How To Draw Ears

Want to learn how to draw ears the simple way? Ears can be challenging to draw when you first learn how to draw people. Often they do not get the same attention as mouths or eyes, but they very important for capturing someone's likeness, so don't underestimate their importance.

Some Simple Anatomy

Looking at someone from the side, there are three main parts that make up the outer ear. The tragus is the small protrusion that sticks out from the head in the middle of the ear (next to the ear canal—the hole that leads into the skull to the middle and inner ear).

Then, the conch is the hollow that extends behind the tragus and the ear canal. The helix is the outer ring that extends from the outer edge of the conch, wrapping from the top of the tragus around to the bottom of the ear, where it is called an ear lobe.

Inside the conch, there are folds whose twists and turns vary from person to person. In a lot of people, this is probably the most complicated part to draw and shade, but you should not let that overwhelm you when you learn how to draw ears. I suggest you look at people's ears and pay attention to the slight differences between them.

It would also be a good idea get a picture of an ear so that you can study the basic structure when you learn how to draw ears. Understanding this sort of anatomy will help you learn how to draw people better.


Step By Step Demo of How To Draw Ears

In this demo, you will draw an ear as viewed from the side, as in the reference photo.

  1. I place two lines to indicate the slant of the ear. Then I measure the ratio of the ear length to width with my trusted proportional divider. Always use the widest and longest dimensions to come up with an approximate ratio.

    Is the height the same as the width? Is the height two times greater than the width? I often measure manually, but I always check it again with the dividers to ensure accuracy.

    Once I know the rough dimensions of the ear, I draw three lines to divide the ear into three equal parts. This is the 'construction' stage, as in building a house.
  2. After erasing the 'construction lines', I start to fill in the frame, beginning with the tragus and the helix. I then go into the ear to draw the conch, along with a “Y” shaped indentation that is midway up the ear. I pay attention to the relative spatial relationship of each shapes inside and around the ear carefully.
  3. Time to shade! I love this part. By squinting at the image, I locate the obvious shadows on the ear. I lay down flat tones in all shadows and then create darker shadow tones in the darkest areas. So I have two tones in the shadow regions.
  4. I am now modeling the light areas. Like the shadows, I use two tones in light regions, comparing the values constantly against each other.
  5. When the overall value relationship is in place, I take a sponge to lightly soften up the shading and the drawing lines. This may flatten some values so wherever that happens, I would build the shading back again. I then create highlights and add some fairly dark accents into the shadows. I shade around the ear to indicate the relative value on the skin and hair to give it a context.
    This stage usually takes much longer than the initial drawing stage, as there is a lot of comparing and shading. At this stage, I keep some edges hard and other edges soft. Soft edges recede and the hard edges come forward.

    There is simply no trick to this art of shading. You just have to see the relationship of all the values and tie them into a coherent picture. Use the soft and hard edges to create an illusion of a three dimensional form.
    The next question you might ask is, “Then how do I draw an ear at a different angle?” My answer is: find the slant, measure the ratio, divide it into three equal parts, and locate the three anatomical parts. That will help you nail the drawing, and if you can do that, you are halfway there. Then shading is a matter of seeing value relationships.

    I also suggest you practice drawing ears using lots of different pictures—as many as you have time for. Keep the basic anatomy in mind and carve out your angles lines to isolate and construct the ear. Sooner or later, you will find drawing ears is as easy as pie.

    Have fun learning how to draw ears and read the section on how to draw people to further deepen your portrait drawing skills.

    Walter Foster The Art Of Series
    Take your figure drawing skills to a higher level.


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