Human teeth are a very important part of any stunning portrait. However, many artists struggle learning how to draw a smile with teeth. To prepare yourself for portrait art, here you will learn how to properly draw a smile with teeth that not only looks great, but is also easily done.
Material list to draw a smile with teeth
Step 1: Anatomical understanding and sketching
The first thing you should do is familiarize yourself with the anatomy of your teeth and gums. Since teeth come in many shapes, sizes and positions, it is important to note that they should all be drawn slightly differently. Understanding the general shape of teeth and gums will help you draw a stunning smile with teeth.
In this tutorial we will examine the smile from a frontal perspective. If you want to draw the motif in a sideways position, see our Lip Drawing Guide for an overview of how the dental arch, teeth and lips change when you change perspective.
There you will also learn how to draw lips like those used in this tutorial. Just pay attention to the most important guidelines and the curves of the lips and leave enough space to show the teeth in their full glory.
Step 2: Shading the oral cavity
Once you have drawn your lips, teeth and gums, you can begin shading the mouth with a dark 4B pencil. Vary the pressure on the pencil depending on how deep the area lies in the mouth. You should press harder on the deep areas at the corners of the mouth and in the central area between the teeth.
If you want to imply a tongue, press softer and draw the surface in a lighter grey.
Step 3: Blending the strokes
For a realistic looking smile with teeth, you should get used to using a cotton swab or blending stump. These little assistants spread the graphite of the pencil on the surface and soften it.
Tip: Do not use a finger for blending if you do not want to leave oily stains on your artwork.
Blend the pencil lines in the oral cavity to create an even surface.
You may need to apply another dark layer of graphite to get the color depth you need. Repeat this process as often as you need and blend the area afterwards.
Step 4: The first layer of gums
If you are satisfied with the oral cavity, you can move on to the gums. As usual, it is recommended to start with a lighter shade and a lighter pencil to gradually advance to darker areas.
In our case, we applied the first layer with the HB pencil.
Step 5: Finish the shading of the gums
Take the 2B or 4B pen and shade the gums a little more. Make sure that the areas where the teeth reach into the gums are slightly arched forward and should therefore be drawn lighter. In the gaps (both between the teeth and gums), draw the shade a little darker to achieve dimensionality.
Tip: Small dark accents on the edges of the gums and in the gaps give the smile a more realistic look.
Step 6: Shading the teeth
Even the whitest teeth have several values of brightness. Where the light hits the teeth directly, the teeth are brighter. Where the light casts shadows (in the gaps and on teeth deeper in the oral cavity) the teeth are darker.
Use the HB pencil or a H pencil to gently draw the shading of the teeth. Use the cotton swab to blend those strokes and blur them.
Step 7: Uncover the bright spots on the teeth
Take out your kneaded erase and carefully remove the highlight areas that are directly exposed to the light source.
It is easier to expose these brightest areas on the teeth with the eraser than to leave them completely white in advance. The soft transitions created by the eraser also look more realistic.
Step 8: Finishing teeth, gums and lips
You’ve already done the hardest part. The last step is the touch up of your drawing. This final touch is important in order to adjust the contrast and to coordinate the individual elements of the drawing.
Increase the contrasts in the darker areas if necessary, erase again or use the cotton swab to adjust the texture.