How to Draw Human Proportions: Young & Old
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: Young and Old
Drawing Adult Male Proportions
Tip 1: Adult Males are 7.5 heads tall
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.
Keep in mind - 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
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
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
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.
Keep in mind - 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
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.
Keep in mind - 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 7 heads tall
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
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
While men’s hips are slightly more narrow or the same size as their ribcage, women’s hips are slightly wider.
Keep in mind - 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 make your arms thicker than your legs
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 heads tall
Regardless of gender, children are typically around 5 heads tall. 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
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.
Keep in mind - 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
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.
Keep in mind - Their hips are slightly smaller than their heads; children’s hips are closer in proportion to the adult male’s.
Tip 4: Children have smaller feet than adults
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
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 Proportions
Tip 1: Babies are around 3 heads high
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
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
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.
Keep in mind - 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
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.
Keep in mind - Rib cages on babies are slightly smaller than their heads!
Drawing Elderly Proportions
Tip 1: Elders are approximately 6.5 heads high
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.
Tip 2: Elders have longer faces than adults
...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
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
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.
Keep in mind - Elderly people do tend to be a little chubbier! Don’t be afraid to show that off.
Tip 5: Elder’s shoulders tend to droop a little more
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! If you really want to hone in on your figure drawing skills, check out our figure drawing intensive taught by Fei Lu herself!
Want to learn how to turn these human proportions into some sleek dynamic poses? Read our blog on drawing dynamic anime posing!