portrait Drawing Tutorial

Introduction to Human Proportion - Front View

This is a basic overview of how to draw human beings with correct proportion from the front view using a set of simplified skeletal guidelines.

Tutorial category: portrait  
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Tools used: Anything.




Step 1

Have you ever looked at your drawing of a human and wondered what is wrong? Is the arm too long, are the legs too short? How big should the hands be? This is the guide for you. In order to draw the human figure from your mind, you need to first gain a basic understanding of the anatomy of the human body. Humans are very complex machines, and learning how they work will give you a good idea of how to draw them in any position at any time.

Many professional artists have the ability to draw a human starting from a skeleton, adding on muscles, and then adding on the flesh. Because that takes a great deal of time, we need to find a way to simplify those guide lines.

The first thing that you need to understand is proportion. Because it is often the starting point, we use the head as our measurement. The average human is 8 heads tall. The shoulders are two heads wide. The legs take exactly half of the body height. These are the kinds of things you should memorize… the picture should give you a better understanding of proportion.

You should take special note of the following things: The legs are exactly half of the body. The upper leg is the same as the lower leg down to the heel of the foot. The arm plus the hand reaches the middle of the upper leg. Each arm segment is the same length. The neck is about 1/3 of a head long. The shoulders are just shy of 2 heads wide. The rib cage is one and a half heads tall and about 1 head wide at the middle.

The picture exemplifies our simplification. The top is obviously the head. The head should be an egg shape. The details of the head are beyond the scope of this guide. The next part is the clavicle (collar bone). It is nearly straight and connects to the sternum in the center of the rib cage. The ends of the clavicle connect to the scapula (shoulder blades) and the humorous (upper arm) will come out of that. The middle line is the spine. Please note that the spine is not straight from a side or angled view. Next there is the simplified rib cage. Leave out the sternum and just draw the basic egg shape without detailing in each individual rib. Down a bit is a simplified pelvis. The pelvis sits at an angle, which is easiest to represent with a pair of disks. Alternatively, you may want to draw an underwear shape. The leg sockets come out the middle of the disks and the femur comes down from there. Note that the legs are not straight.


Step 2

Now move on to muscle structure… or should I say, now skip muscle structure. I highly suggest you study the muscle structure as well, but that is a huge topic that I can’t possibly cover enough in just this one guide. As with the bone structure, focus on learning the basic shape. Although this will change with different poses and will require a greater knowledge of the muscle structure, we’re one step closer.

Alright, this is the hardest part to get down. I’ll point out a few things that you should pay attention to. First, please notice that the arms and legs are not straight tubes. The arms and legs both have curves to them. Make sure you include these, or your people won’t look realistic at all. Another thing is the breasts. Breasts are not water balloons. The breasts should be drawn like tea cups angled around 45 degrees from the center of the sternum. Many of these features can be modified to give a more feminine or masculine look… I’ve obviously chosen to give the female look.

Don’t expect to get this perfect on the first try. Drawing the human body is difficult. A good way to practice to start is to find nude art models or bikini models and draw them. Those poses are generally straight forward. Draw fast and maybe even set a time limit. As soon as you finish or reach the time limit, move on to another picture. When you feel comfortable with that you should move on to drawing acrobats, gymnasts and people doing yoga. Those poses tend to be much more difficult.

I hope that this guide helps you begin to understand a logical approach to drawing the human figure from memory. Search the internet or find a good anatomy book for more detail.


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