Most of anatomy books for comic artists will explain a technique of drawing a body by sketching it as an assembly of balls and tubes, and then carving a more detailed body out of it Ė from ďHow to draw superheroes Marvel styleĒ book to the most of online tutorials, explain this technique and Iím in no doubt that a lot of good artists use it successfully.|
However, I never managed to use it good. Instead, Iíve learned a technique based on drawing a somewhat simplified skeleton and then covering it with muscles. In this tutorial, I will explain how I draw a human body.
Important note: For everything I say in this tutorial, especially later when I deal with joints and muscles, itís good to observe your own body to see how those work. Itís also a good way to see what the limits of movements are, so that you donít draw bodies in impossible positions.
First, a word about proportions.
You all know that the length of a human body is seven times length of a human head (six for children).
In comics, itís standard to exaggerate this measure Ė usually, head will be more or less larger, but sometimes (will buffed superheroes) head might even be smaller than it is in nature.
Width of shoulders is approximately three widths of a head. Width of womenís shoulders is smaller. Widths of shoulders and hips stand in opposition on men and women: menís shoulders are wider than hips, while womenís hips are wider than shoulders.
Usual measures for body parts that I take: Torso length from neck to waist is approximately two and a half lengths of the head. Pelvis part is approximately ĺ of the headís length. Legs, approximately twice the length of the torso, with upper and lower part of the leg equally long. This is a simple measure that is easy to remember, but Iíll usually draw legs a head shorter, which means each half is two heads long. Still remember, drawing legs too long is much safer than drawing them too short, as they are large part of body length as it is.
Arms, coming from shoulders, reach to the half of the hip, with upper and lower part of the arm equally long.
Donít be too stressed with length of arms and legs in more dynamic poses. There is a certain level of shortening so thereís a greater level of freedom. This is a reason why I consider dynamic poses easier to draw than static ones.
Note that these are not the exact measures. They are very simplified and easy to remember because dimensions of each part are related to dimensions of the part that is connected to them.
Now, skeleton, from neck to feet:
Another reason why I prefer skeleton as a basis is, it connects more naturally to a stick-figure. Stick figure sketch is the best way to work out dynamic poses needed for a scene. One splash page can start with a stick-figure, which can be used as a skeleton for a final drawing.
In a chapter about faces, I explained principle of drawing head as an assembly of a circle and a square. Neck is coming out of the scull diagonally, when you look at profile, youíll see that it is approximately from the point where the jaw-square and scull-circle are crossing (the other point where theyíre crossing is the nose).
Next is the beginning of the spine. Spine looks like a straight line looking from the front, but looking from profile, it is a double curve. It looks like a very stretched-out ďSĒ, with additional curve at the bottom, forming a butt shape.
It is important to practice the shape of the spine, as the back and, in general, the look of the entire figure in profile, is relying on this ďSĒ-like shape.
Next, we have clavicula, or the collar bone, forming a cross with spine, holding shoulders. At first youíre probably gonna try to put it higher than it has to be, in the root of the neck. Remember that shoulders are not straight horizontal, they go lower toward the joining with hand, and that lower end is the level where weíre gonna place clavicula.
Scapula, or the shoulder blade is at the back. Itís visible through the skin so itís very useful to get to know it too.
Pay attention how it moves when arm is lifted. Its image on the back will change accordingly.
Next thing to notice is the ribcage. You can try to sketch itís shape in order to help you draw the breast area, but I find it confusing. Mainly, because for the lower and middle part, body follows the shape of the ribcage, but in top half, shoulders are giving the main shape.
Below, we have a stomach. As you know, thereís no skeleton except the spine there, and the main shape is given by the stomach muscles. Below the stomach is pelvis with itís particular shape.
Itís interesting to see how tail bone (the end of the spine) curves and helps shape the butt. Another important thing is the front tip of the pelvis thatís sometimes visible through skin. And, at last, the way legs are attached to the bone Ė but weíll talk about legs later. For now, letís go back to arms.
