How to Draw People Using Armatures

There are several methods for drawing bodies properly. One of the easiest ways is by drawing an armature to use as a guide.

Most artists know armatures as wire devices used to support sculptures, but this concept can also be used for drawing people. In drawing, the armature is basically the skeleton of the person and will guide the artist through their drawing by providing proper proportions for each body part.

How to Draw People, Step 1: Finding a Reference

The first step to drawing humans is to find a good reference. This can be a reference photo, book or a live human being. If the reference is a human, the artist should make sure that the model is willing to sit still for a prolonged amount of time.

How to Draw People, Step 2: Building the Armature

Next, the armature needs to be drawn.

Take a look at the second illustration at the bottom of this article (click on the illustration to enlarge it). This is a basic armature and here is how to draw one:

The head is drawn as a basic circle or oval. There’s no need to get any more detailed than this during the armature stage.

A line is drawn from the base of the circle to the bottom of the spine. This line may be curved, depending on the pose of the model or reference. For example, if the model was bending over, this line would be more of a C-shape.

The spine line is crossed like a “t” to create the shoulder line. This line is usually as long as two head widths. In other words, if the artist measures the width of the head, the shoulder length would be that measurement multiplied by two.

A circle is drawn on the end of each shoulder to represent the shoulder joints and the upper arm lines are drawn from these circles. This line is usually around one head length long. So, if the artist measured the head’s length, this line would be about that same length as the head.

Another circle is drawn for the elbow joint and the lower arm line is drawn. This line is also about as long as a head length.

The wrist joint is drawn with a circle and the hand is drawn with a line that is as long as the human’s face.

At the bottom of the spine, a circle is drawn to indicate the attachment of the spine to the pelvic area. A line is drawn across the center of this circle to represent the pelvic bone.  This line is usually two head widths long for women and one and a half head widths for men. At each end of this line there is circles drawn for hip joints.

From the hip joints, the thigh bone line is drawn, which is usually around two head lengths long. It is connected to the calf with a circle for the knee joint. The calf bone is usually a little longer than one head length.

The armature is finished by adding a circle for the ankle joint and a line to indicate the direction of the foot.

How to Draw People, Step 3: Drawing the Body

Now that the armature is done, drawing the rest of the body is easy. The artist simply has to draw “flesh” onto the skeleton.

Since all of the measuring and the basic stance of the body are already done, the artist can draw the three-dimensional aspects of the body.

To make it easier, an artist can think of the flesh as lines that are traced around the armature lines. These lines become three-dimensional once the armature lines are erased and are replaced by shading to create curves and form.

With a little practice, this technique can be used to draw realistic humans quickly and easily.