Human Anatomy Proportions Basic Guide

As new and more experience users begin to develop their sculpturing skills its handy to have some kind of reference as to anatomic proportions.

Heres what iv found during my short reserch which brings what iv writen into this thred.

After some research iv decided to put some notes together that will help getting the human proportion looking anatomically correct. The following are basic rules that should make proportions easier. These proportions are based on an ideal not a average person. The reason why it’s best to draw or sculpt as Ideal is it simply doesn’t look correct on paper to draw what we averagely look like unless this was intended.

The Head:

If you where to draw a line horizontally across the head centre and vertically down the centre, the first thing your notice is the horizontal line goes between the eyes. This makes your eyes dead centre of your head.

The width between the middle of your eyes is the same as the distance as your outer edge to your temple looking from a front profile of a face.

The top of the ear aligns with the eye brow and the ear lobe under or between the nostrils and the upper lip. Ears vary in size so this is an ideal average.

The bottom of nose is half way between the eye centre line and the chin bone.

The lips are half way between the lower nostrils and the chin bone although on average human lips is nearer to nose than chin.

The back base of the head where the spine connects aligns to the nostrils.

The body:

Again based on ideals the body should be 8 head lengths from tip of scull to toes.

  1. The Head counts as 1 head length.

  2. Chin to nipple height.

  3. Nipple to belly button.

  4. Belly button to groin.

  5. Groin to lower thigh

  6. Lower thigh to under the knee. (The knee should be centre between these 2 points or just a bit nearer to the lower thigh)

  7. Low knee to upper ankle (you can set this is how best suits your visual preference, in general a head length is spare from this point to the bottom of foot.

  8. Upper ankle to foot base.

The elbow aligns with the belly button and the wrist to the groin. The sholder width is 2 head lengths or just over.

More often than not the body is divided into 8 parts but normally equals to just over 7 or 7and a half head lenghts.

Real Life proportions.

I measured my body so we can see real life measurements. I used the head length where there was no body point that can be used as reference like nipples, groin e.c.t. Mesurements are in inches.

  1. Head length 8.6"

  2. Chin to nipple: 10"

  3. Nipple to belly button: 9.5

  4. Belly button to crotch: 8.6"

  5. Crotch to lower thigh: 8.6"

  6. Lower thigh to lower knee: 8.6

  7. Lower Knee to Upper ankle. 8.6"

  8. Upper ankle to foot: 7"

As you can clearly see my body is divided into 8 parts using head length where can be used. As we can see im not ideal but not completely out of proportion. Between the chin and nipple im 1.3" over. Between the nipple and belly button its 0.8" over which equals 2.2" combining them both.

Between the upper ankle and foot is 1.6" under so if we take 1.6" from our 2.2 leaves up 0.5" spare, this can easy be gained or lost due to measurement error. From doing these simple measurement calculations we see that using the head length times 8 will give us the most accurate proportions.

If you can add any more proportion alignments please do so. Hope it helps some people with there drawing or sculpturing.

Thank you for sharing that information, Tez. I saved it to my collection of notes. Very exact basics for head and figure drawing and building…

thnx for the research,

[email protected]

thank you a ton, im printing this and putting on wall for reference, this is defintaly something I needed, my bodies come out unproportioned a ton.

It’s really great posts.

I just came across this post and found it very helpful. Thankyou

Wow this thread is going back some years now. Actually iv got much more to share on this subject. Being as this thread got resurrected, I will update it. Iv been studying anatomy like crazy over these years, and can shine much more light on the canon systems which not only gives you basic high of a human, but pin points other bony land marks such as the Scapula, 5,6,7, 10th ribs, Important pelvis land marks, glutieal cleft, 7th cv, Pit of neck, Length of torso, Width of shoulders. Also the head has some very nice canons that can get you a perfect face using the rule of 3rds.

Il come back on this with some images that show these things.


I did this Dynamesh sculpt to show the 7.5 head canon. Remember you dont have to stick 100% to it, its just a guide. This sculpt isnt totally finished, but has enough information to show what I intended it for. For anyone interested she was started from Zspears, after pushing her basic volumes, I transferred her into a Dynamesh object, eventually used Zremesher to then project details back on lower sub d model. She was rendered in Keyshot 5.2 Zbrush special edition, with one single disk light on each model.

Hope you find this useful.

This is indeed a much better canon that the 8-one.
It is the one I also prefer since the days I got the Paul Richer book.
It is also the one used by most great painters from the 19thC academic style and by many sculptors from that same period.
8 is eventually good for more heroic characters.

Thanks a lot for sharing. And a very good sculpt indeed!

Hi Erik, thanks glad you like it.

It was indeed Paul Richer in which this study comes from via courses that I had attended who also use this method including Sabin Howard, Scott Eaton. The good thing about this system is there is not a great amount
that has to be done to make it a 8 head system as the extra hight mainly comes from a small percentage in the pelvis, most comes from Upper leg, and small amount from lower leg.

The Head system I use is combination of different systems, but what iv done is not simply just use them, but made a point in studying from many photo references do get my own idea on averages, one being the eyes centre of the head, neck being half a head unit, head fitting into a square unit, these don’t necessarily all apply.

