The lion is one of the most frequently drawn animals. It appears in early cave art of the stone age and is a recurring symbol in ancient cultures. In many cultures, from ancient times to today, the lion has been portrayed as one of the most powerful and revered symbols – from the Sumerian lion deities to the gigantic sphinx of Egypt. Today, the lion continues to figure prominently in heraldry and the coat of arms of many nations.
In lion imagery throughout history, the lion has been most often portrayed as the protector – as proud and silent, or roaring and ferocious. In our portraits of the king of the jungle, we will endeavor to capture the true nature of the lion. We will draw him as proud and silent, and then we will draw him ferocious and growling.
Lessons in portrait drawing can teach you how to draw a lion’s face with more detail and expression. Drawing the lion’s face is very similar to drawing a human face. Getting the positioning of the head and proportions right is fundamental to the proper placement of the features. Understanding the basic structure of the facial features will allow you to more easily transition, for example, from a narrow human nose to the lion’s wide nose. For beginners, drawing cartoony characters and animal caricatures is a great way to learn the basic shapes and placement of facial features.
A Proud Lion
Drawing a lion face is like drawing a human face, except the lion has a much larger snout than us.
- For the face, draw two triangles with the bases of the triangles joining at the eye level of the lion. On the top triangle, draw a horizontal line one-third the way up and erase the side lines above it. You now have a hexagon shape. The bottom of the hexagon is almost two-thirds of the face. The forehead area is about one-third. Erase the tip of the bottom triangle so the bottom of the chin is about half the width of the top of the forehead. Round all the edges of the hexagon. If you prefer to draw the hexagon freehand, keep the above proportions in mind.
- In the bottom half of the hexagon (the bottom triangle), draw a horizontal line dividing it in half.
- Next, let’s draw the wide snout of the lion. The bridge of the lion’s nose is one-third the width of the face. On the horizontal line at eye level, place a marker at the one-third and two-thirds points. Between these markers is the snout. Draw a vertical line down to the halfway-point line on either side. This rectangle in the middle of the face is the bridge of the nose.
- At the bottom of the rectangle, draw two semi-circles for the nostrils.
- Above the nostrils, draw two larger semi-circles. Draw a horizontal line to connect the top of the two circles. This is the base of a small triangle. Draw the triangle.
- Round out both sides of the bridge of the nose on either side of the triangle. You should start to see the perspective of the nose as it protrudes out from the face.
Are you keeping up? If you find these instructions hard to follow, first with your finger draw the imaginary lines over the lion face image above. Outline the rectangle in the middle of the face for the snout, then the semi-circle nostrils. Do you see the triangle above the nostrils.
- Underneath the nostrils, draw two circles. Draw a vertical line down the center over the intersection where the two circles meet. The bottom of this line is the tip of a small triangle. Draw the triangle.
- The top of the triangle is the top of the mouth.
- For the eyes, draw two almond shapes on a slight slant on either side and above the rectangle. Draw small circles in the middle of the eye. Draw a dark circle outline around the outside of the eye.
- To draw the ears, draw an imaginary line from the bottom of the eye and parallel to its angle straight up past forehead to form the outer edge of the ear. Complete the semi-circle for the ear. Follow the same steps for the opposite ear.
- Draw the outside line of the fur around the face.
- Starting with the face, add contour lines and shading. Start by filling in the darkest shades.
A Ferocious Lion
This ferocious lion is roaring and has turned his head to his right. We are going to draw him using simple shapes – a circle and two triangles.
- Starting from the top of the skull, draw a perfect circle. The snout and most of the mane will be just outside of the circle
- Drop a triangle around the circle. The three sides of the triangle intersect with thensides of the circle on each side.
- Form a second triangle within the first triangle on the left side of the circle. Draw a vertical line parallel to the right side of the triangle from the top to the bottom of the triangle that intersects with the bottom left side of the circle.
- Now for the mouth. Divide the circle into four quarters by drawing a vertical line across the centre and a horizontal line across the centre. In the bottom left quadrant. draw a round oval shape. One-quarter of the oval shape will fall outside the circle. Next, let’s open the mouth. Erase the circle line inside the oval and all of the oval outside the circle.
- Within the mouth, draw the lion’s fierce teeth on the top and bottom. The first tooth on the top and bottom is a large triangle. The other teeth are smaller triangles.
- Now for the snout, which is almost done. When you do drew the mouth, you formed the snout above it and chin below it. It is the slanted rectangular shape above the mouth. Round out the edges of the snout. Draw the circle for the nostrils.
- Place the eye in the upper left quadrant of the circle. Draw an almond. The curve of the top of the almond is parallel to the top of the circle.
- Round out the chin.
- Draw the outside line of the mane.
- Draw the contour lines and add the shading in the face and mane.
Does your lion look ferocious? If not, keep working with contouring and shading — the secret to how to draw a lion face with the right expression. Capturing expression is the most difficult technique for many, but it is in fact easy if you are a keen observer. Practicing drawing what you see is a good exercise. The Blind Contour Exercise is a famous exercise for improving your powers of observation. The first image should capture the pride of the lion. Draw what you see.
Enroll in an art course. Creating Art Basics teaches all of the fundamental drawing skills used in this lesson to draw a lion face, including contour lines, shapes, and shading. If you are ready to take figure drawing to the next level, Discovering the 7 Secrets to Figure Drawing: Draw Awesome delves into poses, the anatomy, muscles, and shading and lighting. Figure Drawing From Life Using the Reilly Technique helps amateurs and pros refine techniques including value and light, foreshortening and perspective. The lion with his beautiful frame and defined muscles makes a perfect muse. In heraldry, he is drawn in dozens of official positions – that’s more poses than most modern figure models have.