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Learn to draw the human figure

Here are some tips and tricks on the topic of drawing the human figure. Act drawings are, of course, one of the most important themes in art and, in fact, anyone who likes to draw is also interested in drawing portraits, act studies or people.

Basically, when we talk about drawing there is no difference between depicting a man or a chair, a dog or anything, because the basic rule is to look closely, to observe and not to be deceived by the own senses. Often helps the trick with the pencil, which is held as a benchmark before the own eye. But there are still a lot of helpful tips and tricks for drawing people, the human figure and act studies. This guide is about learning how to draw people and, in particular, about the correct representation of the proportions of the body.

Learn to draw people – Proportions of the human figure

If you want to draw people as a hobbyist, you can orient yourself on the basis of some proportioning rules of the human body.

Example for a act drawing
Example for a act drawing
(following Michelangelo's example "The Creation of Adam")

It is only a broad rule, but you can assume for the drawing that a person has roughly the height of eight heads. The height of the head serves us as a unit of measure in the act painting, to help us to draw the proportions of a person correctly. The unit head is distributed over the length of a person as follows (see also the following figure):

  1. the head
  2. from chin to nipples
  3. from the nipples to the navel
  4. from the navel to the crotch region
  5. from the crotch region to the middle of the thighs
  6. from there to the point under the knees
  7. from the knees to the middle of the lower leg
  8. from the center of the lower leg to the heels

Another rule for drawing the proportions of a person:

  • The thigh is as long as the lower leg
Learn to draw the human figure
Draw people & learn act painting

Proportions in width

These were the body length data, we now come to the proportion rules for the creation of human drawings concerning the width of the body:

  • From shoulder to shoulder = two heads
  • Waist = 2/3 of shoulder width
  • Man: pelvis width = width of the shoulder joints
  • Woman: pelvis width = shoulder width

Distinction in the drawing of man & woman

Anyone who wants to learn to draw people must also learn to perceive the differences between man and woman and to depict them correctly - not only in the case of act studies very important. The most important differences of proportion in drawing and painting are the following ones:

  • Women have a female breast
  • A man's shoulders are wider than a woman's
  • A woman's pelvis is wider in relation to her shoulders unlike a man
  • A man is usually bigger and more muscular than a woman
Learn to draw the human figure
Proportions man & woman correctly draw

Learn to draw arms

The drawing of the arms is actually a topic for itself, but as a part of a human the proportions of the arm are described here. Here are a few tips to learn how to draw arms:

• The arm can be divided into 4 parts - as shown in the figure below. And that’s how the section of the proportions of the arm is made:

  1. Width of the shoulder - here begins the arm
  2. from shoulder joint to elbow
  3. Length of forearm
  4. from the end of the forearm to the extended fingertips

When the arm is attached to the body, you can work as follows:

  • The elbow lies on a line with the waist
  • The wrist is at the height of the crotch region
  • The extended fingers reach to the middle of the thigh
Learn to draw an arm
Learn to draw arms

If you want to advance learning how to draw the human figure or act painting, you should also study the human skeleton and the muscle structure.

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