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Nsio explains: Simplifying the Complexity by Nsio Nsio explains: Simplifying the Complexity by Nsio
The third tutorial in the series.

Seeing basic shapes
Human body has always been one of the most fascinating subjects of study for artists. It's also very complex thing, so drawing human body may seem overwhelming at first. However, this is where simplifying kicks in. When drawing complex things, you first need to break it down into very basic shapes, such as cubes, cylinders, spheres, cones and so on. It's significantly easier to sketch things quickly with basic shapes than actually render the details exactly.

Drawing basic shapes may be boring, but it's really useful practice because you can't really get away from perspective. And as simple as it may seem, it's not that easy to draw even those basic shapes right at first. It took me a lot longer to draw that row of basic shapes than I had expected. It was surprisingly good practice even for me.

Once you are able to draw individual shapes, you can start mixing them together to represent more complex things, such as human figures. Also, you can use a box as a guide and draw more complex object inside it. Using reference objects is very useful.

Seeing the planes
In order to truly understand the 3D, you will need to understand where the surface actually faces. This is where basic shapes come handy again.

You could say that the "curvature resolution" in human figure is so high that everything appear very smooth. However, it's quite hard to tell which way the surface is actually facing. A cube, on the other hand, is pretty easy: it has six faces, so they face six different directions. Smooth surfaces can be simplified into more blocky forms that make it easier to see the planes. This will also be extremely useful when you are applying shadows. When you are familiar with seeing planes, applying shadows will come naturally to you.

I usually use middle lines to determine the planes, sometimes contours with more organic shapes. With the two human figures, I wanted to illustrate the planes. I hardly ever draw things like that, so it was pretty refreshing to do. I also like to draw the characters like they were action figures xD.

Note, that while human figure drawing requires general understanding about perspective, it's not always necessary to construct the perspective. I find that the perspective guides are very useful, but once you can see three dimensional shapes and understand how we truly see (see my first tutorial), you won't really need the guides. I find that drawing doesn't need to be perfect, as long as it's convincing.

Remember that these are drawn for illustration purposes. You don't need every single guide when you are sketching. Once you are familiar with the 3D shapes and planes, you can drop quite a lot of the guides. I included some sketches there to demonstrate the roughness (I'll cover dynamism and foreshortening later). If you want to know more about the guidelines, search some other tutorials.


Proportions: heads as a measure
One common way to determine the proportions of the human character is to use heads. That is, how many heads stacked on top of each other would it take to equal the height of the character. An average adult human is around 7 - 7.5 heads tall. In illustrations, very epic characters tend to be as tall as 8-10 heads tall. Super deformed chibis are often around 2-3 heads tall. I often draw my female characters 5 - 6 heads tall for more cute proportions. I also scale some body parts to exaggerate the feminine body shapes.

There are a lot ways to determine the placement of each feature in human figure by guides. I haven't really used other than heads much at all. I have used more detailed guides on facial features only, but I have settled to very simple rules: eyes are around halfway, the ears are on eye level. The mouth/nose is around 1/4 head from chin and the earlobes are on nose level. Also, the distance between the eyes is one eye and half-eye from the outlines (forgot to illustrate this though ^^').

