As follow-up to my previous question, How do I exaggerate without losing believability?, I'm trying to draw a large, bulky character that has an exaggerated, but still believable, physique. I'm trying to understand how body proportions would differ between a character with a large body frame vs. a normal-sized character so that I can appropriately exaggerate the physique but still have it look natural and believable.

How do body proportions differ between a naturally large body frame physique and naturally small body frame physique (what characteristics make a physique large body frame vs. small body frame)?

Any advice people can share on how much the physique can be exaggerated before it loses realism would also be helpful.

Large Body Frame example:

Large Frame Source

Small Body Frame example:

Small Frame Image source unidentifiable

  • 1
    Besides needing to focus on a single question (you can ask these as separate questions), you really need to provide more details: what are small and large frames? It seems you are referring to the scale of a subject within the frame, but can you explain exactly what those terms mean? "What makes a physique large frame and small frame?" doesn't make any sense to me at all :) And what do you mean with the 'wideness' of a character?
    – Joachim
    Mar 6, 2023 at 17:54
  • @Joachim. This seems to be about the frame of a character's body. Like big boned vs small boned. More info is needed, like why are they asking... is it for drawing advice, like how to draw a large framed individual?
    – rebusB
    Mar 6, 2023 at 20:23
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    @Eggplant Mann, I edited the question to address the closure issues, but it was more editing than we like to do on a post because it's your post. Please review it and feel free to make any changes you think are needed if what I did changes the meaning of the question. Also, under the site's Creative Commons license, anything in a post that you didn't create must be attributed. I identified and fixed the first picture but couldn't ID the second. Can you plug in the source? When you get a chance, also do the same for the images in your previous question. Thanks.
    – fixer1234
    Mar 6, 2023 at 21:22
  • Start by looking at how they are depicted in graphic novels already, which is with great variety. I retracted the close vote but this is kind of a lazy question and the answer is more opinion based than any formula which is what it sounds like you are asking for.
    – rebusB
    Mar 9, 2023 at 19:47

1 Answer 1


By realism, I assume you mean something that looks "natural" for a human.

For your purpose, lets exclude physiques that are extremely atypical for medical reasons. Genetic or hormonal abnormalities can produce unusually short or tall stature that is also atypically proportioned.

Also, recognize that what you're referring to as "large frame" has a complex relationship with height. People tend to associate "big" with tall. A surprising number of "bad-ass" Hollywood action stars who look big on-screen, are actually short, and camera tricks are used to make them look big relative to the other actors.

Large and small frame is somewhat of a misnomer. Skeletons are shorter or taller, but otherwise surprisingly similar. The bones can get thicker and stronger if they are asked to support more weight or anchor more strenuous muscle activity, but that doesn't contribute much to the physique. What you see as the physique is primarily the muscle and fat. Take some stereotypical examples:

  • Skinny teenage computer geek, no athletics: Minimal muscle development, and little body fat because a high metabolism and rapidly growing body burn off calories. Dwayne Johnson in your picture here was always "big", but take Arnold Schwarzenneger, pictured in Elmy's answer to your previous question. Here's what he looked like as a school-aged kid:

enter image description here Source

  • Someone with significant obesity but still active: They are carrying a lot of extra weight in the form of body fat and excess skin. So everything they do builds muscle (although their heart and lungs might not have the capacity to support endurance for athletic activity). Some of the body fat will be distributed all over, and some may collect in specific areas. If most of the fat is well-distributed and the skin is still very elastic, the person can look "big" but not unnaturally proportioned. That was sometimes referred to euphemistically as "large framed".

  • Construction worker or lumberjack: They are likely to have well developed muscles everywhere and some well-distributed body fat. They may look big but fit.

  • Athlete: They will have well-developed muscles. If they focus on a single sport, specific muscles may become especially developed. Depending on the sport, they may have limited body fat because they burn off calories and avoid excess weight.

  • Body builder: They have extremely over-developed muscles (even if they don't use steroids to make them artificially even bigger). To make the muscles more visible, they purposely get rid of almost all body fat. Body builders competing for the big titles will try to over-develop muscles everywhere, so at least it's uniform (like that picture of Arnold in Elmy's answer, reposted below for reference).

enter image description here Source

That doesn't look natural in the sense that a human would normally look like that without serious intervention, but it also doesn't look like a different species. Many people find it at least interesting and not unpleasant to look at. Using steroids to grow ridiculous-sized muscles in specific places while other areas are normal size stands out as strange, like the "unnatural" pictures in your previous question.

Here are pictures of the same person before and after some physical development:

enter image description here Source

The after picture looks like the person is wider and has a larger frame. The difference is primarily muscle.

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