When you’re first getting started as an artist, learning to draw the human body can feel like an uphill climb.
There are so many different body parts to get right to create a realistic and proportional person on the page. But with a little practice and some dedication to your art, you’ll soon find that drawing human bodies becomes second nature—so you can say goodbye to stick figures for good.
In this post, we’ll help you to break down different parts of the body so that you can master each individual element, before working on your first full-figure sketch.
Drawing Individual Body Parts
How to Draw Human Ears
From a straight-on view, the ears fall in the central third of the face. Lining up the top of the ears with the top of the eyebrows and the bottom with the nostrils are helpful proportion guidelines to follow as a beginner drawing human ears.
Learning the various shapes within a typical ear will also help you to make these sketches much less complicated. Generally, most ears are shaped like a backward “C” with a loose “Y” shape in the top.
If this still feels a bit too difficult, begin with the overall ear shape and then shade in the negative space around the other shapes within the ear itself. Sometimes working in the negative space (the parts in between the actual shapes that form the ear) is easier and allows those other pieces to naturally fall into place as you draw.
Blurring your reference images can also be a useful technique when you’re starting out drawing the human body. This helps you to think more in shapes and colors rather than specific parts of the anatomy, which can be overwhelming for newer artists. If you’re working with a live model, try squinting to get the same blurred effect and to visualize the shapes in front of you.
How to Draw Human Noses
Learning how to draw human noses can be a little daunting at first. But once you understand some of the basics of anatomy, they’re actually quite simple.
It might sound crazy, but feel your own nose and all of the different components. You’ll instantly notice that toward the nostrils, that part of your nose is much more movable and squishy than the main part of your nose, which is the nasal bone. The whole nose can be thought of as a pyramid with a flat back—and that’s going to help you to start your sketch.
Start by drawing a right-angled triangle in both 2D and 3D at various angles. This gives you different viewpoints to practice and some flexibility to play with the shape of the bridge (the skinny middle bit) and the base where the nostrils are. From there, sketch out some rounded lines around the ends of the triangle to see what kind of nose shape you’d like to use.
Once you’ve made your decision, you can remove the triangle or pyramid guidelines that you put in place so that you’re left with a whole page of practice noses!
How to Draw Human Hair
While most body parts are fairly similar to draw, the huge variety in hair styles, lengths, and even textures can make drawing human hair an interesting challenge and creative exercise for any artist.
When you’re learning to draw human bodies, the hair will likely be one of the last elements that you add to your artwork, but that doesn’t mean it should be an afterthought! Practicing how to draw human hair can make or break your final picture, especially if you’re trying to make it as realistic as possible.
Regardless of if you’re working from a live model or a reference image as you learn how to draw human bodies, you’ll see that hair can be broken down into sections across the front of the face and top of the head. Draw loose pencil lines, starting at the parting of the hair and following the natural flow of the strands (you’ll be able to tell which direction simply from looking, even if you’re far away).
Keep adding in these individual hair strands until you’ve filled in everything. Depending on how your subject is lit, you’ll likely see darker and lighter patches in the hair thanks to light and shadow. Taking an eraser, lightly run this over the lighter areas before going over the shadowy areas with your pencil again. This will create a realistic finish for your piece.
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Learn How to Draw: Features of the Face
How to Draw Human Legs
Depending on how realistic your image is and if your subject is wearing long pants or shorts, mastering how to draw human legs can be quite straightforward. Even for the most complex anatomical drawings, starting with basic shapes will help you to nail down the perfect leg drawing.
To draw human legs, sketch out a rough box at the top of your paper so that you have a guide for where the pelvis would be. Underneath this, draw a circle the same width as the box, with a cylinder underneath that becomes slightly narrower at the end. That’s the thigh area covered. Draw a smaller circle underneath for the knee, then another cylinder shape going downwards toward the foot.
If you’ve had some practice drawing human arms, you’ll notice that this is similar. However, the lower leg comes out a little at the calf muscle before going back into the cylinder shape, so make sure you’re including that in your sketch.
How to Draw Human Arms
Much like other limbs, working from a rough sketch is the best approach when you’re sketching out the arms. After all, so much of learning how to draw the human body is about recognizing the various lines and shapes that each piece can be broken down into, rather than trying to make it more complicated than it needs to be.
When you’re drawing human arms, map out a stick figure first that you can use as your basic outline. From there, fill out the outside edges of the arms while following the shape that the stick figure outline has given you. Depending on the pose that the arms are in, you’re probably going to be drawing two interconnecting cylinders for the top half and bottom half of each arm. Don’t forget that the end of the second cylinder should become slightly narrower to account for the wrists and, eventually, the hands.
How to Draw a Human Torso
Now that you’ve cracked how to draw most of the detailed parts of the human body, it’s time to work on the middle—that’s right, the torso.
This can be as simple or as complex as you’d like it to be. If you’re working on a very realistic anatomical drawing, this will likely be as detailed as the facial features and hair. For simpler projects, the torso can be a rough box shape that takes up the central third of your figure drawing.
Of course, humans come in all shapes and sizes, so how your torso is going to look will change based on the type of body that you’re drawing. But a good starting point is to think of a male torso as an upside down triangle, whereas a female torso is shaped more like an hourglass. This will give you good proportions to work from to give a male broader shoulders that narrow into a toned waist, or a curvy female with a smaller waist and broader chest and hips.
To make your figure look more realistic, keep your lines loose and rough rather than overly straight and fixed. This will help to soften the overall finish of your drawing and make the torso look like it belongs to a real person.
How to Draw a Human Back
Since the back is the reverse of the torso’s front view, you’ll want to work on a similar outline. Your sketch will start out with the same basic shape as the torso: either an upside down triangle or hourglass. You can start out with a boxy triangle for both males and females. But most women will have a natural dip in the waist that wouldn’t be as obvious on a man. Keep this in mind as you draw your figure.
From there, the back drawing is much easier than a front-view torso, unless you’re adding in clearly defined muscles! The main features that you’ll want to highlight for the back will be the spine down the center of your drawing and any shading that might be needed to highlight curves or anywhere that the light hits your subject or reference. Once you’ve added in those pieces, your back drawing will be complete.
Bring Your Figures to Life
Drawing human bodies accurately and in a realistic way takes time and patience as you learn new techniques and skills. But with enough practice, you’re well on your way to becoming a figure drawing expert!
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