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life drawing 5 by algaegoblin
'Life Drawing 5' by algaegoblin

Do you know how to sketch human figures but do you want to refine your anatomy skills? Or do you not know anatomy at all and you are tired to trust your imagination? Did you notice you create disproportions in your drawings?
If you are aspiring artists and you already have your own style, you might as well believe you have no need of a guide, but you are wrong. Before exaggerating human proportions and begin to have your own style, you first have to know the basics. 
This little guide is the result of an accurate research and 5 years of high school of art, and it's created for all those who want to learn something new or just make a useful review.
For those who have already studied art, my suggestion is to go to step 6 or trying to repeat all steps in Digital format. 


First of all, if you want to learn faster you should draw using traditional tools.  It may seem a stupid or banal rule but it is not. 
You will need a piece of paper and a pencil, preferably a medium-hard pencil or HB ("H" stands for "hardness," while "B" stands for "blackness"). If you  have already familiarity with this hard drawing medium you could obtain different soft pencils instead: B, 2B and 4B will be fine. A putty rubber and a white rubber from a good brand will work fine. 
However, I'm not here to describe which tools are better for drawing traditionally, and for me a hoe would work fine as well: it's the passion that counts!

My tools by thepunisherone

 Now that you have a pencil and F4 paper (F2 is less thick and if you erase often you could ruin it, that's why F4 is ideal) you can start your work. You can also make out with A4 paper which is thicker than normal,  otherwise you will pass the sheet if you use a hard mine (or if your hand is too heavy, if you know what I mean...). 
Well, now that you have the tools, sharpener included, get in a bright spot of your house, preferably on an inclined surface (otherwise your future drawing will look in perspective, and you may not be happy with the result!) and copy the hand your not using for drawing. Try not to erase too much. Try to grasp the structure of your hand through many sketches in which you should only draw the outlines of your hand and fingers, you should forget about the shading for a moment. 
Fill the paper with these sketches of your hand in different poses and please include your wrist if you can. Continue your workout every 2/3 days (preferably daily) for 2 weeks, what am I saying?  Do it until you could see significant improvements! 
Write the date on each work you have done and keep them carefully without rubbing them. The first step to be a good artist is to give value to your works. When the hand really looks like a hand and not a mass of sausages then you're ready for Step 2.

The result will be similar to this, only the folds of flesh and contours of the hands should be visible.

HANDS training by Washu-M

Hand proportions work this way...

Hand Tutorial -Tips+Reference- by Qinni Hand Tutorial 2 by Qinni


So now we better move to the second point. 
Ok guys, do you remember your own hand? That hand you copied so many times, that fist, that cramp that came while you deformed it? Here you are, you should repeat the procedure but this time you will not have to copy only the outlines of your fingers. You must work hard and point on your hand the dramatic light of a lamp, because this time you should draw your hand and shade it. 
If you are drawing using a HB  pencil then shade using a B or 2B. You will realize soon that it is not so difficult to find the darkest points: the hard part is not to make the whole drawing uniformly black or uniformly gray and creating well balanced halftones. 
You may find some difficulties, yeah right! all normal, because in fact you're seeing your hand in colors (as long as you're not color blind) and you're just simplifying your hand colors using the greyscale instead. So, don't give up! It was hard for everyone at the beginning.
Repeat this exercise every 2/3 days until you can see a clear difference between the first hand  (remember to write the date on the drawings!) and the last hand you drew. Are you satisfied with your improvemente?  Good, because you will have more fun following STEP 3. 

These are practical examples of a good result.

  A study in hands 2 by Spectrum-VII
Hand anatomy by Elthenstorm


Since you are already conversant with your left hand (or right that it is) and you say you know it by heart (if you say so...), now I'm asking you to take your colored pencils and do an experiment. This time I'm asking you NOT to do a preliminary sketch in pencil of your drawing: just draw one or both of your feet, using colored pencils only on semi rough paper F4 of different colors (I recommend a white, a grey, a blue and a black for a good start). Again, do not stop until the result satisfies you. Write the date on the work because now the interesting part begins.
The result should be similar to these, of course in colors.

FEET sketches by Washu-M Feet Study 2 - Steps by irysching

Feet proportions works this way...