Shoulder joint is ball-shaped.
I wonít go into details very much, the basic principle is enough.
What you gotta know is that arm can rotate in shoulder as far as muscles allow.
Arm can also be vertically lifted up to some extent. This movement is important because of peculiar shoulder shape in this position.
The shape of humerus: It is slightly ďsĒ-shaped, but for our needs, straight is good enough approximation. Though it begins with a ball-shaped joint, on the other end it gets wider and flatter.
And that is where it joins the elbow.
Elbow is a joint similar to door-hinge. This means that it can move back and forth, but it is still mobile enough because shoulder joint regulates direction of that back-forth to some extent.
But elbow joint actually has another slight, but important movement: the one that causes rotation of the wrist (and the one that helps us use door key at all). The trick is, elbow is made out of two parallel bones, and to the extent to which they cross each other, the wrist and the hand is rotated.
Observe the arm in its natural position, with all muscles relaxed. In relation to the axis of the body, flat part of humerus is slightly aslant.
Thus, when muscles are relaxed and two elbow bones are parallel, palm is also slightly aslant to the body.
This changes with muscles moving:
This is important to notice because elbow bones are visible under the skin and muscles, especially on a thinner hand.
Now, you all are probably impatiently waiting for a hands part, but alas. Iím not an expert on hands drawing either. I will explain basics but it seems to be that drawing hands is more relying on your personal feel and the set of rules doesnít usually help them looking good.
Most of the palm is made out of indistinguishable assembly of small bones. From this assembly, five thin bones are reaching, each for one finger. Each finger consists out four bones, except for the thumb.
Now, about fingers (except for the thumb):
This is approximately the shape of each finger bone:
Note that they are larger toward the joints and thinner in the middle. This has a part in final shape of the finger, as fingers are slightly thicker in joints. However, not much, so donít overdo it.
First finger bone is the longest. Second one is approximately 2/3 of the first, third one equally long as the second one, and the last, fourth one is really short and actually different Ė arrow-shaped on the side where there is no joint.
An important thing that you probably already know is that the middle finger is slightly longer that the two fingers around it. Those two are approximately the same length (though it depends from case to case). Little finger is much shorter than the rest.
Similar rules go for the thumb, with having in mind that thumb is turned toward the palm, so that, while weíre looking at the other fingers from the front, weíre seeing thumb almost from the profile. And, of course, it has only three bones.
Thumb reaches to the half of the first bone of the index finger.
Now, this is important: I said that fingers are formed out of four bones, but, in fact, first bone, the longest, is a part of the palm Ė itís covered by palm muscles and skin of each finger is not separated. In fact, the largest part of the palm is formed by longest finger bones, plus the according thumb bone forming the side of the palm.
The thing is that in the spot where first finger bone is joined with the palm-bone assembly, there is no movable joint. First movable joint is the one between the first and the second finger bone, and this is where the actual, distinguished finger begins.
Knowing that palm is formed by those five bones is gonna help you shape it, specially the top side where those bones are visible.
I owe one more thing to say about the construction hands: the joint where hand is connected to the arm is also hinge-like. Back and forward, and other movement is due to rotation of the wrist, which Iíve already explained.
Size of hands is an important issue. General measurement is that palm should be long enough to cover the face of the character (including fingers).
