Proportion: The Eight-Head Rule

Let’s get the basics out of the way first.

Almost every drawing tutorial you’ll read generally tells you the same; a human is eight heads high. This is generally termed as an ideal proportion. From what I’ve observed, a typical Caucasian female is roughly 7 1/2 heads high (give or take). Asian women averages about 6 heads high.

Image 1: Based on a typical Caucasian female.

Notice the image on the left depicts a standing female with her feet flat on the floor. So you may ask, if a typical female is 7 1/2 heads high, why the 8-head rule?

In graphic design, this is what’s typically termed as visual equilibrium. I won’t go to a lengthy discussion on this, other than to say that 8-heads is about balance. Visually, it looks right for a drawing although in reality its not. Well, unless you count Maria Sharapova.

This concept of visual equilibrium is my personal basis for why I draw females the way I draw them. Its very typical on western comic book illustrators, and being an obvious fan of the style, adopted it myself. Usually I will add length to the lower body, either by lengthening the thighs a bit and the shins a bit, and/ or using shoes with high heels. More about this later.

Below you’ll see what I mean by visual equilibrium. Left is actually based on an image of Maria Sharapova (I mentioned her above), middle is the average Caucasian female, and the right is not a preteen female but the average Asian female (I’m surrounded by them everyday, so I know their proportions).

Image 2: Visual equilibrium demonstrated. Give or take 1/2 heads.

Visually, even though I can state that the figure on the right is Asian and is a full grown woman, you would think she’s in her preteens or teens. If not for the fully formed breasts and hips, she has the height of a child. Well, to me it does, which is why I employ the 8-head rule (the 1/2 is a variable I tend to play with) when I draw. The 7-head figure is actually visually correct as well, but there is something really appealing with the Masha height.

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