since the age of 14, others have dabbled in drawing or even sculpting for years. My hope is that you will discover that going through these exercises will change the way you observe and even plan and perform simple or complex facial procedures.

Now, we will first start with looking at the basic proportions of an attractive female face.

Start on the clay

Faces that are considered youthful and attractive in general have certain proportions and relationships in common.

anatomy of a young male's face

The proportions of the head can be divided horizontally into four equal quarters.

  1. The first quarter measures from the top of the head down to the hairline.
  2. The second quarter measures from the hairline down to the eyes in the middle of the head.
  3. The third quarter contains most of the features. At the top of this section the eyes are usually level with the ears, and at the bottom the nose is roughly level with the ear lobes.
  4. The final quarter stretches from the base of the nose to the chin with the mouth positioned just above the halfway mark.

anatomy of a young male's face

The eyes are situated approximately half way down the head.

If you view a head from the front, the distance across the eye is similar to the distance between the eyes.

The distance between the eyes is similar to the width of the base of the nose.

These distances work out at approximately one fifth of the width of the face.

Note the position of the ear in the profile view. It sits to the left hand side of the vertical line which bisects the head.

One more point is that the corners to the mouth generally line up with the center of the eyes.

One extra proportional guide that I find very useful is this x drawn on the side of the face. The first line is basically following the contour of the eye socket around coming down onto the cheek bone and on the side view following the contour of the eyes and then coming on down and marking off the mass of the masseter muscle here.

This second line is more of a virtual marker. It’s basically marking off the frontal plane of the face, ear, from the side plane of the face. So you’ve got the frontal plane and the side plane here. This line of course doesn’t actually exist. You can see it’s intersected by all the planes and masses of the face here, but it’s something you want to be aware of. It becomes more important when you sculpt heads, especially with reflection. Reflection strongly delineates the planes of the face, so it’s very important to keep in mind that this line is here even if you can’t see it.

Now we’ll get into the actual details of the facial features. This is really all learning to visualize the construction, the planes, and masses proportions of the standard head model. From there you’ll be able to quickly appraise individual heads in the real world and work out how they differ from this standard model.

Nose

The nose like most facial features can be broken down into several sections. The upper part of the bridge is bone, and where the bone ends you get a ridge. This is usually the widest part of the nose from the front view as well. Bone then gives way to the lateral cartilages, which is actually two small pieces of cartilages. Where they meet in the middle, you can often see a very definite groove. The wings of the nose are not made of cartilage. They’re actually just dense fibrous and muscle tissue, which is why this part of the nose is so flexible. The septal cartilage, which connects the two nostrils together, usually favors one side or the other, which is why the nostrils are virtually never identical.

Mouth

One of the important features of the mouth is the modiolus, which is the little mound here at the corner of the mouth. It basically acts as a hub to which a lot of other muscles around the mouth and coming down off the cheekbone connect into. It’s a free-floating hub of fibrous tissue, and this in large part is what gives the mouth such a great degree of mobility.

One important aspect of the modulus is that it’s often very visible from the three-quarter view, and you can see that the fatty mass of the infraorbital triangle, which comes down off the nose, always wraps around the outside of this modiolus. Just on the inside of the modiolus you can see a very definite dimple right at the corner of the mouth, and the juxtaposition of this dimple right next to the moth beside it is a very important feature to render correctly.

These two forms the infraorbital triangle, and the modiolus form a crease down the middle called the nasolabial fold. This is very visible from both the front and side views. Another important feature of topology at the bottom of the mouth are the pillars, which are usually visible as two bags exiting out of the hallow under the bottom lip and wrapping around towards the modiolus.

Another important thing to remember about the mouth is the curvature when looking at it from a bottom or top view due to the fact that the mouth is sitting in a large curved mound formed by the two dental arches of the teeth. The upper lip forms a shallow M shape the center of which juts forward like the brow of a ship. Normally the upper lip protrudes further out than the bottom lip, although in certain individuals with overbites, the bottom lip actually juts out further.

Eyes

I find it most useful to create the hollow of the eye socket first before sculpting any detail of the eye, because the mound of the eye is basically setting in the hallow formed by the skull socket. And it’s this hallow, the shape of the eye socket itself, that contributes most to the form in this area. The details of the eyelids, etc. is actually less important.

Once you’re happy with the placement and shape of the socket itself, you can proceed to drawing the mound of the eyelids and eyeball. As with the mouth, it’s important to remember that the eyelids from a bottom or top view have a very curved shape, and they are obviously wrapping around the sphere of the eyeball. The upper lid juts out further than the lower lid, which is why if you look down you can vaguely make out the top of your own cheekbones.

One important point to remember about the eyelids is they are actually quite thick. I guarantee they’re a lot thicker than you imagine they are. If you just get a mirror and look down into it at the proper angle, you’ll see just how thick your eyelids actually are, and I think it’s usually okay to exaggerate this a little bit in the sculpts. It certainly looks better if you make them slightly thicker than make them too thin.

Ears

The ear is basically a shell-shaped structure, and when modeling the ear, it’s usually best just to hallow out the basic shell shape first and then add the other smaller features on top. It certainly used to be quite a pain to model in the old days when we still had to patch polygons together to construct it. It’s the _____ shape that requires quite a bit of resolution, because there’s a lot of change among topology in quite a small area. The ear does generally require more resolution than the other features of the face, and once you take a little time to learn and memorize the different parts that make up the outer ear, it becomes quite simple.

The most important parts of the ear are the helix, the antihelix, the tragus, the antitragus, the lobe, and the fossa triangularis. An interesting point about the earlobes is that some people have free-hanging lobes, and some people’s lobes are actually just attached straight to the head. This is a genetic trait, which I think about two-thirds of people have attached lobes and one-third have hanging lobes. Now you’ll note that the antihelix from the front view often juts out further than the helix behind it, although this isn’t always the case. Ears, like the other features of the face, are very, very changeable when you look in the real world at different people’s heads, but the basic parts are always the same