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Figure Drawing - Proportions of the Human Figure

Relative Proportions of the Body


A common problem in figure drawing is getting everything in proportion. While there are lots of sutbtle differences between individuals, human proportions fit within a fairly standard range, though artists have historically looked for idealised standards against which the rest of us don't always measure up! In figure drawing, the basic unit of measurement is the 'head', which is the distance from the top of the head to the chin. This handy unit of measurement is reasonably standard, and has long been used by artists to establish the proportions of the human figure.

The proportions used in figure drawing are:
- An average person, is generally 7-and-a-half heads tall (including the head).
- An ideal figure, used when aiming for an impression of nobility or grace, is drawn at 8 heads tall.
- An heroic figure, used in the heroic for the depiction of gods and superheroes, is eight-and-a-half heads tall(beware of creating a 'pinhead!') Most of the additional length comes from a bigger chest and longer legs.

For most figures, the standard proportions are a safe bet, and lightly placing your seven horizontals at the very outset can be a helpful way to ensure your figure will fit on the page. Then more careful measurements can be taken according to your individual subject. Remember that these proportions are for a basic standing figure, and changes in pose will affect the height.

Next Page: How to Measure Proportions of the Figure

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