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Design

How to Draw Lips and a Mouth

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If you want to learn how to draw lips and a mouth without a reference, you need to understand their anatomical structure first. In this tutorial I will show you where the form of the mouth comes from, and how to draw lips in various shapes and views. After this, you'll be able to draw realistic lips from scratch!

Because the mouth is not a separate element of the face, and it's closely tied to the nose, I recommend you take a look at my How to Draw a Nose tutorial first.

1. Anatomy of the Lips and Mouth

To understand the construction of the lips and mouth, you need to understand their function first. Each row of teeth is covered with soft, muscular tissue. In the front, that tissue is curled out to better grasp food. This works for both lips. If you imagine it this way, you'll have no problems with seeing the 3D form of the mouth!

3d form of lips and mouth

Of course, this is just the basic shape of the mouth. Fortunately, the other details can be easily derived from it. Keep in mind that the roundness of the teeth is covered with the cheek and jaw muscles, so the mouth looks only slightly rounded in the front.

planes of mouth and lips
Try to understand why it looks as it does, instead of memorizing it.

To get a better idea of all these forms, take a look in the mirror and try to identify them on your face. Don't be afraid to be your own reference!

structure of mouth and lips
Image credit: Laura Auffray

Here's a quick cheat-sheet of the lips and mouth forms in all the basic views:

planes of mouth in views

Interestingly, lips are usually pigmented differently than the rest of the mouth. They're more pinkish, often much darker than white skin. The border of pigmentation follows the form of the upper lip, but the lower lip sometimes curls in such a way that the unpigmented part is included in its form.

pigmentation of lips

For drawing, we can simplify all these forms into a few easily identifiable parts:

how to simplify lips and mouth

2. Different Lip Shapes

This simple structure is not set in stone, though. The lips have many different shapes, created just by changing the proportions of the elements slightly.

Traditionally, we talk about "masculine lips" and "feminine lips". Masculine lips are thinner and less pronounced, and feminine lips are fuller, with darker pigmentation. This, however, is quite a simplification based more on a certain beauty standard than on reality. Artists often exaggerate the differences between sexes to make them clear even in simple styles, but don't let that fool you—don't ignore the vast variety of lip shapes within one sex and different races!

masculine and feminine lips

There are no "perfect lips", default for all humans. Feel free to experiment with the proportions of the "three ovals" to make each of your characters unique.

lips shapes front

In the profile view, you can see more differences than simply the size and width of the lips. Notice how they can curl and protrude differently.

lips shapes side

3. Lips and Facial Expressions

Lips are very mobile—there are so many muscles in and around them that they're able to change their shape in hundreds of ways. This makes them extremely expressive! Experiment with the position of the "nodes" (the balls in the corners of the mouth) to drag the corners of the lips up, down, and to the sides.

You can learn a lot about the mobility of your lips just by observing yourself in the mirror!

lips expressions
Keep in mind that the default expression (first one) is not true for all people. Some people have the corners lower or higher naturally, making them look glad or sad even when in neutral mood.

You can learn all about facial expressions from this tutorial:

4. How to Draw Lips in the Front View

Step 1

Traditionally, the ratio between the forehead, nose, and mouth is 1:1:1. This means you should leave space for "another nose" under it (keep in mind the ratio includes the height of the eyebrows, so it may be slightly longer than the nose).

nose in front

Step 2

Divide this height into thirds mentally, and then "squeeze" the middle third.

mouth front proportions

Step 3

Outline the chin roughly. It should be slightly wider than the nose.

chin in front

Step 4

Make the shape of the chin more detailed.

chin detailed in front

Step 5

Give the whole mouth a rough outline.

mouth in front

Step 6

Add the muscles around the mouth. It will help you see the proportions better.

cheeks in front

Step 7

"Cut" the mouth.

simple smile

Step 8

Outline the lips in a basic way. The lower lip is usually bigger than the upper one, although it's not true in every case.

simple outline of lips

Step 9

Draw the three ovals:

upper lip shape base
lower lip shape base

Step 10

Outline the shape of the upper part of the mouth.

upper lip muscles
philtrum in front

Step 11

Add the nodes right next to the cheeks.

nodes in front

Step 12

Outline the lips.

upper lip utline
lower lip outline

Step 13

Add the outline of the lips' muscles. It's not obligatory, but this will help you with shading!

