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A Complete Beginner's Guide to Drawing Human Anatomy: Men, Women & Children

Anatomy drawing of body proportions of men, women and children

Drawing human anatomy is more of a science than an art. There are fractions and math involved, muscle groups and landmarks, simple and complex shapes. Most of drawing human anatomy is about measuring certain body parts against others. Whether you love this side of art (the side that is less based in creativity and more based in math) or not, understanding anatomy is crucial before drawing any figure.


Depending on the age, gender, and size of a person, their anatomy will differ, which is why it’s important to measure bodies according to relativity. Of course, there may be some variations depending on the angle of the figure as well as other factors, but this blog will go over the general rules of anatomy to help you draw a variety of figures and poses. 


Not a reader? No worries! Take a look at our step-by-step video on anatomy and stylization..




How to Draw Male Bodies

drawing male anatomy

Even though every body type is different, from height to build, the basic proportions of the male physique (or any physique for that matter) begins with height. The adult male body averages 7-7.5  heads high. To draw the structure of the head that you’ll use, consider using the ball and shield method – a circle on top and a shield shape beneath it. 



Male Neck and Shoulder Proportions

drawing male anatomy

You may just think that the size of shoulders and necks are less specific than something like facial proportions, but offset shoulders or a neck that’s too long can make a realistic drawing look less natural. The neck should be about ⅓ to ½  the height of the head, and on men, necks tend to be wider, sometimes even as wide as the head. Shoulders should be approximately the width of two heads (turned on their side). 


Keep in mind these are average proportions, so you can exaggerate them to suit your character profile. For example, a basketball player may have shoulders that are extra wide from bigger deltoid (shoulder) muscles.


Sketching the Male Torso

drawing male anatomy

Anatomy wise, the torso includes the ribcage and pelvis, and is the largest mass on the body. The chest area can be drawn using a fairly simple trapezoid shape, while below it, the stomach can take the shape of a rectangle or square. Male torsos are usually wider than their female counterparts, so don’t worry about creating an inverted waist. The belly button sits in the middle, between the ribcage and pelvis.


Although it's common to start a drawing from the head, starting with the torso can be even better for capturing accurate proportions because it's good practice to draw shapes from large to small. If you're drawing more complex poses, the GSL method for drawing dynamic figures is an effective approach to capture movement (gesture) as well as anatomy.



Sketching the Male Pelvis

drawing male anatomy

When drawing male hips, don't fret about bringing too much definition to them. The pelvis doesn’t need to be much wider than the torso. Sitting halfway between the top of the head and the bottom of the feet, the hips are usually only as wide as the wisest part of the chest, and at times, even smaller if the person is more muscular.


Overall, the male torso can be simplified into an upside down trapezoid shape, with the pelvis beneath simplified into a rectangle. The pelvis can also be drawn as a rectangular prism for more accurate anatomy as the top of the box tilts slightly forward in a standing position.



How to Draw Human Leg Anatomy

drawing male anatomy

Legs are the building blocks of movement, so there are usually different muscle categories that make the shapes of the leg slightly more complex. Thighs can be simplified to take the form of a tapered cylinder, which is wider at the top. The knee is made of an elongated hexagon shape and joins together the thigh and the calf. Kneecaps actually float on top of the bones of the leg. An important tip to remember is that all body parts that come in pairs should be drawn at the same time (legs, arms, hands, eyes, feet). This ensures that all proportions stay accurate.


drawing male anatomy

Drawing the lower leg can pose some difficulty, as it’s important to include the calf muscle while drawing it. When viewed from the front and back, the muscle on the outer side of the calf sits higher than the inner muscle, and the shape of the calf thins out as it approaches the ankle. When viewed from the side, the calf muscle bulges outwards at about the 2/3 mark from the ankle up to the lower leg.


If you simplify the lower legs from the front or back, they can be drawn as coffin shapes with the widest points skewed higher on the outside. If you draw the legs from the side, it's easier to draw the bulge of the calf muscle on top of a simple 3D tapered cylinder.



How to Draw Arm Anatomy

drawing male anatomy

Just like legs, it’s beneficial to draw each part of the arm on both sides at the same time to ensure matching proportions rather than completing one whole arm at a time. The first step is to mark the key points on the arm -- the shoulder (which can be drawn as a circle), the elbow and the wrist. In a straight arm, the hand will end mid-thigh and the elbow will line up with the middle of the torso (or the belly button). The arm will begin below a circular shoulder in the shape of a rounded rectangle (or tapered cylinder in 3D). The elbow and wrist – just like other joints – can be simplified as a circle. 


When sketching arms, ensure that the two cylinders are the same length. If the arms are foreshortened, the cylinder will be much wider closer to the foreground.


drawing male arm anatomy

The forearm will follow a similar shape to the calf, except the muscle placement will be the same on each side, similar to the shape of a baseball bat. You can define the wrist area (or any joints) with a circle. For more advanced anatomy, use 3D forms and sketch the wrist as a rectangular prism.


Male arms are often drawn with more muscle definition, though this might not always be the case. A tip for drawing arm muscles is to think of each arm segment (deltoid, bicep, and forearm) as a chain link to mimic the natural flow of muscles!



