Jan 5, 2012

Drawing Basics: Figure proportions, female

I have been wanting to update the images for my original post on the proportions of the human figure for some time now and I am finally getting around to doing that. In the process of working on these new images, I realized that it might be a good idea to create images for both the male and female figures individually. Here is the first, listing some of the proportions for the female figure.

Let's begin.

7 and 1/2 head proportional guide
Height: 7 1/2 heads tall

When it comes to measuring the figure most artists learn to use a proportional system using relative measurements. This means that we pick some form or element from the figure and use that form to compare against another to get the size relationship between the two.

Most proportional guides choose one element as the base measurement and use that to compare against all other forms within the figure. In this one, as most proportional systems do, we will be using the length of the head as our base measurement. 

The figure in the image to the right is seven and a half heads tall, our standard height measurement for this guide. The total height of the figure is equal to the height of stacking seven and a half objects that are the same length as her head.

One thing to note upfront is this is not the only proportional system you can find, there are many. For example, there are standard eight head or eight and a half head proportional guides and variations on these as well. Each artist uses the one that works best for them.

Shoulders: 1 1/2 heads wide

The shoulders of the female form are usually one and a half heads wide. (Click on the images for a larger view)

This measurement is from the widest points of the muscle of the shoulders (deltoid).

Hips: 1 1/2 to 2 heads wide

The hips are usually between one and a half heads to two heads wide. This measurement is from the widest points of the hips, usually near the large bulge on the leg created by the bony protrusion at the top of the leg bone (the greater trochanter of the femur).

As a side note, some guides list the widths for the shoulders and hips of females at two heads for the shoulders and one and a half for the hips. This you may see in some fashion and illustration proportion guides.

Head and Torso: 4 heads tall

The length of the head and torso together are four heads high. This measurement starts at the top of the head and ends at the bottom of the buttocks. 

This measurement does not indicate the midpoint of the body. The midpoint is a little higher up. Remember the figure is seven and a half heads tall so that puts the midpoint at three and three-quarters a head up from the heel

Arm: 3 1/2 heads long

The length of the arm from the far end of the collar bone to the end of the fingertips is three and a half heads long. 

You can find the end of the collar bone (clavicle) by looking for the bony landmark at the top of the shoulder.
Forearm and Hand: 2 heads long

The length of the forearm and hand together measure two heads in length.

To know how long the forearm is we need to know the length of the hand. The hand is three-quarters of a head long. This tells us the forearm is one and one-quarter head lengths long.
Lower Leg: 2 heads long

When you measure from the knee to the bottom of the heel you will see that the lower leg equals two head lengths as well.


This guide can be useful to both draw the figure from imagination or from observation.

If you like to draw the figure from observation take note that most people do not fit this guide exactly. People of different heights and sizes will vary from the standard guide. An exercise to demonstrate this fact is to measure how many heads tall you and your friends are, the variation will become apparent quickly. This is because the size of the head does not vary that much from person to person, but the total height of each individual can vary dramatically. This causes the head-to-height ratio to change.  

For a more thorough introduction to the proportions guide take a look at my original post on proportions.