Anatomy Lessons: How to improve faster in 6 steps!

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WendiBones's avatar
life drawing 5 by algaegoblin
'Life Drawing 5' by algaegoblin

Do you know how to sketch human figures but do you want to refine your anatomy skills? Or do you not know anatomy at all and you are tired to trust your imagination? Did you notice you create disproportions in your drawings?
If you are aspiring artists and you already have your own style, you might as well believe you have no need of a guide, but you are wrong. Before exaggerating human proportions and begin to have your own style, you first have to know the basics. 
This little guide is the result of an accurate research and 5 years of high school of art, and it's created for all those who want to learn something new or just make a useful review.
For those who have already studied art, my suggestion is to go to step 6 or trying to repeat all steps in Digital format. 


First of all, if you want to learn faster you should draw using traditional tools.  It may seem a stupid or banal rule but it is not. 
You will need a piece of paper and a pencil, preferably a medium-hard pencil or HB ("H" stands for "hardness," while "B" stands for "blackness"). If you  have already familiarity with this hard drawing medium you could obtain different soft pencils instead: B, 2B and 4B will be fine. A putty rubber and a white rubber from a good brand will work fine. 
However, I'm not here to describe which tools are better for drawing traditionally, and for me a hoe would work fine as well: it's the passion that counts!

My tools by thepunisherone

 Now that you have a pencil and F4 paper (F2 is less thick and if you erase often you could ruin it, that's why F4 is ideal) you can start your work. You can also make out with A4 paper which is thicker than normal,  otherwise you will pass the sheet if you use a hard mine (or if your hand is too heavy, if you know what I mean...). 
Well, now that you have the tools, sharpener included, get in a bright spot of your house, preferably on an inclined surface (otherwise your future drawing will look in perspective, and you may not be happy with the result!) and copy the hand your not using for drawing. Try not to erase too much. Try to grasp the structure of your hand through many sketches in which you should only draw the outlines of your hand and fingers, you should forget about the shading for a moment. 
Fill the paper with these sketches of your hand in different poses and please include your wrist if you can. Continue your workout every 2/3 days (preferably daily) for 2 weeks, what am I saying?  Do it until you could see significant improvements! 
Write the date on each work you have done and keep them carefully without rubbing them. The first step to be a good artist is to give value to your works. When the hand really looks like a hand and not a mass of sausages then you're ready for Step 2.

The result will be similar to this, only the folds of flesh and contours of the hands should be visible.

HANDS training by Washu-M

Hand proportions work this way...

Hand Tutorial -Tips+Reference- by Qinni Hand Tutorial 2 by Qinni


So now we better move to the second point. 
Ok guys, do you remember your own hand? That hand you copied so many times, that fist, that cramp that came while you deformed it? Here you are, you should repeat the procedure but this time you will not have to copy only the outlines of your fingers. You must work hard and point on your hand the dramatic light of a lamp, because this time you should draw your hand and shade it. 
If you are drawing using a HB  pencil then shade using a B or 2B. You will realize soon that it is not so difficult to find the darkest points: the hard part is not to make the whole drawing uniformly black or uniformly gray and creating well balanced halftones. 
You may find some difficulties, yeah right! all normal, because in fact you're seeing your hand in colors (as long as you're not color blind) and you're just simplifying your hand colors using the greyscale instead. So, don't give up! It was hard for everyone at the beginning.
Repeat this exercise every 2/3 days until you can see a clear difference between the first hand  (remember to write the date on the drawings!) and the last hand you drew. Are you satisfied with your improvemente?  Good, because you will have more fun following STEP 3. 

These are practical examples of a good result.

  A study in hands 2 by Spectrum-VII
Hand anatomy by Elthenstorm


Since you are already conversant with your left hand (or right that it is) and you say you know it by heart (if you say so...), now I'm asking you to take your colored pencils and do an experiment. This time I'm asking you NOT to do a preliminary sketch in pencil of your drawing: just draw one or both of your feet, using colored pencils only on semi rough paper F4 of different colors (I recommend a white, a grey, a blue and a black for a good start). Again, do not stop until the result satisfies you. Write the date on the work because now the interesting part begins.
The result should be similar to these, of course in colors.

