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The Differences Between Male and Female Portraits

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It is hard to compare male to female faces simply because each face is unique, but there are some features in the face that can make a male portrait look more masculine or a female portrait look more feminine. In this article we're going to take a look at those features. You will be able to accentuate your drawing in those regions, so that the masculinity or femininity will become more prominent in the portrait.


1. Differences in the Face Shape

Generally, men have longer and larger faces than women, but this doesn't necessarily give you something to work with when it comes to drawing a very masculine or feminine portrait. What I find really helps where it concerns the face shape, is by drawing a male portrait with a square aspects to it. The cranium, as you can see in the diagram, has sharp corners as do the jawline and the neck line.

Male Female Features
Straight lines and sharp corners for the man's portrait.

Whereas the female portrait has rounded curves wherever appropriate, to soften her features. The cranium is rounded, as are the cheeks and the neck line is curved rather than straightened.

Male Female Features
Rounded curves and softened corners for the woman's portrait.

2. Differences in the Eyebrows

Depending on what you are aiming to portray in your male or female portrait, for this article we want to look for the traits that accentuate either sex in their features. Eyebrows play a big role. It's not impossible to draw a beautiful male or female portrait by giving a woman thick eyebrows or a man thin eyebrows. But there are common traits you'll find in the male and female faces. Men tend to have thicker eyebrows as opposed to women.

As shown in the diagrams, you can see that I gave the male portrait far thicker eyebrows than the female portrait. You can accentuate male features further by drawing the eyebrows without curves, opting for sharp corners instead and to soften the face of the female more, you would give the eyebrows soft curves rather than sharp corners.

Male Female tutorial
Thin and neatly shaped eyebrows work well to make the face look more feminine.
Male Female tutorial
Drawing the eyebrows thick and allowing them to have rough edges helps make the face look more masculine.

Side note: Keeping in mind that more women than men pluck their eyebrows, if for some reason you wished to draw a male model/actor, you'd draw the eyebrows very neat as they are likely to pluck them due to their job. Whereas if you are wishing to draw a more day to day male you'd see walking down the street, they are more likely not to do so, so drawing them with thick and ‘unshaped' eyebrows would be the way to go.

Male Female tutorial
You can see here that a face can change quite a bit when adjusting only the eyebrows.

3. Differences in the Eyes

For the eyes, the main thing that can make a female portrait more feminine, is by giving her long lashes that curl outwards, helping to give the impression of the eyes being bigger. You can make them more compact and darker to have it appear as though the woman is wearing mascara. For a male portrait on the other hand, keeping the lashes very short will help draw the eyes appear more masculine, sometimes I don't draw any lashes at all. This might not work well when you're executing a close up, but for anything where the eyes aren't the main focus, I personally don't give male characters any lashes at all to make them appear more masculine.

Another thing you can do to make eyes look more feminine, is to base the shape of an oval, whereas to give a more masculine effect, you can base the eyes off rectangular shapes. Again, for more feminine eyes, you want to draw rounded curves and for more masculine eyes, you can draw sharper corners and use straight lines.

Male Female tutorial
Drawing the eyes on an oval base will add a softer look to the eyes.
Male Female tutorial
Drawing the eyes on a square/rectangular base will give a sleeker appearance.

4. Differences in the Nose

Tricks to make a nose look more feminine would be to make any focus on the nose to a minimum, this is mainly so that the viewer looking onto the portrait would direct their focus on the eyes and lips. That isn't to say you shouldn't give a nose on a female portrait some character. The main thing that could be suggested would be to focus the details along the nostril shape and the tip of the nose, along with the nostrils, leaving the definition and depth of the bridge and ridge of the nose to a minimum.

Male Female tutorial
Placing little detail on the nose, will allow the viewer to direct their focus on the eyes and lips, which are two important features to make a face appear more feminine.

This is the opposite with males when wanting to add a more masculine feel to the portrait. Use angular shapes and sharp edges create a more chiseled look.

Male Female tutorial
Drawing a nose with sharp edges and straight lines will give it a chiseled appearance.

