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Figure Drawing Basics: Draw Figures Easily Step-by-Step

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Learning figure drawing is very important if you want to draw people and characters.

Even if you want to draw in a more cartoony or straightforward style, it’s still essential to understand human anatomy well!

Since you can keep it simple while gaining immense knowledge, figure drawing is the best way to capture life and different dynamic poses.

In this article, I’ll guide you through drawing figures very easily, step-by-step.

example of a figure being drawn using basic shapes
Let’s draw some figures!

Step By Step Guide On Drawing Figures

Let’s now go over each step that you can follow to draw figures of the human body!

Don’t skip any of these, and have fun.

Start By Getting References Or Use A Tool

Having a good reference is a must when it comes to figure drawing. This is your ultimate tool when starting to learn anatomy and drawing figures.

When it comes to understanding anatomy, you must look at the subject.

This can be done by looking at people on the streets, taking photos of yourself or a friend in different poses, or the most straightforward solution: looking up good reference photos online.

So, before drawing the human figure, search for excellent pose references (like these) to help you practice figure drawing.

reference photo of a woman doing a yoga pose
This is the reference I’ll be working with throughout this article!

I’ll be using this photo, if you’d like to follow along with me!

There are also online tools, such as line-of-action.com, where you can get random reference images every few minutes.

Here, you can set up a timer and other settings and then go through a whole figure-drawing session with different models and poses!

  • 5 minutes
  • 2 minutes
  • 1 minute
  • 30 seconds

This is a more advanced way to draw figures, so I recommend you start by just choosing one reference image and practice that at your leisure.

Although having a timer to focus on what’s important to capture in the human figure, it can be too overwhelming at first.

Look up some interesting photo references, sit down and start drawing figures, one step at a time.

Draw The Gesture Of The Figure

The first step when you start figure drawing is to focus on the gesture of the pose.

Gesture drawing is not quite the same as figure drawing.

To create a gesture, you can use just one line or draw something similar to a stick figure.

Look at your reference and try to find the line that best captures the movement of the pose.

This is called the line of action, and the whole pose flows through this line.

There is no specific line of action. A single pose can have several lines of action. It all depends on the artist’s interpretation.

If you’re just starting, I recommend drawing these lines on top of your references.

This will allow you to have a better figure drawing outline.

image showing how to Find The Gesture On Top Of Your Reference Photo
Start with finding the gesture of the figure!

It will make the whole process much easier, so you better understand the human form.

Once you get the hang of this concept, it’s time to draw on your sketchbook.

First, draw the line of action and then add more lines to build the overall figure.

Here you can use straight lines or curved lines.

But you can also use basic shapes if it’s easier to see the human body.

image showing different ways of doing gesture drawing
Simple lines or shapes, up to you!

What matters is that you keep it as simple as possible without focusing on details. Instead, you want to capture action and focus on that.

Gesture drawing is the perfect warm-up when practicing figure drawing and a great way to develop your drawing skills.

With this exercise, you can better understand the human body and its basic proportions.

It also helps you become more confident in your lines since gesture drawing comprises simple, quick, and dynamic lines!

Once you’re done with the gesture of the human figure and its general shape, it’s time to refine each body part.

And if you want a more in-depth guide on drawing gesture, check out this article.

Draw The Head Shape

When practicing figure drawing, you can start with any body part.

Generally speaking, we tend to start from top to bottom. However, some artists prefer to start from the torso or waist area, for example.

Here, we’re going to start with the head. We’re going to use very simple shapes.

The head is very round, so we can start with a circle and find its center.

image showing how To Draw The Head, Start With A Circle And Find Its Center
Draw a simple circle and two lines to find the center

Now, for the chin, elongate the vertical center line.

All we have to do now is add two curved lines for each side of the head and connect them to the center line of the head.

Now Elongate The Vertical Line For The Chin And Two Curved Lines On Each Side Of The Head
Add lines for the chin and side of the head!

With very simple lines, we managed to draw the head shape.

The head shapes and proportions might change slightly depending on the poses you’re drawing.

For example, the head can be turned to the side, looking up or down.

The concept is mostly the same, but you might need to adapt your lines and shapes.

image showing that Depending On The Angle Of The Head You Might Need To Adapt Your Shapes And Lines
Some examples of heads tilting to different sides and views

One thing you can do is, again, draw on top of your reference photos and look for shapes for the head.

example of drawing on top of a reference image to practice
Draw on top of your reference image to practice!

