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Article: Easy Guide on How to Draw People of All Shapes and Actions

Easy Guide on How to Draw People of All Shapes and Actions

Understanding human anatomy and gesture can be very challenging.
However, this simple guide is created so you can practice how to draw people easily.
Created by Sua Balac |

If you want to be able to draw people naturally, including people's movements and their gestures, understanding human anatomy, proportion, gesture, and movement fluidity is crucial. According to Jonathan Dockery, an artist, a gesture may be the most important factor to illustrate human shape and movement, but all artists must start from proportion first. Without it, the 'mission' to draw people naturally would be impossible. 


Starting out

Even when you make sketches when you illustrate a person, you need to think about the initial steps. You can't just start to illustrate the facial features of people at first, for instance, when you want to draw a person. After all, it would be against the human anatomy. The complexity of the process is one of the major reasons why many people consider it is super difficult to draw people. 

1. Proportion

The problem to draw people lies in the proportion. Unfortunately, human proportions vary quite widely. Their anatomy may generally be the same, but not so much with their proportions. However, when you illustrate people and start from the proportion first, it helps to keep everything to scale. According to Dockery, the general proportion of general people would be around seven heads in height. When you draw a person, and you start to illustrate from a standing person's front view (and you start out from the head), then the full length would be around seven of those heads. That's the basic to draw people in general.

From there, you can start measuring down and 'divide' the parts with those heads. Of course, you still need to pay attention to the human anatomy properly. For instance, the underside of the chest muscles (the pectoralis major) is around two heads (from the head). The third head (down the line) would be the belly button, and the fourth head is lining up with the pelvis' bottom side. This is the general way to illustrate a person with a normal (and functional human anatomy) proportion. 

Now, let's get back to the head. Naturally, this is where you want to 'draw' the facial features. The nose's tip would typically end halfway, right between the chin and the eyes. The eyes themselves would be only a little bit above the midpoint. Think about the distances. For instance, the distance from the top head to the nose is similar to the one from the nose to the top area of the rib cage. 

Again, this factor would be different and vary from one individual to another. You have consulted a theoretical system, but observation is far more crucial. Aside from the fact that you don't want to draw people exactly the same (the same proportion, the same style, etc.), such things won't be natural either.

Dockery suggests considering the drawing sketches as a general triangle. At least, you should start from there. From the top side of the head, measure about five heads downward (use a straight line), so you can start making the knees – just slightly below it. The shins (or the calves) would be within the midway section through the next head down (which is the sixth). To finalize the sketches, the feet would end on the seventh head area, right at the bottom. Think of the feet as another triangle shape. That's the proper way to illustrate a person.

After a complete proportion has been made, you need to go back to the rib cage. From there, illustrate the bicycle handlebar's look-alike construction to create the collarbones. From those 'handlebars,' grow the arms out. You want the wrist and the pelvic bone to like up. Afterward, you can draw the hand underneath the shape. 

Use a cylinder shape to draw the neck. If you are taking the side point of view, the neck will lean forward (but only a little) from the area of the rib cage. The ear is located halfway, right between the backside of the head and the forehead. Your process to draw people has been completed!

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2. Gesture

A gesture is about the body's fluid movement. Think of it as the body's rhythm. When you want to create a gesture, you want to pay attention to the proper arrangement of human anatomy so it won't look odd. When you draw a person, the proper back arches, hips angle, and limbs position will make the drawing looks real. Those things make it 'alive'. 

After you have understood the proportion of the three major masses that consist of the pelvis, rib cage, and head, you have the basic and general upper body structure. However, Dockery says that you should focus on the rhythmic relationship of the rib cage and head first when you draw people. 

Locate the top area of the rib cage right at the neck's pit. From there, follow a line (down) toward the sternum. It should pass the center part of the stomach and then directly go to the top area of the legs. Make use of the collarbones for angles. They can be used to direct the rib cage's overall shape as well as to form the upper body's angle. You should have no problems finding the final mass' angle from there, which is the pelvis. 

