Facial Structure: Masculine vs Feminine

Shelby Williams

Once you know your way around the face you can accentuate masculinity, femininity, or androgyny by changing the proportions of the different features.

When I first started drawing people, I struggled. As a preteen I started drawing female figures and faces, but men were a challenge. The face I saw most often was my own so I was naturally more acquainted with feminine features. Until recently, my male faces would end up looking feminine even if I used a reference. 

About three years ago I was mindlessly flipping through the channels trying to find something to watch when I stumbled across a tv show about facial plastic surgery. The surgeon on the show described the differences between typical male and female features and how to make a face either more feminine or more masculine. I found the information very interesting and helpful for drawing faces.

Over the last year I’ve done more research on facial structure and thought I’d share a concise version of what I’ve learned. I think this will benefit anyone interested in drawing faces, even with a reference. Before I share, I want to mention that these are generic structural feature differences. We all have a mix of these features and they do not determine your masculinity or femininity.

Let’s start at the top of the face and work our way down…

The Brow

On typical feminine faces the eyebrows are placed high above the eyes and tend to have an arch. On typical masculine faces the eyebrow is placed closer to the eye and tends to be bushier and straighter.

masculine brow vs feminine brow

The Cheeks

On typical feminine faces the cheeks extend down past the nose and above the mouth when smiling. They are usually lower and more round. On typical masculine faces the cheeks tend to be higher and closer to the eyes. You will notice they are sharper and do not extend past the nose when smiling.

masculine cheek vs feminine cheek

The Lower Face

On typical feminine faces, the space between the nose and upper lip appears smaller, as does the space between the lower lip and chin. On typical masculine faces the distance between the nose and upper lip appears longer, as well as the space between the lower lip and chin.

masculine lower face vs feminine lower face

The Jaw

On typical feminine faces the jaw tends to be smaller, rounder, and will come to a more defined point. With masculine faces, the jaw is larger, sharper, and more square than pointed.

masculine jaw vs feminine jaw

Other Facial Features

Feminine faces tend to have more contrast in their features, which is often accentuated by makeup such as lipstick, eye shadow/liner, and blush. These are meant to bring out the features of the face. Overall, masculine faces tend to have sharp corners and less contrast in their features.

It’s very difficult or nearly impossible for any artist to draw a realistic looking face without a reference. Especially when drawing portraits, it is important to use your reference literally and draw only what you see, not what you expect to see. However, understanding masculine and feminine facial structures can help you see your reference photos in a new light. Take notice of the placement of features and distance between them.

If you do not use your reference literally, then you can take advantage of knowing these guidelines. Once you know your way around the face you can accentuate masculinity, femininity, or androgyny by changing the proportions of the different features.

I hope this information will help you as you grow in your art!

See you next time!

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One Response

  1. Relating to the distance between upper lip and nose, would you say it is more common to see the upper gum line or more of the gums in a feminine face than a masculine one?

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