Once you have found them, practice those shapes in your sketchbook!

And if you’re looking for a more detailed tutorial on how to draw the head, take a look at our Step-By-Step Guide On How To Draw The Head.

Draw The Main Guidelines Of The Face

Before we move on to the rest of the body, let’s first add a few guidelines for where the main facial features sit on the head.

We already have two main guidelines for the eyebrows and dividing the face in the middle.

A bit below the eyebrow line, draw another horizontal line for the eyes.

image showing how to draw the eyebrow guide line and the eye guide line for drawing
Draw the guidelines for the eyes and eyebrows

Now, divide the area between the eyes and the chin into three parts. Draw two more horizontal lines.

The first line is for the nose, and the second is for the mouth.

image showing how to Divide The Area Between The Eyes And Chin Into Three Parts To Find The Nose And Mouth Line
Split the areas up to find the nose and mouth lines!

With that done, we have all the guidelines we need for most of the facial features.

Let’s go ahead and draw the ears on each side of the face.

For these, one thing to remember is that, generally, the ears can be as tall as the eyebrow line and won’t go below the nose line.

image showing how to Draw The Ears One On Each Side Of The Head
Semi-circles for the ears!

You don’t need to draw all the details yet, but it’s good to know where everything should be and understand the face proportions.

However, we have another Complete Guide On How To Draw Faces if you want to draw the face with all its details.

Draw The Neck

Now that the head is done, it’s time to go for the following area: the neck.

This step is pretty simple.

Draw one slightly curved line on each side of the bottom part of the head.

For The Neck Draw One Slightly Curved Line On Each Side Of The Bottom Part Of The Head
Two curves to draw the neck

Depending on the pose, however, again, you might need to make some tweaks.

For example, if the head is tilted to one side, one side of the neck will appear smaller than the other.

image showing how to draw the head and neck in different angles
Here’s how the head and neck look at different angles

Always keep the photo reference you’re using close by since it’s a good idea to keep paying close attention to each feature of the body.

Depending on the movement of the pose, your figure drawing will change.

This is why drawing one part at a time is good and keeping it simple by sketching basic shapes and lines.

Draw The Torso

The torso requires a few more shapes. However, it can still be done by using basic shapes.

Below the neck, draw a trapezium shape.

image showing how to draw the torso, Start With A Trapezium Shape Below The Neck
Start with a trapezium shape to draw the torso

This shape can be as broad as you want. People are different and have different body shapes, which means the torso and chest can have different shapes and sizes.

Again, checking your reference photo to know what proportions to use is good.

Now, for the rest of the torso, draw another trapezium shape that is longer than the previous one.

Draw Another But Longer Trapezium Shape For The Rest Of The Torso
Add a long trapezium shape now!

So you don’t forget about it, draw a vertical line in the middle of your shapes, and near the bottom, add a dot for the belly button.

Draw A Vertical Line In The Middle Of The Torso And Then Add A Small Dot For The Belly Button At The Bottom
Add a guideline to keep everything centered, and a dot for the bellybutton!

If the figure you’re drawing shows the body from the side or any other perspective, feel free to add more plans to your shape so it gives form and dimensionality to the body.

For example, when drawing a female torso, you can use an upside down heart-shape for the ribcage, an oval for the rest of the torso, and a trapezium shape at the bottom.

Again If The Figure Shows The Body In Another Perspective Adapt Your Shapes
Depending on the pose you’re drawing, you might need to adapt your shapes!

Another thing to consider is if the model you’re drawing is a man or a woman.

Their skeletal structure varies, even slightly at times, so you can play with this when drawing the torso.

For example, when drawing a female torso, you can use an upside down heart-shape for the ribcage, an oval for the rest of the torso, and a trapezium shape at the bottom.

Alternatively, you can use the same shapes as before and later outline those shapes according to the kind of body you’re drawing.

A male torso tends to be more rectangular and straight, while a female torso uses more curves.

image showing that Female Torsos Tend To Be Curvier While Male Torsos Are More Rectangular And Straight
Use curves for more feminine torsos!

Draw The Shoulders And Arms

Our next figure-drawing step is adding the form to the shoulder line and arms.