Remember that you want the form to be related to one another in one fluid movement. It should feel natural and somewhat 'flowing'. Only after you have established it, then you can move forward: planning the legs. According to Dockery, a gesture is more important than detail. It is about the life of the pose. It is the one that determines whether you have lost the post or found it. There is a story behind every pose, and that's the function of the gesture. After all, the main purpose of drawing, especially to draw people, is to tell a story, whether it is conveying an experience, passion, or simply an emotion. 

Created by Orfenn Schuller |


3. Anatomy

Not many people think that human anatomy is crucial when they illustrate a person, but such knowledge can actually create realistic muscle building to your drawing's skeleton. To start out, you can study human body diagrams, reference photos, or study the real subject. It will help you understand proper and proportional musculature correctly. For instance, when you draw more muscular people (with broader shoulders), it will somewhat extend out a head's width. Narrower shoulders will be around half of a head's width. Trust your own eyes. Rely on your guts. All artists entrust their own ability and sense, especially the eyes. 

Created by Natalia Tyulkina |


The Next Steps

After you have read the sections of proportions, gestures, etc., now it's time to start out your process to draw people. Keep in mind that drawing is a honed skill, which means that you won't get better unless you keep on practicing. If you think that great artists just immediately get their skills like that, well, that's not how it works. No matter how lame, ugly, or lousy your sketches or images are, you need to do it again and again and again. You won't be able to draw people in such a natural way (and with corresponding human anatomy) unless you do it often. 

1. What Is Your Art Style?

There are different types of art styles to draw people, and it's okay if yours is different from the others. After all, it would be impossible for two people to exactly have a similar art style. It's common when beginners take draw inspiration from other advanced artists, which makes their draw similar to those advanced artists. Don't be discouraged. Mirroring other people can be a great way to help you draw and practice. However, you should also realize that art style is different from one another, and it will affect the way you illustrate people. 

Those who like to draw portraits, for instance, will create people with extremely specific traits or characters. The artists would illustrate those people (on the sketches) tend to have more real-world focus and definition. Aside from on-point human anatomy, facial expressions are more detailed, for instance. Every image would tell a story. In short, the artists will be super detailed when they illustrate the people. 

On the other hand, things would be different for those who like to draw anime or cartoons (by the way, anime and cartoons have completely different styles). Are you probably more into bicho or chibi style when you draw people? They are all completely different, but these images still require detailed attention to proportion, gesture, and also human anatomy.

This is the common misconception happening to most people. They mostly think that when an artist creates a bicho, for instance, he can draw it however he wants it to be, setting aside proper human anatomy. That's not true. He still needs to focus on those elements to create a realistic and natural character, although the bicho people will look unreal – in their own cute way.

No art style is better than one another – not even when you draw people. This thing matters only because it will affect your (brand) image and your artistic representation. It also affects the way you draw and illustrate people. 

Created by Karina Ias |


2. Face Proportion is Crucial

When we are talking about proportion to draw people, it includes the face too. Having the proportions done correctly is the main key to successfully draw people, especially if you want to create a realistic people result. Yes, you can still create realistic outcomes even with the cartoon, bicho, or chibi! You can still illustrate these images by addressing the human anatomy correctly. 

When you draw a person, you don't want it to have eyes on its forehead, would you? Make sure to learn about proper facial features in human anatomy and the relationship among them. Again, you may need to consult the subject of human anatomy. Knowing where to place the centerline, the eye line, the brow line, or the correct eyes placement will certainly help. It will also help you illustrate the result better. 

Not only do you need to learn how to illustrate everything well, but you can also learn about manipulation. For instance, bigger and wider eyes will create a more vulnerable effect on people. Thicker brows or thinner lips will create different effects against thinner brows and thicker lips. Don't forget to practice on expressions after you are familiar with the proportions. 

Created by Gabby Park |


3. Basic Poses Beginning

You will need to be patient when you draw people. Make sure that you have done those steps-by-step processes first. It gives you a basic sense before you can move forward. After you have familiarized yourself with the human basic proportion and anatomy, now you can start moving on to gesture. 

