Discover Online Classes in Drawing

Character Illustration, sketching tips, ink drawing, pencil portraits, and more.

Whether you’re just learning to draw or are a more advanced artist wanting to expand your subject range and the realism of your illustrations, learning how to draw human poses is an important artistic skill. As artist Robert Joyner states, “If you can master drawing the human body, everything else becomes very easy for you!” 

Learning how to draw poses can seem complicated, but once you’ve learned the principles of anatomic drawing, the next step is to experiment with more complex and dynamic poses. By following these simple steps, you can take your pose-drawing skills to a new level.

Studying how to draw human poses from old masters like Michelangelo and Raphael can be a good way of learning the basics.
Studying how to draw human poses from old masters like Michelangelo and Raphael can be a good way of learning the basics.

4 Steps for Learning How to Draw Poses

Poses take many forms, and you could zoom in on poses of the hands, legs, upper body, or other parts of anatomy. For the sake of this guide, we’re giving step-by-step instructions on how to draw body poses in full—but the same principles can be applied when honing in on specific parts of the body, or when learning how to draw sitting poses that include a chair or other object.

Also, it’s helpful to have some experience drawing basic anatomy with less dynamic figures: that is, figures standing still, facing forward, and not jumping around in challenging poses! Getting comfortable drawing bodies themselves will make your foray into drawing poses much easier.

Step 1: Gather Your Materials

You only need basic materials to learn how to draw body poses.
You only need basic materials to learn how to draw body poses.

While you’re learning to draw poses, all you need are basic drawing materials such as paper and a pencil or felt-tipped pen. You might want to use an electronic method of drawing, if you have one, but no fancy equipment is necessary. Don’t worry about canvas, paints, pastels, or other materials right now, as the idea is to practice with the basics. You’ll also need a model for inspiration, whether that’s a live model, a photograph, or another artist’s illustration.

Step 2: Sketch the Basic Action Lines

Identifying your figure’s action lines is the first step in learning how to draw action poses.
Identifying your figure’s action lines is the first step in learning how to draw action poses.

In any pose, there’s at least one central action line, and potentially several. Imagine a person standing up straight, facing you. The action line for this figure will just be a straight vertical line. But, if someone is bending, twisting, or gesturing, those action lines will be similarly curved and rotated. 

Identifying those central lines is an important first step, as these lines will form the framework upon which you’ll build your figure. Action lines are not every line and curve of your figure; rather, they’re the lines that determine the movement of the pose.

In the illustration above, the main action lines follow the curve of the model’s back and extended leg, and the diagonal stretch of her upper arms.

Step 3: Construct 3D Shapes For The Body Parts

Think of the human body as made up of various 3D shapes.
Think of the human body as made up of various 3D shapes.

Drawings of the human body can be broken down into a collection of 3D shapes: a rectangle for the torso, cylinders for the arms and legs, spheres for the shoulder and knee sockets, and so on. These foundational 3D shapes are the building blocks of your figure, whatever its pose, so sketch these in roughly.

Step 4: Add Details and Sketch More Natural Outlines

Add realistic outlines to your figure.
Add realistic outlines to your figure.

It’s important to sketch your figure pose with rough 3D shapes to begin with, but a human body rarely looks like a clean-lined tube or sphere. Once you have the basic proportions and building blocks on the page, sketch in curves to better represent the true appearance of the human body. 

As an additional optional step, you might want to erase the unnecessary pencil lines and add details such as facial features, hair, and clothing. However, when you’re just learning to draw figures, you’ll probably want to practice with a few different poses before finishing a sketch to the level where these finishing touches are necessary.

Practice Makes Progress

How to Improve Your Figure Drawing Step by Step.

Pose Drawing Tips, Tricks, and Skills

How to Draw Less Stiff Poses

For greater realism, poses shouldn’t be stiff.
For greater realism, poses shouldn’t be stiff.

Learning to draw a natural pose takes some observation and practice. To be able to draw fluid, less stiff poses, it’s important to understand natural ranges of human movement. If any part of the anatomy you’re drawing just looks off, as if it is too stiff, there’s a high chance you’re drawing a pose that isn’t physically possible.

Drawing from observation is a good way to learn about these natural ranges. If you’re only drawing from cartoon models or other artists’ drawings, you won’t so easily learn where the limits lie.

Another way of preventing stiffness is by carefully observing muscular and skeletal structure. That’s one reason why it’s important to learn the basics of anatomy drawing before diving into more complex poses.

Dynamic Poses: What They Are and How to Draw Them

Learning how to draw action poses includes practicing with dynamic poses, and can include learning how to draw fighting poses.
Learning how to draw action poses includes practicing with dynamic poses, and can include learning how to draw fighting poses.

Dynamic poses are those that create the impression that the figure is in mid-jump, run, flight, kick, or some other dramatic action. They’re often exaggerated. If you’re wanting to draw comic book characters, learning how to draw dynamic poses is essential. 

The principles of drawing dynamic poses aren’t so different from drawing other poses, as many poses are dynamic to a degree. But, to accurately capture dynamic poses, you’ll be needing to draw figures that are pushing the limits of human anatomy to their boundaries. As comic artist Robert Marzullo points out, viewers of comics or superhero characters are going to be less concerned by the plausibility of the range of movements than the viewers of other types of art. Superheroes aren’t too worried about falling on their faces, so don’t be afraid to exaggerate angles and contortions when drawing dynamic figures.

Aside from comic book characters, a good way to practice drawing dynamic poses is to reference photos of athletes, such as sprinters or high jumpers. If you want to learn how to draw fighting poses, check out photos of boxers.

Anime Poses: How to Draw Them and Why They Can Be Good Practice for Pose Drawing

Learning how to draw anime poses can be a good way to practice drawing poses in general.
Learning how to draw anime poses can be a good way to practice drawing poses in general.

Anime characters are somewhat stylized and simplified but still follow the basic rules of human anatomy and poses, so learning how to draw anime poses can be a good way to practice drawing figures. Anime characters can be engaged in a range of activities, from sitting and strolling to running and jumping in action sequences, so whatever type of poses you want to practice, you can do so while adhering to a general anime style.

Anime as a genre has a number of signature poses, poses that are instantly recognizable as anime rather than any other type of illustration. If you’re a lover of anime you may be familiar with some of the signature poses from your favorite characters, franchises, or production studios, like the Gainax stance, the seed pose, the Yamada mask, the Shaft angle, and the sunrise stance. You can use these stylized stances as inspiration for creating your own characters in a range of dynamic poses.

Add Details to Your Pose Drawings

How to Draw Dynamic Hand Poses – Step by Step.