When in doubt, always draw hands bigger, because damage is smaller than drawing them too small. In general, keep from drawing hands too small, because it never looks good Ė in fact, it gives an impression that you canít draw, no matter how good the rest of your anatomy is. Webcomics are full of examples of hands drawn too small, artists will sometimes make it a manner, a ďstyleĒ, but itís always hard to believe that it is not just a cover for poor drawing skills. Also, net is full of examples where hands drawn too big look ok, acceptable, even charming in itís own way. (Note: the same rant about the size goes for feet too: watch and donít make them too small)
I usually get away with hands by simplifying them. However, there are several reasons why you should practice to draw hands at least half-decent (that is, if you donít plan on drawing mitten-hands):
Hands are always needed. They are probably the part of figure that youíre gonna need to draw most often, not counting head and shoulders. Also, youíre gonna have to draw a lot of them: the one and the same pair for each character, without the variousity that face gives. Sometimes, artists tend to avoid drawing hands, be it because they donít draw them good, or because they are lazy. This avoiding can usually be noticed, and it doesnít look good. A well known is an example from ďPreacherĒ (a graphic novel definitely not popular because of a good drawing) where in one scene, several characters are sitting by the table, and each one of them is holding his hands under the table, for no apparent reason. Now, how likely is it?
The other reason is, editors and older artists are usually gonna look at your hands for a quick judge of your anatomy. For some reason, a common thought is that artist who canít draw hands properly, probably canít draw human figure at all. This is not correct, of course, but if youíre planning on going professional, hands are one thing that you have to pay attention to.
Going down the body, we stopped at legs. Now we continue.
Thighbone is the biggest bone of all. It is connected to the pelvis with a ball-shaped joint.
Similar to the shoulder, this joint allows moving back and forth (sitting movement, walking, etc).
But also a movement to the side to some extent (spreading legs).
Thighbone is also slightly ďsĒ-shaped, but weíll pretend itís straight too.
Knee joint is particular in having a knee cap, a small sphere-like bone that is responsible for the shape of the knee in particular positions. When knee is straight, it sticks out, making a lump on it, while when the knee is bended, it fits between two bones, filling the gap that formed.
As with arm, shin is also made of two bones, fibula and tibia. They also allow feet to rotate the same way, but to the smaller extent.
The difference is, one of these bones is much thinner than the other one. The smaller one is not visible under the skin and muscles, while the bigger one forms the front line of the leg.
The way leg joints are attached and their direction are important for the final shape of legs. I, myself, had a lot of problems when drawing legs in a position of the straight standing-up. The thing is, our usual idea is that legs go straight down from the pelvis and vertically toward the foot.
Legs canít be drawn properly this way.
In fact, legs are attached to the pelvis on sides, and going toward the knee, theyíre not horizontal, but slanted so that thighbones are closer to each other in knees, than they are in hips.
Noticably, there is a gap between these two bones, that is filled up with muscles.
But later about that.
Shin bones are more vertical than thighbones, but theyíre still a bit slanted.
Again, feet are to some extent similar to hands. However, all joints, including the one that connects it with the leg, is less moveable. Assembly of small bones is much differently shaped here, as picture shows.
Besides the larger ball-shaped part at the back, distinguishable are two hills, seen from the front, one on each side of the feet. They are actually formed by the lumps at the end of shinbones. Theyíre both visible under the skin.
Connected to the assembly, are five fingers, similarly to the ones on a hand. Except fot the first bone, the one that doesnít ďactuallyĒ belong to fingers, other bones are shorter, which makes toes short.
This is not telling much about the general shape of the foot. Instead of bothering with finger bones, I usually just set the general shape of the feet with a set of curves, as seen on the picture.
Although movements of the foot are limited, itís still important to get them right, together with their limitations, because they play important part in walking, running, standing...
Getting to know skeleton is just one part of knowing anatomy. Now we forward to the next, levels, muscles. This part will include other things that affect the shape, such as nails or edges of some bones. Donít expect much elaborating, especially about muscles that are covered with other muscles. I want to teach you basics.
Also, explaining how shape changes with movement would take too much time and space. Iíll limit to explaining how certain muscles are attaches and from that you can work on specific positions.
General behavior of muscles: To move a limb or any other body part forward, a muscle in direction of the movement contracts and gets thicker and shorter thus, drags a body part in wanted direction). The muscle on the opposite side relaxes, gets longer and thinner. This is clearly visible on examples of biceps and knee-bending, given here:
This is a rule that applies on all muscles, so use it.