+TUTORIAL-Feet drawing guide+ by goku-no-baka


Now that you have experimented with various techniques and you quite understand how your hands and feet are made, you need a model for understanding how the face works. 
Ask one of your friends, your parents, if nobody wants to pose for you then use a picture (but it's always better to do life drawings first!). As tools you will need a ballpoint pen, preferably black or blue, and a white smooth paper (A4 copy paper is fine too). Now make a copy of the person in front of you (face, neck and shoulders), and remember well that you can not/must not erase this time! Yes, I'm evil. Try to do several sessions of the same person until the drawing is really similar to the original and recognizable from others. 
Begin with a front and profile view, then try out 3/4. 

Cacophony by Anapath
'Cacophony' by Anapath

The proportions of the human face work this way...

Face Proportion by endzi-z Profile Proportion by endzi-z


It 's time to understand how the human proportions work. A tip? Never stop taking references from the human figure (as long as you're learning) or you will make a lot of mistakes or exaggerate many anatomical features without even noticed it! 
Now use your live model of choice, or look in fashion magazines and copy a full human figure in different poses, focusing on lines, shading, dynamism and execution speed.
To improve your speed you should first start with 15 minutes poses, then reduce the time to 10 minutes and 5 minutes at last. Use a timer: leave the drawing unfinished and start another one when the time elapses. 
Do many of them, every day. 

The results should be something like this...

'Life Drawing Collage 4' by travelingpantscg

figures 8 by Luthie13 Life drawing 2010 by jeffsimpsonkh
Figure Workshop 13 by JerrySabatini Figure Set 1 by ethician
 life drawing: 5 minutes by scaragh
figures 3 by Luthie13 figures 5 by Luthie13
some figure drawing by Luthie13 some more figure drawing by Luthie13
Figure Drawing Collage by JillJohansenFigure studies. by RoscoeFink
life drawing 042511 by bigbigtruckLife Drawing at CDA 3 pt2 by reiq

If you didn't understand how the anatomy works, you can study some good tutorials for the human body...

Arm Anatomy by Azot2017 Trunk Anatomy by Azot2017
Man Anatomy by Azot2017
 General Body Tutorial by shark-bomb


The time has came. It is time to finish something guys! You should be really excited: you reached execution speed and some anatomy skills but you lack accuracy.
Use your awesome live model again and ask him to pose for a longer session (2/3 hours minimum). Use the tools you like the most, sit comfortably, tools in the hand and start your session.
Here are some good results you may find inspiring.

Prenda XXVII by napoleoman old man_figure drawing by michalivan
12hr figure drawing by infernovball Life drawing:  A sitting by thienbao

I really hope you will find this journal useful and I really hope you enjoyed the journey. ^^ 
Ps: Sorry my English is not my mothertongue. 

Skin by Nobody
Add a Comment:
denisa34 Featured By Owner 2 days ago  Student Digital Artist
how to inprove faster in 3 steps!!

