How to Add People in Your Architectural Drawings

How to Add People in Your Architectural Drawings

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Adding people to your architectural drawings at any stage can be a great way to communicate how the spaces in your building will interact with the occupants. They show how the building will be used and it’s target audience. The design of these people can be as minimal as a simple line drawing all the way to a fully-fledged character.

Usually this is the last thing you would think of during any project. But it's better to get the smaller tasks out of the way first so that you can focus on creating drawings and images nearer to your deadline.

  1. Hand Drawn
  2. Vector People
  3. Photographs
  4. Custom

They should synchronise with the style of drawing and yet notoverpower it completely. After all, you want people to focus on your drawings insteadof being distracted by static or odd-looking people. We’re going to show youfour ways you can add people to your drawings. This includes plans, sections,elevations and final illustrations or renders. We will even show you some greatand not so great examples.

You don’t need to spend a great deal of time creating peopleto fit inside your drawings. During a deadline, this is probably the last thingyou will think about (as well as annotation) and there isn’t a need to getstressed over it. If your project focuses deeply on the relationship of peopleand the building you are creating, you could take some time beforehand and createa resource or library of such people that can be fit in to any of yourdrawings.

These techniques are great for any level whether you’re anarchitecture student, graduate or an architect. It’s always good to learn newtechniques that can enhance your drawings and design.

Hand Drawn

If your style of drawing is more focused towards the art of creating amazing scenes by hand, or even if you want to express an area through simple sketching, then hand-drawn people are perfectly fine. As we said, these can be as minimal as you want, just make sure they don’t look out of place or too simple in the sense that you didn’t try so hard.

Going for a ‘sketch’ style can be great to add some life tosimple, clean spaces so you can experiment with the actions of the people, forexample. Have a look at some of the kinds of people that are used in drawingsor renders by firms and well-known architects. Some even have a signature stylewhich they implement in most of their drawings. This doesn’t even need to besomething overly complicated. We love these people by SANAA.

SANAA Architects

To practice this kind of style, you could draw from life in your sketchbook and look at the way in which people actually move in various settings. If you’re wanting to have a hand-drawn style but keep things digital you can always scan in images of multiple people and edit them on Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator.

Tip: Use the Image Trace function in Illustrator and make sure Ignore White is checked so that you can create a person that has no background, making it easy to place on top of coloured illustrations. Then you can save each one as a .png and create a library of resources.

To learn how to use the Image Trace function, check out our article '10 Essential Tools to Master in Adobe Illustrator'

Alternatively, you could even create digital people in Adobe Photoshop with a textured brush pack if you have access to a graphics tablet or in Adobe Illustrator if you just want a cleaner outline silhouette. Don’t forget to scale the people accordingly so that it’s ready to go when the deadline is near.

You can figure this out by figuring out the scale that you use the most i.e. 1:100 and convert roughly 170cm. This means each 'person' will need to be about 1.7cm tall.

We’ve linked our Pinterest board below, specifically cateredto different styles of people for such drawings. Give it a follow for regularupdates.

Vector People

Stock Images

A very easy way for adding people to drawings are - as we like to call them, ‘vector people’. These can work great in Adobe Illustrator, but we’ll show you that in a bit. If you have final perspectives that are in an illustrative style or if you want to add colour and life to a simple line section then these can be great. Usually, you will find people that are positioned in multiple ways such as a side profile or sitting down so there isn’t much to work on.

Once again, having a resource of these people can make yourlife so much easier and it isn’t hard to customise these as you wish. You canfind such images on Pinterest or free stock websites. If possible, try and findimages that are in a .png format so you don’t have to worry about getting rid ofthe background each time.

We love using Freepik for free, high quality stock images. There is no download limit once you sign in and you can easily create a folder of however many you wish.

Customising Stock Images

To customise stock images, we like using Adobe Illustrator. Since it is a vector program, you can adjust the shape, colour and size without losing any quality. If you have a particular colour scheme, it can be nice to implement those colours into your people to make the drawing seem more cohesive. You can watch the video or read the instructions below.

Start off by downloading a stock vector image of people. We’ve used this one, so if you want to give it a go, try it along with us.

