Design Skills - Resources and Training for Designers

Figure Drawing
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Figures are used to show the scale and function of an environment. Therefore, they should be drawn in such a way so as not to obscure and confuse the design intent. Intead they should be added to a drawing to bring it to life and underline its context. Whether adding figures to a sketch or a presentation drawing, hand drawn or CAD, they work best if they are in keeping with the level of details and style of the drawing.

Although figures can be quite difficult to draw at first, there are ways of getting the proportions right and other methods than drawings can be used. Also, it seems that an odd number of people in a group works better than an even number.

| Figures in sketches | Proportions | Figures in perspective | The head | Figures in presentation drawings |

Figures in sketches
In sketches, figures are expressed loosely, often highly stylised with very little detail. With little practice, it is possible to develop a few basic shapes. This is important because, even though accuracy is not what matters, proportions and body language do. So the style of drawing should be confident and relaxed.
Stylised group of figures - Click on the thumbnail to open a larger image
Stylised figure - Click on the thumbnail to open a larger image
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Proportions
The proportions for the average human height in drawing is 8 heads high (9 in fashion drawing). This makes it easy to work out reference points and locate the main points of the body. Draw a vertical line the total height of the figure. The 1/2 way point is the crotch. The 1/4 point is the bottom of the knees. The 3/4 point are the nipples and the 7/8 is the bottom of the head.
Divisions of human proportion - Click on the thumbnail to open a larger image
Then draw a rectangle/trapezium shape for the chest and another one for the hip bearing in mind that men and women have different shapes and that poeple's weight is rarely perfectly aligned. In fact, people tend to stand putting more weight on one leg than the other, which gives them a more dynamic, slightly tilted appearance.
Proportions of a man - Click on the thumbnail to open a larger image
Proportions of a woman - Click on the thumbnail to open a larger image
These proportions can be adapted to drawing children depending on their age. A 3-year-old for example is on average 5 heads high. The neck is not as developped than in adults and the face and body are rounder. An older child would had a smaller head and less rounded face. A teenager can be represented with a 7 heads high proportion.
Proportions of a child - Click on the thumbnail to open a larger image
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Figures in perspective
It is not enough to get the human proportions right. Figures must also be in proportions with the drawing. In many cases, existing elements such as doors, windows and furniture can be used as reference points. In perspective drawing however, it is just as easy to locate the vanishing point(s) as shown in the sketch on the right.
Placing figures in perspective drawing - Click on the thumbnail to open a larger image
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The head

Although details on the head and neck will not show in sketches, some understanding of facial proportions and position of the neck helps bringing figures to life in presentation drawings.

The diagram on the right is a representation of the proportions of a face.

In both men and women, the front of the neck is lower than that of the back. A woman's neck however, is usually longer than that of a man and also has a more rounded shape, while a man's neck is wider.

Proportions of the human face - Click on the thumbnail to open a larger image

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Figures in presentation drawings

Artists learn human anatomy and practice life drawing in order to be able to draw the human form. It is really the only way to become really good at it. Drawing the human form is quite difficult and for designers, who use figures to help with the understanding of their design and drawing, there are ways around it.

If the drawing is done by hand, it is possible to use transfer graphics available from design supplies shops. Letraset ®, for example, offers quite a wide range. They come in sheets at different scales. It is also possible to trace from photographs as long as the proportions are correct. It is also possible to use collage, though as well as proportions, the style of the image should be in harmony with the style of the drawing. Sometimes, drawings can be scannned and figures added afterwards. The advantage is that they can be digitally manipulated to harmonise with the style and proportions of the drawing.



Transfer graphics - Click on the thumbnail to open a larger image
Figure traced from an image - Click on the thumbnail to open a larger image
Digital manipulation - Click on the thumbnail to open a larger image

Many designers however use CAD and scans from magazines work well with CAD rendered drawings. The only manipulation they require is to adjust the scale and possibly the perspective. They help to bring CAD drawings to life. There are also specialist software used to draw the human figure in 3D.
CAD figure drawing - Click on the thumbnail to open a larger image
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> Mood and Sample boards > Sketching > Isometric and Axonometric Projections > Perspective Drawing > Model Making > Figure Drawing > Colour Rendering


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