Sculpting The Nose

Here are the topics we’ll be discussing:

Exercise 1: Watch The Entire 20-Minute Video

Anatomy of the Nose

Video Commentary

Exercise 2: Sculpting The Nose!

By the end of the sculpture course, you will be able to sculpt an entire face. In order to do that, we’re going to break down the features of a face, and work on each of them individually. For our first lesson in the Beginner’s School sculpture class, we will be working on making a nose.

We expect that each exercise in this lesson will take about one hour to complete, though this may vary from student to student depending on your individual pace. Take your time, don’t rush, and if you need to stop you can. If you have more than an hour to spare, then work as long as you feel comfortable!

Exercise One: Watch The Entire 20-Minute Video.

Exercise 1 consists of watching the video then reading the text below about the anatomy of the nose. We recommend you watch the video in its entirety before you try to begin sculpting. This will help give you a better sense of what it is you’re going to be doing. Once you’ve done that, you can move on to the next exercise and begin sculpting the nose along with Kent as you watch the video a second time.

If you like, you can always open the YouTube video in a separate tab in your browser to make it simpler to switch back and forth between the video and the text in our lesson. To do this, simply click the YouTube button in the lower right-hand corner of the video that’s in the lesson. This will open the video in a new tab on YouTube. We recommend watching the video in full-screen mode. For more information on YouTube, see our Being A Successful Student post.

We also recommend students (particularly non-English speakers and those with hearing challenges) watch the videos with the closed captions turned on. For information on YouTube’s Closed Captioning, see this post here.

          Anatomy Of The Nose

Now that you’ve watched the video, let’s talk a little about the underlying structure of the nose that Kent discussed. The shapes of the bones underneath really have a big impact on the shape of the skin on top of it. Imagine you have a tablecloth and drape it over a smooth table—the tablecloth is smooth, right? Now imagine that you set a teacup down on the table and drape the tablecloth on top of that. It will affect the way the tablecloth drapes. It’s the same thing with bones and skin.


Don’t worry about learning the names of these bones (unless you really want to). It’s only important that you know the general shape and location of them. This knowledge will really help you to make a good looking face and turn you into a really smart sculptor.


The next thing to think about when starting to sculpt the nose is that it has four major planes (or sides).

Here is Michelangelo’s David:


If we look closely at his nose and break it down into the basic planes, it looks like this:


The two orange sections in the right photo are the side planes, the yellow is the front plane, and the blue is the under plane. Here’s a ¾ view from below:


From the underside, we can see that the tip of the nose has a triangular form, with the nostrils directed inwards.

bernini david-triangle nose from belowGian Lorenzo Bernini, David (detail)

The nostrils are a basic oval or bean shape that extend back towards the face. They come closer together near the tip of the nose.

nose from below triangle

Let’s take an art history break and look at some famous noses:

lady-elizabeth-seymour-conwayJoshua Reynolds, Lady Elizabeth Seymour Conway, 1781, oil on canvas

                              federigo-da-montefeltro-1465(1).jpg!BlogPiero della Francesca, Federigo da Montefeltro,1465, tempera on panel

portrait-of-dante(1).jpg!BlogSandro Botticelli, Portrait of Dante, 1495, tempera on canvas

                                     Screen shot 2015-03-13 at 8.44.40 AMJohn Singer Sargent, Madame X (detail), 1884, oil on canvas

You can see that noses come in all shapes and sizes, but share similar characteristics. Often times, the septum (the part in between your nostrils) is lower on the face than the nostrils themselves. This isn’t true for every face, but it’s very common. If you sculpt your face with the nostrils too far down the face, it could end up looking a bit cartooney.

When we look at the nose from the front, it makes an upside-down triangle where the tip of the nose dips down further than the nostrils.

bernini-sculpture-nosetriangleGian Lorenzo Bernini, Monsignor Francesco Barberini, ca. 1623, marble


When we begin sculpting the nose below, you’ll want to keep it as basic as possible, like the above yellow, orange, and blue drawings. Many beginners want to rush to adding details immediately, but slow down—you’ll get to that part later! For now, just focus on the major shapes, and keep refining as you go.

Before you watch the video for a second time and begin sculpting along with Kent, get up your workstation so that your wood is flat on a table or on a lazy Susan (if you have one). Place the mirror close by so you can keep looking at your own nose while you sculpt. You could also look at photos of a nose, but it’s helpful to be able to see your own nose since you can see angles that the photographs may not have. You don’t have to sculpt an exact replica of your own nose! The mirror is just helpful as a reference tool.

Important Tip:

Probably the most important thing with sculpture is to remember to keep looking at it from all sides. Too often what happens, especially for those of us with a strong drawing or painting background, is that we get so hung up on making just the front side look good that when we finally step back and look at it from another angle, it’s totally off. Keep in mind that this is a three-dimensional object! Every couple of minutes you should stand up and walk around your sculpture to check each angle for accuracy.

Video Commentary

In the video, Kent is starting with a 2” ball of plastiline clay.

