Where to start when drawing human anatomy?

I realized that drawing nothing but cartoons wasn’t really going to teach me much about art, especially considering that I don’t know jack about human anatomy and have pretty much learned all I know about human form by guessing where features go. I’ve decided to learn about human anatomy in order to be able to design some characters that actually make sense for once and broaden my artistic capabilities.

The thing is, I honestly don’t know where to start. I’ve borrowed an anatomy book from my art instructor, but there’re just so many different things to tackle, (not to mention that the book isn’t really in any particular order) it’s kinda hard to decide what to do first.

So, artist out there, and idea’s on what I should do?

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  • Shane

    I’d recommend you start buy studying what’s underneath the skin before you start practicing how to really draw it. Namely what you are looking for is muscle tone, bone structure and proportions (what fits where and why). Being able to accurately imagine what’s underneath the skin that you would actually see adds a great deal of realism (if that’s what you’re looking for).

    I personally chose to start with wire-frames of the waist, back and chest area of male and female models because it seems the most fluid to me and is fairly intuitive, then fill them out a piece at a time. Hands, feet, faces and overall realistic body proportioning just takes practice.

    There is also something to be said for abstraction so don’t ‘pigeon-hole’ yourself into one way or method; you’ll likely only frustrate yourself and stifle creativity. Play it out and see where it leads you.

    Best of luck!

  • Borrowing a book on human anatomy was a good move. You can start by doing some sketches based on some drawings in the book, and reading about how the body works.

    An effective way to learn about human anatomy is to actually go to a model drawing session and draw from life. Drawing from a reference book or a printed source is different than doing it with an actual person in front of you, you will learn much more. Print sources help, but because they’re 2D, they have already done some of the visual conversion for you, you don’t have to think as much and you learn a bit less. If you’re uncomfortable with a nude model, then maybe you can try drawing from a doll. Dolls help, but they’re not as good because they don’t have a physique that can be assigned to a gender. Furthermore, it’s good to get experience drawing different types of bodies. You can still be a great drawer without knowing about all the muscles if you’re a strong observer.

    To improve your drawing further, you can assume the pose of the model or doll yourself. Hold the the pose for a minute. Where to you feel the stress? Where is the weight of your body being shifted to? These are some good things to think about when you draw.

    If you’re interested in character design, I would also recommend for you to study some animals. Learning the proportions of animals and creatures can help you eventually integrate them into your designs. Hybrids are very common ways of doing this.

    Here’s a video from FZD School on YT, Feng does some explaining about character design:


    Feng is a great lecturer and runs his own design school.

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