Proportions for Figure Drawing

This video explains & demonstrates how to draw convincing proportions when drawing the human figure. Techniques for figuring out proportions in the drawing process are explained in detail, as well as the basic anatomical relationships of the largest parts of the human figure.

Demo by Art Prof Clara Lieu and Teaching Artist Cat Huang.


Video Walkthrough

  • Ineffectiveness of measuring systems for figure proportions.
  • Sharpening observational drawing skills, instead of measuring.
  • Training yourself to “measure” with your eye.
  • Proportions are about relationships.
  • Draw the entire figure to learn proportions thoroughly.
  • Don’t draw body parts in isolation, draw them in relation to each other
  • Add the figure’s cast shadow to ground the figure on a plane.
  • There are no straight lines on the figure.
  • Proportions are more visible if you step back and look from a distance.
  • Take a photo of your drawing so you can look at a small version, which will show you big shapes more clearly.
  • Compare the width/height of body parts to figure out their size.
  • The importance of drawing a broad range of body types.
  • Be willing to sacrifice parts of your drawing that you like in order to fix fundamental proportions.
  • Making substantial changes is your drawing is necessary to make the proportions convincing.

Prof Lieu’s Tips

If you’re having difficulty with proportions, what helps me is to move around the page more often. In general that, promotes more cohesion and fluidity in the drawing

Step back and look at your drawing from a distance early on in your process. Proportions are tough to see if your face is physically close to the paper. I have to step back from my drawing very early on to be able to catch those proportions before I have worked on the drawing for too long.

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