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How to Draw Animal (Anthro) Characters

Common Mistakes Beginner Artists Make



Anthro characters, or “anthropomorphic characters” are character designs that combine a human with an animal. They’re pretty common in the art-sphere, and you’ll find designs created by new and seasoned artists alike! However, because they’re a mix of humans and animals, you can expect the difficulties of dealing with both human and animal anatomy. In this blog, we’ll give you tips to help you create anthro characters of your own, and common mistakes beginners make in the process!


Not a big fan of reading? No worries – we have videos on animal legs, animal tails, and animal characters in general you can watch!



How to Draw Animal Snouts


illustrations of dog snouts. The first is drawn improperly from the side while the face looks forward. the next two are demonstrations of simplified 3D shapes, while the last is an illustration of a fox.

When drawing the snout of an animal, some beginners may draw it a little lopsided. We need to remember that snouts and muzzles are a 3D form and not a shape, so from the front, you’ll have to foreshorten it! Drawing the head as a sphere and the snout as a prism can help simplify the process. This also works for beaks, but instead of a prism, use a pyramid or a cone!



How to Draw Animal Ears on People


two drawings of cat ears on a human head -- one is drawn as pyramids on the head, the other are proper animal ears.

Frequently, you’ll see cat ears or dog ears directly on the top of someone’s head. Technically this isn’t incorrect when it’s just for aesthetic purposes, but in terms of functionality, this wouldn’t work.


While an animal’s ear canals may be on the tops or closer to the tops of the heads, ours are on the sides of our heads! So shifting the ear’s shape to wrap around the sides of the head will help with correct anatomy. This can be changed depending on how human or how animal you decide to make your character. You can also soften the transition by adding fur around the base of the ear.


However, this rule is very commonly broken for horses because of how horse ears are positioned. If drawn to the side, a horse ear will look more like a deer ear, so often the “ears on the side” rule is disregarded.



How to Draw Animal Legs on People


illustrations of animal legs on a human torso (dog, bird), and incorrect legs on dogs. Different kinds of leg joints are also demonstrated.

When drawing animal legs on humans, we need to see whether the animal is plantigrade, digitigrade or unguligrade. This determines where the joints are placed on the legs, and what’s touching the ground. For instance, we are plantigrades – we have our heel and our toes on the ground. Dogs and cats and birds are digitigrade – their heels are raised and extended, and they walk on their toes. Deer, horses and goats are unguligrades – they walk on their nails. We need to account for these joint shifts when drawing animal legs coming from a human torso.


We also need to think about changes in weight distribution and size. Especially with dog and cat legs, it’s common just to make the ratio of torso to legs larger, where legs take up more of the entire figure. You can also shift joints and keep the ratio the same. But remember that some animals, especially birds, weigh far less than humans do. They also distribute their weight differently due to their stance or different makeup of their anatomy. So you need to make up for this in your illustration, whether that’s making your haunches or paws larger on dog legs, or making your bird feet huge to make a wider base for really thin legs.


How to Draw Animal Tails on People


illustrations of a cat and alligator tail on a human torso.

There are a couple of ways to draw tails on people. The main thing to keep in mind is that tails are just extensions of the spine. The tail should come out of wherever the spine ends on a person, which is your tailbone.


The first way to draw a tail is just like a cat or a dog – extend the spine, and draw the tail coming from that point. This also works for birds or any other mammal, and also works for dragons if you choose to make the tail this way.


The second way is the reptile-like way, which is not only extending the spine, but also extending the torso! If you’ve seen a crocodile or a snake, their entire bodies are long spines and rib cages, and their limbs are on the extreme sides of their bodies. While this way is more difficult, it’s a far more anatomically accurate way to draw any reptile-like or aquatic character!



How to Draw Horns on People


varying horn designs drawn on the human head, and a diagram on the front of the head showing where larger horns should be placed.

The fun thing about horns is there’s no incorrect way to draw them – all you have to do is think about balance! Huge horns wouldn’t work coming out of the back of the head, because that would make your character too back-heavy. Instead, place all your larger horns within the “frontal bone” – this balances out the weight of your horns significantly.



Despite all the tips we’ve just given, there really isn’t an incorrect way to draw animal-human hybrids. Anthro characters are all fantasy – whatever you want to do is fine as long as you justify why you made these choices. The number one thing to keep in mind is to stay creative and enjoy the process!



If you’d like to learn to develop your own art style, you can get personalized feedback and lessons in our art mentorship classes, which are built to help you create and polish your portfolio. But if you’re not too sure where to start, check out our other virtual art classes to help you seek out and pinpoint your artistic voice.


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