Weíll start with a neck again.
Most of muscles are going diagonally from under the scull to the dotted line under the collar bone. Similar goes for the back of the neck. Where, right at the place where neck comes out of the scull, thereís a small valley, visible on a bold head. We got to notice a muscle that goes from the back of the chin diagonally toward the collar bone. This muscle shapes strongly on the surface, specially when the head is turned to the site Ė because then, that is the muscle that is contracted.
Feel this muscle on your own neck to get the impression how strongly itís accented under the skin.
Check out the side view of the neck:
On the back side, surface is close to the spine all along the back, so you can draw it by following the spine line. Then, the back line of the neck can be a good orientation for drawing the front line, having in mind a whole system of tubes that is between this line and spine.
Some people have adamís apple more distinguishable. Some donít have it at all. It depends on a character youíre drawing.
Collar bone is strongly shaping on the surface, making one valley right under the neck and two diagonal lines reaching toward the back of the neck.
Body shape: I will talk about male body shape first, then later continue with female.
On chest, you see muscles that go from the axis of the body, arching toward the armpit. Bottom line of these arches is decisive for the shape of lines on the chest.
Itís common not to draw nipples on males. I donít know why, perhaps it came out of nipple-free policy applied to comics without actual female breasts nudity. However, itís your choice, male chest without nipples doesnít look awkward. (By the way, placement of nipples varies from men to men. But be careful not to place them too high and too close to each other).
Where chest ends, stomach muscles start.
A few ways of drawing stomach muscles on surface:
Note that how strongly these muscles shape on surface, depends on how buffed a character is. Unless he is a bodybuilder, I suggest you donít use the third way. Usually, just a line or few noting the existence of these muscles will be enough.
Some people donít have stomach muscles visible. Those are people out of shape, like me. In those cases, a lower edge of the ribcage will be visible in some positions.
Depending on how much out of shape the person is, top and bottom line of the stomach might be visible.
Usually, itís the best way just to accent these lines with dots or shade, unless a person has a rather big stomach
Belly buttons also vary from man to man, but most of them are slightly vertically stretched. Although some are, in fact, horizontally stretched.
Now letís go back up a bit. At the sides, right under the chest muscles, on the left and right of stomach muscles there are criss-crossing muscles:
These can sometimes be shaping on the surface as well:
Main difference between male and female torso are breasts. Looking from profile, basic shape for breasts is a triangle with 90o angle in a nipple. This triangle might have two equal sizes.
However, this is rarely the case, except for young woman characters with extremely firm and well-shaped breasts. That doesnít stop you from still drawing every woman character with such breasts, but that will damage the feel of reality in your comic.
Usually, the upper side will be longer and it will form an ďsĒ shape instead of arch, as seen on picture.
However, this is also a generalization, but female breasts vary in many possible ways, maybe even more than any other part of the body, excluding the head.
From the front, breasts will usually reach from the armpit and arch toward the axis of the body.
Note that you donít need to draw the entire arch path always, especially if those are smaller breasts.
Look out not to make them too high like this:
Remember that from the armpit they go only lower, thus they canít be in level of armpits or higher. One good orientation can be lines of collar bone right above the breasts Ė theyíll give you the feel of the space you have to leave above breasts.
Another usual flaw is drawing breasts touching each other.
This is possible only if character is wearing a bra, probably even a wonder-bra. Then the line where breasts reach each other might be visible. In other cases, and no matter how large they are, theyíll go to opposite directions, under a rather flat angle:
Now youíre interested in how to draw breasts in half-profile too. I usually handle it with drawing one breast from profile, the other from straight Ė having in mind that itís still a profile and that some adjustments have to be made to fit these two views.
