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Artistic Anatomy for Human Figures


Anatomical Position, Essential Latin Terminology
Main Bones of The Skeleton (w/ Important Details), Boney Landmarks
General Body Proportions
Differences According To Age / Sex / Ethnicity
• Types of Joints, Range of Motion
• Basic Forms, Gestures, Balance in Poses
• Muscles of the Body
• Facial Features, Muscles and Expressions
• The Body in Perspective (Character Design Sheets, Foreshortening, etc.)
• Hair and Hairstyles

Anatomical Position:
Standing straight up with palms out and feet facing forward

The Anatomical Position acts as a kind of coordinate system, a point of reference for locating various parts of the body.

Anterior = Front View
Posterior = Back View

Medial Line = Center Line, a vertical from the top of the head to the bottom of the heels passing through the core of the body
Lateral = Away from Medial Line, off to the side

Superior = Top of figure, Above
Inferior = Bottom of figure, Below

For parts that extend outward, the appendages:
Distal End = Point farthest outward from body (e.g.: tips of fingers)
Proximal End = Point closest toward body (e.g.: shoulder)

Essential Latin Terminology:

Size Related Location Related Shape Related
Maximus = Largest Anterior = Front Spine = Protrusion
Medius = Middle Sized Posterior = Back Condyle = Rounded Bump
Minimus = Smallest Sized Superior = Above Process = Sticking Out
Major = Larger Inferior = Below Cep~ (Cephalic) = Head/Top
Minor = Smaller Infra~ = Beneath/Under
Brev~ = Short Medial = Middle (towards center)
Lateral = Side (away from center)
Meta~ = Beyond
Epi~ = Above

Ref: Drawsh - Introduction to Artistic Anatomy

Main Bones of The Skeleton (w/ Important Details)

Cranium = helmet-like part that protects brain
Brow Ridge = protrusion above eyes
Glabella = flat portion in the middle of the Brow Ridge
Nasal Bone = below Glabella; only part of nose that is not cartilage/skin
Eye Socket = indentation holding eyeball
Zygomatic Arch = where Eye Socket curves back on side of Skull
Cheekbone = protrusion below Eye Socket; flows into Zygomatic Arch
Maxilla = upper jaw
Mandible = lower jaw bone
Mastoid Process = hard bump behind the Mandible on the bottom of the Skull
Hyoid Bone = horseshoe-shaped bone floating in throat

Xyphoid Process = protrusion on the bottom of the Sternum

Rib Cage
∟ Seven "True Ribs" which connect directly to the Sternum through cartilage
∟ Three "Flase Ribs" which connect to other True Ribs through cartilage
∟ Two "Floating Ribs" on the bottom that don't connect to the front of the Rib Cage
Thoracic Arch = the curve on the bottom front of the Rib Cage

Here, we will lump the True Ribs and False Ribs together into a group of ten Ribs that connect to the Sternum, either directly or indirectly.
The top of the Thoracic Arch is the sixth Rib (from the top).
The widest part of Rib Cage is the eigth Rib (from the top).
The Rib Cage is egg shaped, but it looks smaller from the front than from the back because of how the Ribs tilt.

∟ Seven Cervical Vertebrae in Neck (labeled from top to bottom as C1-C7)
∟ Twelve Thoracic Vertebrae that Ribs attach to (labeled from top to bottom as T1-T12)
∟ Five Lumbar Vertebrae in Lower Back (labeled from top to bottom as L1-L5)
Sacrum = several fused Vertebrae at the base of the Spine that the Pelvis attaches to
Coccyx = tailbone


Acromion Process = place where the Clavicle connects to the Scapula (it is part of a ridge called the "Spine of the Scapula")
Coracoid Process = small beak-like shape below the Acromion Process
Glenoid Cavity = a scoop-like indentation in the Scapula that acts like a socket for the "Head of the Humerus" (a ball-like part near the top)

The Shoulder Girdle = Clavicle + Scapula

Lateral Epicondyle = protrusion on the Distal End of the Humerus towards the outside of the arm
Medial Epicondyle = protrusion on the Distal End of the Humerus towards the inside of the arm

Olecranon Process = Elbow (extends from Ulna)

The Ulna is thick near the Elbow and gets thinner going down towards the hand.


The Radius "radiates" (or pivots) around the Ulna. The Radius is thin near the top where it connects to the Ulna and gets thicker going down towards the hand.