Take your clay and start warming it up in your hands a bit, just kneading it and pushing it around. If the clay is cold, it’s harder to work with! Once your clay is lightly warmed, start shaping it into a basic nose shape—that is into that triangle we talked about earlier in the lesson:


Using your fingers, smooth the edges of your triangle shape down so that it adheres to your wood board. This will just help keep it in one place so you have both hands free to work on sculpting.

Once the basic triangle of the nose is secured on your board, push in some indents at the top of the nose to create the basic shape of the eye socket. While it may seem silly to do this, creating the basic shapes of the surrounding areas of the nose will help to keep your nose in correct proportion and, since everything on the face is connected, creating the surrounding areas will help to add shape to the nose.

In the video, Kent is continuing to shape the nose. In this beginning stage, keep your shapes general. We will work from large to small forms—or from general to specific. Don’t start adding detail yet! That will come later. For now, keep the shape general and a little blocky as you continue to shape and refine using your fingers.

At the top of the bridge of the nose, Kent is creating a slight indent. Wipe your hands off for a second and feel that part on your own face. Do you feel a slight indent where the bridge of your nose meets your forehead? It’s not just a straight line from your forehead to the tip of your nose—there are dips and bumps in there.

You can see this dip between the nose and forehead here in this profile view:


Around the 8 minute mark in the video, Kent starts talking about the underlying anatomy of the nose, which we just covered in the previous section. On his clay nose, Kent makes little lines with his tool to show you where these major bones are underneath the skin.

skull arrows

The line marked with a 1 is the first connection point he talks about, where the forehead and nose meet.

The two lines marked with 2 are the two bones that make up the outside edges of the bridge of the nose.

Line 3 is pretty high up on your nose and does not mean that’s the tip of your nose! It’s just where the bone starts and cartilage begins. It’s at this point that many people have a soft indent on either side of their nose.

Line 4 is part of the septum—that little structure that separates your nostrils and connects down to your face just above your upper lip.

nose screen shot

This is a screen shot from the video where Kent has drawn in lines 1, 2 and 3 (corresponding to the above photo of the skull) onto his clay nose. He doesn’t talk about line 4—the septum—but I wanted you to see how that connects the nose to the face anyway.

Now, let’s look at the cartilage of the nose.


Kent draws in these lines on his clay nose to illustrate where the cartilage attaches to the bones of the nose.

nose screen shot 2

You don’t have to copy him and make these lines in your clay. He is doing this just to help you to understand the locations of the major underlying structures.

Now that we’ve had a look at the interior forms, let’s get back to sculpting the exterior form of the nose.

With the basic form all smoothed out, Kent takes his sculpting tool and uses it to create the forms of the nostrils by pushing upward on each side of the bottom plane of the nose. This is the tool he is using:

nose tool

It has a slightly rounded spatulate end, which makes it perfecting for creating the shapes of the nostrils both inside and out.

Using your tool, push into the clay so that it creates a bulge on the outside and a hole on the inside. Next, use the same tool to remove a bit of clay from the outsides of each nostril to give them more definition. Make a C shape on the left side of your nostril to indicate the outside edge of that nostril. Make a backward C shape on the right side to mirror the left.

Kent is talking about the interior shape of the nostrils (the holes you breathe through)—remember our discussion earlier in this lesson about nostrils pointing in towards the tip of the nose and having a basic “bean” or, as Kent says, “seed” shape.

Continue using your rounded tool to refine your nose. Once you are satisfied with it, you can use a soft brush with a little paint thinner to really smooth out your sculpture. Make sure you have good ventilation in your workspace before you start using paint thinner. Not only is it stinky, it’s not good for you to breathe either!

Exercise Two: Sculpting the Nose!

Items needed:

2” ball of plastiline clay

Small piece of wood


Several sculpting tools

Soft paintbrush and paint thinner (optional)

Once you’ve read the above text, sculpt along with Kent as you watch the video for a second time. Remember you can pause the video at any time by clicking on the 2 vertical lines (ll).

A convenient stopping point for those whose schedule might keep them from completing Exercise 2 in one sitting is at 8:17 ( at ‘OK’). The remaining 12 minutes can be completed the next time.

So, how did you do?? Did your nose turn out the way you expected? Better? Feel free to share your nose sculpture with us using our submission form here.

See selected student submissions for this exercise in the gallery! Click below to view.

Student Gallery

Key Lesson Learning: You’ve learned about the anatomy of the nose and different nose shapes, and sculpted your first nose.

In the next lesson, we’ll work on sculpting some eyes

  1. October 18, 2017
    • October 20, 2017
      • October 22, 2017
  2. June 14, 2018
    • June 15, 2018
  3. August 15, 2018
    • August 17, 2018
  4. March 31, 2019

Leave a Comment

Note: by leaving a comment, you indicate your agreement with our Terms of Service.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Please note:

The Website is not directed at anyone who we know to be under the age of 13, nor do we collect any personal information from anyone who we know to be under the age of 13. If you are under the age of 13, you should not submit any personal information to us, so please do not use the Comment area, Submission form, or Contact Us form.

Translate »