Category: How to draw people

Drawing Poses

Basics of figure drawing and pose references

Drawing Poses


There’s nothing more frustrating than sitting in front of a blank piece of paper for hours on end, trying to come up with an idea for a new drawing. But what if you had a variety of poses to choose from? Suddenly, the options are endless.

In this tutorial, we’re going to explore different poses that you can use for your next artwork. So grab your pencils and get ready to get inspired!

Make sure you get yourself a good pose reference and take enough time when drawing poses to really understand each pose. To draw a pose realistically, you need to study drawing the body, its weight, and balance in depth.

Understanding the Body

If we want to draw poses anatomically correct, an understanding of the basics of the human body is of great advantage. It not only makes it easier for us to draw the poses but also enables us to draw them convincingly and realistically. While it is possible to draw poses and figures without dealing with the basics, it will complicate everything and is therefore not recommended.

Understanding Weight & Balance

Many start with the head when drawing a figure, but for poses, the first priority is to understand which body part is supporting the most bodyweight.

For standing poses, at least one standing leg can be identified with its foot firmly planted on the ground. The other leg is free to move in that case and can be called the playing leg. The body weight can also be shifted equally to both legs and accordingly both feet must have firm contact with the ground.

In addition, we need to identify how the figure we want to draw is balancing its weight. If this part not correct, our pose will not look convincing. When a standing person lifts one leg, the center of gravity in the body shifts. The foot of the standing leg is then no longer exactly under the side of the but shifts below the center of the hip.

Understanding Movement

Depending on how you decide to position the two legs, the hips will move. In the upper body, the position of both shoulders influences the position of the collarbones and, of course, the arms.

Therefore, even when drawing poses, it is recommended to take extra time to draw the sketch in order to understand the pose in the best possible way.

Proportions and movements - drawing bodies

Finding References for Poses

If you have mastered human anatomy drawing, you don’t need references anymore. However, if we are just getting there, then we should definitely work with references!

The best reference for drawing poses is ourselves. In front of a mirror, we can take the pose we want to draw and not only see but even feel which muscles are working, where our weight is shifted, how the movement of one body part affects neighboring body parts, etc.

Photos can also be a good reference, but especially beginners should still take the pose in front of the mirror themselves. On photos sometimes important details are lost due to image compression or color correction.

Drawing Bodies: Propoortion & Movement Photo from Taylor Smith on Unsplash

Pose References for Your Drawings

We can divide the poses into different categories, where the body weight is shifted differently depending on the category. To illustrate this weight shift, a red line stretches from the head to the center of gravity. A blue line appears whenever the body part could be misunderstood as carrying weight but is actually free to move. Try mimicking these poses to get a better understanding of the dynamics.

Standing Pose Reference

In standing poses, at least one leg is a carrier of the body weight, regardless of whether we draw a person from the front or the back.

Pose Reference for Drawing: Standing Figure

Standing pose, arm pressed into hip

Pose Reference for Drawing: Standing Person

Standing pose, bent arm

Pose Reference for Drawing: Standing Person from Behind

Standing pose, looking back

Pose Reference for Drawing: Standing Person Waving

Standing pose, raised arms

Action Pose Reference: Waving

Standing pose, waving

Sitting Pose Reference

In seated poses, the buttocks are the main support of the body weight. Depending on the pose, arms or legs may also carry some of the weight.

Pose Reference for Drawing: Sitting Figure

Sitting pose, leaning on one arm

Pose Reference for Drawing: Sitting Person

Sitting pose, leaning on both elbows

Lying Down Pose Reference

For poses lying down, the bodyweight is mainly shifted where the body touches the floor or ground. Equally, however, in these poses, there are very often many body parts that remain free to move.

Pose Reference for Drawing: Lying Person

Pose lying on the side, leaning on one elbow

Action Pose Reference

Action poses can be dynamic poses of any activity like dancing, fighting, jumping or more. When drawing these poses we should make sure that (depending on the pose) only parts of the body or the whole body are dynamic.

In addition, among the dynamic poses there are also those in which the body weight is not shifted to a specific part of the body. In this case, the blue and red markings in the reference drawings are missing.

Pose reference: Jumping

Jumping pose, legs tightened

Pose reference: Jumping

Jumping pose, one leg tightened

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