Comic Talk, Tips and Tricks

Lines in the Face Technique
Finer at 3:39PM, Nov. 18, 2008
posts: 2
joined: 11-17-2008
This technique (not sure of the name) is often used in Disney cartoons and such. The lines that divide the head. You probably already know what I mean. So my question is, do you use them? Are they helpful and how so? Did they improve your artwork?

Sorry if this is the wrong place, I'm sure you can tell I'm new here.
Coming soon to a Drunk Duck near you. Angry Man!
last edited on July 14, 2011 12:29PM
Skullbie at 6:38PM, Nov. 18, 2008
posts: 4,805
joined: 12-9-2007
I call them ‘templates’ myself. It's a smart technique that's used when the artist(s) want to have complete consistency with the style, like the different circles used in Simba's and timon's heads. You won't find many amatuer(read:webcomic) artists that bother with this(since they don't need to be consistent and can draw without one)
This is frequent in ‘how to draw’ books as well because if someone of lower art ability(read:shit) can draw the characters a pro did by using that template.

Anywho, only webcomics i can think of that do this are Lackadaisy and Evil diva, both comics that are aiming for publishable quality :)

last edited on July 14, 2011 3:46PM
Metruis at 9:26PM, Nov. 18, 2008
posts: 60
joined: 11-17-2008
Anyone in real life who's ever asked me for art advice I've shown how to draw basic face lines. XP A lot of amature webcomic art has bad proportions, likely because people don't draw the structure before fleshing it out. The art I color is at a thumbnail stage, practically, and consists mainly of those lines for faces plus expression guides and the stickfigure bodies. (Surprised?)

Artists need some sort of guide to build their art off of and the ‘face lines’ technique is a good one for beginners. I mean, assuming we're talking about the same thing… the cross section for the middle of the face, crosses at the nose… it also helps for dynamic angles, in that you can draw the face as those sort of lines to determine how things will curve.

So really, face lines are just one way of building the structure of a person first. There's more than one way of doing it, but if you're going for comic realism, you ought to be building your character up first, not trying to draw the costume and the skin right off the bat. Same goes for faces. I find the crisscross face line is fast and works for me when I'm building up the pencil sketch I work from… it's no big deal to erase, but still lets me get the direction and angle of the face I want.

I should think a great many webcomics probably start with this sort of sketch before fleshing it out and erasing their beginning lines. It's frequent in how to draw books because it's a very important technique to build up consistancy and the basic structure of a figure first! And note how Skullbie pointed out that the comics she could think of that did that–not that you could tell because you can see the final art on their sites which don't have those guidelines–are of publishable quality. I think that says something. ^_^ ;)

So yeah… I use it… I started using it at about the time that… oo… my art started slowly improving. XD Of course, it probably helped that that was also the point in time that I started drawing seriously, period.
last edited on July 14, 2011 1:59PM
cartoonprofessor at 4:53AM, Nov. 19, 2008
posts: 396
joined: 9-2-2007
If you want to produce good art… YES! USE THEM!

These lines are vital to get the appropriate angle of the head to achieve your desired effect.
And yes, for consistency of character as well.
Very few (read; almost none) books on cartooning will also teach you the importance of the horizontal line. The lower it is on the shape of the head, the younger the character. Or the higher it is, the larger the character. By placing the horizontal line high, you can show a tall or large character without showing any of the body… lower achieves the opposite, a young or small character, once again without having to show any of the body, your readers mind will ‘fill-in-the-gaps’.
The reason for this: Your skull is the slowest growing bone in your body… your jaw grows much faster… so as you age, your jaw lengthens, ie; the horizontal line creeps higher and higher.
Cartooning is about communicating with your readers' ‘pre-programed’ mind. The human eye ‘recognises’ certain things instantly, the position of the horizontal determines this.

There is a reason all ‘professionals’ use these lines… if you want to be the best artist you can be, you should use them as well.

The ‘horizontal-line-trick’ is one of the first ‘cartooning trade secrets’ I teach my students.

(The first is the ‘pupil-size’ trick, which tricks the readers' minds into either liking or disliking a character.)
last edited on July 14, 2011 11:36AM
mattchee at 8:45AM, Nov. 19, 2008
posts: 347
joined: 1-18-2008
I believe the common term is “construction lines” and I use them, an I would recommend using them. Not only are they great for getting everything in the right place every time, but they also help you visualize things like the position of the head. I also tend to draw rudimentary (forms, not details) rib cages, spines, pelvises, clavicles (2 lines, but oh-so-important to me) to help me get everything positioned correctly. This might not apply to all styles of drawing, but there are basic forms involved in any style or any figure, and they're great starting points to get the form designed before you start dealing with the more finished art. All this falls under “construction” for me.

