Friday, June 3, 2011

Ten Tips for Drawing Glasses

Here are my top ten suggestions for how to draw glasses.

1. Downplay or eliminate the reflections on the lenses.

2. Reduce the cast shadows or caustic effects below the lenses on the cheek, and the shadows beneath the temple pieces. In this watercolor-pencil drawing of my friend Paul, I only put a small accent underneath the frames to show where they touch the cheek.

3. De-emphasize the nosepads, too. In general, these details don’t add to the impression of character; they’re just accidental effects.

4. If you have a dark background, the far lens can be suggested with just a curving white line. If you’re working in ink, you have to carefully draw around that shape.

5. As you start the drawing, lightly indicate the glasses, but otherwise ignore them. Try to draw the face without the glasses at first. Erase them with your mind as your draw.

6. Once the face and eyes are constructed, then “put on the glasses.”

7. Big or dark frames often cast shadows over the whole eye area, so the modeling on the eyes may need to be a bit darker than they would be without glasses.

8. Sometimes you may want to capture the optical effects of glasses. Glasses distort the size of the eyes, and they usually shift the contour of the cheek. Reading glasses make the eyes bigger and move the cheek contour outward. Distance glasses for nearsighted people make the eyes appear smaller and move the cheek contour inward.

9. For cartoony character effects, you may want to eliminate the eyes altogether inside the glasses frames, leaving a smudge or a foggy patch, which gives a “clueless” look. For this “goofy” sketch of Jeanette, I drew her glasses crooked.

10. Just a small hint of the glasses gives the full impression of them.

I’d love to hear your thoughts, experiences, or advice!


Mike Porter said...

So practical and useful. Thanks!

John Stone said...

Good Stuff! I always have trouble drawing them. Thanks for the tips!

Anonymous said...

thank you for these tips. You didn't mention HOW to deal with the optical effects of the lenses. This has been most difficult for me. I presume these tips are mostly for live models?

P.T. Waugh said...

This was my go at a self portrait in glasses. I tried to indicate a little bit of reflected light. The original photo was taken in Times Square so there were a little of signs and things reflected in my lenses.
I hope this link works

Ernest Friedman-Hill said...

@P.T. Waugh: I love that! The little reflections are so subtle, they draw you in and make you want to figure out what you can see.

Incidentally, tell us about this piece -- is it electronic or physical media?

Alyssa said...

These are really great tips!

Some, like reducing the frames, I learned on my own through trial-and-error, but there are also some points I hadn't realized, before.

Thank you for sharing.

Sean said...

I have always tried to follow Sargent's example in his portrait of Vernon Lee:

Colin Boyer said...

That second drawing looks like C.F. Payne.

Ana said...

I didn't know how to draw glasses, so I have been ignoring my glasses in my self portraits. I'll apply your tips soon!

Jazz Siy said...

great! thanks for the tips!

James Gurney said...

Colin, yes, that's C.F. Payne, drawn as a demo a couple of years ago at CCAD. Great artist and teacher!

Sean, thanks for that link to Sargent's incredible portrait of Vernon Lee. That's one of my favorite Sargents.

Mimitabby, by optical effects I mainly meant the way lenses make the eyes look bigger or smaller. R. Crumb did fun things with the weird distortions at the edges of large "Coke bottle" lenses.

P.T. Nice work!

Ernest: All are done in colored pencil or charcoal.

r8r said...

many people have trouble with the perspective of glasses, and lose their dimensional shape in the delicate curves of the frames.
I think of the pair of lenses as the front side of a rectangular box, whose sides are the bows over the ear. relating the 'box' of the glasses to the 'box' of the head lets me keep the arrangement clear.

AliceNorthernLights said...

Even when i draw cartoon stuff, I always draw the optical effect of glasses (point 8).
I believe it gives information of the nature and the severity of the refractive error.

Erik Bongers said...

Rather than minimize the glasses, Alberto Breccia took the opposite approach and exaggerated the effect of the glasses on the face. He often had the glasses of his character Ezra Winston halfway down, casting strong shadows and obscuring the eyes partially and even enhanced the distorting effect of the lenses by shifting the eyes behind them and reducing them in size.
Here's some examples:
but a google on "Alberto Breccia Ezra Winston" will give you many more examples.

James Gurney said...

Erik, thanks for that. I wasn't aware of his work, and I love what he did with all those effects on glasses. There were some drawings with upshot lighting that were wonderful.