<ahref="">Peoplevector created by -</a>

Click on the Free Download button and save it somewhere on your computer.

download the image from Freepik

Since we only want to use one to begin with we need to crop thepicture. First place the image by going to File > Place and thenclick on Crop in the top toolbar.

place it in Illustrator
Crop to find the one you want to customise

Choose one person depending on what kind of action they aredoing or whichever suits you best. We’ve chosen this one from the second row. Now,we’re going to re-size this so we can see it better. Use the Selection Tool(V) and click and drag the corners to make it bigger. So that you don’tlose the ratio of the image, hold down the Shift key while you arere-sizing.

make the image bigger and image trace

Next, open the Image Trace Panel and don’t stress ifyour image turns black and white, we can now work with the settings so that it becomesa vector you can work with.

edit colours

Click on the Advanced arrow to open up more features.Then in Mode, select Colour. Check the Ignore White checkboxat the bottom and move the Colours slider to about 4 or 5 depending onhow many colours you want in the image.

play around with the options

Next, click on the Expand button in the top toolbar.Now we can edit each shape as well as colours. Let’s alter the face shape sothat there isn’t a white gap in between. We can also get rid of the shadowbelow by selecting it using the Direct Selection Tool (A).

fix any areas

Then, adjust any anomalies that might not look great. Now wecan colour this as we want. Use the Direct Selection Tool (A) to clickon a colour. Then go to Select > Same > Fill Colour. This selectsthat brown colour wherever it is present in the image, so you don’t have to goin and select or change each one.

Then, use the colour palette to select a new colour. Repeatthis for others until you have a theme you want.

change colours

Now we’ve changed the colours to be a bit more minimal. Tosave the file for use later, you can save as a .png to add it directly to otherdrawings or save as a .ai (Illustrator) file to edit in the future. Go to File> Export As for a .png and File > Save As for a .ai file.

save the file

Make sure you select a transparent background for a .png file!

make sure the image has a transparent background

Vector people are a great and easy resource. You could evensearch for ‘isometric vector people’ if you’re doing that kind of an illustrationor for isometric / axonometric drawings.


For renders are more life-like drawings, you may want to useactual people to make your project seem as real as possible and actuallyunderstand how that space would be inhabited. This doesn’t necessarily need tobe a long process. Some people might want to use their own images with people whichis totally fine. You could also use stock images that you find online.

There are essentially two routes you can take. Either useAdobe Photoshop to manually edit photographs and cut out the people you want oruse .png images that are already edited with no background. Depending on thelevel of customisation either one is perfectly fine to use.

To find free stock images you can search on Freepik, or simply type in 'people png.' into Google Images.

Some firms even blur out the images to make it look like there is a moving blur or darken the image so that it turns into a silhouette. Have a look around at what kinds of styles there are and try not to copy it completely but use some of those techniques and apply it to your own drawings.

Usually this type of style is best for rendering as you can work with the lighting and make it look more natural with the addition of actual people. Try not to go overboard as less is more. You can also try scaling the people by figuring out the height and corresponding it with the scale of your drawing.

Custom People

Creating a custom set of people could be the way to go. Wedon’t recommend doing this close to your deadlines so if you do want to createyour own people try do it in whichever spare time you get. The art style ofthis depends completely on your preference. It can be a simple squiggle, adetailed person or a character inspired by your building or your ideal occupant.

We suggest you experiment with whatever your comfortablewith. You don’t need a variety of tools and gadgets and make sure that yourscanner and Adobe programs are ready to go to edit and play with your drawings.

Having a set of custom resources can provide an advantage ifyou’re a student. It shows your tutors and even the examiner that you reallywant to show pride in your creations, drawings and people. If you’re an architect,there may already be a style your firm prefers but there is no harm inexperimenting.

Finally, remember, the people in your drawings aren’t more important than the actual drawing or render or illustration itself. Think of it as an accessory to your work and a tool to help your drawings showcase some life. We would love to see some of your work where you have utilised the styles mentioned or even created your own custom people.

Use the hashtag #toscalearch on Instagram and Twitter and tag us @to.scale. We also want to feature student work and share more techniques and styles.

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