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Figure Drawing Tutorials

Updated on November 28, 2011

Drawing the Human Body - The One Thing You Need To Know

In order to draw the human figure well, you need to have a good knowledge of human anatomy. Yet many artists today still hang on to the myth that good figure drawing does not involve studying anatomy. Perhaps the reason so many artists feel this way is because they never saw first hand what a big difference a little anatomical detail can make to their sketches.

In this article, I'd like to give you some quick but important points about the human body and how they pertains to your figure drawing.

Of all the aspects of human anatomy, the muscles will undoubtedly have the most impact on how your drawings look, as it is at the very surface. One thing to remember about muscles is that they always pull; every movement that you make is the direct result of one or more muscles contracting and pulling on your bones. What this means is that when the figure you are drawing is engaged in dynamic action, you must pay attention to the muscles involved and depict them accordingly.

For example, if you are drawing a boxer who is throwing a right hook, you must ask yourself, "Which muscles are pulling in order to make this action possible?" Then you would draw those muscles as flexing. In this case, the flexing muscles would be the pectoralis major, the deltoid, and the biceps, to name a few. In most cases, a particular movement will involve multiple muscle groups and the more muscles you can depict, the more convincing your drawings will be. Without this, your drawings will look static and lifeless.

Your ability to recognize and draw these muscles will improve as your knowledge of anatomy increases. As a beginner, you might only be able to draw big muscles like the bicep or shoulder, but as you progress in your study of anatomy, you'll be able to add in finer details like the supinator longus and the anconeus. This will give your drawing an extra dimension of realism.

Just a light knowledge of anatomy can do wonders for your drawing. For example, there are many muscles in the neck but there is one particular muscle that artists should pay attention to. It is the sternocleidomastoid. It connects behind the ear and attaches to the collar bone. This muscle is very prominent and can be seen on almost everyone. Simply by adding this one muscle to your drawings of the neck, you can instantly make it ten times more realistic. This should show you how useful human anatomy is to the figure drawing artist.

To get tons more FREE tutorials on figure drawing and other types of drawing, just about figure visit my website at

Simple Sketching Exercise To Free The Artist Within You

One of the biggest problem that's holding a lot of artists back is the tendency to over think a drawing project. I'm sure you've been there before. You stare at a picture forever not knowing where to begin and when you do finally start drawing, you agonize over every single stroke and curve. Erasing and re-drawing, erasing and re-drawing. The whole process becomes quite frustrating and your final art work is never as good as you'd like it to be.

This is the artistic equivalent of writer's block and the reason you (and so many other artists) suffer from it is simple: you are trying to draw AND edit yourself at the same time. Here's why this is such a bad idea: in order to draw you must engage the creative side of your brain but when you edit and critic yourself, you are engaging the analytical side of your brain. The two cannot both function at the same time. It is the equivalent of you trying to walk forward and backward simultaneously; the result is paralysis and you end up going no where.

Ok, so how do you break this all too common habit? One simple, yet devastatingly effective exercise is the "60-second sketch". The way it work is you pick out a picture of a figure that you want to draw and then draw it in 60 seconds. After 60 seconds, you HAVE to stop. Now obviously you're not going to be able to draw a very complete figure in 60 seconds, but that's the point. This exercise forces you to let go of any self-editing tendency and allow your creativity and energy to flow through. You stop obsessing about the details and begin to see the figure as a whole. This, by the way, is the key to adding life and emotion to your drawings. Do this exercise at least one time a day and you'll be well ahead of 95% of artist out there. (There's no excuse not only takes 60 seconds!)

Here are some key points to remember when doing this exercise:

-Always keep your hands moving. If you slow down, you are only giving yourself a chance to slip back into an analytical frame of mind. (I like to act like I just drank a gallon of Red Bull and that my hand is possessed by some artistic demon)

-Make long broad strokes. This means you should be drawing not with just your wrist, but also your arm. It also helps to practice on a large piece of paper so that you have more freedom to move around.

-Warm up by doodling or drawing long vertical and horizontal lines across a piece of scratch paper. As simple as this sounds, it will wake up your hand and make the exercise much easier and enjoyable.

Now just because you are engaging your creative brain, does not mean that the analytical side is not important. That's not what I'm saying at all! You just shouldn't be trying to hone both skills at the same time. But true greatness can only come when you have both creativity and a solid technical knowledge of your craft. In fact, by strengthening your knowledge of anatomy and the human body, you'll find that you'll be able to product these 60-second sketches effortlessly and that they will come out much more detailed and realistic.

To get tons more FREE tutorials on figure drawing and other types of drawing, just about figure visit my website at

Drawing Hands – 5 Critical Things To Keep In Mind

For many artists (myself included) drawing hands can be the most challenging aspect of figure drawing. The hand is an extremely complex area and drawing it is a subject of study all by itself. There are many great books devoted to this topic and I highly recommend that you explore them.

I’ve gathered what I have learned over the years, and narrowed it down to 5 Critical tips to keep in mind to produce a more realistic hand. The items in this list are actually quite simple (and they were meant to be) but many beginners still miss them. If you just keep these details in mind while you work, your sketches will show immediate improvement.