Youíll notice that I didnít teach you to draw huge boobs that lots of female comic characters have. I donít wanna do that. I believe that the only way to build your characters successfully is taking from nature, reality, and that goes for body characteristics often as well. In other words, I believe that drawing huge breasts damages characterization of that character instantly.
There are exceptions, of course, such is Wapsy Square where large breasts are a part of characterization rather than just an eye-candy. Note that in this comic, only a main character has large breasts, while others are moderately-sized. Anatomical differences are a light-motive of this comic.
In geteral, thin women will never have big breasts, unless they're fake. A woman with large breasts is likely to be large in waist, shoulders and legs too.
Now that we elaborated this amusing topic, we move lower:
Female usually wonít have stomach muscles visible, unless theyíre body-builders. Which means, no matter how in-shape a girl is, no matter how sporty type she is, she probably wonít have visible stomach muscles unless she is a professional builder and worked specially on working-out these muscles, among others.
On the other hand, bottom edge of the rib cage shapes more distinctively than on male body.
Sometimes, even a lower line of the stomach will be visible, and not only in out-of-shape cases. It depends a lot on position in which a character is.
Note a shape of waist on previous picture. From the rib-cage, waist narrows down, and then gets wider again in hips area, because female pelvis is, as we said before, larger compared to the entire body than male.
This is a half-profile of the entire area. There are two things to notice: a bottom edge of the rib cage here forms into a distinctive shape under the breasts, later sinking into a stomach, in area where there are no supporting bones. The other thing is stomach slightly sticking-out, which is an often shape of this area.
However, sometimes entire area can be much flatter, like on this picture:
Sometimes, criss-cross muscles can be visible on female chest too.
Backs are much simpler: There is a muscle reaching from shoulders to the body axis, but this muscle is not very distinguishable on the surface (however, you can draw itís edge if you need to fill the area of the back with something.
Itís actually shoulder blade that is shaping on the surface, as I said earlier.
Also, a spine can sometimes be shaping on the back too skinnier people:
Now, take a break and then weíll move to arms.
Did you take a break? You did? Fine. Letís go from shoulders:
Shoulders are tricky. Theyíre mostly straight lines, going in an angle of about 15 o to horizont. At the end, theyíre round and continue in an arm.
It is very important to learn to draw shoulders, not making them too horizontal, or too round and baggy, too high making neck too short etc.
The beginning of the arm is formed by a muscle arching across the shoulder, both on front and back side.
This is visible on surface as an arch over the armpit.
Arm continues with the biceps which is parallel with the bone.
On the surface, this part of the arm is shaped with two arches, although this might not be the case, since with skinnier type of men or with women, this part of the arm can be rather flat, tube-looking.
Arm continues in assembly of mostly parallel muscles that mostly control the fingers.
Itís important to notice the shape of this part of the arm, as itís rather peculiar, ďsĒ-arched on both sides.
Also notice the shape of elbow Ė bones in the joint stick out.
Of course, it a more worked-out arms, muscles will stick out too, but not as heavily.
In the place where arm connects with fist, another bone is sticking out.
Itís interesting that Iíve learned a lot about palm from chiromancy book (telling future from the hand).
There are two major muscles arching from sides of the palm to its root. Then, there is a muscle along the palm, on the side opposite to the thumb, and finally, one diagonal from the thumb to the spot between two fingers in the middle of the palm. Also, thereís a little pillow-like muscle in the root of every finger. All these lines shape more or less distinctively on surface, two major arches being most visible.
Shape of the finger is tricky. You bear in mind that theyíre slightly thicker in joints, but donít overdo it. Finger contours are, in general, almost straight.
Also, donít make fingers too pointy.
You can draw a line or two in every joint of the finger.
This is finger from profile.
Back side is almost flat, while palm side has a pillow muscle that covers every finger bone. Thus, in profile, fingers are thinner in joints than in rest.
Back of the hand has five tendons, each one continuing from the elbow muscles right into the finger. Sometimes theyíre really visible on surface.
