Having trouble drawing people? Here’s a step-by-step guide that will help you a lot. If you follow along, you will learn exactly how to draw people, the different proportions, and exercises you can do to improve.
I’ve spent a few hours over the weekend drawing these guides the way I’ve learned them. I follow the same process whenever I want to draw a person.
Also, it doesn’t really matter if you prefer drawing digitally or traditionally. These concepts and techniques apply to both.
In this article, I will be drawing a man. Women have similar proportions but narrower shoulders and wider hips. You can draw women using the same exact step-by-step method here.
Let’s get started!
Basic proportions of the human body
The human body can be divided into 8 equal parts with each part close to the vertical length of the head. These lines are where you place key features. These features include the top of the head, chin, nipples, belly button, crotch, knees, and feet.
The top of the sternum is roughly ⅓ down from the chin and ⅔ up from the nipple. You might have a hard time remembering these proportions at first, but it gets better after practice. Specific tips and proportions of each body
Note: some prefer dividing the body into 7.5 equal parts with the legs being 3.5 heads in length instead of 4. I personally use 8 parts just to keep things simple, and I adjust according to the reference photo.
Be sure to use a reference photo for this as you learn. This will help you draw each body part more accurately and better your understanding of the human body.
How to draw a person step-by-step
Follow through this section step-by-step, and you’ll know how to draw a person. I’ve also included a few tips for each specific group of body parts.
Step 1 – Measure out 8 blocks
The first step is to measure out 8 equal parts on a vertical centerline. These lines will tell you where the keys feature should be as mentioned earlier. If you’re dividing without a ruler as I had, it helps to divide each part into halves to divide more accurately. On the bottom half, you only really need to divide once because you only need to indicate where the knees sit. Other lines are not that useful.
Step 2 – Block out the head, chest, and hip
Use simple shapes to block out the head, chest, and hip. I like to use an oval for the head, a chevron shape (like a shield) for the body, and a circle for the hip. I always start with these three body parts even when drawing people in different poses. This helps keep everything proportional.
Step 3 – Draw in the simple skeleton
Block out where the major joints should be. Use circles and mark the location of the shoulders, elbows, wrists, hands, knees, ankles, and feet. This is a simplified skeleton that shows you where to place each body part. The elbows should roughly line up with the belly button, and the wrists should be near the crotch line.
Step 4 – Draw in body parts using basic shapes
Look at your reference photo and reduce them into simple geometric shapes. Doing this will allow you to get the basic forms down and helps you compare proportions before moving on. This technique can also be used to draw anything.
Check your proportions before moving on to the next step. Shoulders for males are usually wider than the hips. Women have narrower shoulders that have almost the same width as their hips.
Step 5 – Block in the head and face
Draw in the head and the shape in rough geometric shapes. Try to keep good facial proportions without drawing in too many details. A common mistake is to draw the head too big or too small. Not adding details first will allow you to adjust the size of the head if you need to.
Here’s our step-by-step instruction on how to draw a face.
Step 6 – Draw in the torso
Based on the basic shapes you’ve drawn, layer in each muscle you see on the reference photo. You can use gym names to easily identify which muscles are which. Observe your reference photo closely and draw them as you see. The nipple sits at a 45 degrees angle from the top of the sternum. Use an oval shape to help you block in the abs.
Note: It’s totally ok if you don’t know how to draw each muscle. Try your best. You will get better as you learn more about anatomy. For now, draw it as you see in the photo.
Step 7 – Draw the arms
Draw in the delts (shoulders), biceps and triceps, forearm, and then the hands. I recommend just blocking out the hands and coming to it a bit later. Hands and feet are usually tougher to draw so I like to draw them last. The top part of the arm should be longer than the forearm. Again, the elbows should line up with the belly button, and the wrists line up with the crotch.
Step 8 – Draw the legs
The legs and the arms are similar in that the top part (quads) are longer than the bottom part (calves). Use curved lines when you draw in legs. Straight lines would make the legs look odd. Again, just block in the feet and finish up the legs first.
Step 9 – Draw the hands and the feet
Now it’s time to draw in the hands and feet. Drawing them at the later stage will help you keep them in the right proportions. The main tip I can give you without getting off-topic is to use geometric shapes to block them out first before drawing them. Use circles and cylinders for each joint.
If you’re having a hard time drawing hands and feet, I recommend practicing drawing a lot of them separately. They’re harder to draw because they can look weird if they have the wrong proportions or perspectives.
Step 10 – Add in details and shade
Before you add in details, make any adjustments you need with proportions and placements of key features. This will save you a lot of time. You don’t want to detail out your drawing just to find out the hands are too big or the legs are crooked.
Draw out the details of the face. I like to save it for this stage because the drawing would look odd if other proportions are off even if you drew a nice face. If you’re having trouble drawing faces, here’s our guide on how to draw a face.
Add in the finer definition of the muscles and maybe even some veins. It’s up to you how detailed you want to be in this stage. You can optionally add some shadows and highlights to your drawing using different shading techniques.
The human body in side view
The proportions of the human body stay the same even when you view it from the side. The body can still be divided into 8 equal parts with key features sitting on them. Drawing a person from the side view follows the same exact process as above. Start with dividing 8 equal parts, draw in basic shapes, draw in the body parts, and refine the details.
Exercises you can do to improve your people-drawing skills
Here are a few exercises that you can do to improve at drawing people. I’ve personally done all of these. Focus on what you’re weak at.
Draw bodybuilders for anatomy practice
Bodybuilders have very low body fat when they compete. You can clearly see the muscles, and you can start to identify more of them as you learn more anatomy. This will help you learn more about muscles and will help you draw people (even if they don’t have 5-6% body fat).
Draw different body parts
If you draw the whole body every time you want to get better at drawing people, you might not get enough practice for areas that you are weak at. Pick a body part where you might have trouble drawing like the back, hands, or torso. Then draw a variety of them and from different angles.
Figure drawing and people in different postures
This is harder to draw than people in front, side, or back view, but it is essential if you want to learn how to draw people in different positions. Try out this free tool from Line of Action for figure drawing. You can generate people in the specific criteria that you want.
Draw people in motion
This is also quite hard to draw if you’re not used to it. Drawing people in motion is one of the hardest things to do because you need to have the right proportions and perspective while indicating motion. Practice a basketball player dunking, a boxer throwing a punch, people running, or any fun ideas you have.
What to do next
I hope you found this article on how to draw people helpful. Let us know what you think and how this helped you. If you want some drawing ideas, here are 53 drawing ideas for beginners that you can try.