How to Draw People
Learning to Draw People
Many people who want to learn to draw aren't sure where to start. Many more are challenged when it comes to drawing people. The shape of a human body is more complex than any building or vase, and adding the illusion of life to a still drawing can be difficult - which can make learning how to draw people a bit of a challenge for anyone.
Recommended Book: Draw Real People
Using a Gesture Line
The Most Important Step of Learning How to Draw People
Fortunately for beginning artists, the journey of a thousand portraits begins with a single simple line: the gesture or "action" line, which shows which direction the body is moving and can be compared to the spine of your subject. In fact, for some artists, the gesture line really is just the location of the spine. Other artists will make the gesture line so long as to encompass the whole body from head to toe, but the general idea is the same.
To practice finding gesture lines:
- Find some reference photos of people in poses you'd like to draw. Practice drawing a single smooth line which goes through most of the pose (see the pictures above for some examples).
- Watch how other people move when you're at work/school, shopping, etc. Observe how the spine usually stays in a single smooth curve no matter how complex the pose is, and pay attention to how their limbs go with or against the curve of the spine.
- Practice drawing stick figures (cartoon characters, real people - depending on your skill level) starting with a gesture line and branching out to include the head and limbs.
When drawing people, it's important to draw everything at the right sizes. As a result, many books on how to draw people include charts to show where important proportions are.
The size of a character's head is often used as a unit of measurement. By altering these proportions, you can change the style of an image. Realistic characters are six or seven heads tall. Superhero comic book characters are eight or more heads tall. Little chibi characters are only two or three heads tall. Children also tend to have large heads in comparison to the rest of their bodies, making them only four or five heads tall.
More Tips for Learning How to Draw People
- Making a Mark: 10 Tips for How to Sketch People
These tips are NOT of the 'get rich quick' variety. They're essentially principles which make much more sense through application. However the real benefits really only come when they become ingrained habits through lots of practice.