lower lip muscles
whole lip outline

Step 14

With the guide lines finished, accentuate the lines you want visible.

simple lip front drawing

Step 15

Shade the mouth subtly to accentuate the forms.

lips in front shading

Step 16

Add more shades, taking the pigmentation into account.

how to draw lips in front

5. How to Draw Lips in the Side View

Step 1

Draw a line directly under the nose, making it slightly longer than its height (go back to the previous section if you want to learn why).

nose in profile

Step 2

Just like in the previous section, mentally divide this line into thirds, and then squeeze the middle third to make it smaller.

lips in profile proportions

Step 3

Add the chin.

chin in profile

Step 4

Outline the side of the mouth.

side of mouth in profile

Step 5

Add the cheek and jaw muscles, to have a better view of the whole mouth.

cheeks in profile

Step 6

Add the curve of the mouth.

shape of mouth in profile

Step 7

The corner of the mouth should droop slightly.

lips in profile

Step 8

Add a rough outline of the lips. Make the lower one slightly larger.

lip outline in profile

Step 9

Add the three ovals (in this view, just two!).

upper lip shape base
lower lip shape base

Step 10

Draw the shape of the upper half of the mouth.

upper lip muscles
philtrum in profile

Step 11

Add the node in the corner. If the cheeks are puffed or thick, they can cover the nose completely.

node in profile

Step 12

Outline the lips.

upper lip in profile
lower lip in profile

Step 13

Add the details of the lips, if you want to shade them realistically.

lower lip muscles
lip outline in profile

Step 14

After all the guide lines are done, accentuate the lines that you want to keep visible.

lip drawing in profile

Step 15

Shade the whole mouth subtly to accentuate its 3D form.

shading lips in profile

Step 16

Finish the shading, remembering about the pigmentation of the lips.

how to draw lips in profile side view

6. How to Draw Lips in Perspective

Step 1

Although it may seem complicated, drawing in perspective follows one simple rule: during the rotation between the views, one view turns into another view. So a perspective view will be simply a compromise between what we have learned before.

Prepare the nose and the line under it. Remember to keep this line behind the base of the nose, not just under its tip.

nose in perspective

Step 2

Just like before, divide this line into thirds and squeeze the middle third.

mouth proportions in perspective

Step 3

Add the chin. Remember about its 3D form!

chin outline in perspective
chin in perspective

Step 4

Outline the mouth.

mouth in perspective

Step 5

Add the cheeks. Notice how the cheek closer to us covers the mouth, and how the farther one is covered by the roundness of the mouth.

cheeks in perspective

Step 6

Add the roundness of the mouth.

roundness of mouth in perspective

Step 7

Cut the mouth.

lips in perspective

Step 8

Add a rough outline of the lips, with the lower lip slightly larger than the upper one.

lips outline in perspective

Step 9

Add the three ovals.

upper lip shape base in persepctive
lower lip shape base in perspective

Step 10

Draw the shape of the upper part of the mouth.

upper lip muscles in perspective
philtrum in perspective

Step 11

Add the nodes. The farther one can be covered by the roundness of the mouth!

nodes in perspective

Step 12

Outline the lips.

upper lip shape perspective
lower lip shape in perspective

Step 13

Add the details of the mouth—useful for shading!

lower lip muscles in perspective
lip outline in perspective

Step 14

The guide lines are done, so now you can add the final lines.

lips drawing in perspective

Step 15

Shade the mouth subtly, revealing its 3D form.

lips shading in perspective

Step 16

Finish the shading and darken the lips.

how to draw lips in perspective

7. How to Draw Lips in Different Styles

Of course, you don't always have to draw lips this way. Depending on your intended style, you can safely ignore a lot of elements. In many cases, you can simply draw the characteristic curve coming from between the lips, and a suggestion of the shadow under the lower lip—that will be easily understandable, as long as you keep the other elements of the face simple as well.

simple lip drawing styles

If you want to learn how to draw cartoon lips, head to the tutorial below!

how to draw cartoon lips
Image by Carlos Gomes Cabral

Good Job!

Now you know how to draw lips and mouths in all shapes and sizes, in every view you need. If you want to continue learning about human faces, you may like these tutorials:

And if you're more interested in drawing techniques, you can learn them here:

how to draw lips without reference
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