Carpal Mass = bones that make up our wrist; where hand connects to Radius
Metacarpals = bones in palm, "beyond" the Carpal Mass
Phalanges = digits of fingers (three bones each) and thumb (two bones each)

Ilium = the "wings" which connect to Sacrum of Spine
Pubis Symphysis = where the Ilium meet on the front of the Pelvis
Ischium = the parts of the Pelvis that we sit on; both curve forward to meet the Pubis Symphysis

Top ridge of each Ilium is the Iliac Crest. The bump on the back of the Iliac Crest is the Posterior Superior Iliac Spine (PSIS).

The large bump on the front of the Iliac Crest is the Anterior Superior Iliac Spine (ASIS). The smaller bump below it is the Anterior Inferior Iliac Spine (AIIS).

Great Trochanter = protrusion on the top of the Femur
Medial Condyle of Femur = protrusion on the bottom of the Femur (near knee) towards inside of body
Lateral Condyle of Femur = protrusion on the bottom of the Femur (near knee) towards outside of body

The "Head of the Femur" is a ball near the top of the Femur that connects to a socket in the Ilium (the Acetabulum).




The Tibia and the Fibula are in the lower leg. The Tibia is the larger of the two.

Tarsal Mass = the bones that make up our ankle; where the Tibia and Fibula connect to the foot
Metatarsals = the bones that make up our arch; "beyond" the Tarsal Mass
Phalanges = toe bones
Calcaneus = heel bone

Notice the similarity between the layout of the bones in the Arm / Hand and those in the Leg / Foot.

Unlike muscles, bones keep a consistent size and shape. Boney Landmarks are the parts of the bones that are visible along the surface of the body. Not all Boney Landmarks will be visible at the same time (or on every type of body), but the ones that are can help us to find the skeleton underneath and to place the muscles on it correctly. [Click here for an advanced example of this process.]

List of Important Boney Landmarks:

On Front

• The whole Clavicle
• A flat point on the Acromion Process
• The location of the Sternum as a flat area between the chest muscles
• The curve of Thoracic Arch
• The Medial Epicondyle of the Humerus sticks out
• The Iliac Crest and Anterior Superior Iliac Spine (ASIS) are visible on the front of the Pelvis
• The Great Trochanter looks like a depression as Gluteal muscles attach around it
• The Pubis Symphysis sticks out (particularly on the female form)

On Back

• The seventh Cervical Vertebrae sticks out
• Spine and Inner Border of Scapula make ridges or dimples
• A depression on the lower back marks the Lumbar Vertebrae
• Each Posterior Superior Iliac Spine (PSIS) will often make two shallow dimples
• The bottom of the Sacrum often forms a dimple; this dimple forms a triangle with the above two PSIS dimples

On Arm / Hand

Olecranon Process (Elbow)
Ulnar Furrow = a depression along the Ulna made from where muslces attach around it
• The end of the Ulna is a bump at the base of the hand on the pinky side

On Leg / Foot

• The Condyles of the Femur sometimes appear as bumps on the surface of the leg when it is bent
• Patella is distinct when seen from the front
• A small bump just below the knee is called the "Nose of the Tibia"
• The front edge of the Tibia makes up the "shin"
• The bottom of the Tibia is the bump of the ankle on the inside of the leg
• The bottom of the Fibula is the bump of the ankel on the outside of the leg; lower than the Tibia one
• The top of the Fibula also makes a little bump
• The Calcaneus

Ref: Drawsh - The Parts of the Skeleton and Boney Landmarks

General Body Proportions

A "proportion" is a comparison of a part to the whole. People often use the head as a unit of measure for the entire body. A different number of "heads" gives a figure with different proportions, the most common being an "Eight Head Model".

[Note: A "Soft Landmark" is one that shows up on the flesh (and is therefore more variable than a Boney Landmark).]

Eight Head Model (Front View, Figure Upright):

1. From the top of the Skull (NOT the hair!) to the bottom of the Chin
The hair has volume and rises above the top of the Skull.
2. From the bottom of the Chin to the Nipple Line (Soft Landmark) or the 5th Rib (Boney Landmark)
3. From the 5th Rib to the Belly Button (Soft Landmark) or midway between the Rib Cage and the Pelvis (Boney Landmark)
4. From the Belly Button to the Pubis Symphysis
5. From the Pubis Symphysis to the lower Thigh
6. From the lower Thigh to just below the Knee
7. From just below the Knee to the middle of the lower Leg, below the Calf muscle
8. From the middle of the lower Leg to the Heel (Calcaneus), NOT the bottom of the Foot
The Heel is aligned with the rest of the body, whereas the Foot points forward.