Each finger starts with the bone-formed hill on a back side. On every joint, a several lines are formed out of excessive skin. When the joint is bended, these lines are less visible.
Finger ends with a nail, which is shaped like trapeze, with parallel sides replaced with arches. I usually approximate it for half-circle.
Moving on to legs:
Legs are, both in upper and lower part, mage out of assembly of parallel lines.
It is important to notice set of muscles reaching from between legs to the half of the thight.
They form the inner side of the thigh while in the outer side, muscles reach from the corner of the pelvis to the knee in a slow arch.
Notice this, a shape of the thigh is not easy to learn to draw, specially is standing-up or walking positions, but once you know the bone and muscle structure inside it, things get exponentially easier.
Female thigh is different from male in two ways: first, it is larger in hips, getting thinner, until, in knee, it is much thinner than male. Also, it is covered with a layer of fat (no offense, girls) so no muscles are shaping on the surface and all in all, a leg is having straighter curves.
Note one thing on pelvis: two horn-like edges on the front side are usually visible through the skin, specially with skinnier males and females.
On the back side, two strong muscles reach in arch, forming butt cheeks.
This is the same area, seen from the profile.
This is how it looks on surface:
It follows the shape of pelvis and tail bone, but is covered with a thick layer of muscles.
A shape of knee is formed by kneecap, sticking out more or less Ė depends on how much bended the leg is.
At the back side of the knee, there is a valley as a break between muscles of the upper and lower part of the leg.
Unlike the upper part that is arched on both sides, frond edge of the lower part is pretty much straight, as the bone is very near the surface. On the other hand, the back of the leg is covered with a thick muscle that is divided in two parts vertically.
This is how it looks on surface:
The dividing line at the back of the leg might or might not be visible, depending on how strong muscles are there. Skinny males and females usually wonít have it. Also, sometimes a bone shapes at the front edge.
Foot starts with two hills formed by bone corners that I mentioned before.
Bottom of the foot is covered with several pillow-like muscles.
On top of the foot, a several tendons are visible. Just like with the back of the hand.
Toes are much smaller than fingers, thumb is in the same direction as other toes. However, most of rules for fingers can apply to toes too.
Now, a little talk about balance. It is very important that figures you draw have a right balance.
When a person is standing up, naturally, the center of his weight is in the middle of his body, between the areas where his feet touch the ground.
Now, letís say heís leaning on the side, right. His brunt is moving right but itís still between his feet.
At the moment it is not between his feet anymore, the person is falling.
Unless thereís a wall conveniently placed. Wall is additional supporting area.
Letís see it from profile: The case of right balance and the impossible case:
Counterweight Ė the case when person is leaning to one leg, is more often case than if heís reclining to both legs equally. More often, a person is gonna rely to one leg, while resting the other one.
What is important to notice? That in this situation, upper part of body is changing itís balance to counterweight the lower side. Notice that while horizontal axis of hips is slanting to one side, the axis of shoulders is slanting to the other. When youíre drawing a person standing up, itís very likely that itís hips wonít be in save level, the same goes for shoulders.
Here is one peculiar case: although person is leaned forth, itís center is still between parts of the feet that are support to the body.
But letís say that person is lifting a heavy object:
Ballance is upset, person is bound to fall. If a person is relying on one leg (here, an example of walking), center of weight has to be within the area of the foot, otherwise the person is falling.
A person sitting Ė much easier case, butt is the large (size may vary) area of support, besides feet.
With dynamic poses, balance is much more relative. It such poses a figure is frozen between two moments of balance, but in that exact moment, there isnít necessary a balance. For instance, when running, in one moment both legs are in the air, thereís no support on the ground. The other example is a person falling. Of course, in this pose, balance is off because that is actually the reason of fall.
Practice a lot, various positions, the dynamic ones (running, jumping) as well as the stating ones (standing, sitting). Practise or live models, stop-watch movies, do anything you feel like.