Easy Steps to Measuring and Proportions in Figure Drawing

Proportion is a word often associated with another word for artists, stress. But I’m here to share with you that it doesn’t have to be a stressful word. Can this really be true? A simple way to warp speed techniques when measuring proportion? Yes, I’m here to say that it is true.

Proportion…How big should the head be? How long should the legs? How long should I draw this line? These are questions, we as artists, face everyday. It doesn’t matter what kind of artist you are…getting the most out of figure drawing with accurate proportions will explode your art to new levels. There are several tools and methods to help artists with proportions. Without correct proportions, your figure will be inaccurate and lacking at best.

There are certain proportion formulas, such as the figure being a certain many heads tall, or the head of the figure being so many eyes wide.

I like to know these formulas and use them as a guide. The human form being so individual you can never go strictly off of these formulas alone. As an artist, it’s important to know these formulas to be able to recognize the deviations from the formulas in the model/subject you are drawing.


Measuring is a little bit different for every artist. It is a tool for proportions not to overlook. Just as someone aiming a poolstick or firing a gun does it differently than the next person, so goes it for the artist. Some artists, while measuring, will shut the left eye and some the right, while others will keep both eyes open (just never keep both shut LOL). You’ll need to see what’s right for you. Then, hold your pencil between your thumb and fingers with your fingers wrapped around the pencil. Measure from the top of your thumb to the end of your pencil. You can hold your pencil vertical or horizontal for this technique, keeping it at shoulder high.

Your measurement from your thumb to the end of your pencil may only be ½ inch, but on your drawing it could be an inch or more. All of your measurements are comparative. For example, if an artist wants to know how long a leg is, he can compare it’s length with the length of the subjects head. Using the measurement method we discussed with the pencil, it’s easy to compare.

These simple methods, once applied, will soar your drawings, paintings or whatever you are working on. The advice practice, practice, practice, coupled with masterful technique will help you advance your art quickly and masterfully more than anything else.

This is a brief overview on proportions and measuring. For more information on proportions, measurements, drawing people or faces, and much more…Please email us at info@learning2draw.com.