Even though the Pubis Symphysis is the midpoint of the entire body, the Ischium look lower from the back, while the Gluteal muscles are even lower. The Great Trochanters are in line with the Pubis Symphysis, so they can help us to find the midpoint from the back view.

When the arms at rest on either side of the body:
Elbows align with bottom of Rib Cage.
Wrists are near the Great Trochanters.
Hands fall near mid Thigh.

Using the size or alignment of one thing can help with finding others. For example:

Elbow to Fingertips = Knee to Heel
Shoulder to Buttocks = Shoulder to Palm (with Arm at side)
The Heel of the Foot never protrudes beyond the Buttocks when a person is on their Knees.

Length of Forearm (from Wrist to Elbow) with Arm outstretched = length of Foot
Length of Forearm with Arm bent 90-degrees = length of Hand

Head Width = a circle representing the Cranium in Front View

1 Head Width

• Length of Clavicle
• Length of Sternum
• Length of Hand
• From side of Head to outside of Shoulder in Front View
• Height of Scapula in Back View

2 Head Widths

• Length of Humerus
• Length of lower arm with first row of knuckles
• Width of Rib Cage in Front or Back View

3 Head Widths

• Length of Femur
• Length of lower Leg to Heel (Calcaneus)

Drawsh - Proportion of the Figure
Joumana Medlej - Human Anatomy Fundamentals: Basic Body Proportions

Average Age Differences:

• Newborn (0-1 Month) = Body length of 2.5 Heads (legs not counted)
• Baby (~3 Months) = Body length closer to 3 Heads (legs not counted); chubbier body ("baby fat")
• Baby (~10 Months) = Height of 4-5 Heads; lack of neck
• Toddler (1-4 Years) = Height of 5 Heads
• Child (5-11 Years) = Height of 6 Heads; baby fat starts to disappear; nearly horizontal shoulder line (little to no Trapezius development)
• Adolescent (12-17 Years) = Height of 6.5-7 Heads; sex differences start to appear (mainly thanks to puberty); shoulder-to-hip ratio is equal before this point

Notice that age differences are not just differences in height, but in overal proportion!

Average Sex Differences:

[Note: This is a general look at bodily features for artistic purposes. It isn't a commentary on biological / social issues like the differences between "sex" and "gender".]

Other than overall height (as males tend to be taller), sex differences in proportions are nearly all horizontal...

• The shoulder-to-hip ratio inverts with each (i.e.: males are usually broad shouldered with narrow hips, whereas females usually have wide hips and narrow shoulders).
• The female waist line is often level with the belly button and elbows, while the male waist line is lower (so the belly button and elbows are higher than it).
• Female hip joints jut outward from the Pelvis, while male hip joints do not.
• Palm and foot width are about half the width of the face in both sexes, but have a tendency to be longer in males.

• Female spines are usually more curved and can arch more.
• Females are usually more round (because of an extra layer of fat), while males are usually more angular (flat around stomach and buttocks depending upon weight).
• Body fat has a tendency to deposit first within the underarms, thighs, and buttocks in women, and within the belly in men, before appearing everywhere else on the body.
• Breasts have weight and respond to gravity. They change size with differences in weight, amount of muscle, etc. The hollow of the armpit flows into the breast. The overall shape is more teardrop, NOT round like a balloon. Usually, two-thirds of their volume is below the areola. There is a naturally a small space between them (the "clevage"). Nipples point forward and slightly outward. One breast may be larger than the other.

Ref: Joumana Medlej - Human Anatomy Fundamentals: Advanced Body Proportions; Muscles and Other Body Mass

Average Ethnic Differences:

There are many visual differences across the various ethnicities (e.g.: compare the features common among three of the largest groups - Asian, Caucasian, and African). Let's ignore the categories and look only at the shape of the skull for a moment...

Photo Credit: Imgur

Please keep in mind that there is such a wide variety of possible combinations in skin color, eye color, hair texture, etc. that it is impossible to classify groups of persons into "races", and we have zero interest in providing grist to people who enjoy being racist. However, even if the above image is inaccurate, keeping in mind how the structure of the skull can change from person-to-person is helpful to be aware of when attempting to capture a likeness. It affects surface features to some degree.