FEET sketches by Washu-M Feet Study 2 - Steps by irysching

Feet proportions works this way...

+TUTORIAL-Feet drawing guide+ by goku-no-baka


Now that you have experimented with various techniques and you quite understand how your hands and feet are made, you need a model for understanding how the face works. 
Ask one of your friends, your parents, if nobody wants to pose for you then use a picture (but it's always better to do life drawings first!). As tools you will need a ballpoint pen, preferably black or blue, and a white smooth paper (A4 copy paper is fine too). Now make a copy of the person in front of you (face, neck and shoulders), and remember well that you can not/must not erase this time! Yes, I'm evil. Try to do several sessions of the same person until the drawing is really similar to the original and recognizable from others. 
Begin with a front and profile view, then try out 3/4. 

Cacophony by Anapath
'Cacophony' by Anapath

The proportions of the human face work this way...

Face Proportion by endzi-z Profile Proportion by endzi-z


It 's time to understand how the human proportions work. A tip? Never stop taking references from the human figure (as long as you're learning) or you will make a lot of mistakes or exaggerate many anatomical features without even noticed it! 
Now use your live model of choice, or look in fashion magazines and copy a full human figure in different poses, focusing on lines, shading, dynamism and execution speed.
To improve your speed you should first start with 15 minutes poses, then reduce the time to 10 minutes and 5 minutes at last. Use a timer: leave the drawing unfinished and start another one when the time elapses. 
Do many of them, every day. 

The results should be something like this...

'Life Drawing Collage 4' by travelingpantscg

figures 8 by Luthie13 Life drawing 2010 by jeffsimpsonkh
Figure Workshop 13 by JerrySabatini Figure Set 1 by ethician
 life drawing: 5 minutes by scaragh
figures 3 by Luthie13 figures 5 by Luthie13
some figure drawing by Luthie13 some more figure drawing by Luthie13
Figure Drawing Collage by JillJohansenFigure studies. by RoscoeFink
life drawing 042511 by bigbigtruckLife Drawing at CDA 3 pt2 by reiq

If you didn't understand how the anatomy works, you can study some good tutorials for the human body...

Arm Anatomy by Azot2021 Trunk Anatomy by Azot2021
Man Anatomy by Azot2021
 General Body Tutorial by shark-bomb


The time has came. It is time to finish something guys! You should be really excited: you reached execution speed and some anatomy skills but you lack accuracy.
Use your awesome live model again and ask him to pose for a longer session (2/3 hours minimum). Use the tools you like the most, sit comfortably, tools in the hand and start your session.
Here are some good results you may find inspiring.

Prenda XXVII by napoleoman old man_figure drawing by michalivan
12hr figure drawing by infernovball Life drawing:  A sitting by thienbao

I really hope you will find this journal useful and I really hope you enjoyed the journey. ^^ 
Ps: Sorry my English is not my mothertongue. 

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Thank you quiny, your journal journey is useful, you hope well and as a beginner I'm glad to encounter encouragements by the elders un drawing and I wish to be improve and do real pleasant art within you, it's fun and joyful

gwenfortes98's avatar

Deviant Art is full of gold stuff, hidden treasures waiting to be unearthed by new artists out there

