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How to Draw Body Proportions: Male, Female Young and Old

Human anatomy drawing showing body proportions of a man, woman, child, elder and baby
Anatomy drawing by artist Fei Lu that compares body proportions of different ages and genders

Let’s face it; all artists have struggled with human proportions at some point. To some, it’s the bane of their entire existence. Arms are how long? You measure body heights with what now? Never fear; today you’ll learn all those tips and tricks to creating accurate and proportional human figures.

These tips for perspective are somewhat advanced and will tell you what to keep in mind when drawing human proportions, no matter how young or old.

Not too into reading? Don’t worry; check out instructor Fei Lu’s video on How to draw Body Proportions

Drawing Adult Male Proportions

Tip 1: Adult males are 7 - 7.5 heads tall

an adult male figure drawn by Fei Lu

While all humans are measured in heads, the average male proportion is approximately 7.5 heads tall. This however can vary, depending on how tall the male in question is. The man in question being drawn is just shy of around 6 feet, so he’s just about 7.5 heads tall.

Here's a tip: When you’re drawing your figure on a chart with head measurements, your head should fit right into one of the sections; we are measuring in heads, after all!

Tip 2: Construct the head as a ball and shield

Fei Lu beginning to draw on a sketch pad. Text on a grey bar on top reads "Tip: Construct heads as a ball + shield for better proportions"

For men, their faces tend to be a little more chiseled. Keep this in mind when constructing your head; softening the features can make the figure seem more feminine.

Tip 3: Make sure your hips are NOT larger than the ribcage

Fei Lu in the middle of sketching the male figure; the head, neck and ribcage have already been drawn

Hips on men should be approximately the width of the ribcage or a little smaller, and the side of the head. You can draw them as a tapered rectangle. Because this is a male, your rectangle will taper inwards towards the bottom.

Tip 4: Your lower leg and your upper leg are the exact same length

Fei Lu continues to draw the male figure. The hips have now been added. A diagram of the human knee with a nacho chip on top of the patella is on the right

Keep this measurement in mind when illustrating your legs. You can also draw your kneecaps as a little upside down triangle, like a nacho chip shape.

Here's a tip: When drawing two of anything -- such as arms or legs -- draw them together! That way, it’s easier to point out your own mistakes and fix them as you go.

Tip 5: Arms end at around a third down the thighs

A partially complete male figure drawn by Fei Lu. All parts of the body have been drawn besides the arms

When your arms are straight by your sides, keep in mind that your fingertips end at approximately a third of your thigh, or your upper leg.

Here's a tip: Your hand is typically the size of your face (minus the hairline)! If you make the hands too small or too big, they’re going to start to look cartoony.

Drawing Adult Female Proportions

Tip 1: Adult females are around 6.5 - 7 heads tall

A female illustrated by Fei Lu

Again, the number of heads in question can vary depending on how tall the female in question you’re drawing is.

Tip 2: Female rib cages vs male rib cages

Fei Lu gesturing to her sketchpad. A finished male figure and the beginnings of the female figure have been drawn

Female rib cages are smaller in comparison to male rib cages. A male’s ribcage is approximately 2 times the volume of his head. However, a female ribcage is approximately 1.5 times the volume of her head.

Tip 3: Female hips are slightly wider than female rib cages

Fei Lu has drawn more for the female figure; the head and ribcage have been illustrated

While men’s hips are slightly more narrow or the same size as their ribcage, women’s hips are slightly wider. Female hips can also be drawn as a tapered rectangle, but this time the tapering is inverted, which means it grows wider as you grow closer to the base!

Tip 4: Don’t draw arms thicker than legs

The female figure now has a stomach, hips, legs, feet and shoulders

Even at their widest point, arms are still thinner than your legs. So while your ankle width may be good for your upper arm, make sure your arms stay thinner than that or else your figure will feel really strange.

Drawing Child Proportions

Tip 1: Children are around 5 - 6 heads tall

A female child drawn by Fei Lu

Regardless of gender, children are typically around 5 heads tall around age 5, and will grow to be 6 heads tall around age 10. Once again, this can vary depending on the height of the child, which can vary very heavily based on the child’s age and growth speed.

Tip 2: Children have more subtle jaws

The beginnings of a child figure. The head has been drawn

Regardless of gender, children have softer jaws in comparison to adults, due to head proportions changing with age. As a child gets older, their face will grow longer and more defined. When drawing the “ball and shield” for a child, the ball or the cranium takes up around ¾ of the face, while the remaining quarter is the “shield”, or the jaw. Adults have a ratio of approximately ⅔ cranium, ⅓ jaw.