lay down, try not to cry, cry a lot X''''D
KingShyyGuy Featured By Owner Jun 17, 2017  Student General Artist
Thank you for this, I just started practicing drawing hands and gesture drawing. This will help me improve more, may take a few years, but that's the fun of the journey.
malazkaboom Featured By Owner Jun 11, 2017  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
thank you very much for sharing <3
noodle-cake Featured By Owner May 21, 2017  Student Traditional Artist
what are the downsides of learning on a tablet rather than paper and pencils?
Gedmis Featured By Owner May 22, 2017  New Deviant
You will get used to you tablet too much and plus it wont be so convenient working on one, and also the colours and all that. You want to learn on how to draw on paper and do your drawings on there and on digital after.
LadyxChrii Featured By Owner May 21, 2017  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
found THIS little jewel on Pintrest! o.o thank you for making this!
Kyauma Featured By Owner May 13, 2017  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Thanks a lot ! I think I'll start working on this right now xD
ShotToNothing Featured By Owner May 10, 2017
a thousand times thank you!
goresai Featured By Owner May 8, 2017  Student General Artist
This tutorial is amazing. Now, if only I had friends to model for me. 
Orbitual Featured By Owner Apr 14, 2017  Student Digital Artist
thank u so much!! i haven't read through this yet but i can tell this will be a big help to me, and again thank you!!
Fullfee121 Featured By Owner Mar 31, 2017  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
This is really helpful I am starting Step 1 [hands are evil, but it's fun to challenge yourself] 
TheNakedArgonian Featured By Owner Mar 26, 2017
Excellent reference! As for getting someone to stand still for over an hour? I'm not sure if that's even realistic.
Krysella Featured By Owner Mar 19, 2017
Thank you!
DEADSHEEP-PIE Featured By Owner Feb 2, 2017  Student General Artist
TheBigSweat Featured By Owner Jan 31, 2017  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Thank you so much for taking the time to make this. This is very helpful.
ingridkarina Featured By Owner Jan 29, 2017  Hobbyist Photographer
Muchas gracias
NightEyEsDW Featured By Owner Jan 24, 2017
I love that the internet has people like you who are willing to share their knowledge. thanks a lot. i'm looking into making a comic book. and also designing my own tattoo.
GregZhel Featured By Owner Nov 27, 2016  Student Digital Artist
You said to work traditionally and that it works better but you didn't explain why. What's so different about digital and traditional? What if I legitimately don't like drawing traditionally? Should I drop art since I will never succeed without wasting paper?
brooklynn620 Featured By Owner Nov 28, 2016  Hobbyist Digital Artist
whoa man careful with the extra salt o.o
GregZhel Featured By Owner Nov 30, 2016  Student Digital Artist
It was spilled all over my table by a Bad Day Guy. Anyway how does drawing traditionally make you a better artist? I still don't understand that. 
GregZhel Featured By Owner Dec 12, 2016  Student Digital Artist
Thanks for the replies that make some sense. I was a bit salty in my first comment so i exaggerated the truth, I might not really love drawing on paper but I do studies and sketches traditionally because I don't have two screens to have posemaniacs and photoshop on. I just didn't understand why people make it look like the only true way is the traditional way, it sounded like elitist garbage so I got a angry. Again, had a bad day at the time. 
thatweebo Featured By Owner Dec 11, 2016
As someone who went to a trade school we were taught Traditional first here's the reason, there's a lot more techniques and how stuff like charcoal, led, oil, water color, pastel, chalk, etc. works. Learning different mediums is good because you get to know how it "feels" and "looks" if you're trying to aim for a digital look but aiming for it to look painted that's hard without that knowledge. Also if you can on paper and do all of those things on paper you learn how to do perspective and etc easier, that's why if you go to a Game Art course (doing this right now) you will have to take a life drawing that means no digital work at all. For me I always did traditional art (still do) and learning digital art is coming along fairly well but it's good to know how to do both because if you're going into the industry and you don't have actual sketches on pencil and all digital they'll only think you can do only one thing which some people think is dumb but think about it let's say you're in a meeting and you have to go over concept work and there is no tablet or computer insight only pencils and little sticky notes and if you can't do anything you'll be removed from the project.
Some people aren't going to take this lightly but that's just how it is I have a lot of classmates who complain about it and my professors actually get pretty mad at them for it. There's pro's and con's for both… check this out to see what I mean. 
ShroomDragon Featured By Owner Dec 5, 2016  Hobbyist Digital Artist
It doesn't, really. However, the transition from traditional to digital is easy. Vice versa is very difficult. Learning the traditional way will just make learning new styles and methods a little easier because you haven't grown used to the advantages that drawing digitally or that certain drawing programs may give you. 
Riontich Featured By Owner Nov 22, 2016  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Hello, please show examples of work 3 chapters. Thank you for the material.
GarranSays Featured By Owner Nov 22, 2016  Student Photographer
Ahhhh, this is amazing! I'm trying to get a better hang for anatomy.
BluePawsteps246 Featured By Owner Oct 18, 2016  Hobbyist Digital Artist
This is very helpful! I am starting to branch off and draw humans instead of cats, dogs, ect, so this helps a lot! 
Keyrix Featured By Owner Jul 30, 2016  Student General Artist
This has already helped me with things like hands! Thanks so much :3
QuakeBrothers Featured By Owner Jul 18, 2016  Hobbyist Digital Artist
i love this tutorial but i think it lacks soemthing: how to shade with pencil
xOlive Featured By Owner Feb 21, 2017  Student Digital Artist
darker shadows, press on the pencil slightly and build up the color/shade and smudge it (i do it with my finger tbh)
for lighter shadows, do the same thing but lighter

