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How to Draw Lips, Every Angle, Know the Shapes, Step-by-Step!

Practice studies by Gvaat

In this tutorial I want to show you how to draw lips well, from any angle, and be confident about the next time you need to draw lips. Drawing lips is not an easy task, the forms are complex and they change from person to person. However, like with all drawing, drawing lips becomes easier through practice. Before we practice drawing lips, let’s make sure we understand the forms we are drawing, as they are key in getting it right.

The best way to learn to draw lips is to first understand the forms thoroughly, and then learn by looking at examples and drawing the lips yourself.

In this tutorial we will go over the form of the lips in detail to cover the first step. For the second step, I published many process videos on drawing lips on youtube, some of which are going to be linked on this page. I hope it helps you learn to draw faster. It is a difficult task, but remember that once you learn to draw lips well, it will be very rewarding!

How to Draw the Lips in Any Angle

Drawing the lips from any angle involves first understanding the shapes. This is a much better approach than blindly copying different angles from art tutorials or reference. Understand the shapes first, then get references of different angles and study them. One more time: if you want to draw lips well, understand the shapes first!

There is a few ways to do this, one could be to study your own lips in the mirror, or lips of your friends and loved ones, another way is to study from a 3D model or from sculpture. All of these ways are good exercises. I suggest that you couple them with going through the list of pointers that I put together for you below.

Drawing lips demo by Gvaat

Drawing Lips – Understanding the Shapes

So much of your ability to draw the lips and mouth depends on understanding the shapes of the forms, that they can not be ignored here. Let’s go over the shapes you have to learn to visualize before you put them on canvas. I found that a good way to do this, is to go through a list of tips about drawing these shapes, and show you some examples. Let’s do that now:

Drawing Lips – A Cylindrical Shape

The mouth maps around the teeth – a cylindrical shape! The corners are further back than the middle of the mouth. The mouth is convex.

The mouth stands out and is raised from the mass of the face except in the corners where it dips into the cheek.

cylinder of the lips

Ok, so what does this mean for us? Imagine a round building, like a cylinder with windows all around. As you walk up to the building facade on one side, you will see much less of the other side of the building then if the building was a rectangle.

Same with the lips, keep in mind that the cylindrical shape makes it difficult to see the far side of the lips at certain angles, at most angles in fact. Armed with that knowledge look at photo reference.

cylinder of the lips 2

Drawing the Planes of Upper Lip vs Lower Lip

The Plains of the upper lip are flat and angular and the planes of the lower lip are very convex and rounded. This of course varies by person. However, generally think of lips in this way, can help draw many variations.

angles and shapes - drawing lips
Here you can see the profile view of the lips, and an abstraction of shape in the middle of the image, followed by a realistic three-quarters view. The simple shapes are there to get you to think in 3D about drawing the lips. Gvaat, wait, are lips really that shape? NO! They are not, as mentioned earlier the lips curve around a cylinder, and their shape is complex. This is why it helps to create a shape abstraction to better tackle our understanding of the complexities involved when drawing lips.

Upper lip usually shows sharper angles. The top of the upper lip, usually meets the skin right above it with a sharp edge.

angles of the upper lip
Drawing by Gvaat – shape of the upper vs lower lip indicated

Upper Lip Over the Lower

The upper lip usually is most forward part of the mouth, the upper lip overhangs the lower lip. Most of the time this is true. What is important for drawing, and what I see in drawings I really like, is that most aesthetically pleasing lips are drawn this way.

How to draw lips - upper lip forward
Gvaat’s study

Below Lower Lip, Concave then Convex at the Chin.

The area below the lower lip is concave, it slopes inward.  It continues to depress down all the way to the upper portion of the chin. The chin is convex and protrudes forward.

Septum Transitions into a Curve That Ends at Upper Lip

In side view where the septum of the nose is visible, the area above the upper lip comes down from the septum in a very slight curve, not a 90 degree angle.

curves around the lips
Curvature at Septum / Drawing by Gvaat

Anatomy terms to know:

Septum: the septum is the middle section of the nose that separates the left and right nasal cavity. For a detailed diagram, check out my tutorial on how to draw the nose.

Map Out the Masses of the Lips

Is easier to draw the mouth by mapping out the masses of the lips.  We can map out 5 masses three of the upper lip and two of the lower lip.

Shapes of the lips
Five masses of the lips, pillars of the mouth (cylinders), and the ball (in black) of the chin.

Important note here: you will often see the upper lip grouped into just two masses without the middle section, in examples I found on the internet and in some art books. Usually this does not work as well, unless the image is head on like the drawing above. In most cases, I have a much easier time drawing the lips mapping three sections for the upper lip and two for the lower.

Anatomy terms to know:

Pillars of the Mouth: this area is found between the end of the lower lip, and the top of the protruding chin. It usually it has a dip in the middle with two pillars on each side that go up to the lower lip as if they are holding the mouth up.

Ridge of the Lower Lip

The side ridge of the lower lip on each side tapers off into the surface of the check. There is not usually a sharp edge there. Let’s look at Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa for this:

Mona Lisa - how the lips are drawn.
Let’s examine how clearly the corners of the mouth recede into the checks. Da Vinci visually described the necessary shapes through very subtle changes in value and color. For a basic discussion of using values and light in your drawings, check out my tutorial here.

Understand the Planes Around the Mouth

To draw the mouth well, it is helpful to understand the planes around the mouth, make a note of each as you study references – which points protrude forward, which points recede back.

Drawing Lips – Examples

Now that we have a better understanding of the shapes involved in drawing the lips, let’s take a look at some examples:

Drawing lips demo by Gvaat

Drawing lips demo by Gvaat

Drawing lips demo by Gvaat

Drawing lips demo by Gvaat

Step-by-Step, Drawing of the Lips

Now that we looked over the features and shapes to keep in mind when drawing the lips. Let’s look at a step-by-step process of drawing.

How to draw lips step 1
The first step for this drawing is to identify the angle and to map it properly on the surface of the face. This line represents the upper section of the lower lip.
How to draw lips step 2
Based on the angle and curve of the first step, I am adding detail to the lower lip.
How to draw lips step 3
In this step I am blocking in the remaining shapes, breaking the lips up into 5 sections (here I also broke up the center of the upper lip into two, to find the center line between the upper and lower lip).
How to draw lips step 4
Finalizing the drawing of the shape of the lips
How to draw lips step 5
At this stage in the drawing, I am building on what is already there.
How to draw lips step 6
Adding some more detail inside of the mouth.
How to draw lips step 7
Drawing over the geometric construction lines to more accurately represent the shape of the mouth.
How to draw lips step 8
Finalizing the drawing of the lips with attention paid to soft and hard edges, as well as areas of dark and light values.
How to draw lips all drawings

Ok, now it’s your turn! Try drawing the lips from this page or from reference, feel free to tag @gvaatsworkshop on instragram!

Would you like to see additional step-by-step section of the drawings of the lips in this tutorial? Contact me here and let me know.

Here are more examples to look over, hopefully they will helps you!

Understanding the shapes involved in drawing the lips will help you draw them in any angle. Remember to start with good reference, and have patience!