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Nsio explains: Understanding Proportions by Nsio Nsio explains: Understanding Proportions by Nsio
EDIT: I noticed I had one layer off. Activated it

Tenth tutorial already. I've been drawing these quite a lot already.

While the anatomy is important when drawing human characters, it's not as important as the proportions. In fact, you can get quite far without knowing very much about true anatomy.

When I started drawing, I started with the proportions rather than anatomy. I wanted to be able to draw human characters quickly, so studying the proportions was far more faster than studying anatomical details. I tried studying anatomy as well, but I quickly realized that I didn't have the understanding to truly get what was going on in there. I didn't see the big picture so to say. Knowing how to draw details is useless if I can't draw several details together to form a good drawing. Thus I started from the general body proportions instead.

Now that I have got the proportions pretty much in place, I have started to understand the anatomy much better as well. I began to see the connectivity of the individual details. Now it's juts about studying these details one by one and adding them in my drawings.

Symmetry and Scale
What do "proportions" actually mean? I understand proportions as A.) the relativity of the object's dimensions and B.) the relation between group of objects in regard of position, orientation, size, shape, scale etc. Let's say, I draw two cubes, one big and one small. Because they are cubes, the proportions are the same, only the scale is different. On top of that, each side of the cube has exactly the same proportions. The space between the two cubes also have it's proportions depending on the positioning of the cubes (so called negative space). If I stretch or otherwise manipulate one of the cubes, their proportions won't be the same anymore (obviously).

Same things apply with humans and individual body parts.

Before we delve deeper into human proportions, it's good to remember that simply put, we are very symmetric beings. One could probably argue that saying that we are symmetric isn't true. Probably this person is considering word "symmetry" as being perfectly symmetric. This is not what I'm after. There is still certain symmetry that needs to be taken account. For example, drawing a character with differing arm or leg lengths or sizes is unlikely intentional or desirable. If that's the case, then fine, but then it needs to be drawn justified so that there is no question about the intention.

We have (generally) two eyes, two ears, two arms and two legs which are located roughly equally far away from the center line of our body. We also have one nose, one mouth, one neck, one navel and one certain place pretty much along the center line of our body. This is pretty obvious, yet very often ignored in the drawings of beginners. It's unlikely intentional, because actually seeing the relative positioning of these elements, yet alone drawing them correctly isn't that simple.

When I'm drawing human figures, I look for reference points and middle lines/points. If the element isn't positioned on any of these, I start looking for offset points in relation to the points I mentioned. Since I've been drawing so long, I have developed a sense of "area of approximation". That said, I can tell that something ought to be located within certain area. With some elements I can tell the exact position, while with others the area is much larger, thus requiring more efforts to find the correct placement. Anyway, this area of approximation works only when there are something as a reference. For example, I first need to draw the head before I can place one of the eyes in it's approximate place. Once I'm happy with it's position, I look for the area of approximation of the other eye. I know that the eyes are symmetrically positioned, so I can use the first eye and center line as a reference to position the eye in it's place.

This is of course a lot harder when the object isn't seen directly from the front anymore. Even if the object is seen from other viewing angle than directly from the front, it retains it's symmetry. This requires understanding about three dimensional nature of our world.

Basic Body Proportions
Here I tried to draw female and male characters next to each others to illustrate the difference between the two. Note that these probably aren't absolutely right. These are based on my current understanding and I can't say that they are completely devoid of my personal preferences or views about female and male bodies. Anyway, they get the job done for the time being.

I already made a short tutorial about using heads as a measure. It's pretty handy when deciding the intended proportions for the characters. To put it shortly, the number of heads you stack on top of each other determines the proportions of the body. A regular adult human is around 7 heads tall. It's good to note that a "head height" isn't anything specific measure, but the relation of the character's size of the head to the character's height. That said, characters can have different "head height" but still have the same physical height. Here I have drawn both characters 7 heads tall, but the male character is slightly taller, because his head is slightly bigger than that of a female. I wanted to keep the "head height" the same so that the similarities and differences between the genders are easier to see.

In general, female body is more delicate and curvy than male body. The body fat makes the shapes smooth and round. Male bodies are more robust and heavier, and the shapes are more angular and muscles are more visible. The biggest difference between female and male characters is probably the silhouette of the torso. The center of the body mass tend to be around the pelvis with females while males have broader shoulders and have the center of the body mass higher around the chest. You can think that if the bodies were simplified into triangles, the sharp point would point upwards with female body (depicting wide hips) and downwards with male body (depicting wide shoulders).

There are as many body typesas there are humans in the world, so the proportions here are just to give a general idea. It's good to note that if you draw the character with different "head height" than 7 heads, the rules shown here can't be used directly. I usually prefer drawing my characters 5-6 heads tall. Once you get familiar with basic bodies, you can start exaggerating and varying the bodies. By the way, I tried drawing various body types with solid color instead of lines. It turned out pretty fun, so you may give it a try as well. I found that it was easier to see the shapes as solid colors. I really like the alien :D

Where are you looking at?
If you want to get the proportions right, you need to look your drawing a lot. In fact, when you draw a body part, you should be looking around for reference points rather than look at the tip of the pen. As I said before, I'm looking for reference points. For example, if I have already drawn one arm, I look it while I draw the other arm in order to get proportions same. If you want that the arms and legs have proportions that fit the torso, you need to see the torso at any given time.

This is why I recommend practicing traditionally. When you draw your character on paper, you can see it fully all the time. On PC screen it's often hard to see the whole drawing due to screen limitations. I myself have noticed that I tend to draw really long legs when I draw on tablet. That's because I can't see the upper body while I draw the legs. This is the most common issue I need to fix on my drawings. So, if you still intend to draw on tablet, zoom out every now and then and check that everything is fine.

If you have a tendency to draw the body or parts of it too long or fat, try drawing the total opposite. The way to practice proportions is to try out the extremes: the right proportions are somewhere between. I'm doing this a lot when I practice. If you work digitally, make sure that you are using the native resolution of your screen. Wrong screen ratio can make your drawings look skewed unintentionally.

Drawing a Character

Okay, this is pretty much "draw some circles, then draw the rest of the ****ing owl".

I often drew these kind of practices where I drew the guidelines for 5-6 heads tall character and then I drew her from the front, side and behind. The guidelines helped in checking that each depictions of the character had the same height and proportions. It's really useful practice, so I recommend trying it. It's also good for practicing three dimensional thinking when you need to think how things would look from different directions. If you want more challenge, try drawing your character from above and below by using the front, side and behind views as a reference.

If you don't want to draw the horizontal guidelines, it's fine too. Just mark the heads with short line so that you can see where you are going as you draw. Note that I have marked the point of the crotch. If you like longer legs, position the crotch along the higher point. Note that you need to scale the torso appropriately a bit smaller (this also augments the longer legs). Since I prefer a bit shorter proportions, I tend to draw the legs shorter, thus I use the lower mark.

Once you have drawn the head, draw the torso up to the crotch. Draw one of the arms simplified for now, because you might need to tweak the body proportions. This way you can A).avoid spending too much time on the arm(s), risking losing it while fixing the proportions and B). draw the arm(s) by using fixed torso as a reference. This is just to safe effort, feel to draw the arms first if you want to.

Then draw one of the legs, either one will do. At this point you already have pretty good preview about the body proportions. If you find that the body or parts of it looks too thin/long=>fatten or shorten the corresponding body part. If it looks too fat =>lengthen or narrow the corresponding body part. If you work digitally, you can use the lasso tool to move parts or free transform to scale or skew body parts. Choose the appropriate method according the body proportions to keep the scale of the body parts fitting. If you lengthen a fat body part, you can make it look thin, but it also becomes larger. Similarly, if you shorten a slim body prat, you can make it look fatter, but it also becomes smaller.

Once you are happy, draw the rest of the elements. Now that the body won't likely change as much anymore, it's safer to draw the arms (especially if they go over the torso). Remember to use already drawn elements as your reference points. If you draw your character directly from the front and you work digitally, you may also mirror the body parts, or even whole body. It's good to note though that when you are practicing, it's better to draw everything yourself and leave the efficiency for serious drawings.

When you are done with the sketch, draw the final lineart. Digital artist have it easy with the layers. Remember that your goal isn't to copy your sketch. Refine your drawing when ever you feel it's appropriate.

That's all for now, I hope you enjoy this part of the "Nsio Explains" :)
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Albinosumpreme10987 Featured By Owner Apr 26, 2016  Student Traditional Artist
dcofjapan Featured By Owner Edited Mar 31, 2016  Student Traditional Artist
erg I'm so bad at eyes. even though I know it's wrong I draw it again. and it's wrong again xD
DravenSin Featured By Owner Feb 15, 2016  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Nsio, I just have to say that your tutorials have helped IMMENSELY. Just two months ago I could barely draw stick figures without messing something up, but ever since I've found your tutorials (along with others' tutorials and examples, of course, but yours helped the most.) I've grown so much it's crazy. It's mindblowing. I can't believe how much I've improved, it's just... Crazy. (I haven't uploaded any recent drawings though.) Anyone who's reading this and wants to be an artist, but is discouraged by their current level and drawings, just keep going. Keep going, keep going, keep going. I promise you will improve. Maybe some of you faster than others, but you W I L L get better, especially if you study. Have patience, and the 'skill' of drawing will come to you.

Just be sure to identify your weak points and study them 2× harder. An easy trick to do that is to download a photo editing app or something and use the 'flip image' option, it tricks your mind into seeing your product as a fresh pair of eyes. If that doesn't work, ask someone.

Identify, study, and don't be afraid to change a work of yours that you might have worked on for hours, but you feel as if something looks wrong. Some 'sacrifices' must be given to improve.

Nsio Featured By Owner Feb 16, 2016  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Hey, good to hear you are getting the knack of it! It has a snowball effect, so things will only get easier and faster to learn as time goes :)
whattha Featured By Owner Feb 12, 2016
I did enjoy it. I do have a minor issue or two with this.
MelReinH Featured By Owner Feb 10, 2016  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
In the case you start drawing in a style akin to say... example: Disney animations like frozen (Large heads, eyes, smaller body frames, etc). How would one go about practicing the "basic body types" before "breaking the rules?" Would you say to practice the anatomically correct way to draw a body?

Im basically having issues trying to add variety to my drawings. I feel that i have an overall-simple/cartoonic design, so bodies are outside of proportion in akin to the way I appreciate them; however, I'm having a tough time changing up the pace, such as drawing my characters realistically vs. out of proportion.
Nsio Featured By Owner Feb 11, 2016  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Ideally you would practice anatomically correct body first and then move to stylized. But it doesn't happen like that in practice, or rather, it probably isn't enjoyable route if you would prefer drawing stylized figures. It's matter of putting certain amount of focus on things you will need in drawing your chosen subject while also encouraging yourself to draw more often. So if you wanted to draw Disney style, you would put 30% of your efforts on realistic body proportions and 70% on stylized proportions. You can spend all your efforts on realism, but you probably learn much faster if you make your practices simpler (by focusing less on realism and accumulating general drawing experience). Mind the rules at all times, but experiment with breaking them and analyze if it provides any merits.

Breaking the rules comes in play mainly after you can decently and consistently draw at least something. That said, studying basic shapes even without specific stylistic or realistic goal to gain more general drawing experience is always beneficial. As long as you analyze what you are doing and put your focus accordingly, you can become good at drawing even without paying too much attention on things like anatomy. For example, once you can consistently draw boxes and spheres from different viewing angles, playing with the proportions become much easier. You can put more focus on the proportions just because you don't have to pay so much attention on those boxes and spheres you are good at drawing.

If you know how to use heads as a measurement for human figure, you can apply that on Disney body as well. Choose a character and measure his/her head and stack them on top of each other to see the proportions. Then figure out how many heads are needed for the torso, arms and legs. Also study how many heads wide and "deep" the character is.

Stylizing details like eyes is a bit trickier. You can use an eye as a proportional measure for facial features. For example, in somewhat realistic figure eyes are one eye width away from each other and one eye width from ears (front view). On a stylized drawing, you can apply the same rule as is, but if the eyes are very large (like in Disney Frozen), you may be better off by either multiplying the distance between the eyes by factor like x1.2 eyes and decrease the distance to ears (front view) by x0.5 eyes. These are just examples of course. Just like body proportions, you can measure facial proportions from a reference to get an idea what you need to aim for.

You can measure the size and (relative) location of every feature  in this fashion. The top of the eye is usually on level with the top of ears, but with large Disney like eyes it's better to move the eyes a bit higher (or alternatively lower the ears, it depends on your other proportional choices). As a general rule, aim for appealing looks (study drawings that you find appealing and try to transfer those features in your drawings as well).
FarEcho Featured By Owner Feb 7, 2016  New Deviant
very useful - thanks
kukuro-kun Featured By Owner Jan 14, 2016  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Thank you so much!
Asteris-Kitsy Featured By Owner Dec 27, 2015  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Every time I try to do a front-view of a human, I always get antsy at every little that normal? Because I hate when that happens, and then my eye starts twitching and then I end up erasing my drawing. X(
Nsio Featured By Owner Dec 29, 2015  Hobbyist Digital Artist
It's very typical to get frustrated and you aren't alone with that. Front views are especially hard because of the symmetry. You should avoid erasing or discarding your drawings though, because they are great for analysing how you have improved over time.
Xoxdeviljin1212 Featured By Owner Nov 19, 2015
one question. what if you were drawing some guy who is nine feet tall? kind of like younger toguros height from yu yu hakusho? how would that work?
Nsio Featured By Owner Nov 19, 2015  Hobbyist Digital Artist
That man would look either A) proportionally normal but scaled up version of a 6 feet tall man (still 7 or 8 heads tall) or B)have roughly same sized head as a 6 feet tall guy which looks proportionally small to his own body (9-10 heads tall). Toguro has B body type.

If that guy doesn't need to look very realistic, he could be 5 heads tall as well, which would make his head really large in comparison to his own body and to other people. He could also be 20 heads tall, making his head much smaller than what normal people would have :D
Xoxdeviljin1212 Featured By Owner Nov 20, 2015
So are heads considered ft in measurement?
Nsio Featured By Owner Nov 21, 2015  Hobbyist Digital Artist
No, heads are not any set measurement. Heads only indicate proportional size of the head in comparison to the rest of the body. Humans are generally 7 heads tall, in other words, their height is generally 7x the height of their head. In classical art 8 heads is considered ideal proportional height because many features and measurements will be in full heads (legs and upper body are both exactly 4 heads for example).

However, head height vary from person to person and thus it doesn't have any specific measure. Of course, nothing prevents your character having head which has height of 1 ft, making 7 heads tall character 7 ft. Even if the height of the head wasn't 1ft, it's still possible to make a character 7 heads tall. That's why two 7 heads tall characters can have different height. Nothing prevents you from drawing 10 heads tall character who is shorter than 4 heads tall character (maybe a tiny pixie vs. a troll comparison here).

As long as you know that humans are generally 7 heads tall, you don't need to think about the actual height of the head too much. The proportions will just be slightly different when you go below or above that number.
Lunangel07 Featured By Owner Oct 20, 2015  Hobbyist
I struggle so much with proportion, so thank you so much for this ^_^
Stookam Featured By Owner Sep 11, 2015
Thanks so much for making this! I'm terrible at proportions, and this helped so much!
Musou-Enrai Featured By Owner Aug 12, 2015  Hobbyist
The part about the limited visibility when drawing on a tablet was great! I never thought about it. :)
Nsio Featured By Owner Aug 12, 2015  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Indeed. I had such issues myself until I realized why it's happening. :D In order to draw consistent drawing, one needs to see everything all the time (or at least check things frequently), otherwise there will be problems.
Musou-Enrai Featured By Owner Aug 12, 2015  Hobbyist
Not only that, but you advise to look at the drawing while drawing. And not at the tip of the pen(cil). Sometimes I find myself too concentrated on a single element, that when I step back, I see it's way of in relation to the rest of the elements. I need to check if things are coherent more regularly.
DANJAMESV Featured By Owner Aug 11, 2015   Digital Artist
mikenoiro Featured By Owner Edited May 4, 2015  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
I think you should really try Patreon. )))
mikenoiro Featured By Owner May 4, 2015  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Thank you for this tutorial!!!
NutellaRO Featured By Owner Apr 26, 2015  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
your tutorila help me very mutch
joeFJ Featured By Owner Apr 21, 2015  Professional Digital Artist
WOW I learnt a lot thanx !
Tailspin101 Featured By Owner Apr 7, 2015  Student Traditional Artist
Great tutorial!!!!
bluemooze Featured By Owner Apr 2, 2015   Digital Artist
Extremely helpful to a beginner like me.  Thanks!
zaboo17 Featured By Owner Mar 17, 2015
Thank you so much!! This is wonderful!!
Mad-Alice-07 Featured By Owner Mar 11, 2015  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Your advice is so helpful, thanks so much!! ^.^ 
BDTite1919 Featured By Owner Feb 10, 2015  Student
Thanks! ^.^
EntityofthePast Featured By Owner Dec 25, 2014  Hobbyist
Loving these tuts. Next time I redraw my characters I'm going to use these for help until I've got it burned into my head.
MARlMO Featured By Owner Dec 24, 2014  Hobbyist Digital Artist
[ I don't know why, but your "incorrect drawings/\what-not-to-do drawings" kinda look as if you drew with your least dominant hand while blindfolded xD ]
Nsio Featured By Owner Dec 24, 2014  Hobbyist Digital Artist
When I draw those bad examples, I just don't care what I'm doing xD That's quite hard though because it's natural for me to take everything in account when I draw.
Appypollyloggies1 Featured By Owner Dec 20, 2014  Student General Artist
Ugh this is one of the most helpful things ever.
Thank you so much for making this :hug:
timmyshanti Featured By Owner Nov 22, 2014  Professional Writer
terrific job! thanks a million :D
Roxireart Featured By Owner Oct 28, 2014  Student Digital Artist
Excellent! :)
Suuno Featured By Owner Oct 27, 2014
Just a question, when you draw, do you always measure out heads and things like that? Or after practice, can you just tell whether it's right or not by a glance?
Nsio Featured By Owner Oct 27, 2014  Hobbyist Digital Artist
I used to check my drawings with heads earlier, but these days I can usually tell the proportions just by a glance. Basically, I still do check the proportions with heads, I'm just skipping the actual measuring because I can see the proportions in my mind. It has become a second nature because I've been doing it so much. In cases I feel something is terribly off and I can't tell why, I still rely on active measuring. These days I draw more advanced poses from peculiar viewing angles, so active measuring isn't very reliable. I just need to trust my perception and insight.

This is why it's a bit hard to come up with tutorials for people who can't see things the way I do. I simply know that if I want to draw the character, say, 6 heads tall, I need to draw the body in certain way.
Suuno Featured By Owner Oct 28, 2014
Thanks! Your tutorials are very helpful ^^
Creakist Featured By Owner Edited Oct 8, 2014
I'm wondering how I'm supposed to do this in pencil and paper, like with the guidelines and the other stuff that helps with the drawing, I DO have a simple ruler, Staedler graphite pencils, and a sketch book, I have the sketch book not flat on a desk but have a clip board to emulate a drawing board but I'm still wondering are these really detailed and comprehensive tips or could you actually draw from these without it being step-by-step?
Nsio Featured By Owner Oct 8, 2014  Hobbyist Digital Artist
When you draw on paper, you draw the guidelines lightly so that you can erase them as you go or if you want to keep them even when the drawing is finished, ink them. Note that I have stacked heads on top of each other for illustrative purposes, so you don't have to draw the head 6 times. Just draw the head and then measure it with your ruler and make small marks for the heads. These are here just to tell you where you are going. For example, if you are drawing your character 6 heads tall and you have reached the mark of the third head, you know that it's the approximate location of the crotch. If for any reason the crotch doesn't fall here, you have likely made a mistake

The example at the bottom is just an demonstration, one way of thinking how to construct the body.
P-Dizzy8 Featured By Owner Oct 7, 2014  Hobbyist Artist
u have no idea how helpful these tutorials have been for me! I'll definitely recommend these to a few people!
Hybird-Blue Featured By Owner Oct 1, 2014
I had trouble once with proportions and line of action.
Then I discovered you and answered most of my big issues (there are still some kinks I'm ironing out, but I'll get there.).
This really helped me out,
Thank you!
Lunart13 Featured By Owner Sep 22, 2014  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Wow.  This is great!
bethieluv7 Featured By Owner Sep 18, 2014
This is definitely one of the most in depth proportion drawings I have ever seen! Thank you! I wish i came across this much, much earlier! 
Hybird-Blue Featured By Owner Oct 1, 2014
Same here friend.
Screffy Featured By Owner Sep 18, 2014
Thank you Nsio for this explanation on proportions. 
SzkArt Featured By Owner Sep 17, 2014  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Such an extensive guide! I have seen many tutorial on the head:body ratio, but you really took the time to follow through, and give us an idea of how to achieve it and also how to make variations. Thank you very much :) 
1tevtonez1 Featured By Owner Sep 17, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
thank you for your awesome tutorials! Again I've got that itching feeling in the fingers when you want to draw something :)
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