Drawing Hand Anatomy

dynamic hand drawings in pencil

Our hands are roughly the same length as our face (not including the hairline). You can use an oval or elongated hexagon to sketch out the general hand shape before you attempt to draw hands in detail as they can be very complex and overwhelming. The key to drawing hands is getting the overall proportions correct compared with the body by focusing on the larger masses of the body first. It sometimes helps to draw the overall shape of the hand made by connecting the tops of the fingers, followed by the negative shapes in between! You can learn more about drawing hand anatomy with our step by step blog on how to draw hands.


Drawing Foot Anatomy

drawing feet

The anatomy of feet may seem difficult to draw because there are so many bumps and angles, which makes sense because feet have the most bones in our body (26 in each foot)! Feet, just like hands, are easier to draw when they're broken up into simple shapes. The ankle can be drawn as a circle, the heel as a trapezoid, the midsection as a triangle, and the toes as a semi-circle. These shapes can be drawn in different positions to show the foot at different angles. Once the basic shapes are drawn, you can add line art around the shapes to make them less rigid and more natural. You can learn more about drawing foot anatomy as well as shoes with our step by step blog on how to draw feet and shoes.



How to Draw Female Bodies

drawing female anatomy

Female anatomy is similar to male anatomy, but there are some key changes in proportion that make all the difference, notably a slimmer waist, less broad shoulders, and a wider pelvis. It’s important to remember that every body type is different and these are just general tips, not rules. Below are some key things to keep in mind:



Average Female Height


Unlike their male counterparts, females average 6.5 to 7 heads in height. But the differences don’t stop with height; it’s the subtle changes in shoulder width, waistline, and hip curvature that really make female anatomy unique! 



Female Neck and Shoulder Proportionss

drawing female anatomy

Female shoulders are less thick and broad than male shoulders. The width of the shoulders when drawing female anatomy averages 1.5 heads turned on their side, compared with 2 heads used for male figures. 


Female necks are also less wide than their male counterparts, so they may appear longer, even though they are the same overall length. When drawing feminine features, consider using more curves than angles. This general rule can really help define male versus female facial features when drawing faces.




Sketching the Female Torso


The width of the torso and waist on female bodies varies depending on the muscle mass of the person. The more muscle mass, the wider the waist is, although female waists are more slender compared to male waists. In any case, the shapes used for the torso area are consistent with the ones used for drawing a male figure (a square), but with the waist dipping in slightly more to accentuate wider hips and narrower shoulders.



How to Draw the Female Pelvis

drawing female anatomy

Unlike how the male figures’ hips are the same width or less than that of the waist, for female figure, the hips are generally wider. This is why the female torso is often compared to the shape of an hourglass or Coke bottle!


The pelvis on female bodies tend to the same width as the shoulders or wider. When simplified into a rectangle, the female pelvis is approximately the same size as the female ribcage, whereas the male pelvis is much smaller than the ribcage. The bottom of that rectangle shape should be wider than the top.




Drawing Female Limbs


Legs and arms follow the same proportions on both male and female figures, except that male arms may look more defined, angular and muscular compared to female arms, which are more slender by comparison. The base shapes remain the same, so once you master one, you’ve mastered all!



How to Draw Children's Bodies


drawing children

But what about the little ones? Have you ever noticed that childrens’ heads take up a large portion of their body compared to adults? This is one of the key proportions to remember when drawing children. A child’s body averages around 4-6 heads high, depending on their age. Though the head is also built using a circle and shield, the shield is much shorter. Younger children, both male and female, have shorter faces. Children’s facial proportions are what anime and chibi proportions are based on, which makes them cute and appealing!



How to Draw a Child’s Torso

drawing children

Childrens’ shoulders are the width of one head on its side with a fairly thin neck. Unlike the defined trapezoid and rectangle used in adult figures’ torsos, children’s torsos have less definition and seem to entirely take the shape of a rectangle. The hips are narrow and similar in proportion to male figures, as the pelvis width is the same as the shoulders or smaller. 


As kids, boys and girls have very similar body shapes -- a smaller, torso, skinny arms and legs, and large head. It's not adolescents reach puberty when their bodies begin to change and take on more adult like and gender specific proportions.




Drawing Arms and Legs on Children

The arms and legs on children usually have less muscular definition and are thinner than adult limbs, but the proportions and shapes for the legs and arms follow the same rules of anatomy above. 



Takeaways on Drawing Human Anatomy 


These tips and measurements in human anatomy are a great way to start drawing realistic bodies of both genders and different ages. As you grow more comfortable with human proportions and shapes, you can begin to further stylize and manipulate your figure drawings to suit your needs! Remember, these are guidelines for the basics of human anatomy, so don’t feel limited when drawing different poses and body types! To learn more on drawing body proportions as well as elders, see our blog on how to draw human proportions.



Figure Drawing Resources


Are you a teacher looking for human anatomy drawing resources for the classroom? Check out our art resources on Teachers Pay Teachers:


This bundle includes the following anatomy resources and more:



Anatomy Course & Learning Resources


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