Start out with people poses, but the basic ones. Don't try anything too complicated or too crazy when you first start drawing people; it will only confuse you. For instance, it is always easier to draw standing people than to illustrate them being in a complex and action-packed pose. Try drawing people when they are standing up. Then, try drawing them when they are sitting down (just a regular sit-down position; nothing complicated as cross-legged style or holding your legs to the chest type). 

By familiarizing yourself with basic poses (sitting or standing), you should be able to draw more and more variations later on. Start to illustrate small. Observe people when they are doing natural body movements. Knowing why an individual's hair falls in such a manner can help you get a better idea of what kind of motion of human anatomy being responsible for it. You should be able to have a solid basis that can strengthen your draw skills as time goes by.  

Created by Indrė Vaiciukaitè |


4. Sketching Out – Always!

When you want to perfect your skills and techniques to draw people, you need to do body poses practice alone. Focus on the proper human anatomy. Then put your focus on the poses. Illustrate their sketch and come up with the pose that you want. Sketches don't always have to result in the final outcome or draft, but when you illustrate sketches, they are definitely helpful with technical details. With a focus on human anatomy, naturally, you can create different poses or movements before you finalize the draw. 

When you draw people, you can always start with stick figures to represent people. After all, they are the easiest to illustrate. Get them down with various poses that you want. For instance, you create your stick figure to sit down in a regular sitting position. What will happen if you push one shoulder down? What happens if you lift one arm up? What will it be if you create one leg higher than another one? 

Illustrate those sketches. Start from the regular position – still addressing the human anatomy, of course. Next to it, draw the figure with one shoulder down. Next to it again, draw the figure with one leg higher. Then, draw the figure with an arm up. From these images, you should be able to compare the poses. After you are satisfied with them, add and illustrate shapes and forms. You can then refine. Don't worry about doing a lot of erasing. You're supposed to do that!

When you draw people, it always helps to do rough sketches on the body poses. It helps you to get familiar with human anatomy and some sort. It helps you create (and focus on) the details. Once you master the basics, then you can move higher to complex drawing. It helps you to illustrate more people, doing more movements and gestures, in the most natural and fun way. 

Created by Thao Trinh |


Tips to Hone Your Drawing Skills

There are several tips that may hone your skills to illustrate and draw people. These tips aren't the shortcuts to draw or to create images easily. These tips are more about you focusing on your own efforts in growing yourself, especially when learning human anatomy and people in general.

1. Learn from Reality

Learn a lot from reality, which means that you should look around you. If you want to draw people in the most realistic way, learn it from reality. Make sketches often. Illustrate as much as you can. Do it when you are in the subway, at the coffee shops, while waiting for the movie, while enjoying your lunch at the cafeteria – do it as often as possible. It's the only way to illustrate from your point of view. Even when no one else around, why not draw your feet or hands? If you sit or stand in front of the mirror, you can draw yourself, instead of other people. Practice making your own body shape and anatomy.

2. Make the Process Simple

Make the process to illustrate human beings as simple as possible. Remember, you want to enjoy it, not be overwhelmed by it. When you draw people, or you illustrate people, it would be easier to view them in a representative method. Putting the human anatomy aside (at least for now), imagine that the body is basically the trunk. The legs and arms are the branches. It will give you a somewhat natural flow and pattern of outward growth, and your figure will look natural and humane – not robotic or stiff.

3. Refine It Later

Not everyone would experience easiness when they draw people, especially while these people are moving. Don't fret over it. Illustrate abstract images for those people. For the torso, draw the rectangle. Use longer rectangles to illustrate the legs, illustrate a circle for the head, and such things alike. You can always refine the human anatomy (of your drawing) later on. 

Created by Khang Giate |



To draw and people isn't easy, and it may take extra effort, but through practice and a lot of illustrating exercise, you should be able to pull it off. Don't forget to factor in human anatomy too, so when you draw people, you can make them as real as possible. Lastly, don't forget to enjoy every process!

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