im not a pro but this is what i do lol
QuakeBrothers Featured By Owner Feb 24, 2017  Hobbyist Digital Artist
thanks, i will see what can i do
Poturnip Featured By Owner May 21, 2016  Hobbyist Artist
my friends at my highschool say i'm a perv because i draw 'naked bodies'
but it's art, for heaven's sake

i'm working on college apps for an art school, so i guess i might have a better experience
ixiondbz Featured By Owner Jul 19, 2016  Student Traditional Artist
Same here. They are taught at young age that anything Nude is Bad Immoral and Disgusting.
Poturnip Featured By Owner Jul 21, 2016  Hobbyist Artist
I know, right?
BlazingFireHeart Featured By Owner Jan 2, 2017  Hobbyist Digital Artist
I was carrying an anatomy book with me at school and my friend asked what I was reading. Once she saw through the pages she said really loudly "SHE'S GOT A BOOK OF PORN" No, I disagree! 
Luminarous Featured By Owner May 27, 2016  Hobbyist Digital Artist
:o! I wish you the best of luck~!
Poturnip Featured By Owner May 28, 2016  Hobbyist Artist
thank you :)
midgetcutedragon Featured By Owner May 21, 2016  Student Digital Artist
.o. meh minds blown
MidnightDarkness666 Featured By Owner May 20, 2016  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
The thing is, I don't do nudity of real people, one of the many reasons I didn't do art at higher education levels. Put me in a room with a nude model and I'd try to claw my own eyes out, or crasp around for something to keep their dignity intact with. Yeah... Issues.
MidnightDarkness666 Featured By Owner Edited Mar 4, 2017  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Oh and here's something for all you people insisting that studying nudes is THE only way to do things and that using reference pictures is bad (and especially those using this as an excuse to be a**hol- oh I'm sorry "being blunt and cold as ice... not sugar-coating")…

Here's a quote: "Yeah, and even before that, it was life. Renaissance painters would hire a bunch of models to stand exactly how they wanted, for hours on end, and then they’d literally just copy them. We definitely didn’t create a new technique here—it’s more like a bridge between traditional painting and the crazy, digital art we make today."
charfade Featured By Owner Jul 6, 2016   Artist
Most collages will also offer clothed models live drawing classes if you ask for it.  Don't let nudity prevent you form looking into or attending live drawing classes. Studying from life will always be your number 1 best resource. 
MidnightDarkness666 Featured By Owner Jul 6, 2016  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
I didn't do art at GCSE level, or A level. I enquired at University for doing... something artsy but was turned down because of that. I knew the fact that I drew Anime wouldn't sit well with teachers at school so I didn't bother. I again tried for A level but the idiot teacher... well she bragged about how she likes to break her new students by forcing them to draw with charcoal the first few lessons and other such comfort zone breaking. That reaaaaaally isn't the way to advertise yourself, or teach someone with Autism, I practically ran out of the room. I'm happy and proud with the fact that I'm self taught.
charfade Featured By Owner Jul 9, 2016   Artist
ya know... even anime artists draw from life too... its called studying... regardless of how you do it. 

Getting defensive about all that is only limiting yourself. Experiment with everything! Play and have fun! 

And btw... that teacher was on point. You should probably listen more. 
HeartandVoice Featured By Owner Edited Aug 4, 2016  Student Traditional Artist
 Well said! Thank you!!!
MidnightDarkness666 Featured By Owner Jul 10, 2016  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
I have Autism, that isn't the way to teach me, it would have just lead to stress, arguments and possibly fits. Learning under that teacher, the way she proposed would have just been detrimental to my mental health and risk putting me off art althoughter.

