How to Draw People – Some Tips

By Jon Mumford

People just starting out are often puzzled by the question of how to draw people. The form of a person dressed in clothes can be pretty complex and this goes even more for the human body itself.

Let’s assume you sit there with a charcoal and an empty sheet of drawing paper in front of you – as well as a figure of a human with clothing. Next, you wonder, where do I start for crying out loud? How do I begin? Looking at the figure, the task can seem quite daunting.

So, let’s start with a basic principle. Any drawing can be brought back to a few components. In the case of a human figure, the body can be divided into several parts. Just ask yourself, where would the middle of the body be? The answer is simple: at the waistline.

It’s important to get the basic proportions right first, and not to add detail in the beginning. Only if you are sure that the proportions are about right, can you add (only small) detail later. You can assist that process by half closing your eyes when looking at your model. This way, you focus on the broad shapes and not on the details.

Next, you can do some basic measuring. Take your pencil, hold it vertically while your arm is at full length. Then put your thumb where the feet are. Next, move the thumb position to the waistline without taking your thumb off the pencil. Check if the pencil’s top is in line with the head’s top. If that isn’t the case, then you should change the position until you find the precise halfway point which is roughly at waist height. After each measurement, you should make a tiny mark on your paper sheet as a basic guideline.

The following step is to try and measure the head from the chin to the top. The body is about seven times larger than the head.

Next, you will have to make a mark on your drawing sheet to indicate where the bottom of the feet are.

Let’s recap: you should now have a mark on your drawing paper where the bottom of the feet, the waistline, the chin and the top of the head are. Now you can review them and decide if the proportions look okay. Look from your drawing to the figure and back again. Do it quite fast. You will see if it the proportions aren’t exactly right. In that case, change them.

As I said, the entire head is about one seventh of the length of the body. These rules, by the way, should be used as a basic guideline only, not any rule that’s carved in stone. Just look from your drawing to the figure and back again, and see what’s there. That is the key to getting the right measurements.

Next, you can make marks for other key parts of the body. Of course, there are the legs and arms. When the arms are relaxed, the fingers are roughly five head down and the knees roughly six, so put marks there.

At full face, the width of the body is three heads wide. So make a line from the crotch to the bottom where you have marked the feet.

So, now you basically know how to draw people the key thing is to keep practicing and you will get better at it. Have fun!

Jon Mumford is the editor of Drawing-Pencil-Sketches.com – a resource helping you how to draw creatively. Find more about kids drawings at his site.

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