When drawing the gesture drawing of the figure, you probably used a simple line for each arm.

Now, we’ll add some more detail to them. Doing this will not only give you a better understanding of the human form, but it’s also good practice to develop your illustration skills.

To each side of the torso, draw two lemon wedges for the shoulders.

image showing that For drawing The Shoulders Draw One Lemon Wedge On Each Side Of The Body Along The Shoulder Line
Two lemon wedges for the shoulders!

Now below those wedges, draw a rectangular shape that goes up to the elbow.

Afterwards Draw A Rectangular Shape For Part Of The Arm
Rectangular shapes for the arms

Intersecting the previous one, draw another similar shape for the rest of the arm.

Intersecting With The Previous Shape Draw Another Rectangular Shape For The Rest Of The Arm
And once again for the rest of the arm!

Again, depending on how the figure rests, you might need to draw these shapes at different angles and positions.

Depending On The Angle And Position Of The Arms You Might Need To Move Your Shapes Around
Change the shapes around depending on the pose you’re drawing!

When drawing figures, it’s essential to keep an eye on your reference, so you’re sure you’re drawing the right pose!

Draw The Hands

Hands might be one of the most challenging subjects regarding human anatomy. Just like everything so far, we’ll keep them very simple!

Draw a squared shape for the palm of the hand, right after the arm shape you drew before.

Draw A Squared Shape For The Palm Of The Hand
Simple square shapes for the palms of the hands

Now, you can keep the fingers area very simple. For example, you can sketch the overall shape instead of drawing each finger.

If the fingers are close together, draw one single form for them. If there’s space between some of the fingers, draw two or three separate shapes.

Group The Fingers Together Into Bigger And Simplified Shapes
Keep the hand drawing simple for now, with basic shapes!

The goal here is to group them into more oversized and simplified shapes. Once that’s done, draw a rectangular shape for the thumb if it’s visible.

If Visible Draw A Rectangular Shape For The Thumb
Draw a rounded rectangle for the thumbs

This is a bit of a problem-solving activity. Every artist has their methods, so it’s crucial in your artistic journey to understand what works for you!

Try Different Shapes According To The Position Of The Hands
Again, adapt the shapes to your pose and reference!

You can see our How To Draw Hands Tutorial for a more in-depth guide.

Draw The Hips

The torso seems slightly incomplete, so let’s continue our figure and draw the hip area.

Find the belly button. Now, from there, draw a trapezium shape.

Below The Torso Draw A Trapezium For The Hips
Draw a trapezium for the hip area

Right after, draw an upside-down triangle. You can even slightly curve these lines.

Then An Inverted Triangle With Two Of The Lines Slightly Curved
Add an upside-down triangle below!

Again, you can draw polygons instead of flat shapes to show the dimensionality and depth of the figure.

Depending on the view and angle, these forms might change. So take your time sketching and try different things until you’re sure the movement is right.

The Shapes Are Almost Always The Same Just Adapt Them Or Add More Plans According To The Pose
Depending on the angle, the shapes change!

Draw The Legs

The legs can be drawn by dividing them into three shapes: one for the upper part of the leg, another for the knee, and finally, one for the bottom part of the leg.

Starting on the hips, draw a round shape, going downwards. Close that shape with a simple straight line.

Intersecting With The Hips Draw A Round Shape Going Downwards For One Part Of The Legs
Draw a very rounded shape for the beginning of the legs!

For the knee, draw a circle.

Now Draw A Circle For The Knees
Add circles for the knees

Now for the rest of the leg, the outside part of it is generally curved. So draw a curved line on one side and a straight line on the other, and close the shape.

For The Lower Part Of The Legs Draw A Long Shape The Outside Is Curved While The Inside Is Straight
Two more shapes! Curved on the outside, straight on the inside.

We have all the shapes we need to draw legs. Don’t forget to pay attention to the leg’s movement and adapt the shapes.

Move Your Shapes Around According To The Position And Movement Of The Legs
Always pay attention to your pose reference!

Human anatomy is complex but breaking it into simpler forms and adapting them depending on the pose makes the process much easier!

Don’t focus on details when practicing figure drawing. Simple shapes first, then you can render your drawing as you wish.