I do study, I take pictures for reference, or find them on the internet and work from them.
charfade Featured By Owner Edited Jul 10, 2016   Artist
awww lemme give you the special snowflake award. *pats back* I dont care

people have all kinds of disabilities. Missing limbs, blindness, autism, name it... endless list really. Your not special. Matter fact your just like everyone else who has to struggle with something they have to deal with. 

Stop using excuses.  

Now I will concede that not every teacher is a good fit for a student. But you jumped to your disability as the reason. Not the teachers fault. Its your own. ANY teacher if you would have talked to them would have met with you and discussed your concerns. Instead you got argumentative and defensive about it.  That's not your disability talking that is you and your stubbornness. 

You come here and make a comment on someones post that is to help people. And my reply was a second suggestion to work around your concern about nude drawing and that there were options. OPTIONS. But you flagged it as offensive and started waving you disability flag. Congrats. Your every other pansy person that wants help but wont help themselves. 

Study from life. I can't tell you how many times that is more important the pictures or internet refs. Every art master I've ever talked to or study under uses it as the place to start. Its the one thing that they all agree on. So there is something to be said for it. 

Now, I'm sure your going to log this one under "F this, I'ma do what I want. " Honestly it makes no difference to me what so ever. But if you really want to get better that's the hard truth.   
MidnightDarkness666 Featured By Owner Jul 10, 2016  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Wow, talk about jumping down my throat. Here we were having a polite conversation and you just started being nasty.

Let's ignore the snowflake comment, because that was just meant to be insulting.

You do not seem to recognise that every single disabled person has individual needs; Autism itself and all disabilities vary from person to person.

How is 'jump(ing) to your disability as the reason' as you put it not valid enough for you? Yes, I felt that because of my disability, it was a bad idea to take the course, given the teacher's lack of understanding. This is considering the problem of teachers not knowing how to teach or deal with students with Autism has grown so much, that in my country, the government have just made it so that everyone going through teacher training now has to learn about Autism, so as to better teach their pupils. Plus, this was six years ago, when I had just been diagnosed. Having a meeting to discuss my concerns wouldn't have been very productive because of MY lack of knowledge of my disability back then. Yet somehow, according to you, all that is my fault. Blaming someone for thinking of their mental health and well being, over a course isn't very nice, is it?

Also, the way that the teacher described her teaching methods and comfort zone breaking, with a sort of sadistic glee, made me feel uncomfortable. And where did this 'you got argumentative and defensive about it.' Come from? Did I at all indicate thats how my conversation went? I in fact politely declined applying for their course and left.

Indeed, I posted my comment looking for advice and our conversation originally was you giving me said advise. However, I tried to better explain the situation and share some of my experiences, but you reacted poorly. For some further clarification, here people go to school till 16, then can optionally go to college for two years, then go to University. The teacher was a college teacher. I was turned down for doing something to do with art (not nessarcerily a course) at University because I didn't have the qualifications. I studided creative writing at University and have now finished. The option you presented me, isn't one I can take, because I am not in education anymore. Even if there were any hobby clubs or lessons with live drawing classes I could go to locally, I proberly wouldn't be able to afford them.

What do you mean 'flagged it as offensive'? If you think I reported your comment, I didn't. Plus, I thought one could only report comments for being spam on Deviantart, or at least that's what it says on the page right now.

Waving my disability flag? I brought it up because it was relevant, though based on your earlier points I take it you don't believe that. Also you're implying I waved it in your face, I brought it up twice. Once because of its relevance, twice because I thought it needed reiterating, or you had missed it the first time.

'Pansy' is a homophobic slur

There really is no need to get nasty just because of exceptions to your blanket statement, that must apply to everyone apparently.
MysteriousShadow5599 Featured By Owner Jan 1, 2017  Student Traditional Artist
The point that Charfade is trying to make is that you're disability doesn't have anything to do with your progression. I've been scanning through all your messages in this little conversation and I understand disability because I have have "issues" as well. It's an ongoing battle to draw, but I keep at at because I love creating stories and characters especially manga and anime people. Like many people, I wanted to become a manga artist and was quicker shot down by my parents who want me to get a job with more security. I get all of that, but what it seems like to all of us is that your progression has been stunted by your own ignorance and inability to face your disability head on.

