Tutorials and resources

How to draw human proportions

If your characters look somehow “deformed” in ugly ways, fear no more.

This quick tutorial will help you to keep the right proportions when drawing your characters and to give them a realistic look.
Let’s start!
tutorial_DA_proportion_human_01_vitruvian_man

1. Measure proportions

Leonardo Da Vinci drawn the famous “Vitruvian Man” to show human proportions.
The most important lesson is that the scale between the human head and the total height is 1:8. By this hint, we can check all proportions and draw whatever human character.

2. Proportion check

tutorial_DA_proportion_human_02_bodyHere’s a quick proportion checklist that you can memorize and keep in mind while you draw. It’s like a rhyme you can sing in your head.

  1. The total height is head x 8.
  2. The elbow is at the belt line.
  3. Arm + hand are almost as long as the femur.
  4. Each hand can cover half the face.
  5. The calf is as long as the femur.
  6. Feet size is a bit bigger than the hands size.

3. Skeletons

Start to pose the character using a simple wire skeleton. This will help you to measure proportions and be sure they’re right.

tutorial_DA_proportion_human_03_john

4. Dummies and volumes

Place volumes using geometric objects and shapes, just as you’re drawing a dummy. Check proportions again to be sure they’re still ok.

5. Say “hi” to John

Smooth your construction lines and add details, such as facial expression and fabric. Our character is done, say “Hi” to John! 😀

6. I’ve seen that face before

Let’s talk a bit about face proportions. Each character has a unique face. That said, there are areas that help you define the right proportions between face elements.
Divide the oval in thirds by rows and columns, and you’re almost there.
tutorial_DA_proportion_human_04_face

  1. The eyes line and the mouth line divide the oval in three areas (horizontal rows).
  2. The distance between eyes equals an eye (vertical columns).
  3. The nose ends about at 50% of the middle row.
  4. The mouth is just a bit larger than the “nose” column.
  5. The ears are positioned within the middle row.

7. Variations

Once you master anatomy and proportions, you’ll be able to bend them to your needs and draw any character you wish, from manga guys to superheroes.
In fact, these construction rules are always valid, regardless the graphic style. To exagerate or bend them, you first need to 100% master and control them.

Practice is key here.

If you memorize the checklists in this tutorial and practice with them in mind, your character drawing skills should improve more and more as you keep drawing.

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  • Ronald Kaiser

    Nice post, Francesca! Good work! 😉