Draw The Feet

For the feet, you can keep things very simple. A triangle for each foot is enough if their pose is stationary.

You Can Use A Simple Triangle For The Feet
Add simple triangles for the feet!

However, if they appear more dynamic, you can divide them into two parts: one for the foot and another for the toes.

Again a triangle works well for the foot, and then another triangle or even a squared shape for the toes area, for example.

Or Divide It Into Two Shapes A Triangle For The Foot And A Squared Shape Or Another Triangle For The Toes
You can also split the foot into two shapes, like this!

If the pose asks for more, divide the feet into more shapes! Try different things and adapt them to the movement they’re making.

Repeat And Practice The Same Figure Several Times!

Now that you’re done with your human figure drawing, it’s time to practice it.

Make several drawings of the same pose. Try sketching different shapes for different parts of the body.

Practice The Same Pose Several Times Using Different Shapes If Needed Until You Feel Confident Of Your Process
Practice drawing your figures!

When you draw people, you’ll notice that bodies come in different shapes, so you can also practice drawing those.

You can keep each drawing very simple or render your drawings full of detail and even shading.

In our drawing courses, I recommend first keeping things simple and practicing the shapes.

If you want, your figure drawings can just be made out of lines of action at first! Once you get comfortable with those, you can add form to your sketches.

And then, when you’re confident in the shapes used, you can refine your drawings and give them more depth!

And if you want to learn more about figure drawing or prefer video format, take a look at our Complete Figure Drawing Course.

Related Questions

Let’s now go over a few common questions on drawing figures.

Is Figure Drawing Hard To Learn?

Yes, in general figure drawing is a hard subject to draw.

People have many different shapes and complex forms, so drawing the figure correctly is a difficult task! With that said, if you break everything down into simple shapes and focus on learning one particular part at a time, it’s perfectly doable.

figure drawing sketch

It takes a long time to master figure drawing, but it can be a good subject for beginner artists to learn if they’re interested in drawing characters and people!

I have a Complete Course on Figure Drawing that takes you from 0 knowledge to creating full figures.

It also includes a bunch of helpful templates and short videos, so be sure to check it out here!

What Are The Benefits Of Figure Drawing?

There are many benefits of figure drawing, such as:

  • A better understanding of the human body: When practicing figure drawing, you break down the body into simpler, easy-to-digest shapes. This helps you get to know anatomy better, one body part at a time.
  • Improves your observation skills: Figure drawing requires attention and observation when drawing a pose. With time and practice, you’ll understand better how to put into paper what you see.
  • Boosts your confidence: You’ll feel more confident in your drawing skills by keeping the whole process simple. Once you do, you can then learn to refine your figure drawings.
  • A better understanding of movement and balance: figure drawing pushes you into drawing different poses and capture them as vividly as possible. You’ll have more dynamic and exciting drawings by exaggerating certain body parts.

Can I Learn To Draw Figures Without A Model?

Yes, you can learn to draw figures without a model. You don’t necessarily need to go to a life drawing class with live models to learn to draw anatomy and figures.

It does help you improve faster, but nowadays there are many resources online to teach you this skill!

You can get different references and use those to learn to draw people.

And you can learn from books and videos from other masters of the craft!

How Long Does It Take To Learn Figure Drawing?

Learning Figure Drawing can take from 1 to 5 years, depending on the level of complexity and previous knowledge you have on drawing the human body!

This is a very complex subject since the human body is made of several different parts, and drawing them correctly can be quite hard.

The time it takes to learn figure drawing will also vary greatly depending on your current skills as an artist.

Not only that, but each person will find different results satisfactory.

So you can learn figure drawing pretty quickly and be done with it if you don’t worry too much about perfectionism and achieving the highest level of detail in your drawings.

What Are The Best Materials To Use For Figure Drawing?

You can use many different materials when practicing figure drawing. From traditional media, such as pencil and pen, to digital media, such as using any drawing software with a drawing tablet!

I recommend you use the materials that you’re comfortable with. With that said, here are the Best Materials I recommend.

And if you’re doing figure drawings digitally, pick one good drawing software.

Here are the best Drawing Software for Beginners!

DonCorgi

Patricia Caldeira is the main writer here at Don Corgi. She's an art teacher with over 20.000 happy students across many platforms and courses!

Enjoy your stay and as always:
Keep on drawing!


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