5. Differences in the Cheekbones and Cheeks

The main way to shape cheek definition would be through the light source and how the shadow hits those areas, but you can add thin lines to show where the cheekbone would be. For a man you are more likely to draw the line of where the bottom edge of the cheekbone is, this will allow it to define the area where the cheek would shape the lower part of the face, giving it a sharp cutoff.

Male Female tutorial
Like the nose, drawing sharp corners and straight lines to define the cheeks and cheekbones will give the face a more chiseled look.

With the woman on the other hand, you want to keep the cheeks rounded and soft. So instead of accentuating the lower edge of the cheekbone, aim to detail the top part underneath the eye. You can do this below the lid so it appears as if she has very full cheeks, or you can create thin lines located closer to the temples on each side to define she has very long cheeks, giving the face a more open look.

Male Female tutorial
By drawing rounded cheeks that touch the sides of the face will help open up the face, like blush would when applying make up.

6. Differences in the Mouth and Lips

The mouth can really help make a portrait more masculine or feminine. Depending on how realistic you want to draw your portrait, with men, you can sometimes leave out the upper lip entirely. I personally have stopped drawing the upper lip for male characters for a while now as it really helps remove the feminine air it could give. The male characters I draw are generally not very rough and overly masculine in their appearance, so their delicate features could have viewers wonder whether they were male or not. But when I started to draw them without upper lip definition, the question of whether they were male or female wasn't raised anymore. My style is semi-realistic though, so a slight cartoon feel to the characters isn't out of place.

For a more realistic look, you can give the indent centered between nose and mouth extra detailing so it helps clarify where the upper lip would start and give the bottom lip more detail. Otherwise, if you wish to draw the lips entirely but find it hard to make them appear masculine, what I find very effective is to give the male in the portrait a very thin upper lip. Another thing would be to give him a wide mouth. Since you'd be drawing quite a thin upper lip, you could lose focus on the mouth in the portrait due to this, but by making it wider, you'll even out the loss of the upper lip definition.

Male Female tutorial
Applying next to no definition on the upper lip on a man's portrait will help give it a more masculine aspect.

What is great with drawing women is that, the moment the definition made on the upper lip is present, the mouth will have a more feminine air to it. Doesn't matter if the lips are full, wide, small, thin, etc, giving the upper lip as much detail as the bottom and defining the indent between upper lip and nose, will instantly make a mouth appear more feminine in a portrait.

Male Female tutorial
Adding a curved line on the center line of the lips will give the mouth a fuller appearance.

7. Differences in the Chin and Jaw

The chin and the jaw go hand on hand. Much like all other areas of a face, to make a face appear more masculine, you'd aim to draw a very strong jawline and square chin, whereas to make a face appear more feminine, you'd want to aim for soft curves and rounded edges, avoiding sharp corners and straight lines. For a more masculine feel, allowing a lot of focus and detail to go in the chin and jaw, would be very important, but to obtain a more feminine feel, you'll want to keep the focus on the jawline and chin to a minimum.

So far we have been making the male features very sleek and sharp. The jawline and chin wouldn't have to be. They can be a bit rougher and prominent as those two areas will be one of the main things that will help make a portrait more masculine. The moment you give a male portrait a small, none prominent chin and no definition in the jaw line, the other details added to the eyes, eyebrows, nose and mouth won't be as effective.

Male Female tutorial
The jawline and chin are probably one of the most handy features to accentuate masculinity in a portrait.

This goes for a female portrait as well, no matter how well you worked on the feminine air for the eyes, eyebrows, nose and mouth, once you give the portrait a strong jawline and a prominent chin, it won't necessarily cancel out the other areas, but they will lose focus.

Male Female tutorial
By not drawing a defined indent that separates the chin from the jaw, will give the lower part of the face a softer look. You can also not draw the jawline completely in a profile as drawing it completely would give it a sharp appearance.

As an experiment, try swapping the jaw line and chins on either sex and see how it changes the overall feel of the portrait.

Male Female tutorial

As shown above, when swapping the jaw lines on the portraits the masculinity and femininity do as well.

8. Differences in the Neck and Throat

Naturally the first thing you'd want to do is give the male portrait an Adam's apple. Even by drawing a small line to define it, you'll notice a large difference. If you were to draw an Adam's apple on a female portrait and touch up the jawline just by a small amount and lessen the feminine feel to the features by, for example, removing the eyelashes and giving the upper lip less definition, people viewing the portrait will wonder whether the face is that of a man or a woman.

