Anatomy for Portraits: Head Muscles/Bones - with a little help from Encyclopedia Britannica

While anatomic knowledge is not required to paint a head, it can be useful. Here's a link to an image of the muscles of the head on encyclopedia britannica. While the rendering is smooth and idealized with flat bands of muscles (instead of 3D shapes), this interestingly makes it easier to see where the muscles are!

Muscles of the Head

Bones of the Head

If you're drawing/painting a head, it's useful to be familiar with:


  • Orbicularis oculi muscle (around the eye, create wrinkles)
  • Depressor Anguli Oris muscle (creates plane of light from mouth to chin over mandible (the jaw))
  • Sternocleidomastoid muscle (tubular form shows along neck head behind ear down to top of clavical)
  • Levator labii superioris alaeque nasi muscle (can create a fold or shaded area next to the nose)
  • -Zygomatic major and minor muscles (form a sheet that gives form, life, puffiness to the cheeks)


  • Nasal bone (notice where it ends to understand the crooked looking shadows on some noses)
  • Supraorbital Foraman and Brow Ridge bones (catch a lot of light from above, define socket visually by showing change in planes)
  • Frontal Emminance bone (largest round area to paint and possibly place highlight)
  • Zygomatic Arch (cheek bone) catches light and can create interest in a face when it protrudes beyond the "oval shape" on the sides of the head.
To find out how to study "Portrait Painting and Drawing" with Tricia, visit  and contact the artist directly. Remember to include your phone number.  

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