Drawing Basics: How to draw a nose

I recently received a request for a post about how to draw the nose. I thought it was a good idea to write about and I began putting something together. When thinking about where to begin, it occurred to me that the nose is a great example to use in showing how constructing the forms and shapes of the human body is a better way to draw the figure than just copying what we see. So, I thought we'd start there as we learn to draw the nose.

Today, we are going to look at how to draw the nose by starting with constructing a simplified nose out of basic shapes to build the smaller forms on.

Lets take a look.
Basic Structure the Nose

One thing I often see missed, when beginners draw the nose, is the understanding of the nose structurally. I see many of my students begin to work on the details of the forms, such as the shape of the nostrils, before working out the basic structure of the nose. 

Before we can describe those details we first need to define the structure of the nose. An easy way to do this is to build a nose using the most basic of shapes.

Looking at the front view of a nose, we can simplify the nose into four different shapes or surface planes, a front plane, two side planes, and a bottom plane. The front plane represents the bridge of the nose and the bottom represents the base of the nose. 

Using this concept we can better set up a nose in three dimensions and give it depth.

Here is another look at the simplified nose from a side view. Notice the values or shades differ in each plane. For example, the plane of the base of the nose is darker than the rest, because the light is coming from above. This will become important later on when adding the elements or smaller forms of the nose. The nostrils fit on the nose at the base. Knowing this information about the nostrils and seeing that the base is darker will tell us what values we should shade the nostrils and area around the nostrils.

Parts of the Nose

In order to build the smaller shapes and forms of the nose we need to understand what general elements the nose can be divided into. At this point an understanding of the anatomy of the nose is useful but not necessary.

To keep it simple we can separate the nose into four areas: 

A. The bridge of the nose.
B. The tip or ball of the nose
C. The cartilage around the nostrils
D. The sides of the nose.
To the right we can see the images of these parts of the nose drawn in flat graphic shape. First with the nose as a whole unit, then seen with the parts separated. Every nose has these basic elements. The size and shape will vary but these four parts are always there.
To quickly address some of the characteristics of each element we can describe the contour of each. The tip of the nose and the wings of the nostrils are the the most rounded forms of the nose. These usually will have a more gentle curve to the surface than the other two elements. This tells us that we need to draw the ball of the nose and nostrils with more of a gradual shift in the values and shades.

We can describe the bridge and the sides of the nose as the more flattened forms or angled forms. The surfaces of these meet more abruptly and though there is some curve to the surface on the forms it is less so. This tells us that we should draw the transition in value to occur much faster at the bridge of the nose. 
To draw a nose well we need to combine the concepts above. First, we find the basic structure of the nose, then we can fit the four elements of the nose onto that structure.

Here an example of the nose worked out in basic shapes and the elements of the nose are then fit on top in the illustration to the right of it.

Notice that the nostrils and the base of the ball of the nose fall in the bottom plane of the simplified structure. A common mistake is to forget about this plane when drawing those elements.  This plane tells us what the value relationships of the nostrils and the forms around them should be.
Once we have the basic value relationships worked out, based on the basic structure and elements of the nose, we can refine the shapes to make a more fully fleshed out nose.
Here is an example of the same thing as viewed from the side. Again, take note of the value pattern based on the simplified nose and how the elements of the nose fit that pattern.
Here is the basic structure of the nose and the elements of the nose as they fit onto it.
Once we have constructed the nose we can refine the surface planes to further develop the nose.

These concepts apply to other areas of the figure as well, but the nose is an excellent example of how the details of the forms can over complicate things. The smaller forms fit into the larger ones, the value patterns are based on the larger planes first.