How to Use Proportion When Drawing People

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Sometimes a drawing can capture the features and expression of a person perfectly but it still looks a little off. Most likely the proportions aren't right, even if the viewer can't figure out what's wrong. People come in all shapes and sizes, but some general rules apply. Using proportions correctly makes everything look right in a drawing.

Things You'll Need

  • Drawing paper
  • Pencil
  • Eraser
  • Use heads for measuring the figure to keep the body in proportion. Draw the head first and once that is finished use it to measure off the rest of the body.

  • Mark off the length of the body by measuring 6 heads, making the entire figure 7 heads high.

  • Measure the shoulder widths as 3 heads wide for typical people. Check this against the subject to make sure it's right.

  • Get the bottom of the chest in proportion by measuring down 2 head lengths from the top of the head.

  • Draw the arms so the fingertips fall no longer than 5 head lengths from the top of the figure. The measurement from the elbow to the fingertips is 2 heads long and the hand is one head length, including fingers.

  • Sketch in the legs and feet. The standard body proportion is 4 heads from the hips to the feet.

  • Use a pencil held out at arm's length to measure a live model's proportions. Close one eye to get better focus and mark the length on the pencil with the thumb. This helps the artist get more accurate measurements. Use either the pencil method or a ruler when working from a photo.

  • Once the standard body proportions are sketched onto the drawing, make them more definitive and fill in shadow and texture.

Tips & Warnings

  • Once the standard body proportions are sketched onto the drawing, make them more definitive and fill in shadow and texture.

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