Artist demonstration: how to draw a nose

Artist Robin-Lee Hall demonstrates how to draw a nose. While carefully observing her reference image, she builds up shapes and lines to create the structure of the nose, then uses light and shade to make the drawing appear three-dimensional. She gives tips on how to use your drawing tools, and advice on how to avoid common mistakes.


  • Hello, I’m Robin-Lee Hall and I’m an artist. And I’m going to show you how to draw a nose.

    If you want to have a go at this as well, you will need paper, a soft pencil or charcoal, a putty rubber, a reference portrait or a mirror.

    Now I’m going to use this portrait of Samuel Pepys by John Hayls as my reference. Samuel Pepys is famous for his diary writings and in his diary, it says that this portrait was commissioned actually by Pepys himself.

    Now everybody’s nose is different, but try and think of a triangle shape.

    Ok some are pointy, some are round, some are flat. But if you think of a basic triangle shape, that kind of gets you started to drawing a nose correctly. It’s quite good to think of it as a 3D object.

    Now, even though I’ve been talking about using triangles, I’m going to start off with circles. The circles actually help to create the structure of the triangle. I’m actually going to draw some other circles as well either side, which are in fact the nostrils.

    This is three quarter view, so we actually can’t see the other side of Samuel Pepys’ nose very clearly.

    So I’m going to draw one circle, one side of the tip of the nose and I’m actually going to draw a little bit of the circle on the other side, but I can't quite see it, so I’m just going to draw sort of a part of a circle, sort of sticking out.

    I’m going to go to those triangles and start to establish the structure of the nose. So I’m just going to draw that shape in now. Think about that cardboard model and also I’m going to draw the side of the nose, now because it's three-quarter view, I’m seeing a lot more of one side than the other.

    So the next thing I’m going to look at are the nostrils. Now a lot of people, when they do nostrils, they make them look very, very flat and they don’t actually look like they’re underneath the nose.

    The other side I’m not seeing quite so much of the nostril. I’m just seeing a little bit of that nostril. So now I’ve got my structure and I can start to put on some shading.

    I’m trying to work out where the shadows are and a lot of the shadows are on our right-hand side, as we look at the portrait of Samuel Pepys.

    So I’m trying to get some shadow on the right-hand side. And there is a tiny bit of shadow on the other side of the nose, even though it’s on the light side, there is a little bit of shadow.

    I’m also going to use my finger to soften things a little bit and I can see at this stage, my structure lines are now sort of getting in the way.

    So I’m going to take my putty rubber and start to rub out some of the structure lines.

    Now when I look at a lot of drawings that people have done of noses, they often draw a line either side of the nose to show that it's a nose coming out in 3D.

    But in fact, instead of doing that line either side, you’re actually better off using shading.

    Now I’ve done some shading, I want to actually get some of those highlights back, so I’m going to go back to my putty rubber and have a go at taking highlight out on the tip of the nose.

    So this is how I draw a nose. And sometimes it goes wrong, sometimes it goes right.

    The most important thing is practice.

Learning objectives

  1. Explore artists’ creative practices and techniques.
  1. Make drawings from reference images.
  1. Gather inspiration from a variety of sources, including observations of human anatomy and reference portraits.

You will need

  • Paper
  • Soft pencil or charcoal
  • Reference portrait or mirror
  • Putty rubber
  • Pencil sharpener