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Human Anatomy Fundamentals Drawing Different Ages

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Throughout these lessons I have touched upon how age changes things in the body and particularly in the face. Here we will look at the full progression of the body and face from birth to very old age

A Few Preliminary Words

Let's get this clear:Everyone ages differentlyBut to help you draw people that look their intended age, The diagrams below are not meant to be invariably true to the letter. Before I identified the visual clues of age that I was misusing, I ended up with many children who looked eerily world-weary, I know for myself that while I was learning to draw, or adults stuck in their twenties. Unless your style is very realistic, just what is enough to make a character's age clear, but you will not need to use them all – as a matter of fact, you might want to use the fewest possible, They are collected here to save you much trial and error

About the Stages of Life

Baby, Child, The stages used here (Newborn. ) are a compromise between the “official”  division (which for instance groups 13- and 20-year-olds together under “adolescent”) and the way I feel they can be classified visually. Up to adolescence, children change very quickly, but I can’t do a diagram for each passing year so I condensed them into as few stages as possible. A 5-year-old doesn’t look the same as a 10-year-old, Naturally, so these portraits are snapshots of a continuous transformation

Factors That Influence Aging

We all age differently, As I said above. Work/life habits, and so on, whether in the face or the figure, the changes to our appearance, ethnicity, exposure to sunlight and wind, but once we reach adulthood, living conditions, The childhood stages are somewhat uniform, health, usage of cosmetics or surgery, depend on many factors: genetics, exercise or lack thereof.  

People in poor countries have a shorter life expectancy and no access to health care, let alone beauty products, some people can look barely forty well into their sixties, so they may look very old by the time they’re middle-aged, while in developed countries. In centuries past, In those same developed countries, middle ageWasA failing body and stained skin, old age and brought with it blackened or fallen teeth.  

But she turned out to be just 20, Exposure to the elements will line even a young face: in Viêt Nam I met a woman who worked outdoors in a very windy place, and the many fine lines on her face made me think she was in her forties. Inversely, the Japanese famously keep their smooth skin for years and years, and I was shocked to meet a “teenager” who turned out to be a mature, married woman. Visible particularly in worry lines, Traumatizing events can also accelerate aging

It is best to look at the stages below not as fixed values but as steps that are relative to each other, With all this in mind. The exact age is less important than the differences between a stage and another

Sexual Dimorphism (or Not)

You’ll notice I only provide separate male and female diagrams for some age categories. Boys and girls are not very differentiated, This is simply because up until puberty. They are recognizable mostly through socially created factors such as haircut and clothing. You can't easily tell a young child's gender just from their face. Adolescence marks the beginning of serious differences in face and body, and that’s when the separate diagrams begin. Women start losing their differentiating factors again, after menopause, Then. And women very rarely go bald, As they get older, save for the fact women’s hair never recedes quite as much, men and women become once more increasingly similar in the face

Stages of Life

Newborn (0-1 month)

Newborns can only lie on their belly, retaining the foetal position with limbs folded against their body. ThereforeBody length = 2. 5 heads(legs not counted). In this position, Note how short the legs are – remember that in adults, the knee reaches the shoulder

Newborn proportions

The first week, the head is elongated. This is called molding and it is due to the passage through the birth canal, which makes the bones of the skull overlap. C-sections don’t result in molding

Newborn face
  1. Many newborns have a full head of fine, but they can also be quite bald, dark hair
  2. The ear is flat against the head
  3. No neck or chin
  4. The nostrils are very evident in a tiny button nose
  5. The line under the eyes is clearly defined
  6. Look very wide, The eye slits, as well as the line of the mouth
  7. The upper eyelid fold may not exist yet. At this stage, the eyes are only opened for brief spells and tend to squint
  8. Very high on the face, There is the merest hint of eyebrows

The eyes of newborns only take their final hue between 6 months and 1 year. The skin also has a "birth coloration" that soon changes. Roughly speaking, for different types, these birth colors are:

Newborn birth coloration
  • Pink to reddish skin (strong vascularity), Caucasian types: Dark blue-grey eyes
  • African types: Dark grey-brown eyes, reddish-black skin
  • Asian types: Dark grey-brown eyes, tea rose skin

Baby (1 month - 1 year)

Here's a general guideline:, Although babies develop at an individual pace

  • A baby can lift its head halfway;, At 2 months
  • At 3 it can hold an object;
  • At 4 it can lift its head and chest when lying down;
  • At 6 it can hold its head steady and sit with help;
  • And tries to put its foot in its mouth;, At 7 it can sit and stand unsupported
  • At 11 it can stand up alone;
  • Around 1 year it starts walking unsupported