Tip 3: Children’s hips can be drawn as just a box

Fei Lu continuing to sketch the child. There is now a ribcage drawn

Regardless of gender, you can draw children’s hips as just a rectangle; they don’t taper in either direction. Female and male children have very similar proportions; their differences grow with age. Their hips are slightly smaller than their heads, and children’s hips are closer in proportion to an adult male.

Tip 4: Children have smaller feet than adults

The hips have now been drawn for the child figure

Feet on adults are approximately the size of their head, and their hands are approximately the size of their face minus the hairline. However, children tend to have smaller hands and feet; if you draw them too large, they can end up having fantasy proportions, or proportions similar to that of an adult dwarf.

Tip 5: Eyes sit lower on children’s faces

The majority of the child figure has been drawn. A grey bar on the top states "Tip: eyes sit lower on children's faces than adults, and higher on seniors"

A simple trick to make a character look younger is have their eye line lower on their faces in comparison to adults. While the eye line on adults is approximately midway through the face, children’s eye lines sit a little closer to the nose line, which is around the bottom of the “ball” on the ball and shield.

Drawing Baby Body Proportions

Tip 1: Babies are around 3-4 heads in height

A baby figure drawn by Fei Lu

Babies' heads are very large in comparison to the rest of their body, as they haven’t completely grown out yet to allow them to function as well as children or adults.

Tip 2: Baby faces are not pointy

Fei Lu continues to draw. A photo of a baby's face is in the top right corner

As you get older, you burn off what’s considered “baby fat”. However, babies obviously still have a lot of that, so their cheeks are a lot chubbier and less defined, thus called “baby cheeks”.

Tip 3: DO NOT give babies dark eyebrows

Two faces of the same baby are on the right of the image. One has drawn on dark eyebrows, and the other has stayed the same

It’s very rare that babies are born with dark eyebrows. Instead, you can substitute the eyebrows with lightly drawn, tiny dots above their eyes. When drawing the eyes of a baby, their eyes are much shorter in comparison to children or adults!

Tip 4: Babies don’t have long necks

Fei Lu gestures towards her illustration of the child figure

Babies' heads are so large that instead of a neck, they have rolls between their heads and their rib cages. Even so, they aren’t as visibly obvious as necks on children or adults, so instead of drawing a neck you can jump straight to the rib cage after the head, while adding a hint of the neck afterwards.

Here's another tip: Rib cages on babies are slightly smaller than their heads!

Drawing Elderly Body Proportions

Tip 1: Elders are approximately 6.5 heads high

An elderly figure drawn by Fei Lu

While elders hold all the general same proportions as adults, as they get older they “shrink” and begin to slouch a little more, lowering their head height. You may also notice that the top of the shoulders align with the opening of the mouth, and the difference in height comes from not seeing the neck because of the slouch.

Tip 2: Elders have longer faces than adults

The beginnings of the elderly figure. Fei Lu has drawn in the head

...but “longer” doesn’t mean stretching the face, it means drawing the head slightly more narrow and slightly longer.

Tip 3: Elder’s skeletons don’t differ from adults at all

Fei Lu gestures towards the ribcage of the female figure

After adulthood, the size of their skeletons don’t change. What instead happens to older people is that their spines begin to bend. So, instead of changing the height of the ribcage, the placement will be the exact same on the chart (compared to the height of the woman).

Tip 4: Elders lose the curves/slimness they had when they were younger

Fei Lu continues to draw the elderly figure. The ribcage, stomach and hips have been added

As you get older, you grow somewhat rounder in your midsection. As you age, your skin grows a little looser and hangs off your body. Elderly people do tend to be a little chubbier! Don’t be afraid to show that off.

Tip 5: Elderly shoulders tend to droop a little more

Fei Lu continues to illustrate the elderly figure. The legs and shoulders have now been added.

Rather than the stronger shoulders of the adults, elders’ shoulders begin to droop just like their spines. While the adults’ spacers line up with the tops of their rib cages, spacers on elderly people will be placed lower than the ribcage.

And there we have it! Hopefully these tips have helped make your figure drawings the best that they can be. These are tips for the general human figure; no two people look exactly the same, so feel free to practice with other body types and ages to really take your figure drawings to the next level!

Want to learn how to turn these human proportions into some sleek dynamic poses? Read our blog on drawing dynamic anime poses!

Figure Drawing Resources

Are you a teacher looking for human anatomy drawing resources for the classroom? Check out our art resources on Teachers Pay Teachers:

This bundle includes the following anatomy resources and more:

Anatomy Course & Learning Resources

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