How to use real life anatomy to draw a perfect open mouth!

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Have you ever had trouble drawing open mouths in anime style?

It looks really simple, right? Usually there’s just a simple semicircle shape inside the mouth to show the inner shape. But misplacing that shape in the mouth can make the whole balance of the face look strange. Getting the position of that semicircle correct actually depends on you knowing a bit about the structure of the mouth. In particular, it depends on the understanding that the tongue originates from a point way down at the back of the throat.

Let’s take a closer look!


From the front

Here we just see a simple curve in the middle of the mouth, representing the mound of the tongue.


From below

When we look from below, we don’t see as much of the tongue, so our semicircle needs to be further down, showing more mouth and throat than tongue.


Remember, the tongue is attached right at the back of the throat like this.

This kind of line suggests that the tongue is filling up the entire mouth, and not following the curve of the throat, which makes this an unnatural way of drawing an open mouth.


From above

When we see a character from above, we see a lot more of the tongue. We also cannot see down the throat of the character, so the semicircle should be cut off, showing that we can’t see where the tongue joins the throat.


Because we’re thinking about how the tongue and throat appear, try to consider the size of the neck when deciding on the shape of the tongue. Considering the tongue is attached to the back of the throat, we want to line it up with where we think the back of the neck would be.

In our bad example, we see the whole tongue, which suggests the back of the throat is further forward, at the back of the darker semicircle shape. This doesn’t make sense anatomically, so the image will look unnatural.


I hope this lesson has helped with understanding how and why mouths are drawn in the way they are. Anime style can be very simple at times, but that simplicity does have a base in real life anatomy. Understanding the workings of the mouth, tongue and throat will be really helpful when drawing mouths in your work!

Good luck with your studies everyone!

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