I think, at least this was my impression growing up, there's this myth that to draw, every line you draw has to be a finished line– or… y'know, you suck, or you're not good, or whatever. Well, while I'm sure there's some crazy super talented genius folks that can visualize and just go at it like that, I'd reckon that 99% of artist folk who would use this approach successfully would be doing so from memory, and thus, it would tend to be very repetitious (I can't tell you how many drawings I did as a teen that were knocked off of one early McFarlane Spawn pose). Using construction will really free you up and you'll be able to approach your figures more like mannequins than just lines.

Also, if you work by hand (I work digitally, so there's a lot of plopping layers on layers to get my drawings refined), remember the page you start on doesn't have to be the page you finish on. I got a book… and I forget the title…. but I got it a while back, and it seemed basically like another one of those “Draw Comics” books that fills up a couple racks at Border. Well there was a section in it that BLEW MY MIND… beyond the repeating of the “How to Draw the Marvel Way” stuff (which the majority of those books are), this guy explained that when he pencils, he draws the page rough (light construction, darker closer to finished lines) at comic book size, then blows that up, and lightboxes it to the final bristol and refines and does his finished pencils there….

For me, reading that was a bit mind blowing in the sense that… it really opened my eyes to the fact that there are many ways to get the same final product, and it was really a key step and concept to the craft that had been totally left out EVERY other book on the subject.

Anyway… I'm rambling at this point. The point of it all is, like buildings, good forms require good construction.

last edited on July 14, 2011 1:55PM
lba at 2:18PM, Nov. 19, 2008
posts: 2,688
joined: 5-29-2007
I often found it's easier to use them when drawing humans if you envision the head as a sphere and make them ovals instead of trying to draw a single line on the front of the face. The best part is that they're useful in every shape and part of a body, not just in humans too. I used to use them on my characters faces, hands and waists to make sure that I had everything lined up properly. And my characters are based off of chicles chewing gum.
last edited on July 14, 2011 1:29PM
Biz3 at 5:59AM, Nov. 20, 2008
posts: 109
joined: 8-5-2008
I use construction lines when drawing a person's face. Always. Makes it all so much easier to make out which way the person is looking and how to proceed when starting with the sketching.

Honestly, whenever I draw a character into a panel in my comic, I always start out with a circle and two crossed lines to define where their head is and which way they're looking.
last edited on July 14, 2011 11:23AM
Ironscarfs Ghost at 6:40AM, Nov. 20, 2008
posts: 577
joined: 9-12-2008
All of the above, plus using construction lines for everything enables you to lay out your panels without getting into details of faces, clothing, textures and so on. Once you start focusing on those details, it's easy to lose sight of the bigger picture, so get the foundations in place and solid first.
last edited on July 14, 2011 1:03PM
Ochitsukanai at 8:12AM, Nov. 20, 2008
posts: 979
joined: 6-11-2008
Since the eye is drawn naturally to things that resemble faces, it's important that faces are consistent and proportionate. It also makes it easier when drawing heads tilted upward or downward, which would otherwise be much harder for art-peons like myself.

So yes! I make a framework every time. Even if it doesn't always turn out right in the end, it's worth constantly practicing (and my results without it are invariably worse anyhow). I even frame it out when drawing a loaf of bread - it really helps. :p

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and live in harmony harmony oh nyan
last edited on July 14, 2011 2:20PM
Daiconv at 8:46AM, Nov. 20, 2008
posts: 133
joined: 2-7-2008
I'm assuming you're talking about the construction guide lines. I use them to basicaly make sure everything is where it's supposed to be. Like, to make sure my eyes are on an even level and I also draw a circle in the middle to make sure my eyes aren't too close together. It also helps you think in 3 dimensions because you have to adjust for the roundness of the head.

I think the idea is that eventually, you won't even need the guidelines because you'll just automatically know where everything is supposed to be. But it's also nice for when you are thumbnailing and the only information you really need is the direction that the head is facing.
without buttcheecks, it's just a hole.
last edited on July 14, 2011 12:03PM
ozoneocean at 6:23PM, Nov. 24, 2008
posts: 25,986
joined: 1-2-2004
I never use them.

It depends on what style of art you want to create. I resolved not to worry about things like making the faces exactly the same even before I ever started on the comic, when my work was still just a painting series. I wanted my stuff to be continually creative, evolving and organic. I've never particularly been drawn to over standardised work, when it starts to have a “production line” like feel, it seems more artificial and plasticy, less “hand made” and real (in terms of creation and art). AT least that's how it is to me :)

So it's not just about “Pro” or “Amateur”, it's an artistic choice about the kind of work you would like to produce.
last edited on July 14, 2011 2:32PM

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