The easiest way to start is with a stick figure, anybody can draw one and it also means they can draw a full body.
Most people find it easier to start by simplify the body into shapes without necessarily knowing the actual muscles and bones that compose the body.
There are many ways of organizing these shapes, here are some examples:
The important thing to know about these is that when muscles contract they change shape and bones can start poking under the skin, creating different bumps depending on the body’s position.
We don’t need to learn about each muscle’s name and place to know how to draw people in different poses, just knowing the muscle groups and the shape they take can do. Knowing how to draw a skeleton however is pretty helpful, and much easier than knowing about every muscle.
❗ In my opinion, sculpting is THE BEST way to learn anatomy, whether you’re learning simplified shapes, the skeleton, or the muscles. So open Zbrush or any other sculpting app and do your best with tutorials and references.
Be mindful to the differences in shapes and proportions between the male and female bodies.
Some tutorials & series covering the basics of figure drawing:
Ahmed Aldoori’s stick figure
- Superior: In the direction of the head; upper direction
- Inferior: In the direction of the foot; lower direction
- Anterior: Front
- Posterior: Back
- Medial: Toward the center of the body
- Lateral: Toward the outside of the body
Here’s an overview of the main bones / skeleton terms that are useful for drawing:
You can use the 2nd and 3rd pictures to quiz yourself about the bones’ names and delimitations.
There are 7 cervical vertebrae, 12 thoracic vertebrae, and 5 lumbar vertebrae. (Singular: vertebra)
To train yourself, draw skeletons on top of existing pictures of people. You can look up “pose reference photo” or similar terms on or .
Examples of people that have done it:
Examples of reference photos you can use:
A very realistic drawing of the skeleton, to help you figure out the details.
3D models to help you understand the skeleton better:
I encourage you to learn about each individual muscle once you’re familiar enough with the general muscle groups and can pose a character under most angles and poses.
- Muscles originate as tendon > muscle tissue > tendon
- "Belly" = the thickest point of the muscle
- "Heads" = The multiple divisions of a muscle, connecting to different insertion points.
- "bi-" = 2 heads. "tri-" = 3 heads. e.g: biceps or triceps.
Bent forward (as if jumping): foot in a plantarflexed position
Video tutorial references:
Sinix’s Anatomy quick tips
Book tutorial references: