In this first part of the Anatomy for Artists series you can learn how to plot the proportions of the human male figure.

Figure drawing is arguably the single most important skill an artist has to master. Of course there are other key fundamentals such as perspective, values, colors, composition and the list goes on; However if you are good at figure drawing, even if you struggle with the rest, chances are high you can still make a decent living as an artist. Mastering this skill has unquestionably a great impact on your artistic career, but of course there is a catch — it is not easy to learn. It requires patience and constant practice. You have to learn the bones and muscles of the body, the proportions of the human figure and further down the road you need to understand foreshortening as well. We start out by learning the proportions, since in my own opinion a basic understanding of proportions is what makes the difference between decent beginner art and a six-pack knight with genetic disorder.

So, let’s learn some proportions.

I’ll separate the tutorial into two parts so we can stay organized, and progress gradually from the proportions of the head through the whole body. Please note that these are the ideal proportions of the human figure. This is not the realistic human figure, neither the average human figure — these are idealized and simplified guidelines.

Proportions of the Head

head anatomy for artists proportions

 

In this first chapter we will discuss the proportions of the male head. Human heads naturally vary in measurement and proportion, but this is a helpful guide to keep in mind even when you’re drawing a portrait because once you have these proportions in the back of your mind, you have something to measure to.

Below are the proportions of the male head.

 

The eye line is generally at the halfway division of the head. You can create an arch to define the brows.01 anatomy for artists proportions

The distance between the two eyes is equal to the width of an eye.

By measuring five eyes horizontally we can calculate the appoximate width of the face.

02 anatomy for artists proportions

The distance between the hairline and brow line, is the same as from brow line to nose and nose to chin.03 anatomy for artists proportions

The ear sits between the brow line and the nose line.04 anatomy for artists proportions

The line of the mouth is one third of the distance from the nose to the chin.05 anatomy for artists proportions

Temple lines begin at the corner of the eyebrows.06 anatomy for artists proportions

Halfway between the nose and the chin you can find the jawline and the bottom of the lips.07 anatomy for artists proportions

A straight line from the center of the eye gives you roughly the corner of the mouth and the chin.08 anatomy for artists proportions

The neck is about as long as the distance from the nose to the chin.

The width of the neck is about the same as that of the face.

 

 

These are the basic proportions of the head; make sure you keep them in mind next time you draw a portrait.

Again to summarize:

  • The eye line is generally at the halfway division of the head. You can create an arch to define the brows.
  • The distance between the two eyes is equal to the width of an eye.
  • By measuring five eyes horizontally we can calculate the width of the face.
  • The distance between the hairline and brow line, is the same as from brow line to nose and nose to chin.
  • The ear sits between the brow line and the nose line.
  • The line of the mouth is one third of the distance from the nose to the chin.
  • Temple lines begin at the corner of the eyebrows.
  • Halfway between the nose and the chin you can find the jawline and the bottom of the lips.
  • A straight line from the center of the eye gives you roughly the corner of the mouth and the chin.
  • The neck is about as long as the distance from the nose to the chin.
  • The width of the neck is about the same as that of the face.

 

Okay so let’s go ahead and continue with the proportions of the body.

 

Proportions of the Bodybody anatomy for artists proportions

 

We will be constructing the 8 heads tall male figure which is the most commonly used proportion in professional art. The academic proportions are 7,5 heads but that is not very appealing visually, so most artists use 8 heads and up. Some are more conservative, while some go really crazy with it — Michelangelo’s figures were up to 11-12 heads tall.

Below are a few proportions that you might find helpful when constructing the body.

 

  • The Shoulders are at one third of the distance between the Chin and the Nipples.
  • The ideal shoulder width would be 2 and 1/3 heads. If you are being more conservative you can use two heads or you can plot the distance by moving the widest part of the head over to the sides.
  • Regardless of the model’s pose the Shoulders are not going to get wider than the initial proportions.
  • In male figures the Pelvis is aligned with the Ribcage
  • One head below the Chin are the Nipples. (chest line using academic proportions)
  • The distance between the Nipples is about one head.
  • The Navel is located one head below the Nipples.
  • The Hips are located one third of the distance from the Navel to the Crotch
  • To define the width of the Hips, you can take half of the width of the face and move it over to the side.
  • The Buttocks are located one third head distance from the Crotch.
  • The Fingers are located at approximately one sixth of the distance from the Crotch.
  • The Crotch is one head below the navel.
  • The Bottom of the Knees is two heads below the Crotch.
  • The widest distance between the Calves is one head.
  • Heels are two heads below the knees.

 body 01 anatomy for artists proportions

 

  • Lower legs are behind of the middle line passing through the figure.
  • Calves drop behind butt and shoulders.
  • The length of the foot is generally identical to the length of the forearm.
  • If you want to exaggerate the figure, do so by extending the lower limbs. Do not extend the upper arm and upper leg.

 

 

 

So these are a few simplified and idealized guidelines for drawing the male figure. Try to think about them whenever you are drawing characters. You can also download the images so you have some visual reference for them. If you found this article helpful, check out other posts too.

 

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