this was really helpful

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TyphlosionprimeX's avatar
This seems incredibly helpful, but I still am struggling to apply these to my own creative work.  Any suggestions?
JaxxyKat123's avatar
Super helpful! Thanks for making this.
rosechaii's avatar
this looks so helpful !!! thank you so so much i'll definitely use these to improve!! <3
kalii-draws's avatar
thanks for this. my parents don't really support me and my art and i'm trying to improve to prove to them i'm worth supporting.
JupiteratMidnight's avatar
Oh yea that’s easy *draws noodle hands* Welp at least I have a day job 😭
Nighteba's avatar
Astrikos's avatar
DICOLM's avatar
Thanks a lot my friend!
Your lessons going to help me a lot!
Big hug!
goosetooth's avatar
I want to study dinosaur anatomy but I can't find a model since they're extinct and at museums they have the skeletons but not the muscle structure how do I learn to understand the skeleton and muscle structure overall so I can adjust it to fit any species?
Contrary to popular belief, dinosaurs are more like big fucking birds than lizards. At least things like t-rex and what not. It's up for debate on whether or not most or a large percentage of dino's had feathers or not. A lot of the most popular predatory dino's are probably best studying bird anatomy asnd mashing it with lizards. 
WendiBones's avatar
goosetooth's avatar
watch the movie?
Shrapnel-Scraps's avatar
Try studying lizards first! Then lizard skeletons! Then try use the knowledge to create dinosaurs!
goosetooth's avatar
oh yeah good advice! should I study birds too then since they're closely related to dinos?
Shrapnel-Scraps's avatar
That sounds like a good plan!
JaxxyKat123's avatar
I'd say do both of those and then when youre ready learn their basic skeletal anatomy (not the bones etc but the general way their bones curve and move in certain poses) then go to movies or pictures that include them and try using those as reference ^_^ 
For starters, I had a bit of an epiphany yesterday. Not putting my life story here, but I do have to put my questions into some context if I'm going to get an answer that'll actually help my situation. Basically, my life's been kicking me down for quite a while, and drawing was really my only escape from it. So I did it quite alot the past couple of years. The thing is, what I've been doing is copying drawings of other people by eye, and I've actually gotten quite good at it. So much so that other people have started to take notice. I keep telling them that I'm only drawing what I see, that it's not really 'my' art, but they seem to have a hard time understanding this and think I'm just that good. This is kind of making it hard for me to change, since I know learning to draw for real like this means my art is going to have a big dip in 'quality' per say.

Basically what I'm getting at is, because of some event yesterday that kicked me into high gear per say, I finally got out of that mindset that kept me copying other drawings. I want to learn how to draw for real now, but I'm unsure if I can break that habit so easily. I found this post and I'm going to try and follow your tips, basically starting from scratch. I've been putting it off for so long though that I don't really feel all that comfortable with it, but I realize that I just have to push through that if I -really- want to learn how to draw.

Now, I have a couple of questions, and I do apologize for the long post but I'm honestly unsure where else I can even ask something like this, since I don't go to art school and don't have anyone I know who knows this stuff. Do you think going to art school is required to really learn? Or can I say, just practice drawing real life objects and people and learn from that? Since this post only covers how to draw people, how would you encourage someone to learn to draw other things? 

The reason I'm hestitant to go to an art school has to do with the aforementioned problems I've been dealing with over the years, aswell as the fact I would be considerably older than my classmates, so I think the most important question for me would be if going to art school is really worth the trouble. I just don't want to risk going there only to find out it's not something I want to pursue anymore. Again, sorry for the long post, there's still so much more I want to ask but I don't want to take up your time too much.
WendiBones's avatar
Going to artschool is necessary if you want to learn and if you think this will help you. My suggestion, however, is that's not necessary for learning but to start accepting critiques and to learn how to improve yourself. If you only want to improve your art you can always take some online private lessons, many artists are offering them through Patreon or other websites. Also they're offering many  tutorials here on DeviantART too, just make a quick research if you want to learn something, but really, practicing is the best way to learn. 
Art school will help you in understanding what you're seeing and educate your eyes to draw better. It will also teach you some tips for what concerns proportions and when/how to use a color instead of another or a different stroke or pencil. It will help you in understanding your tools. 
This post is about Anatomy, not drawing other things. I'm not a background artist so I can't help you.
Thanks for the reply!

I've already been looking around a bit on the web. Another reason I'm hestitant to go to art school is because there's no focus on drawing, you have to learn all sorts of things like painting, making sculptures and all that. The thing is, I don't want to do any of those(yes, I'm picky like that, it's just if I'm not invested in what I'm doing, I'll end up failing, so I rather focus just on the part I want to achieve), and it's really discouraging that I can't find any sort of education that specifically teaches you how to draw.
For now though, I'll just look around at my options.
Ahed25's avatar
tbh, i don't know how this will help me learn anatomy.. i mean, it just sounds too confusing for me... and difficult. just saying. :)
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