Learn How To Draw Mouths

When you know how to draw mouths well, you can add so much expressive impact to your subjects! It's well worth the effort to learn this skill.

In order to learn to draw a mouth, you first need to know there are five little muscles that make up the lips as illustrated below.

learn how to draw mouths

Notice how the top lip slants in and is usually in shadow. The lower lip juts out and catches more light.

Usually there is a shadow under the middle of the lower lip but not on either side because of the muscles under the sides of the lips. Occasionally the edges of lip and muscle under the lip run together and create a lost edge.

In the picture below, to your left is a ¾ view of the mouth. Depending on how far the mouth is turned, you may not see the far corner.

On the right is a profile view of the mouth, notice that the area where people grow mustaches curves out. The face under the lower lip curves in down to the chin.

how to draw mouths

But How do you draw Smiling Mouths?

Smiles stretch the lips. The lips become thinner. The line between both lips becomes straighter. Lips curve up and push back into the cheeks. Thus you 'll see a soft shadow.

If you have an open smile on a mouth, you are going to ........

  1. Draw the bottom edge of the upper lip. Pay close attention to how it is shaped. Take time to get the edge right. A slight shift in angle on the curves makes a world of difference!

    learn how to draw mouths

  2. Determine how much of a space there is between the lips and how much space you will need for teeth and gum. Then mark the opening.

  3. Mark the width of the upper and lower lips. Connect the lines marking the opening to the corners of the mouth.

learn how to draw mouths

Now it is time to add the teeth and gum to give the mouth more expression. A critical stage when you learn how to draw mouths!


  1. The teeth in the center may catch some light, but the rest curve back into the shadows inside the mouth.

  2. Teeth DO NOT march in a flat row from corner to corner of the open mouth. Avoid drawing them like corn on the cob!!

More steps for learning how to draw mouths....when they are open

  1. Downplay or just leave out the lines that separate each tooth. Squinting will help you achieve this. Indicate the overall shape of the teeth, both at the gum line and at the edge of the teeth.

    A little says a lot more than delineating what you normally think teeth should look like.

    learn how to draw mouths

  2. Keep the colors of the tongue (if it is shown) and gums muted and shadowed. Take care that the tongue is not much lighter than the shadows inside the mouth and that it goes back into the dark areas.

how to draw mouths

Mouths can take on many expressions. Coupled with other muscles on the faces, the same expression on a mouth can convey different emotions.

In the next illustration, do you see an angry mouth or a happy mouth?

learn how to draw mouths

I originally drew it based on a picture of an angry woman. But without adding the muscles around the mouth, nose and the eyes, the drawing of this particular mouth still fails to give you the feeling of “ah, that's an angry mouth!” Not every expression made by a mouth clearly conveys the subjects emotions just by itself.

Once you learn how to draw mouths, noses, and eyes, you will need to pull these features together by relating them as a whole.

I hope these pointers help you to draw mouths better. Keep striving for a unity of all the features on your subject, and you will be amazed at the progress you make. You will soon realize that learning is easier than you thought.

For more information on how to draw facial expressions, I recommend The Artist's Complete Guide to Facial Expression by Gary Faigin. It covers the cultural and anatomical aspects of all types of facial expressions. It is well written and illustrated; a must-read for all artists who want to learn how to draw and paint people!

So you can learn how to master expressions on human faces.

The Artist's Complete Guide to Facial Expression

> > How To Draw Mouths

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