Here we go:

1) Hands are NOT made up of straight lines…fingers are NOT parallel to each other, knuckles DON’T line up in a row, and the edges of the hand are NOT straight and parallel. Instead the finger tips and the knuckles form an arch across the hand. Also the figures bend slightly toward the space between the Middle Finger and the Ring Finger. This subtle detail will add life to your drawing.

2) The palm of the hand consists of 3 meaty parts: 1) One is at the base of the thumb, 2) the other lies at the base of the pinky. 3) And the third takes the shape of a row and sits just underneath the knuckle

3) The skin web between the fingers should be a “U” shape instead of a “V” shape or a flat line.

4) Even when the hand is relaxed, the fingers are never in a straight line, they always curve slightly towards the palm no matter how gravity is pulling on them. This is how the hand naturally behaves; be sure to capture this in your drawings.

5) When drawing the back side of the hand, always remember to include these 3 things:

  • the knuckles
  • the veins
  • the wrinkles at the joints of the finger

I’ve done my best in this article to outline in words the things that you should pay attention to when drawing hands. But the truth is, drawing hands (or anything for that matter) is a visual exercise. You have to see examples after examples in order for this to really sink in. After all, a picture is worth a thousand words.

To get tons more FREE tutorials on figure drawing and other types of drawing, just about figure visit my website at

How To Draw People Faces – The 6 Universal Expressions

When it comes to how to draw people faces, emotions are what breath life to the faces that we draw. Without them, our drawings would be dead and flat. In order to portray emotions convincingly, we must be familiar with the facial expressions that comprise them.

For decades, the expressions of human emotion has been the subject of study for psychologist Dr. Paul Ekman. Dr. Ekman has discovered that there are six universal emotions that are common to all humans, regardless of race, gender, or culture. Furthermore, he has spent years decoding these emotions and breaking down their expressions into a series of muscle movements. He reported his findings in his book: Unmasking the Face.

This information is tremendously useful for the artist and in my attempt to learn how to draw people faces, I’ve sought out Dr. Ekman’s books. In this article, I’d like to share with you the six universal expressions and the traits that distinguish them. You can use this knowledge to learn how to draw people faces.

Emotions are typically conveyed through 2 or 3 facial areas such as the eyebrows, eyes, nose, or mouth. When drawing, you can control the intensity of the emotion shown by the number of facial areas that are involved. In general, the more areas involved, the more intense the emotion. For example, if you wanted to show mild anger, you might only express it in the eyebrows while leaving the rest of the face neutral. You can also blend multiple emotions by mixing the expressions. For example, you can blend anger with sadness by combining the angry brow with the frowning mouth. Certain emotions blend more naturally with others, so keep this in mind.

Surprise: The eyebrows are raised, the eyes are opened wide, and the jaw drops open, parting the lips. The lifting of the eyebrows produces long horizontal wrinkles across the forehead. The important thing to remember about surprise is that the face is not tense; the upper and lower eyelids are relaxed and the mouth just hangs open without any tension. This will be important in distinguishing surprise from fear.

Fear: Similar to surprise, the brows are also lifted in fear. However unlike surprise, with fear, the inner corners of the brows are drawn together. This gives a more straightened appearance to the outer corners of the eyebrows. In the fear brow there are usually horizontal wrinkles across the forehead, yet they are shorter than the ones shown in surprise. Instead, they are more concentrated in the middle.

Although both fear and surprise have widened eyes and opened mouths, the difference between the two comes down to tension. In fear, the lower eyelids are tensed and raised. While the mouth has tense lips and the corners are drawn back and down.

Disgust: The most important features of disgust are in the mouth and nose. Regarding the mouth, the upper lip is raised, while the lower lip may be raised or lowered. The nose is wrinkled causing lines to appear on the sides and bridge of the nose. The more intense the disgust, the more these wrinkles will be apparent.

Anger: In anger, the eyebrows are drawn down and together. This is not to be confused with fear, where the brow are drawn together and up. The best way to depict this is to add vertical wrinkles between the eyebrows. Without these wrinkles, the expression just won’t look right. The eyes will also widen with the lower lid tensing. When this is combined with the lowering brows, it cause the eyes to look as if they are bulging. The nostril will flare. The mouth can either be pressed shut or opened with the teeth showing. In both cases, the lips will be tense.

Joy: Joy is expressed though a smile or a laugh. The corners of the mouth are drawn back and up. This pushes the cheeks up and causes the eyes to appear smaller. One very important feature of the smile is that there will be wrinkles at the corners of the eyes, also known as “crow’s feet”. The absent of these wrinkles are usually a very reliable sign that the smile is not genuine.

Sadness: The inner corners of the eyebrows are raised and may be drawn together. The inner corner of the upper eyelid is drawn up, and the lower eyelid may appear raised. The corners of the lips are drawn down, or the lips appear to tremble.

If you combine your understanding of these 6 emotional expressions with a good knowledge of the facial muscles that lies underneath, you will go very far in mastering human facial drawings and how to draw people faces.

To get tons more FREE tutorials on figure drawing and other types of drawing, just about figure visit my website at


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    • profile image

      Vienta Quentin 6 years ago

      I love how you made it easy to understand even for people who need visual cues!


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