You keep going on and on about your autism when you have people with no hands and eyes that still draw. I provide this evidence with restraint because I don't know your mental or physical state. What I do think is that your angry that people don't understand your connection to life, but you must know that every artist for the most part studies some degree of the basic fundamentals: Anatomy, Perspective, Proportions, Form and Construction, without these tools you will never progress and If you do there's a really big chance of it coming back to bite you in the but later. Drawing from photos is very dangerous because their supposed to be used for reference, drawing from life is that the old master used to do and it's a very big issue today because so many people reply on photos (including me). Avoiding the issue by complaining about your issues is helping nobody. You're avoiding and deflecting by continuing to bring up your disability is not helping you at all. I have a more mental issues than you and you don't see me lecturing everybody for my previous experience. 

Charfade wasn't being nasty, he was being blunt and cold as ice, he was not sugar-coating his words like many other do. Your so stubborn that you've brain-washed yourself into believing you can't do it and your not even willing to give it a shot because of what might happen. Let me tell you something, I've got more mental issues than you will ever have and drawing is hell for me, but I keep trying. I cry, scream, fuss and even give up sometime, I take some time off to re-group and I try again. What's your excuse?

"Autism - A serious developmental disorder that impairs the ability to communicate and interact."

What does this have to do with sitting in a room and drawing nude people or life in general, if your mental state is at that level why aren't you involved in some kind of treatment program? I did a little bit of research and you've got medication, therapies and specialists that can help you work through your disorder so why are you making all these excuses? Don't sit here and play the victim acting like everybody is so mean and nasty just because we see you as a person and not as a helpless soul that shouldn't be pushed because of your disability.

Charfade was only trying to push you, but you've just given up. You want to justify why you can't do this and do that, this really triggers me. If you can't even put forth any effort, you might want to pick a different hobby. Get some serious help because them denial issues are really getting in the way of your life and are just really annoying. You're so messed up in the head you need to start over after you start over, jeez... I need a Canada Dry over this bullsh#it.
(2 Replies)
Itsukarine Featured By Owner Aug 6, 2016
I really can't grasp what could make nudity bad to you besides some conditioning as a child from prudes; aside from that, we all feel stress when we're learning because drawing is masochistic as hell. If you take it serious enough to post more than one thing a year, it's worth trying to break the mold you've created for yourself because you only hinder growth by restraining new experiences and not challenging yourself. If you can't do that, art will probably never be for you.
(2 Replies)
charfade Featured By Owner Edited Jul 10, 2016   Artist
I didn't know Pansy is a homophobic slur. For that I apologize. And I learned something. After reading on it more guess kids have found a new meaning. *sigh*

Also, I come across so strongly about the disabilities thing because I as well have one. What it is, its irrelevant. What I do know is I'm tired of people using disabilities in conversation as a crutch. I'm tired of people playing victims and using it as an excuse. Yeah there are things you can't control, every person is different and what things we over come aren't the same. But what I'm really getting at is be the advocate to your peers and be a source of encouragement. Jumping to excuses and finding a reason to justify why you "can't" instead of "can" frustrates me. There are always possibilities and options. Though sometimes you do have to get creative about it.  

I want to share with you this video, from a one handed speed runner on twitch named 
halfcoordinated. He's a source of insparation to many, and what he says can be applied to anyone with an disablitiy

I will honestly say I hear the " Oh I have..." enter some 
disability", I can't " way to much and I lumped you in that group of people. I offered my feedback and I honestly felt it was ignored. I felt it was rude.  In fact I tired to ignored your Autism comment at first because I wanted to stay on topic rather then be dragged into a personal emotional quarrel. 

Back to being on topic.  I'm sry If I caused you any anxiety or horribly offended you. Studying correctly is important to me because there is a lot of information out there that is being tossed about that isn't correct. And I too have struggled trying to get better and  learn as much as I possibly can. What I have learned in my 30+ years of art and constantly practicing is life drawing will always be the thing you will improve the most on. I will say there is something to be said about studying photos and animations/movies... really what ever point of reference you find that works is important too.  Try to mix it up constantly.  But always go back to that life drawing. And you dont need to have money for it... you can study anywhere and anyplace.

Good luck to you

(2 Replies)
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