ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Figure Drawing Basics

Updated on July 3, 2016

No task or subject seems more intimidating and difficult to most of us than attempting to draw the live human figure. Do you start from the head and go down, or start in the middle and work out from there? Having drawn for a few years now, I realize there is no one perfect approach that works best.

A new artist would be wise to try several different approaches before settling on one that is best for them. In the beginning it is also important to stay flexible and not get caught up in the details of the figure.

Light Sketches First

It is suggested that the first sketches from life are done in a very light and loose scribbling manner capturing the gesture of the figure. The artist can then adjust and correct earlier lines to look more proportional.

It is also very helpful to mark the top, middle and bottom of the figure on your paper to make sure the drawing fits well on the drawing surface. Without focusing on one particular part of the body, the artist can then zero in on the details.

Mark Your Paper

Make a mark on your paper where the middle of the figure is. By doing this, if the top section of your figure begins to grow larger when you start putting in the details, you' will notice, and be able to correct it before the figure is top or bottom heavy. It is good to have a vertical line thru the center of your figure so that you can compare both sides. This way, if the model shifts slightly, this line acts as a reference point.

It is also wise to be aware of where the quarter points typically fall on the figure. When standing, these points usually fall at the nipples, crotch and at the knees. Of course, these points vary for each individual, but at least you have a reference point.

Observe the Negative Spaces

When looking at the model, be aware of the empty negative spaces that surround the figure. They also form shapes. In our art class, one session was spent just filling in the negative spaces on the outside of the figure with chalk. This helps you increase your span of vision and train your eyes to see the whole scene, rather than concentrating only on the subject.

Geometic Shapes

Next, look for the basic, cylindrical structures that form the arm, leg and neck, the spherical shape of the head, and the barrel shape of the chest. Make sure you distinguish between the more angular, squared-off shape of the male pelvis as compared to the curving lines of the female figure.

Try to make connections between body parts. Draw in the shape of the limbs such as the bulging front of the thigh and the muscles at the back of the calf forming a long ā€œsā€.

Give It Personality

After you have determined that the shapes and proportions are acceptable, it is time to give your drawing some personality. This is done with action lines that follow the movement in the figure. This could be an entire sweeping line depending on which way the model is standing. Or, it could be movement lines from one limb to another.

Step Back and Take A Look

It is good to take a break, and in a few minutes come back and look at your drawing with a fresh eye. You can then notice what seems a little off and then make your corrections. An opinion from another person can help, if you accept the criticism and learn from it. It is best to ask someone who is a seasoned artist, and they will usually give you suggestions that you can use to improve your drawing.


Practice, practice and more practice. Draw wherever you go. Look at people from different angles and try to capture the gesture and personality after first setting in the foundation. By trusting your knowledge and estimating proportions first, you won't become overly dependent upon the visual crutches.

Although figure drawing can be intimidating, by keeping it loose when you begin, making reference lines and practicing often, you can improve to the point where it comes naturally.


Submit a Comment

  • stars439 profile image


    8 years ago from Louisiana, The Magnolia and Pelican State.

    Very good information. I enjoy drawing. GBY

  • elayne001 profile imageAUTHOR


    9 years ago from Rocky Mountains

    Thanks Liana! You never know until you try. I'm not that great, but could get better too.

  • profile image


    9 years ago

    I have seen some of your artwork and know your talent. Thanks for sharing some tips. Someday, maybe I'll give it a go :)

  • elayne001 profile imageAUTHOR


    9 years ago from Rocky Mountains

    Thank you for your comments TrudyVan and breakfastpop. I too was intimidated at first, but you just have to keep trying and practice often so you feel comfortable with it. It may not look like the masters, but will improve with time. Express yourself!!

  • breakfastpop profile image


    9 years ago

    Great hub. I buy book after book about drawing and find I get intimidated. I'm willing to give it another try. I have painted abstracts using acrylics and I loved the experience. I am going to hold on to your hub, for reference and inspiration. Thanks!

  • TrudyVan profile image

    TrudyVan Curre 

    9 years ago from South Africa

    Hello there, I might give it another try. Bookmarked your hub to check it out again later. great advice ty


This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

Show Details
HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)