Male Female tutorial

By sharpening the corners on the overall facial features and drawing an Adam's apple definition, the once female portrait now appears more masculine.

Another thing that can really help pronounce masculinity or femininity is by giving female portraits long and thin necks and male portraits shorter and thicker necks.

Male Female tutorial
While thicker necks could give an air of stoutness, it also brings an aspect of added muscle.

9. Differences in the Hair

The most obvious way to make a portrait look more masculine, would be to add facial hair of course. Even a five o'clock shadow can do the trick without actually needing to draw any hairs. If the facial features are prominently masculine, giving a male portrait longer hair won't take that away. Same goes for a female portrait with a shorter hair cut even though it is often associated with masculine hair cuts, tomboy aspect.

The hairline for a man is further back than a woman, giving the appearance of a larger forehead. The hairline is also more rounded for a female which further reduces the appearance of the forehead.

Male Female tutorial
Men's hairlines are often placed further back on the cranium than women.

10. Differences in the Shadows

For men, no matter where the light source is coming from, giving the shadow sharper edges and more of a square aspect, will help add extra definition to the straight lines and sharp corners you've drawn for the lines. With women, quite like the line work, you want to soften the shadows along the edges, giving it a smoother look rather than harsh and rounding out the edges and corners to help soften the face further.

Male Female tutorial
Soft shadow edges as well as rounding them out helps accentuate the facial features drawn previously.

For men, highlighting the edge of the draw will help draw attention to that area, whereas you'd want to highlight the cheekbones for the women so it clears the cheeks and opens up the eyes.

Male Female tutorial
The sharp edges of the shadows pronounce the straight lines of the face.

11. Accentuating the Traits Further

The portraits I made for this article were as generic as possible without pushing the traits I pointed out to far so that you can see that even drawing subtle accentuation in these features can help make a face look more masculine or feminine. Here are the same faces, but with everything mentioned above made much more prominent to show you how far you can push it.

Male Female tutorial
Same portraits used throughout this article, with the features accentuated as much as they could be.
Male Female tutorial
Hair plays a big part in masculinity and femininity.

12. Making a Portrait Older

Adding wrinkles are definitely the main thing to make a face appear older. The main areas would be the forehead, corners of the eyes and the surrounding area of the mouth. By drawing only wrinkles, but keeping the face shape the same as you initially had it, will simply give the portrait a more mature aspect. If you wish to make a portrait look older, the face shape changes and the bone structure underneath the skin becomes more visible.

The features in a face that change most prominently throughout the years are the jaw, nose, ears and mouth. As you can see in the diagram, I drew the skin over those areas with a less tight aspect to them. The noses are bigger, as they keep growing as we age and the eyes are slightly tilted downwards in the outer corners. Another, quite like the nose, would be the ears. While you can leave the top of the ear as it is, making the lobe of the ear 'droop' downwards will add more age to the portrait.

Another thing that helps make a face more aged, is by thinning out the hairline and eyebrows.

Male Female tutorial
Wrinkles will help age a face, but skin position needs to be re-drawn as well if you want the portrait to look elderly.

13. Making a Portrait Younger

To make a portrait look younger, you will want to do the opposite of making one look older. You want to avoid drawing definition lines as much as possible and for both male and female, everything has a rounder and softer aspect. Cheeks are more puffy and the jawline is softened. To make sure you don't lose the similarity of the adult portrait, you can keep the chin the same as it is, only changing the jawline.

Another thing that helps make a face look younger is by allowing the eyes to be bigger, as well as the mouth. Whereas you can make the ears smaller and the noses less defined. For male portraits, making the eyebrows thinner is another trick to make the face appear younger and avoid drawing facial hair.

Male Female tutorial
Eyes and noses generally appear bigger when a person is younger.

Now You Know the Differences!

Here we are! Some of these tips were more obvious than others of course, but I hope that they were useful to some and that they will help in your future drawings! The general rule is that male portraits use more angular shapes where as female portraits use softer curves. Try playing with portraits yourself and see how you can create the same effects.

Male Female tutorial

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