Guide to Drawing Ears
Learn ear drawing tips and tricks to make your character illustrations more realistic! Eridey explains in detail how to draw ears from different angles and how to apply the basics to fantasy characters like fairies.
Ears are unique and, even if they come by pairs, there aren’t two cut from the same mold. Let’s see a bit of their common basic structure before we start with their diversities:
- Lobule or lobe
- Ear canal
In general terms, all ears follow the same basic structure. A magic formula! Practice a couple of times to learn it by heart. You can use the sketch above to go through the following steps.
- The contour of the ear is created from the helix; and the lobe, as you can see, consists of a single stroke. The helix has the shape of a hook (A) and the lobe is a smaller curve at the end of the ear (B).
- The antihelix spreads out starting from the lobe and creates two paths which meet the internal edge of the helix.
- The final strokes are the tragus (which covers the ear canal) and the antitragus. You can also close the inner part of the helix curve a little more.
In the following examples, we will observe that some features are more pronounced or more subtle than others, but it is easy to identify each part of the ear, so if you draw from your imagination, bear in mind that your purpose is to create comprehensible shapes:
Shape, placement and angles:
It is great that anatomy is so perfect that it allows us to use various reference points to determine the position and size of other elements. In the case of ears, the eyebrows and the tip of the nose act as guidelines to draw them at a suitable height and size. You can also follow the jaw line as a guideline for the correct angle.
If our character is looking looks up or down, we can still use the same guides. Just remember that in a three-dimensional approach, the head is a sphere and the location of the ears remains the same.
What does change is the perspective from which you are looking at the image. Therefore, let us not forget how ears are viewed from other angles.
We’ve come this far, and we have realized that drawing ears isn’t that impossible. However, for those whose job or hobby tends more toward animation or comics, saving time in the details is crucial. Try getting rid of the lines that aren’t necessary:
My advice is to soak in the styles that you like the best and look closely at how your favourite artists draw ears. Some of them even change the pattern of the ear, like an X or a 6!
Is our character… human? Or from another planet?! The classic, and most obvious, way to tell humans apart from magical creatures is to look at their ears. This topic is fun, we are free to experiment with exaggerated and unique proportions.
Elves and faeries:
Pointy, long ears have become a symbol of magic, wisdom, and immortality, since they are the characteristics that these kinds of beings generally possess. We already know what a human ear looks like, so let us apply the same pattern to other silhouettes. In this case, something like a teardrop.
We can simplify this ear in the same as before:
If we place the ears where they should go and keep a regular size (at least at the base), they will look quite credible, no matter how exaggerated they are.
When designing a character, I love to introduce into them different elements of the world that surrounds them. In the case of sea creatures, there is a lot we can get inspiration from ꟷfish fins, seashells, aquatic plants, etc. So, imagine what your ears would be like if they were based on these elements? The results can be very interesting!
I followed the same concept of elf ears (long with pointed tips), but added elements of a fish fin…
… or inspired by seashells! All of these work perfectly underwater!
Since each species has unique ears, maybe a little more research and practice is necessary to accomplish this task. How do we get started?
- Collect and use good references from all possible angles, with enough quality for detailed reference. If you are interested in a specific animal that you cannot see in person, watch documentaries or videos that show the animal in motion, pause the picture when it’s more interesting to you, and draw!
- Study their shapes, take note of their characteristics ꟷAre their ears hairy? Are their ears big with pointy tips? Do they move? Simplify and compose the drawing in your own style!
- To help us with character design, try to make the ears express emotions. If we have a pet, let’s look at their ears. How do they react when our pet is sad or happy?
We know that they have a reputation for being curious and stealthy creatures (more or less). The ears of Siamese cats are very pointy and prominent; they enhance their personality while always being alert.
I really wanted to draw a beagle because of its really amusing ears. It was a real challenge, because they are playful doggies and their ears fly everywhere, following their movements.
Rabbits have long ears, but I was surprised that, compared to other types of rabbits, white rabbits’ ears do not bend or fall, they are almost always rigid or slightly arched.
You can’t imagine how much you can learn once you start drawing, it is not enough just to see, so there are no excuses to practice!
I hope that you could find some helpful tips in this guide. Please, check my social networks if you want to see some more examples of my work:
Thank you very much for reading!