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How To Get Past The 3 Biggest Challenges
With Your Figure Drawing

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Pencil Kings

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Ready to take the next step with your figure drawing?

There are 3 major sticking points that artists get stuck on time and
time again, and once you have a handle on these areas things get a
whole lot easier - and a lot more fun!

Specifically You're Going to Learn About:

• Proportions - so the parts of the body and features of the face

are all placed in the right spots.
• Foreshortening - so your figures can reach out towards the
viewer or disappear as the figure goes into the distance, and…
• Anatomy - so you know where the major muscles go.

This cheat sheet will give you the shortcut methods for getting past
these sticking points. So - let's dive right in…


Understanding proportions is the first place where you can really
start to see breakthroughs with your figure drawing.

If you've found that your drawings never quite look right, or even if
you've been happy with what you've been drawing so far but aren't
quite sure if you're on the right track…

These guides will help you to make sure that you're placing the right
features in the right spots.

To give you an example of how this applies, often beginners will draw
heads that are too tall, with eyes that are too wide, giving the face a
somewhat alien look.

However, with some small adjustments in proportions, everything

falls into place and starts looking much more realistic.

Here you can see the head
stretched vertically and eyes a bit
too wide, giving her proportions
that are somewhat elfish, or

Can you spot the other

proportion issues with her?

If not, don't worry. By the time you

are done with this section, you'll be
able to come back and see some of
the other issues present here.

On the right you can see the head
in proper proportion…

The cool thing about drawing that

many people never realize is that
there are magical ratios that you
can use - not just for people, but to
draw anything you want.

These ratios, or proportions, act as

your guide to make sure everything
looks correct.

Let's take a look at the specific

measurements you can use as a
starting point for drawing the face.

Step 1: Draw a circle Step 2: Divide the lower Step 3: Add two more
and divide it in half. This half of the circle into 4 lines below the circle to
division will show you equal parts. This will create 2 more equal
where the eyebrows give you the vertical sections to the divisions
should be placed. The placement of the eyes you made in the last
bottom of the circle is and the nose. setp. This will show you
where the mouth is. where the chin goes.

Step 4: Draw 2 curved Step 5: Divide the top Step 6: The width of
lines to create the jaw half of the circle into 3 each eye should be the
and connect the chin to equal parts. The line of same as the distance
the rest of the face. the top part will show between the two eyes,
you where the hair line and the width of the
should be. face should be 5 eyes

Step 7: Because the Step 8: To get the width Step 9: For the mouth
head isn't actually a of the nose, draw 2 lines width, draw a triangle
circle, the sides need to down that are the same starting between the
be chopped off to match distance as between the eyes where each side
the 5 eyes width that eyes. These lines should touches the width of the
you defined in the last end at the line showing nose and finishes at the
step. the height of the nose. line for the mouth.

By now, hopefully you are starting to see how a face can be broken
up into general proportions to help you know exactly where the
features should go.

As you get more familiar with drawing figures, you'll find all kinds of
exceptions to these rules. But, in general, everything has ratios you
can use to break down complex objects into easy-to-follow

Why are proportions so important?

Because, without them, every figure you want to draw is not going to
look realistic, and you may not even know why.

Once you start studying and applying proportions, you'll know exactly
what you need to do to tighten up your figure drawings.

Where to go from here?
You can take what you just learned and try drawing some faces using
the method outlined above. Just remember to draw your guide lines
lightly so they are easy to erase.

Then compare what you drew using the proportions to some of your
old drawings - can you see that they are already starting to improve?

What you've just learned is only scratching the surface - you can go
much deeper with proportions and even come up with your own
proportion guidelines.

However, this guide is about drawing figures, so let's take what we

learned and apply it to some of these.

There was a reason that
you started with learn-
ing the proportions of
the head before moving
into the body, because
the head is a great way
to measure out the rest
of the body.

Here you can see that

both males and females
are approximately 7
heads tall.

Let's break down the

divisions of the body.

Section 1: The Head

Section 2: the Nipples

Section 3: The Navel (Belly Button)

Section 4: The Bottom of the Crotch

Section 5: The Top of the Knee

Section 6: The Mid Lower Leg

Section 7: The Foot

As long as you have the height of the head set, you can use these
proportions to draw any male or female you want. You’ll know that
they are going to be the correct height and that you’ll have the major
features of the body in the right spots.

Exceptions to '7 Heads' proportions:

If you're drawing super heroes you can increase

the length of the legs so that your character is 8
heads tall.

You can also play with the proportions to create

your own unique figures. But, just remember that
the further you push the proportions, the less
realistic your characters are going to look when
compared to the ideal figure proportions.


Foreshortening is the visual effect where objects that are closer to
the viewer appear larger. This is essential for drawing figures
punching, jumping, flying and doing any number of dynamic poses
that require additional depth.

This photo shows a clear
example of foreshortening in
action with the fist appearing
much closer than the rest of the
body, and depth of field applied
to blur the character in the
background to heighten the

So, how can you easily apply this

effect to your own drawings?

The easy answer is the coil


How it works is that
you sketch a coil to
get the basic shape of
the limb that you are
trying to foreshorten.

There are other

methods you can use
to foreshorten, but if
you are starting out,
this is an extremely
easy way to get the
look you are going

Let's look at another


Here the leg is clearly Start by sketching Then connect the
foreshortened your coils to get the sides of the coil to
because of the foreshortened shape create the shape of
extreme angle. of the leg. the leg.

You can think of your coils like
three dimensional cylinders that
are growing as they get closer to
the viewer.

In the example to the left, you can

see that because of the clothing
the cylinder isn't actually growing
that much as it gets closer to the
viewer, but you can still really get
a sense of how the coils make up
the 3D shape.

You can experiment with the coils

to draw arms, legs and even
entire bodies. Just remember to
follow your reference.

The lightning bolt technique is extremely useful when you are just
getting into anatomy, because it makes it easy to remember where to
place the major forms.

First, draw a connected line
that resembles a lightning bolt
outlining the major forms.

The shoulder, bicep and

forearm are outlined in red.

Then, you connect the spaces

inbetween (shown in blue) and
you now have the entire shape
of your arm.

We love this technique

because it's so easy to re-
member where those major
muscles go.

Once you have the hang of it, you can start using lightning bolts to
draw all different types of forms.

On the following page, you'll see how you can use the lightning bolt
to draw out the major areas of the body from the side view.

You start at the top of the face, then go down to the chin and finish
with the jaw to get the shape of the head.

Then you draw a curved line going down for the back of the neck and
the ribcage.

This line then spikes up for the bottom of the ribcage and then pulls
down again to get the abdominals and crotch.

The same process is repeated to get the rear and the muscles of the
leg. The last step is to once again connect the lines of the lightning
bolt to get your finished outline of the figure.

Figure drawing really is a life-long journey. There's
always more to learn, practice and master.
Print this cheat sheet and keep it handy while you
are attempting your next set of figure drawings.
Take a look at it when you get stuck and use it to
unlock your creative potential.