Here is a example from my study on the head which includes many land marks, and rules of 3rds for facial features.
I didnt include the rule of 3rds between the nose and mouth, but I can add this information.

One final point id like to make which may be of use to artist is internalization of repetitive information and skills. By using this canon system over and over again, you start to internalize the information to a point in which you dont need to measure if hardly ever. You just start working on a sculpt and feel which looks right, and behold, you measure it and its spot on.
Once you get this down, you can then push your sculpts from being generic, to more artistic in your chosen direction.

head proportions.jpg

thanks a lot for sharing all this. i’m sure there is always something new to learn.


Hi! After the long break it is nice to see you are coming back with new works. And hope to see more stuff soon.
Human proportions is really cool topic and fun to investigate. There were always proportionally confusing areas in human body that I always wanted to discuss with someone. So here is my two cents.
First of all I should mention that a jugular notch at the middle between first and second head marks means really long neck. I often prefer to use one-third of a head length or yet another measuring unit - the distance from the top of the head to the bottom of the nose. Glenn Vilppu called it “five eye line” because it roughly equals the overall width of the head and helps establishing other landmarks further down like the pit of the neck, the bottom of the sternum (not including xiphoid process), tenth rib, average length of clavicle or scapula border etc (though it’s not always working and better suited for heroic proportions). But that’s yet another topic. So the most frequent question I ask myself is: “How a large female breast which naturally looks heavy and saggy still allows the nipples to be very close to canonic 2th head mark?”. Even more, I saw many girls with really big natural breasts but their nipples are even higher this mark. In my first attempt to explain this I suggested that when breast increases in size the most volumes go below the nipple, not really violating its height. And this is partially true and that’s what we call a perky breasts - where the nipples are situated quite high in relation to the overall mass and often looking upward. But I know plenty examples where the weight of boobs is obvious and you can really see them sagging, pulling and stretching the skin. But what a miracle - the nipples are still at the second head mark. Then I reasonably decided that something wrong is my measuring unit. And I was right - I realized that some of this girls were quite petite (less than regular 7.5), with a bit childish proportions which means their heads were a bit large in relation to body. And lastly I came to very interesting conclusion. I asked myself “what makes a breasts to look heavy and saggy?” The first and obvious answer is “their distance to another head mark - the navel”. But since the distance is the same - what is else? The answer was mindblowing: the height of the armpit or better say the length of contour of the front wall of the armpit. So I started dividing this area (from chin to nipples) into the thirds: the first third is canonic pit of the neck, the second is the meat part from clavicle to where the arm visually separates from shoulder (a place where twisting of pectoralis major bellies occur) and the last third is from here to the nipple (the length of anterior armpit wall). In many anatomy books and ecorche people draw the last third really short (just look at Goldfinger’s or Peck’s illustrations). But in reality this isn’t always so. And the most interesting part - with increasing of lower third the nature rather than making body elongated tries to compensate by decreasing another thirds (mostly the first one). So as a conclusion here is an interesting statement: a saggy breasts might appear so not due to their shifting down but because of the specific structure of the chest that often echoes in neck length. I noticed this when I was sculpting the Hannah’s body (I hope you remember those images I uploaded earlier) - while she is close to athletic type and nicely proportioned, her breasts appears too low regardless the medium size. I think this is quite interesting and important thing since here are many people sculpting girls and I’m sure some of them had similar problems with understanding the nature of female breasts.
Now I’m trying to do some more researches and study this on 3D scans. Have you encountered problems like this in your sculpt? Maybe you have some cool tips? Would be nice to read them and thanks for reading


Vir Norin, Thanks for your contribution, great to hear of your observations. I first learnt of the Half a head neck length from Sabin Howard, I was in disbelieve that the sternal notch could be that low, so I decided to do some measurements myself, and to my shock 7 of 11 people did indeed fit that canon of half a head down from the chin to the Sternal notch. The perception of a long neck actually comes from the angle from the Trapezius, Acromium Process point to its insertion point of the Occipital bone of the skill, when viewed from a Anterior view. If the angle is wrong, too low the neck looks very long. I tend to like to have the neck a little under a half head hight.

Another observation Id like to share is If the head unit does appear to be too small to reach the target on a reference photo with the canon system this dont mean the whole body is out of the canon. Take a measurement from the chin to nipple, use this as a unit instead, and your find the rest of the body now fits this unit, not always but does most of the time. Nipple hight, have a look at my study on this earlier this year. 3 of 5 men fitted the canon, where as 3 of 7 women did not fit the canon due to the nipple being lower than a head height, but there is not much in it. The reason is, if you look at the placement of the nipple for the breast on women there is a good bit of distance below the nipple where the breast hang, even more flatter chested women sill have this space as if the nipple is placed in the centre of the breast, rather than at the inferior position. A woman with much larger breast can be more like 1 1/4 heads down. Breast implants also can mess things up a bit regarding measurements.

All female nipples are censored, all images are from 3d.sk.com

Thanks Danny.


Nipple line 1 head length Male - FemaleZBC.jpg

avaerage neck lengthsZBC.jpg

Eye half way pointZBC.jpg

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