Sketching People

Your Definitive Guide 

Line Sketch of Waiter Serving WomanLine Sketch of Waiter Serving Woman

There is a variety of people on this planet all with different characteristics, Chinese, African, Indian, American-Indian, Aborigines, Caucasian plus hundreds more—all with differing body and facial characteristics.

However, all humanoids (or bi-pedal mammals) have two eyes, two ears, a nose, a mouth and a head to hold all these features—so for the time being, we’ll stick with the Caucasian characteristics.

Simple sketches of a football, a tree or a box, almost all of us can draw without much thought but sketching the human figure or an accurate rendition of a person’s face with spot-on features that look just like her—takes an awful lot of skill. And that skill takes years to master for some of us.

We’ll start off with sketching the face. See the sketches below and notice the eyes come exactly halfway—and in the profile, the ears are fractionally above the eyes or level with the eyebrows. This is a rough guide as people’s faces are quite different and vary quite a lot. Notice some folk have very big noses, others have large ears—and some have their bottom lip touching the base of their nose. The eyes are the most expressive, whether they are large, squintish, slanted or just slits. 

Basic Proportions of the Human HeadBasic Proportions of the Human Head

What I always try and teach my students is to see the masses not the detail. You can’t get a likeness by drawing in the detail first. The position of the eyes, the bottom of the nose and chin must be accurate. One way of getting this correct is to half close your eyes to eliminate all detail.You will then notice not the eyes but the eye sockets as if it looks like a skull. Put a light directly above your head, look in a mirror and you’ll see exactly what I’ve mentioned here.

Sketching people or drawing the figure is similar to the above in that your measurements have to be accurate. Go here to see basic proportions of the female figure. The human figure is quite complex with varying muscle atop a complex bone structure. It is best to start off with drawing outlines of basic objects and, once mastered, tackle the human figure and apply what you’ve learned about basic structure.

A Group of Celebs Visiting a BaA Group of Celebs Visiting a Ba

You need to know a little about perspective if your figure sketching is going to be believable. All objects diminish in size the further they are from you. If you are seeing the figure from a three-quarters view, the side further from you is smaller than the near side. Everything (in drawing and painting) has a vanishing point and the human figure is no exception.

Perspective can be complex also with multiple vanishing points. If you wish to know the basics of perspective, please go here. 

Using Pen and Pencil

Drawing Using Soft Pencils

Pen and Ink Study of Sketching People

Learn Sketching Portrait Techniques Simply 

Delightful Sketches of People Doing Things They Love 

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