Around 3 months oldThe body length is closer to 3 heads(legs still not counted)The body and limbs are noticeably chubbier, Although the proportions have barely changed

Baby proportions

As the baby starts standing on its legs, we start thinking in terms of height, Around 10 monthsHeight = 4-5 headsAppearing very open to drink in the world, The features are less crumpled than a newborn’s

Baby proportions and face
  1. And can be light then get darker as baby grows, The little hair present is very fine
  2. The ear starts sticking out
  3. But the eye slits are not, so the iris appears much larger than an adult’s, A baby’s eyeballs are near their adult size
  4. The lips become more visible, drawing a tiny mouth
  5. The eyes are wider apart than an adult’s
  6. There's only a very gentle curve, The eyebrow ridge is hardly present
  7. There's no cheekbone to speak of either, but a round cheek

Toddler (1 - 4 years)

  but retains an endearing clumsiness, The body begins to slim down a bit, losing the rounded tummy. At age 4, a child’s height is at least double its birth lengthHeight= 5 heads

Toddler proportions and face
  1. We can see the beginning of a neck
  2. The legs are short relatively to the body
  3. And now hides the head, darker, The hair is thicker
  4. The eyebrows are now about half as dark as they will be in adulthood (so they’ll still be very light in fair children)
  5. The cheeks are full and often pink
  6. Looking pouty, The mouth is small and puckered
  7. Double chin
  8. Especially in the face, Toddlers still have their baby fat

Child (5 - 11 years)

But the muscles are still infantile, all baby fat is gone, so the body looks skinny, In normally-fed children. Body proportions change from 5. To, 5 heads in early childhood6 heads between 7 and 9Bearing in mind that the speed of growth is unequal – some children look younger than their age and some grow so fast they look like teenagers. This balances itself out before adulthood, with a growth spurt for the former and a slowing down for the latter. Note also that in children, the face occupies a smaller area of the head than in adults

Child proportions and face
  1. The neck grows out of an almost horizontal shoulder line (instead of the trapezius of adults – seeBasic Body Proportions) because these muscles are not developed
  2. The eyebrows still appear high
  3. The ears grow before other features so they looks large for a while
  4. Thin neck
  5. But not yet strong, The chin becomes defined
  6. The nose looks short because it’s still upturned
  7. The nose bridge gains dimension
  8. But are still soft, The face contours start to appear

Adolescent (12 - 17 years)

Females actually begin puberty between 8-13 years of age, with males starting between 9. 5 and 14 yearsHeight= 6. 5 to 7 heads(males are taller)

  1. In males, shoulders broaden
  2. Arms and face, Hair appears on the body, legs
  3. Leading to the gangly look and feeling of clumsiness, arms, legs and hands may grow faster than the rest of the body, The feet
  4. But they don’t reach their full size until adulthood, the development of the breasts is the first sign of puberty, In females. Then the areola gets larger, First the breasts form small mounds. The breast keeps growing from there
  5. The waist gets smaller and the hips get wider
  6. Fat may increase in the buttocks, legs and stomach
  1. The eyebrows are full and lower on the eyes, attenuating the wide-eyed look of childhood
  2. The most noticeable difference with adult faces at this point is the size of the eyes, which are still large
  3. The bone structure is in place but still softened by a full face
  4. It looks longer, As the nose take its adult shape
  5. The neck is thicker, the Adam’s apple appears, In males
  6. With NO Adam’s apple, In females, the neck remains slender
  7. Eyelashes can be left out to convey adolescence, as their presence in a drawing tends to make a female look older

Young Adult (18 years - 30's)

Adulthood is when growth stops: this is the tallest one gets in one’s life. With fully developed muscles, The body achieves maturity, and in women’s case full breastsHeight= 7. 5 headsAs explained in, (Note that we use 8 heads when learning to draw peopleBasic Body Proportions). The full details of adult female and male bodies are described inAdvanced Body ProportionsBut note the most obvious differences between them at this point:


Grey hair can start appearing in one's thirties or even late twenties, though most people (especially women) will remove or dye them. While male eyebrows retain a natural look than is rarely as crisp, Female eyebrows at this stage are often styled (at least, in parts of the world where that is done) so they look neatly drawn

