Post Reply Anatomy and Proportion tutorial
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30 / M / phoenix, az
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Posted 1/4/09
The key to creating these astetically pleasing characters is that you are stylizing reality.
Sure I can show you how to mimic various anime styles, but you still need to understand WHY it's stylized in those ways.
Anime 'style' is mearly taking reality, and distorting it a bit. But in order to distort reality, you have to first understand reality.
If you skip the basic study of anatomy, form, perspective, and 3-dimentionality, then all you're doing is trying to mimic someone else's lines, and you will never truely be able to create anything original and acurate from your mind, if that's all you know how to do.
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Posted 1/4/09
Anatomy and Proportion
I'm going to set you to a task. A study task. One that you should do over and over again as you continue to draw and learn. It may seem silly to some, but I garuntee that it honestly helps. After years of frustration, of trying over and over to memorize certain shapes, to understand why they were shaped the way they were, and thus be able to draw them whenever I wanted, straight from my mind, I finally did this thing I'm about to recommend, and it made an incredable difference. After I'd done it a few times, it was like a light switch had suddenly been turned on and it just worked.
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Posted 1/4/09

While examining the reference images, try drawing them. Look at where the muscles attach to the bones. Where different muscles overlap other muscles. Just draw what you see, and do it again and again.
At times it may seem like it's just a confusing jumble. Each time you'll find youself refering back to the images. Always having to look at another picture just to try and loosely duplicate some form that you don't even totally understand.
Draw the body from the front, and from the side, and from the back. Duplicate the reference images as loosely or exact as you want.
All that is important is that you do it.
After you've tried the simple orthegraphic views (front, side, etc.) try doing something a little more relaxed. Try drawing out the form in a pose slightly different from that of the reference image, but try to apply those muscles to that original pose. Adapt what you observe to something slightly from your own mind, but never be afraid to refer to the reference images.
Never be afraid to look off a guide. In this early stage it is how you will begin to build a memory of the shapes. Before you even realize it's happened, your mind will have begun to catelog the familiar shapes and forms. It will store the information, and that information, at least in part, will be there to guide you.
The more complex the pose and angle, the far more difficult it becomes to draw the muslces on the form. Don't fret if you just can't seem to do it. You're still very early on, and this is only an exercise is learning. You can get to complicated angles and poses later.
Copying these muscle reference images, and using them to draw muscles on figures of your own builds a mental memory. Shapes and curves that you've drawn multiple times become familiar to you.
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Posted 1/4/09
Pay attention to the angle of the curves you draw. There are two types of curves, Concave, and Convex. The true key to drawing a contour is learning to combine the concave and convex curves together in a pleasing manor.
Convex lines provide the illustion of bulk, whiile concave lines make something feel as if it's sinking in itself. Of course, these are only lines. There is no real bulk there. The way you draw the lines, and the combination of their shapes creates the illusion that there is something with depth and mass where there is only flat paper or a flat computer screen.
Concave curves can be a tool, but if used improperly, they can distroy the illustion of depth and make a form look flat and lifeless.

Takes the knees for example:
in the example of the top big pic, the knee is only suggested by a concave curve on each side. There is no depth to these lines. No feeling of mass or bulk. That illusion is lost through use of these lines. In the left-hand example, overlapping forms is used to create an additonal illusion of depth. The impression that the knee comes out further towards you than the back of the calf muscles do.
However the use of convex lines here must be subtle and combined with the concave curves directly above them.
If you examine the larger, full image, you'll see that while the upper-leg is convex, and the knee itself is also convex, a small concave curve attaches them together. If the two convex curves came together at a hard edge, it would look unrealistic. It wouldn't feel right.
It's learning to combine these subtle curves together to form the most pleasing contours that will help you to better create an acurate and real feeling to your illustrations.
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30 / M / phoenix, az
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Posted 1/4/09
An important thing to learn is that some people use the word "Style" as an excuse to draw something inaccurate. A skilled artist can stretch reality far beyond any reasonable idea of 'realisitically possible' and still be anatomically acurate within reason. But to draw something that has no basis in anatomy, but that is purely inaccurate in every sense, and excuse this inaccuracy with 'Style' is to cheat yourself. It is not really your "style" to draw a curve or lump where there should be none, or should be something totally differnt. It is an error. A mistake. And it is a mistake that you need to learn to correct, if you are to ever grow and learn.
I've seen so many young artists who show an image to peers on message boards and gallery websites to get feedback, and when someone suggests that they correct a blatent anatomical error in the image, they lash out and insist it is 'their style' and that they did it on purpose.
While it may be true that these individuals did the thing on purpose, that doesn't nessecarily make it the right thing to have done.
Sometimes you stare at an image so long that you become blind to the problems in it. Or you think you're imitating a line or technique you've seen in some other image, but are only imitating it incorrectly. You can intentionally draw a line and that line can still be wrong. Some peers make suggestions that are useless, but there are those that manage to spot something that you didn't. And in these instances, it is important to move beyond the little voice in your mind that wants to defend you from anyone suggesting you've done something wrong, and take that advice in stride. Grow from it. Learn to blow the bad off your shoulder, and take what good you can from every critique and learn from it.
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Posted 1/4/09 , edited 1/4/09
Disecting the Upper Torso
I'm gonna do a step-by-step of a quick anatomical sketch of a male upper-torso (waist up), explain each of the parts, why I drew them, what they are and do, etc.
Despite whatever instinctive desire you may have to start with the head and face, don't. Older tutorials on this site even recommend starting with the head, and I'm now here telling you not to do that. I'm older and I've got a lot more experience now, so this advice takes priority over older crappier advice.
The first thing you should start with is the 'line of action'. Basically the spine, although it won't always nessecarily be the spine (in this case it is.) The Line of Action is always an S or a C curve. There shouldn't be more curves then you would find in an S.
