Emily Armstrong

If you’ve tried to draw a nose before, then you already know that they are one of the most challenging features of the face to draw! In this tutorial, I’ll show you how to draw a nose in four simple steps: Structure, Sketch, Block-in, and Detail.

The four steps of drawing the nose, starting with an outlined nose to a fully detailed nose, how to draw a realistic nose

To begin, let’s take a look at the five main parts of the nose so that we know the basics before we start drawing: 

Now let me take you through how to draw a nose step by step. Whether you are a beginner or already drawing faces, this tutorial will take the struggle out of drawing a realistic-looking nose.

Drawing Portraits

Last Updated July 2021

  • 39 lectures
  • Intermediate Level
4.5 (4)

Sketching A Layout, Features of the Face and a Full Portrait | By Emily Armstrong

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Step 1: structure

You’ll see many tutorials teaching you how to draw a nose by starting with three circles. While this is a good way to draw an average nose, it doesn’t help when you want to draw a portrait or a particular nose. Instead, I like to start by finding the unique lines and angles of the nose you are drawing. Think of this as the structural map of a nose. It will help you see how wide or narrow, pointed or upturned, long or short it is.  Lightly draw in these angles as straight lines FIRST to avoid drawing a nose that is too rounded or too generic.

The most important angles to look for when drawing a particular nose are:

Straight angles of the nose structure

Alt text: An outline of the nose, with arrows pointing out how it was structured. 

Step 2: sketch

Now that we’ve drawn a map, we can start to make the nose look more natural. Curve off the edges of all the angles. Then add in three ellipses to represent the ball of the nose and the two wings of the nose. It is important to keep your sketch lines light because there are actually very few outlines on a nose, as we will see in the next step.

Sketch in the ellipses of the nose, A sketch of a nose, with arrows pointing out how the sketch was formed. 

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Step 3: block in 

Now it’s time to start shading. But before we do, we need to identify which parts will be lightly shaded and which parts will be shaded dark. When drawing, it’s important to look at things in a different way than you usually would. We are trying to show something that has three dimensions on a two-dimensional surface. So, how would the nose look as a simple 3-D shape? We can break down the shape of the nose into its main surface planes (any part of the nose that faces a different direction is a “plane”):

Simple shape of the nose, A 3D shape with a similar structure of a nose. 

Each one of these planes will have a different tonal value, depending on whether it is facing the light or not. Usually, the top of the nose will be very light and have a highlight. We can create this by leaving it the white of the page. 

Light source, how to draw a nose
nose as protruding 3d shape

Before you go any further, make sure you erase the sketch lines you no longer need. Then, lightly shade or “block in” any other parts of the nose where the light isn’t hitting directly, like the sides and bottom. Keep it light for now, using only one or two shades of gray. You can always go darker later. 

Blocking in basic tonal values

Step 4: detail

In the last step, we started blocking in shading with just one or two values of gray. The key now is to add in three to seven more tonal values ranging from light gray through to black. This will take some patience and some careful looking. Try asking yourself: Which are the lightest parts? Which are the darkest parts? What should be light gray, mid-gray, and dark gray?

Continue shading with light pressure, building up layers of shading that are soft and seamless,  like a gray gradient. Just as there are no hard edges on a nose, there should be no hard edges in your drawing! 

Try to blend each layer into the one underneath. You can use a blending stump, a cotton bud, or a tissue, to softly blend your gray layers. It’s best to start blending in light areas first and then move to dark areas, not the other way around, so that the light areas don’t become too dark.

Finally, take a last look at your inspiration photo or model to find any areas that are black, and make sure you have the same black tone in your drawing. This will add contrast and 3D form to your drawing.

Build up tonal values of the nose

Things to keep in mind:

Follow the four steps above for how to draw a nose or take the tutorial here on YouTube:

Page Last Updated: November 2021