Anatomy can sometimes be a struggle for artists (- cough cough – sometimes, ha!). We can always look for images of certain parts of the body or poses, so we can use as a reference. Sometimes, not even this works. You can’t just find a proper image for you to observe and study.
Manikins or Mannequins are amazing for figure drawing and learning anatomy. This is not cheating, this tool is there to help you! Having a figure, even a small one, that you can move around and that you can always go to, to study your anatomy is very useful!
Not only you can study certain parts of the body, but also how light and shadows behave.
The Best Artist Manikin That I Recommend
My highly recommended suggestion is for you to get this Anatomy Figure Anatomical Reference for Artists by 3DTotal.
This Mannequin, from 3DTotal, is pretty amazing.
It stands on a neutral pose and it is 11 inches tall. My favorite aspect of this figure is that half of it is skinned, but the other half has the muscles showing up.
This way, not only you can practice human anatomy, but if you’re uncertain how to draw, let’s say, an arm, you’re not sure which muscles and lines will overlap. With the other half of your mannequin, you can look up the muscles and see how they connect with each other.
Learning both anatomy, the muscles and even bones is a very important skill and can help you lot in figuring out the human body, how it works and how you should draw it!
This figure has a bit of a higher price than others but the quality makes up for it. Having an anatomy reference that you can rotate and look in detail at any time is very helpful.
And it’s worth to note that there’s a male and female version!
Alternatively, a Wooden Mannequin
Although a bit more restraining in details, a Wooden Mannequin is very good for posing.
You can find a cheap Poseable wooden mannequin for your anatomy reference. It has a very low amount of details and it will not help you in any way anatomically. But, it’s still very helpful, especially if you’re trying to figure how poses, measurements, where each part of the body breaks and how the body is divided. If you’re doing some gesture drawing or just practicing poses in general, it can help you improve your general silhouettes, shapes, and movements.
This mannequin is, usually, 13 inches tall. All the joints are articulated, so you can move them as you want, for the pose you want. Additionally, it comes with a stand, so you can move it around, freely.
You can also use a Body-Kun, I’ve reviewed it before and you can check the video below:
Why I Chose the 3D Total Mannequin
Even if I really like drawing and practicing poses, the wooden figure never really did it for me.
I couldn’t wrap my mind around the shapes, so drawing a human body from there was hard. If you don’t really have anatomy knowledge, it will be hard to draw a human body in any position. You need to observe the body to know its shapes. And this figure will help immensely in that aspect.
Even if you already studied anatomy, it’s always a good thing to have at home, for whenever you have some doubt of a certain curve, shape or position. It’s always there, for whenever you need.
Not only anatomy in general, you can also learn the muscles of the body and how they intertwine, getting a better understanding of how the human body looks and moves. Another thing I really like about this figure is its color.
The neutral grey tone is perfect to study light sources and how shadows will behave, depending on it. Often, after choosing the light source, I have some doubts about how should I paint my shadows in certain spots. This way, I can just check it very quickly and paint accordingly.
Of course, you don’t need to limit yourself and having both versions is always a plus! A standing mannequin, that you can use to study anatomy and a movable one, to practice poses.
Here it is again: Anatomy Figure Anatomical Reference for Artists by 3DTotal
Things to Look for in a Mannequin
It all depends on what you want it for.
There are many kinds of figures for you to practice with.
So in short, would you want to study human anatomy and how to draw it?
Then just a normal mannequin, standing in a very neutral position should be enough. It can be just the body or you can get something like I mentioned where half of the figure shows the muscles.
An option is to also get individual figures, one that you use for general anatomy, another where it just shows muscles and then even another that shows the skeleton.
But let’s say, you’re not looking into studying anatomy, you’ve been there and have tons of books about it already. You just want something that you can move around and make it stand in any position you want.
Then you do have the wooden mannequins but you can also find some articulated figures, that have a human look to them (although these ones have a more anime feel to them).
Finally, there’s another option.
Do you want the whole body or just a specific part? There are whole body mannequins, but you can also find just a bust, so you can study the human face alone. Hands can be a nightmare to draw, right? Well, you can also find hand models, that are also articulated, so you can draw hands in any position you want.
Even though a bit rare and not a lot of variety of it, there’s also some animal figures. Usually wooden ones and similar to the articulated human mannequins. If you’re looking to draw a dog or a cat, you could find some. Although, in my opinion, they do look a bit weird.
I’d still prefer to look for images or videos online or even go out and see some dogs outside.
You can also find hand reference photos online, here are the best resources.
Now, lastly, and this is probably the most important thing, is: what do you want to draw? Men or women? Men and women have very different shapes and their bodies are also not the same. If you’re looking into learning male anatomy, then the best for you is to find a male mannequin.
On the other hand, if you want to draw women and want to learn female anatomy and their body shapes better, then there’s usually a female version of the mannequin as well.
Of course, I’m mainly talking on mannequins that focus on anatomy. A wooden figure is very neutral and will fall towards neither gender. They are more focused on poses and general shape for when starting a sketch for the body.
If you want to study both male and female, then getting more than one mannequin, one for female and other for male, is, of course, an option as well!
Why You Should Use a Mannequin
The most important reason: 3D.
If you’re looking for reference images only, you can never see the whole. Sometimes this might be a problem. By not seeing the body in 3D, you can’t see as easily, its weight, the perspective may seem off or you can’t just completely wrap your mind about it and you can’t see the volume properly.
When drawing, even if it’s a 2D drawing, you add lines and shadows, to create volume, so your drawing isn’t completely flat, so it gains some movement and life. Even if looking at pictures online, to serve you as a reference is something you can always do, having a mannequin right by your side, might aid you as well.
You can use both the images and mannequin.
You look up your reference, you start drawing what you see, is there some doubt on how to draw this arm? How does it behave when it moves that way? That’s when you look for your mannequin and study and clean up your doubts.
Another great advantage is that you’re not as dependable of what you can find.
Sometimes you really want a specific pose or the sitting poses you’ve encountered so far aren’t exactly what you had in mind. Well then, no problem! You just get your figure, move it around, try out different poses until you get to the one you’re looking for.
If the Internet can’t provide what you want with sitting pose references, for example, you can make it yourself!
Usually, these figurines are made in grey tones, except the wooden ones.
This is very useful, because, you can use light here to your advantage. This means that you can use your mannequin, not only for anatomy and pose study, but also lighting and shading studies! The neutral tone let’s light be reflected on to it and you can very easily see the shadows it casts. The contrast between the grey and dark makes the shadow very well defined.
So whenever you’re in doubt about how do shadows behave depending on this or that light source, you can easily check it and then paint it on your drawing.
The Wooden Mannequin.