When creating humanoid races or species or just normal individuals, I sometimes want to describe a certain body measure and thus have to estimate a reasonable value. How do you do that? Are there algorithms, rules of thumb, charts, helpful 2D/3D modeling software?

Actual adult humans can vary considerably in height and weight. The ranges for healthy people are something like 1,50 m to 2,00 m and 50 kg to 100 kg, but with many outside these parameters that could still be considered healthy. The extremes for grown-up height (with dwarfism and giantism) are stunning 0,55 m (at 15 kg) and 2,72 m; normal-height people have weighed more than 440 kg. The body–mass index (weight divided by height squared) should be between 20 and 25 for normal-sized adults, but skinny and starving people could get towards 15 or below (as do kids) and there’s hardly an upper limit for obesity (beyond 100).

I could take tables for standard garment sizes which usually correlate height, (under)bust or chest girth and weight or hip circumference in a sex-specific way, but these only have certain measures and only for idealized standard bodies. Also, height differences there seem to be more important or common with men than women.

I know there’re 7½ and 8-head rules (from 4 for infants) when drawing human bodies proportionally, but again, that covers only certain parts – and I cannot draw well.

Modern Vitruvian man illustration with 6-circle height

Related questions

How to make a realistic 'giant' – is about people much taller than normal, 3+ m, and more about organs, shape and other implications.

  • $\begingroup$ What exactly is your question? you already have a very good model in your question. In how far does that not help you? $\endgroup$ – Burki Sep 18 '15 at 14:12
  • $\begingroup$ @Burki You mean the picture? I could use that to find some lengths for idealized normal-height men – boring –, but what if I wanted to guesstimate the weight of a 1.40m slightly obese woman or the chest girth of a 2.20m athletic man, to give non.extreme examples? $\endgroup$ – Crissov Sep 18 '15 at 19:39

In terms of calculating ideal human body measurements, I've found the HPC to be very helpful. Given a height, sex and age, it will provide ideal measurements.

A ratio known as Ape Factor that measures how much longer a human's arms are compared to their height. Some sports such as rock climbing or swimming benefit greatly from having an Ape Factor greater than one.

NIH did some research into the racial differences in body fat distribution among reproductive-aged women. Body fat density also differs along racial lines too.

  • $\begingroup$ Yes, something like HPC is what I meant, but I wish it was a little more complex, e.g. allowing weight or BMI input and body shape selection to handle non-ideal types. Also, TIL that I have an ape index of about 1.03. $\endgroup$ – Crissov Sep 18 '15 at 19:34
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    $\begingroup$ I also found Body Visualizer in the meantime, which is almost what I want but ideally would provide some additional measures. $\endgroup$ – Crissov Sep 25 '15 at 12:09
  • $\begingroup$ @Crissov, that's amazing! $\endgroup$ – Green Sep 25 '15 at 13:12
  • $\begingroup$ I’ve also found Body Kit, which is similar, but commercial. $\endgroup$ – Crissov Sep 25 '15 at 20:11

Here is the thing. You are involved not in a scientific but a philosophical problem here. You want to know what are the physical attributes of a perfect human. You already have different models for different types of people (Asians, Europeans, Africans, Americans etc) but you don't want a specific model but a universal model for human physique.

This is not possible.

And guess what, it is a good thing for you that a universal model for human build does not exist. The good news is that since humans come in such a variety of shapes and sizes, you are free to modify your model to a certain degree and it will still look natural and realistic. It means you can create several human models for your video game/animation and all of them will be natural. This will also mean that your game/animation will have more variety, which will make it all the more real and interesting.

Your question is like that dogma of Plato. He theorized that there is a realm of perfection where perfect people, perfect tree, perfect building etc exist. The people we see in our world are imperfect copies of those perfect models. Each imperfection in the copying process (like flickering shadow of a model) makes our world's people, trees and buildings distinct and different.

Don't follow Plato on this. His model is good for philosophers to discuss, on a cozy winter evening, around the fireplace, sipping tea. But it is definitely not practical for a developer/designer.

  • $\begingroup$ Ideally, I want a (computer) model with lots of parameters to play with that provides reasonable estimates and maybe even some kind of visualization. I cannot believe that hundreds of years after the Vitruvian Man we still can’t do any better than that. $\endgroup$ – Crissov Sep 18 '15 at 19:42
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    $\begingroup$ A simple way to achieve it is to get models for all different races you can get, then try gradually changing one model into the other. It would help you learn what are the "stable points" for human physical modle. $\endgroup$ – Youstay Igo Sep 18 '15 at 19:46

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