How to Design Characters of Different Ages

How to express age differences with art? Which aspects of character design may change with age?​ What is the ideal head to body ratio for babies and adults? What are the best facial proportions for different ages?

Designing characters of different ages is a special skill that requires an in-depth understanding of human development. Let’s explore the details of of character design across different ages by going through the visual cues and special attributes that are associated with each stage of life.

character design by age

Which aspects of character design may change with age?

Body Proportions

Proportions play a crucial role in character design. They set the stage for the entire look. As people grow up, their bodies change and show different proportions.

Head to Body Ratio

During infancy and early childhood, it’s typical for babies and toddlers to have relatively large heads compared to their bodies. “Heads” is a common method used in character design to measure proportions. In this method, the height of a character is divided into equal sections, with each section corresponding to the height of the character’s head. Typically, an adult human character is around 7 to 8 heads tall, meaning their total height can fit approximately seven to eight head lengths. In the early stages of life, infants and toddlers often measure around 3 to 4 heads in height. This means their total height can fit approximately three to four head lengths.
head to body ration for different ages

As children grow older, their proportions begin to change. Around the age of 5 or 6, they might measure around 5 to 6 heads in height. 

The proportions of teenage characters are typically close to those of adults. The height of a teenage character is likely to be around 6 to 7 head lengths.

As people age into their senior years, they may experience changes in posture, bone density, and muscle mass, which can affect their overall proportions. Because of factors such as spinal compression and bone density loss, seniors may appear slightly shorter than regular grown ups. Their height may measure around 6 to 7 heads tall, similar to teenagers’.

Hands to Body Ratio

Understanding how hands match up with the body in different ages may contribute to the overall realism and believability of the designed characters. From being a baby to getting older, your hands change in size and shape as you grow.
In adults, the hand is usually the same size as the face. (when measuring from chin to hairline). In babies, the hands reach the brow line. In teens, the hand usually reaches the middle forehead. 
hand to head ratio for different ages

Feet to Body Ratio

Just like hands, feet size can also be related to head size. 
In adults, the feet size is usually the same size as the entire head. (not just the face, which is the size of the hand).
torso to legs ratio in character design

Torso to Legs Ratio

A very helpful ration to aware of is the how the length of the legs is connected to overall character height. Typically, the length of the legs will be equal to the other half of the body. 
The length of the torso compared with the length of the legs can also vary across different ages. For example, children often have shorter torsos and longer legs compared to adults, while seniors may have shorter legs relative to their torsos because of age-related changes in bone structure and posture.

Facial Features

Face Shape

In babies and toddlers, the face shape is typically round and chubby and it gets longer and less round as we age. The cheeks are usually very round and the jawline is not well defined at a young age . 
face shape transformation with age
The roundness of the cheeks may decrease as we age and the jaw line becomes well defined. The shape of adult faces can vary, with some being oval, round, square, or heart-shaped, influenced by factors like genetics and ethnicity.

Facial Proportions

In young kids the all facial elements are smaller. All of them are placed in the lower face area and are closer to each other. As we grow, the facial element grow as well and the distances between them also become bigger.
ideal face proportions for adult vs baby face


Babies and toddlers often have larger eyes that are positioned lower on their face. As we get older, the eyes become smaller in proportion to the rest of their face and may gradually shift upward.

Eyebrows and Forehead:

As people age, both the position and fullness of their eyebrows can undergo changes. Children often have thinner and more arched eyebrows, while adults tend to have thicker and straighter brows.
Kids’ foreheads are typically small and rounded, with soft features and clean of any lines. As children grow, their foreheads may elongate slightly, maintaining a smooth appearance with defined hairlines. 
In seniors, the forehead often undergoes noticeable changes because of aging. One significant change is the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines, which show up more on the forehead.
Those form because of repeated facial expressions and decreased skin elasticity.


In children, the nose may appear smaller and more upturned, while in adults, it tends to be larger and more prominent. Additionally, the bridge of the nose may become more defined with age, and the nostrils may appear larger or more elongated.


In children, the mouth may appear smaller and rounder, with less defined lips. As individuals age, the lips tend to become fuller and more defined, with the upper lip often becoming thinner compared to the lower lip. Additionally, wrinkles and lines may develop around the mouth area in older individuals

Clothing and Style

The choice of clothing style can significantly affect how characters are perceived across different ages. 
Baby characters will usually wear cute and practical designs. Such as onesies, rompers, and soft fabrics. Children’s clothing styles may evolve to include a wider range of options, from casual and sporty attire to more formal wear for special occasions. Teenage characters may embrace current fashion trends, experimenting with edgier styles, streetwear, or vintage looks to express their individuality and sense of identity. Professional or classic, timeless pieces may be a good choice for adults. Comfortable and functional clothing may be the right choice for senior characters.
Besides making age appropriate dressing decisions, it is important to consider the personality, lifestyle, and cultural background of the characters.
cloth style for different ages

Hair Style and Hair Color

Hair style plays a significant role in character design, reflecting age-specific traits and personality. Babies and young children often feature simple styles with soft, wispy strands and charming accessories like bows. As they grow, hairstyles become more diverse, with options like ponytails, braids, or shortcuts for both boys and girls. Hair accessories such as bows, clips, or headbands add a charming touch to their appearance. Teenager characters can have trendy cuts and colors. Adult characters will often have refined styles suited to their profession or lifestyle. Shorter cuts are common for both men and women in senior characters. 

Technology and Gadgets

Technology gadgets can reflect both the character’s age and the time period in which they exist.  Babies can have plush bears and baby monitors next to them. Children of modern ages can play tablets, gaming devices, or educational toys. Teenagers may use tablets, mobile phones and also the latest trends in technology, such as wearable devices or virtual reality headsets.


From the innocence of childhood to the wisdom of old age, each age presents its own set of challenges and joys in character design. Understanding the nuances and the visual hints that define each age can help create more appealing characters
While ideal proportions can serve as a helpful guide for depicting age differences, it’s essential to recognize that each design style may influence these ratios differently. Ideal proportions provide a good foundation, however, a more stylized or exaggerated design style may affect those proportions.
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