How to Draw Whimsical Faces

Learn how to draw whimsical faces from photographs!

Do you ever get stumped when you try to draw a whimsical face? Do you end up drawing the same face over and over again?

Rather than show you how to draw a single whimsical face step by step, this drawing lesson will show you how to start with a reference photo and then use your creativity to alter, exaggerate, adjust, and expand upon the facial features in the photograph to create an endless variety of whimsical faces.

What do you think the 11 faces below have in common?

Whimsical Face Sketches

Would you believe me if I said they were all inspired by the same reference photograph?

Well, they were! In fact, those pencil sketches were inspired by a photograph of me - and no I don't have a mohawk, pointy ears or a fish tail. See for yourself:

When you draw from a photograph, you have the power to change whatever you want. You have total creative license! Here are some of the things you can change when you make your sketch:

Thaneeya McArdle Artist
  • eyes

  • eyelashes

  • eyebrows

  • eyelids

  • nose

  • mouth

  • lips

  • teeth

  • ears

  • chin

  • neck

  • cheeks

  • forehead

  • hair

The more you change each feature listed above, the less your drawing will resemble the photograph and the more it will look like a whimsical face from your imagination!

Remember: your goal is not to reproduce the photograph, but to use it as a starting point for drawing a whimsical face - so don't get caught up in trying to make your drawing look like the photo, and don't judge what you draw.

The benefit of using a photo to spark your imagination is that you will be less likely to wind up drawing the same face over and over again.

You'll gain:

  • confidence in drawing faces from different angles,
  • a familiarity with different types of facial features,
  • an understanding of where to place shadows.

For example, if you usually draw faces front-on, challenge yourself by looking at a photo of a face in 3/4 view (like my photo above) and draw a whimsical face in that position (like the sketches on this page). Same goes for profiles.

Learn How to Draw Whimsical Faces

Now I'll go through each one of those pencil sketches above and place it next to my photo, and explain how I changed the features.

(To make it a bit easier for you to see the similarities between the photo and the drawing, I've made my photo black and white.)

Whimsical Elf Fairy Pencil Drawing

In the drawing above, I made her nose long and pointy. I also made her chin pointy, as well as her ear. Note that my ear isn't showing in the photo, so I invented it in the drawing. I gave her short hair with a single curl, and a small star near her eye.

The result: a pixie elf-ish fairy portrait!

Whimsical Pencil Face Drawings

In this drawing, I took more creative liberties. I made her eyes farther apart and used a simple line to suggest her nose - a line that is very faint in the middle. The eyebrows have been heightened and shortened. The mouth has been made smaller and her cheeks less prominent. Her hair is shorter and sweeps to the right in straight lines.

The result: a cute face that could represent any young woman. 

Whimsical Pencil Sketch Portrait

In the drawing above, I made her eyes very big and prominent. They are also close together. Her irises are 'colored' with lines that radiate from the center like spokes on a wheel. Light shading on her eyelids and cheeks makes them more prominent. Her nose is small and is only suggested by a simple hooked curve. I gave her a very big forehead and a decorative turbanlike headdress.

The result: a somewhat posh, exotic-looking lady. Perhaps a belly dancer or a mind reader!

Whimsical Face Pencil Sketch

In this drawing, I made the eyes much larger, and drew them as half-circles with pointy outer edges. They are very close together. The eyelids are prominent but the eyebrows are short, simple curves. The nose is simply a rounded line... and there are noticeably less teeth! All in all, the features are very rounded.

The result: This could be a baby, or perhaps an old man!

Whimsical Doll Pencil Sketch

In the drawing above, I turned myself into a raggedy doll! I drew rounded eyes with stitch marks around the right eye. The features are simplified and the cheeks are rosy. I drew a fabric patch where the ear should be. The hair looks like chunky braids or yarn.

The result: a raggedy doll that looks handmade and somewhat worn

Whimsical Mermaid Doodle Sketch

The face on this drawing is very simplified - at least in the sketch; if color was added, the face could become a lot more 'full'. Referring to the photo was helpful in terms of where to place the facial features. The eyes are simple dots and the main features are minimally suggested. I took the liberty of giving her long hair and a fish tail!

The result: a mermaid!

Whimsical Elf Gnome Troll Man

The eyes in this drawing are fairly detailed, and the 'bags' under the eyes are emphasized. I also gave him two prominent eyelashed above each eye. He has big cheeks, big poofy eyebrows, horizontally-pointy ears, and thin hair. The forehead wrinkles were the final touch to give him a sense of age.

The result: a gnome / elf / troll man

Whimsical Punk Mohawk Man

In this drawing, I drew the eyes as large ovals, one larger than the other. The irises are simple dots floating in the white of the eyes, resulting in a cartoony look. I gave him a big grin and a mohawk.

The result: a cartoony punk character

Whimsical Face Pencil Drawings

In the drawing above, her eyes are enlarged, placed close together, and her eyelids are very prominent. The shading on her eyelids and lips implies that she is wearing make-up. Instead of a smile I gave her a subtle introspective smirk. Her hair is suggested by framing her face with short, curved lines.

The result: an attractive yet somewhat mysterious lady, perhaps a showgirl or someone in a cafe

Whimsical Man Pencil Doodle

In this drawing, the features are very simplified. His eyes are half-circles with no lower eyelid. His nose is long and pointy. His thin curly moustache matches his curly hair, and he wears a top hat. By using minimal lines, most of his face is suggested rather than shown.

The result: a dignified-looking man from another era

Whimsical Woman Face Sketch

In the drawing above, her eyes are large and placed close together. Her eyebrows, nose and smile are suggested with simple lines. Her hair is neatly shaded into a simple style.

The result: an everyday woman who could be doing anything!

I hope this whimsical drawing lesson was useful to you in showing how you can start from an ordinary reference photo and use your imagination to turn someone's face into a whimsical face!

If you're a beginner, you might feel like I'm throwing you into the deep end. Don't worry, just have fun with it. Open your sketchbook and see what happens.

When you practice drawing whimsical faces, don't ever judge your work. Remember that you are doing this for fun - just allow yourself to see what happens.

Whimsical face drawing tips:

  • If you ever feel stuck, just look at each feature individually and think of what you could potentially change. For instance, you could make the eyes larger and the ears smaller, just draw a simple line for a nose, etc.

  • The eyes in whimsical portraits can be very expressive. It is common for eyes in whimsical faces to be either very large or very small; very close together or very far apart. Play around with the different possibilities!

  • Embrace simplicity. If all you need is a line to suggest eyebrows, lips or a nose, just draw a line. If you add color later, it can make your whimsical face look more 'full' and believable.

  • Use the reference photo to give you ideas on the placement of features and the type of shading to use in different lighting.

Happy Drawing!

Return to the main whimsical art page

Whimsical portrait coloring lesson

Learn how to color in the whimsical portrait below in my detailed, step-by-step alcohol marker coloring lesson!

Keep learning!

Drawing Tutorials

Coloring Tutorials

Painting Tutorials

Guide to Buying Art Supplies


If you’re a fan of coloring, be sure to check out my coloring books and printables, which are full of whimsical designs begging to be filled with color!