“Head to body ratio” – this simple anime illustration technique will give you perfect proportions every time!

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Have you ever struggled with getting the proportions right for your characters? Maybe the head looks too large for the body, or the legs are too long like a scarecrow’s?? Or maybe you can’t quite put your finger on it, but something just isn’t right about the body?

Good news! Today’s article will help you clear up all those problems and draw perfect proportions every time!

We’ll keep it very simple, so even total beginners will be able to see great results.

Note: In today’s article, we mention a lot of measurements, and these should be measured very carefully and accurately at first, until you learn to draw them by eye. Be sure to have a ruler ready!


Introducing “Toushin”

In anime and manga, the body is always measured with the same system – called toushin (pronounced “toe-shin”). This is written with the kanji for head 頭 and the kanji for body 身, and quite literally refers to the ratio of head to body.

How many time will the size of the head fit inside their height? That’s the character’s “toushin”!

In reality, humans tend to be 7 to 8 heads tall, but in the anime world we see characters anywhere from 2 heads to 9 heads tall!

In the above image, you can see the two most common head to body ratios for anime and manga characters. 6 heads tall is the most common height for a regular character, and 3 heads tall is the ratio we see for “chibi” style characters that we sometimes see in advertising, or in comedy manga.

Can you see how the body is split up vertically into 6 “heads”, and 3 “heads”? This is what’s going to help us with our proportions! When deciding on the height of your character, you can either mark out X equal sections like these, and have the first section give you the size for your head, or you could decide on the head size first, and then mark out X even sections the same length as the head. Remember to make sure the sections are measured accurately!

This is a super easy, failsafe method for making sure the size of your character’s head fits with their body!

Here we have another example – this “4 toushin” character is a more realistic looking child (rather than a “chibi” style character). As a child grows up, their body grows a lot more than their head, which is why we see the toushin go up as a character ages.


How does a character’s “toushin” change with age?

Here’s a rough guide to help you decide what head to body ratio to give your characters, depending on their age. The more toushin a character has, the more tall and grown-up they will look!

  • Grown adult: 7 to 8 heads
  • Student (middle school and above) – 6 to 6.5 heads
  • Elementary school child – 4 to 5 heads
  • Mini “chibi” character – 2 to 3 heads

Using head/body ratio to balance the body

You might be thinking, it’s all well and good knowing how large the head should be in comparison to the body… but how does that help with the proportions of the body??

Here’s how!

Once we have decided how many heads tall the character will be, and planned out their height, we now split this height exactly in the middle, to create sections A and B on the image below. The character’s crotch and wrists should sit directly on this middle line. Below this line, we have the legs, which are in turn, split exactly in two, into sections C and D. The thighs and calves should be the same length.

So simply measure out a small area for the feet at the bottom, and split the remaining area in two – and there you have the measurements for your legs! Remember, the arms should also be split evenly, with the upper and lower arm exactly the same length.

Summary:

A=B Same length
A – From the top of the head to the crotch
B – From the crotch down to the feet

C=D Same length

C – Thigh to knee
D – Knee to ankle bone


Perfect upper-body proportions

Now we have the head to body balance, and the length of the legs sorted, how can we get the proportions for the torso right?

This is a little trickier, but there’s still a great hack for getting perfect balance every time!

Draw in the shape of the head and neck, and then split the remaining section, from the base of the neck to the crotch, into 3 even sections.

This will give us the three sections to work with –

  • The chest (shoulders to the bottom of the ribcage)
  • The abdomen (bottom of ribcage to top of hipbones)
  • The pelvis (hipbones down to crotch)

And remember, the character’s waist should come at the same height as their elbows.


There we have it! A failsafe method for getting the proportions of your character right every time! Remember, deciding on the character’s toushin, and carefully measuring their height based on the size of their head is the key to a well-balanced, natural character.

Be sure to try these methods out in your own work!


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