Anatomy for stylized characters


In this tutorial we are going to use a constructive and analytical approach in order to build a stylized character.  We will start with a thumbnail, capturing the idea of our pose, and use it as a guide in order to construct our drawing. We will consider bones and muscles and then simplify in an elegant manner in order to create a natural flow.

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Our final result will be a stylized character in a natural looking pose.

Thumbnail & torso

Before we start our drawing we need to know what we want to show. In my case I want to draw a demon presenting the spark of a spell she is about to cast. I want her to look proud and a bit sassy, which I try to capture in my pose. A helpful guide, if you want to draw a balanced pose, is to draw a line from the base of the head down to the floor and make sure the point where it touches the ground is between the two legs. Then construct the ribcage, the head, and the pelvis, and connect them by drawing the belly and the neck. Notice how the belly gets squashed on the right side as the pelvis and ribcage tilt? The slightly tapering neck will push the idea of our character holding her head up.

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Start by drawing the solid shapes, head, ribcage, and pelvis. Then fill the gaps with their soft connections, the belly, and the neck.

Drawing the arms

Once we are happy with our torso we can take a closer look at the arm. First we imagine them as tubes. We try to see them as cylinders bending in order to reach their destination, the hand. But of course the arms are not soft tubes, they have bones which need to be considered too. In the third step you can still see the idea of the curved tubes but we have also taken the bones into consideration. In our fourth step we add subtle bulges on the insides of the bent arms.

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Imagining the arms as bent cylinders while keeping the bones in mind create voluminous and authentic shapes.

Adding the shoulders

The muscle of the shoulder wraps neatly around the clavicle. It consists of three parts, one that starts out from the front of the chest, one from the side, and one from the back. The upside-down tear shape points down along the side of the arm, and for stylized characters the shoulder muscle reaches down approximately a third of the arm.

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The muscle of the shoulder is another soft element that connect the arms to the chest.

Pelvis & legs

While we only show the beginning of the legs, we still want to construct them properly. The pelvis is tilted, so the force the body needs to resist gravity pushes up through the left leg and discharges on the other side, leaving the left leg straight and tense and letting the right one appear relaxed.

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I give my character stockings as it is the perfect opportunity to describe the volume of the leg.

Drawing the breasts

Drawing breasts can be a challenge because they are soft and don‘t seem to have clear landmarks, so we will have to invent some in order to get a nicely flowing symmetrical shape. On the outside we can imagine a line that flows up and around the neck. On the inside I let them curl outwards towards the shoulders.

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Breasts come in various shapes but these guidelines will help you to get a believable result that will match our degree of stylization.

Constructing the hands

We have already sketched their rough shape but now it‘s the time to look at them in detail. I first start with a blocky shape for the palm and then add the fingers. I think of them as a fan. The palm and the middle finger should be about the same length. Give the fingers volume by using a cylinder as a base and take your time when drawing the detail.

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Seeing the fingers of each hand as a fan will help you create organic and natural shapes.

The face

The construction of the face could easily be an article on its own, but for now we want to aim for a simple solution. I already blocked out the rough shape of the head in the beginning. Take your time with the construction of the nose and feel free to play with different proportions until you find something that suits your style.

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For creating cute characters we can use a simplified approach.

Clean up the line art

Now we’re finished with all of our construction, we can grab our favorite brush and draw the outlines of our character.  You can follow my example and draw your design in simple thin strokes, or you can take one of your favorite artists as a reference and come up with something extraordinary.

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A carefully constructed character turns the inking process into a rewarding experience.

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