  1. Toning down the gaze and conveying maturity, The eyelids become more visible
  2. The eyes look slightly smaller
  3. The line of the nose is chiseled
  4. The face contours now show more bone and muscle structure than soft flesh
  5. The ear size stabilizes at the measure that is roughly the distance from the top of the eyes to the tip of the nose
  6. Males have a strong squared jaw
  7. Dark-haired men often have a shadow around the jaw even when they’re shaved. At this age, facial hair would be at their strongest if grown
  8. Due to the use of cosmetics), Female lips at their most fleshy (and frequently look much redder or contrasted
  9. The eyelashes are now emphasized

Middle Age (40's and 50's)

And female breasts start losing firmness, but muscle density decreases, The body doesn’t change all that much. Elbows and knee caps show wrinkles. The tendency to accumulate fat increases. Men and women store it in different places, indicated in blue:

No longer in the structure:, The changes in the face are mostly in the lines

  1. The eyelids become heavier
  2. Crow’s feet begin to appear
  3. A downward fold shows up at the corners of the mouth, giving a bit of a wry expression. It is now safe to draw more expression lines that would have made the face look too old otherwise
  4. Lines may also appear at the root of the nose
  5. In males, the hairline is likely to start receding
  6. The hair shows more sign of aging, the “salt and pepper” look

Menopause happens in a woman’s fifties. The drop in estrogen levels has many effects on the body, the most visible ones being:

  • The bones lose density so the body starts getting shorter
  • The breasts dry up
  • Weight gain is redistributed to the abdominal area, so the waist starts disappearing

Early Old Age (60's)

  1. The hair turns decidedly grey. So women wear it shorter, and its growth is now limited, It thins.  
  2. Frown and smile lines become permanent, Worry
  3. But grow sparser, The eyebrows may stay dark longer than the hair (if they were dark in the first place)
  4. Pockets appear under the eyes
  5. Resulting in a less firm jawline, The skin loses elasticity and starts hanging at the jaws
  6. The male hairline recedes to a varying, but noticeable degree
  7. Female eyelashes are no longer prominent
  8. The lips get thinner. The face in general starts losing femininity

Middle Old Age (70's)

People who keep exercising into old age keep a younger body longer, and may not slump or lose much muscle mass. Slumping makes the neck look shorter and the arms fall lower than usual. Male pectorals droop visibly

Hairline recedes considerably or all hair is lost, In males. Women’s hairline recedes little: this is the main difference between male and female faces at this stage

  1. Showing veins, The skin becomes thinner, blemishes and age spots
  2. Almost transparent as all pigment is gone, The hair is thin and wispy
  3. Giving it a triangular shape, The upper eyelid may droop to permanently cover the outer corner of the eye. This happens to populations of Western and Northern Europe and to people heavily exposed to the elements
  4. The earlobe droops (mostly noticeable in people who wore earrings)
  5. Hollowing the cheeks, The skin adheres to the bone
  6. There is a jowl effect as the skin on the cheeks sags
  7. The corners of the mouth run down
  8. The folds join the chin to the neck pit
  9. If there is any facial hair, it’s getting sparser and weaker
  10. The lips lose color, with vertical lines running up and down from them
  11. Loss of cartilage makes the nose tip droop
  12. The eyes become watery and their iris less intense in color
  13. Sparse or scraggy eyebrows

Very Old Age (80's and up)

Corners of the mouth drooping, permanent “worry” and frown” lines, The appearance of carrying the burdens of the world that old people usually have is mostly due to the physical changes of their face – the “sad” eyes (shaped this way by the drooping eyelid in Caucasian types). They are just always there, We read these as expression lines even though at that time of life. We need to be aware of the expressive power of these lines and balance or attenuate them according to the facial expression we wish to convey, When drawing an elderly face

  1. More age spots
  2. Letting the orbits show through the skin, The eyes sink back
  3. Crow’s feet can become really long and abundant
  4. People who spent their lives exposed to the elements can have abundant lines on the cheeks as well
  5. The jaw line is lost
  6. Double chin
  7. The mouth puckers in if lost teeth are not replaced by dental work (only affordable or available to a portion of the industrialized world) 
  8. These lines deepen

Practice time:

  • On the bus, Observe people on the street, etc. What age would you give them, On first impression. Try then to deconstruct the visual clues, picked up unconsciously, that led to that impression
  • Both with and without reference, Consciously sketch age groups that you don't normally draw or that you have trouble portraying
  • Play around with imagining your favourite comic book character (or your own character) at different stages of their life

Read more: Human Anatomy Fundamentals Drawing Different Ages

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