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Posted 1/4/09
The rib cage isn't a very complicated object if you think of it as a single solid mass. It's also best to simplify the shape into something more egg like then trying to get an exact match for the shape of a real rib cage.
Try to think of the rib cage as a hallow egg-like shape with the bottom cut open. The rib cage has a front and and back. The back is the flattest area. The rib cage is wider from the front then from the side, and if you look at some of the side-view examples above, earlier in this tutorial, you can see that the rib-cage is sort of tipped back at an angle from the side-view if the person is standing straight up.
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Posted 1/4/09
Along the top of the rib cage is the clavicle and shoulder blades. Find the two solid bones at the top of your chest, just at the base of your neck. In the very center are the solid ends and there is a gap in the middle. These are your clavicle bones. Many people don't entirely realize it, but your clavicles are connected to your shoulder blades. They sort of curve around the top of your rib cage, and they connect at your shoulders. This guide I've drawn to the left is a very simplified representation of the bones, but it is detailed enough to get the idea across.
What's important to realize is that if you raise your shoulder up, your clavicle and shoulderblade are both moving in position. The shoulder blade rotates upwards along with the clavicle and your entire shoulder. The part of the clavicle that doesn't change location is the head of the bone at the very center of your front, at the base of the neck.
Put one hand on your clavicle and move your arm and shoulder up and around and observe the way things change and move as you do this. Trace the clavicle towards your shoulder as you move your shoulder.
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Posted 1/4/09
Next I drew in a couple quick references for the arms. The top of the Humerous (the upper-arm bone) has a ball joint that allows for a large range of motion.
The ball of the bone is just under-inside where the clavicle/shoulder blade come together at the shoulder, and extends outwards from the body a brief distance before going downwards.
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Posted 1/4/09
Here's where I started to flesh out the actual body, muscles, and skin. There is an important muscle mass called the Sternocleidomastoid (er... don't bother memorizing that), shown in the image to the left in yellow, that plays a large role in your ability to move your head around.
Muscles work by connecting a point on one bone, to another point on another bone. the muscle can contract pulling the two bones towards each other. Other muscles exist to pull in opposite directions, this way, by pulling each of the needed muscles in varying degrees, you can control the movement of your parts in very small degrees for precision, etc. This muscle connects from the front-center of each of your clavicles to the base of your skull around the ear.
The less defined you choose to make the muscles of the characters you draw, the less detail you will include, but this muscle is still often at least slighly visible. Especially in poses where the neck is strained at certain angles.
The muscle mass I have highlighted in a greenish tint is the Trapezius muscle. The Trapezius is actually far more visible from the back view then from the front. From the back it is a very large, flat, triangular muscle that connects various parts of the back shoulders and neck. From the front and side it most obviously creates the gradual curve and lump that sits between the shoulders and the neck.
The trapezius's job is to help with the movement of your neck and head, and additonally to pull your shoulders upwards. It connects to the neck and to the top of your clavicle and shoulder blades, and down along your back, connecting to your spine. The Trapezius serves to assist in a lot of the back and upper body's motions.
The more muscular your character is, the more of an outer-curve/lump this muscle creates in this area. In less muscular characters it would be a more gradual curve. Just remember that this area is never a sharp angle The shoulders do not connect to the neck like a horizontal and verticle line meeting in a tiny bend. It is a gradual upwards curve.
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It is at this point that I added in the head. Sometimes I'll add in the head prior to drawing in any neck detail, other times I'll do it in this order. Sometimes it's easier to get the placement of the skull correct if I know where exactly the neck is leading, but other times I find it's much better to have the basic skull guide in first in order to get the neck twisting in the correct manor.
It's important to remember that the jaw edge and the ear are located around the middle of the skull. The base of the ear basically connects right to where the jaw ends, the ear is not located in the center of the cheek, nor is it far behind the jaw towards the back of the head.
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Now I continue to add in more mass to the body. The muscles of our body are layers. Some muscles are over top of others, pulled under areas, etc.
Like I said, all muscles connected to two or more bones, with the purpose of pulling them closer together when needed. The Pects (Pectoralis Major) connect to three primary bones. They connect to the Sternum (the bone mass in the center of your rib cage) the Clavicle, and to your Humerous bone (upper arm). It is the job of the pects to pull your arm inwards towards your body. The pects pull the arm inwards, just as the trapezius pulls it up wards. If you try to hold your arm straight out away from your body, your deltoid, trapezius, and pecks are all working together to hold it there.
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As I said, some muscles overlap other muscles. The pecks connect to the humerous bone, but they do it underneath the deltoid muscle. The deltoids make up the primary shape of our shoulders. They cover the point where the pects connect to the humerous. They connect to the outer edge of the clavicle and shoulderblades and then down to the center of your humerous bone. It is the deltoid that is primarily responsible for lifing your arm upwards.
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The biceps (yellow) are an important part of the overall shape of a muscular arm. Even when you simplify or smooth over the shape of the arms for a less muscular character, or a feminine character, understanding why the biceps are shaped the way they are will greatly improve the drawing.
Just like the deltoid overlaps where the pects connect to the humerous, it also overlaps where the biceps connect to it. So the bicep actually comes out from under the deltoid. However the lower part of the deltoid (purple), where it goes down to connect to the middle of the humerous, is between and under the biceps and the triceps (blue).
The lower arms are made up of a large number of muscles that all connect from various locations on the back of the humerous, down to different areas of the radius and ulna bones (the two bones that make up the forearm. These muscles all help to twist the arm back and forth, as well as provide tendons and muscles down to the wrist and hand. I go into further detail on the forearms later on during a discussion of the forearm twist.
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