Posted by: Tendra | March 14, 2009

Drawing Arnold’s Head: Basic Proportions (Front View)



At first, when I skimmed the art of Hey Arnold!, I thought the characters would be pretty easy to draw.  So, as my first attempt, I decided to draw Arnold’s head without sketching and using any references for proportions.  I thought, “Okay, football shaped head, bushy hair, circles for eyes and ears, a semicircle for a nose, and your average baseball cap.  Shouldn’t be that hard, right?”.  When I drew Arnold, I ended up with this:


I got so discouraged that I avoided drawing Arnold for a week!  (Haha… my pen betrayed me… right, that’s it…)  So after that, I began to study Arnold’s facial proportions from 5th season episodes, to help me draw him better.  I ended up with these observations:

(By the way, these basic proportions best apply to a full front view.  They will change with the angles of Arnold’s head.)

The Shape of Arnold’s Head

  • The shape of Arnold’s head isn’t really football-shaped.  It’s more like a semicircle.


  • But, the bottom of his head is slightly curved.


  • His head has a height:width proportion of roughly 1:3.


Arnold’s Hair

  • His hair extends to a length that is about the height of his head.


Arnold’s Nose

  • His nose touches the vertical midline along his face.


  • The height of his nose is approximately 1/3 the height of his head


  • In addition to that, the width of his nose is approximately 1/8 the width of his head.


Arnold’s Eyes

  • The bottom of his eyes are touching the horizontal midline along his face.


  • About 5 eye lengths can fit along the bottom of his head.


  • The height of his eyes is about 1/2 the height of his face.


So, I hope these proportions will help you when you are drawing Arnold in 5th season style!  In case you were wondering, here’s a picture of one of my “after” attempts at drawing Arnold using these proportions:

Where's my dollar?

(The reference picture was a screenshot from the episode “Helga’s locket”.  I’m rather pleased with this drawing.  😀 )

If you have any other drawing tips for Arnold, I’d love to hear them!



  1. Oh, thank you! I was seeking for something like that! Even though I still don’t know how to draw his ears, mouth, hair… And most important, I have no idea how to make Arnold express some particular emotion.

    One little note: it is not “Craig Bartlett’s style”. The Craig Bartlett’s style is what we saw in “Helga’s Little Pink Book” and “Downtown as Fruits”, while Arnold and Helga from the late seasons look different from the original idea. They became more “handsome”.

  2. Hellerick’s right, they look better looking in later seasons (3, 4, and 5th seasons).

    Tendra, next week could you please post how to draw Helga? Both Helga frowning, and Helga like happy. 🙂
    You did an excellent job on drawing Arnold!!! OMFG!!! Honestly, you’re really good, better than I could ever do, DRAW MORE (please?)!!!!! 😀

    Tendra, I love this pics of A/H as adults from Married:

    and here:


  3. Also, here’s a few sketches of Helga I found on deviantart, that may help you learn how to draw Helga, with her different expressions:


    • The images aren’t showing up for me. 😦

  4. This is amazing. It looks just like him. Even your original version is very good.
    I think all of the HA! fan artists, fanfic writers, and fanvid producers should collaborate together to make some kind of mega fan video comic of the jungle movie. There’s too much interest and talent out there to let TJM go to waste.

  5. The picture of adult Arnold and Helga is really cool… But freaks out me a little to see little versions of Arnold and Helga holding their legs. I mean, Arnold and Helga — brother and sister?

    That reminds me one thing I’m curious about. It’s sibling relationships as they are shown in Hey Arnold!:

    – Helga hates her sister Olga
    – Gerald is bullied by his brother Jamie O, and annoyed by his sister Timberly
    – The twins Phil and Gertie hate can’t stand each other.
    – Arnold does not have a sibling (I guess… who knows what Miles and Stella were doing in San Lorenzo?), but his cousin Arnie is one of the few people he dislikes.
    – Cynthia Snell (the Ghost Bride) has KILLED her sister.

    Why the authors of this “optimistic” show are so fixed on the idea of sibling hatred?

    BTW, the picture I’m really interested in is the one of Helga when can see behind the “after” picture of Arnold.

    • Married twins? That would have been an interesting thing to explain on a cartoon.

      Actually, the twins are Phil and MITZI (from episode “Grandpa’s Sister”).

      Phil and GERTIE are Arnold’s grandparents.

      • Oh, mi culpa! Thanks for correction.

        Phil&Gertie would be a MAJOR exception to the siblings-hate-each-other rule 🙂

  6. Arnold’s eyes usually are ellipses, slightly horizontally stretched. They are smooth circles only when he’s scared, surprised etc.

    In the original Craig Bartlett’s drawings Arnold’s eyes always are circles (and the bottom line of the head is as curly as the upper one).

  7. Love the tutorial, Tendra! You really nailed how to draw Arnold. :3

    I don’t actually have any tips, besides just keep practicing until you like how he looks, but I also don’t really draw in the HA-style either. XD

  8. Hi guys! Thanks for the awesome responses. Makes me happy to see that some people like it. 😀

    Hellerick and Justine, you guys are right. I’m giving a tutorial of how to draw Arnold in 5th season style, not Craig Bartlett’s. I looked up the most recent drawing of Arnold done by Craig at, and yeah, it is very similar to the Arnold we see in the first and second season. Thanks for pointing that out! That will be fixed.

    Justine, I’ll see what I can whip up for some basic tips on how to draw Helga. She’s a bit sneaky to draw…

    Funnybones: It would be a dream come true if we could get some sort of HA! video/comic project going on. -starts daydreaming-

    Hellerick: Haha, yeah there are lots of sibling rivalries in HA! But there are also lots of love-hate relationships too, so it somewhat balances out. XD (Not sure if you could apply the love part of the love-hate relationship between the Ghost Bride and her sister though… XD)

    Finally, yeah, Squirreltamer has a very good point. Practice practice practice practice… super important.

    Thanks for the comments!

    – Tendra

    • Hey, maybe we should try it. I bet there would be plenty of people interested. What have we got to lose? I could even make a video explaining the idea and asking people to participate. What do you think?

    • That … would be a rad idea. 😀

      However, I’d say it would be best for us to throughly plan it out before making any huge announcements. When half-baked ideas (for a project that big) are put into action, they don’t turn out as good as they could’ve been. If we start planning some things out now, we could probably whip up something really good just in time for Hey Arnold!’s next anniversary (October 7th, I believe? That gives us almost 7 months to work on it). It doesn’t even have to be about TJM. It could even be about, I dunno, say fanmade 6th season episodes in comic-form taking place in between HA! The Movie and TJM? That way, we could hopefully (re)gather larger support for HA! (i.e. increase the fan-base) so that we could (hopefully and sucessfully) ask Nickelodeon to produce the “official TJM”, in book, comic, movie-form, or whatever. We’d still get more HA!, but without potentially spoiling TJM. I mean, fan-made TJM is nice and all, but I have to agree with many others when I say it just wouldn’t be the same as the “real thing”.

      If anyone is really interested in helping to whip up a project just in time for Oct 7, I can set up a private thread on this site where we can talk about it. Any feedback?

      – Tendra

      • Very good point about planning it out. Really, I was thinking it would take over a year to complete, but if we were to just do one 6th season episode (rather than making a feature length film) I’m sure it wouldn’t take more than 7 months. If it turns out well we could give it to Craig B. as an anniversary gift lol.

  9. I actually drew Arnold’s head (based on the Wendy’s kid’s meal toy) for an assignment in my Drawing 1 class last semester.


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