Remember, that the number of heads has nothing to do with the actual height of the character. It's just determines the head size compared to the rest of the body. That said, a character with 3 heads can be as tall as character with 8 heads. The difference with the proportions is just tremendous.
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:icongorilla-ink:
goRillA-iNK Featured By Owner Apr 6, 2015  Student General Artist
You really just need to make these into a book! So many aspiring artists are in need of this kind of precise teaching and encouragement.
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:iconimnoobbutwithheart:
Imnoobbutwithheart Featured By Owner Mar 21, 2015
This is good! Really good!
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:icontacrae:
tacrae Featured By Owner Mar 15, 2015  Hobbyist General Artist
WOW this is amazing!  Could you do a tutorial on drawing contours like you mentioned in your notes?  You say doing this will help you to see the image more in a 3 dimensional space and will help with shading?  I have trouble with shading the human body...could you do a tutorial on the contours you were talking about?
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:iconnsio:
Nsio Featured By Owner Mar 15, 2015  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Thanks :). I'm planning to make a tutorial about using guidelines, so I may give tips how to use contours as well. I don't know when I get to draw this tutorial though.
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:iconbdtite1919:
BDTite1919 Featured By Owner Feb 10, 2015  Student General Artist
Aye, Thanks!
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:iconavidge:
Avidge Featured By Owner Feb 5, 2015  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Can I ask what you think is the best place to start drawing a character? I've had a lot of trouble drawing humans without reference (or at all, really) because I can't really... See where everything connects? It's kind of hard to explain. If I draw the head first, I can't figure out how it connects to the torso, and how the arms would move. I've also tried starting with the pelvis as Foervraengd's tutorials suggest, but I haven't had that much success with that either.
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:iconnsio:
Nsio Featured By Owner Feb 5, 2015  Hobbyist Digital Artist
For me the best part to start drawing human body is the head, because I use it as an unit to determine the character's proportions. That said, once I have the head in place, it will become a reference point for the rest of the drawing. I then move on downwards with neck, torso and legs. I do these in this order because by knowing mt proportional goal, I can determine the most significant factors that affect the pose. For example, let's say I'm drawing 6 heads tall character, I know that the legs are pretty much half of the total height of the character so the torso will be ~2 heads and legs are 3 heads. So once I have drawn the neck, I draw the torso according to head (2 heads in height) and make sure that it's centered according to the neck (because the head rest perfectly in the middle). Then I "plant" the character on ground (if we assume the pose in question is a standing pose) by making sure that it's a believable balanced and dynamic pose and that the legs are ~3 heads tall. Although I may do a quick sketch of the hands even before moving on torso, I usually leave them last for their positioning isn't as important for the pose as the rest of the body.

That's how I go about it. Starting from pelvis has different rules to follow. Basically the point is to draw such a body part that will then determine the limits of the whole body. Pelvis is good for that because you could say that all the peripherals are attached to it. For me, head works better due to reasons mentioned above.

If you have problems figuring out how the body parts work as a single entity, you will need to make a lot of studies about human body. If you have a large mirror, have a look at yourself. Explore the limits of your body by figuring out how your body is articulated (for example, how freely you can move your shoulders in order to move your arms, how your arm posing affects the positioning of the hand etc.). You also need to study human skeleton a bit to understand where the joints are located and how they allow us to move around. Knowing the skeleton is beneficial because it has a fixed structure. Bones can't bend or transform after all.

Another thing you likely need work on is understanding 3D. You see, if you don't understand the depth cue and can't draw it, your character drawings will also end up wonky because you can't determine where the body parts are posed in three dimensional space. For example, body parts can't pass trough any other body part, so knowing their volume and form is crucial to determine the posing limitations. You also can't plant the character firmly on the ground if you don't know how it's aligned according to your character and your chosen viewing angle.
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:iconsillageuse:
Sillageuse Featured By Owner Feb 26, 2015   Traditional Artist
I just read this comment in addition to the tutorial, and it really helps a lot, thanks! :happybounce: 
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:iconqtit:
Qtit Featured By Owner Jan 23, 2015
That's just epic. Gonna use it in 3D Character design. Thanks a lot!
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:icondemondeagonking:
demondeagonking Featured By Owner Dec 30, 2014
thank you this will be useful for some of my artwork I really appreciate you posting this :-)
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:icondreadedone131:
DreadedOne131 Featured By Owner Dec 19, 2014
Interesting way of looking at it and helpful!
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:iconlegendarysidekick:
LegendarySidekick Featured By Owner Dec 4, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
Great guides. I have a long way to go, but the tips are helpful. I am definitely learning to appreciate the pencil (and eraser).
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:icongravityparadox:
GravityParadox Featured By Owner Dec 3, 2014
Awesome tutorial!
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:iconswordcat9:
swordcat9 Featured By Owner Edited Nov 24, 2014
Dammit! I never get the seven head proportion count right-especially when it comes to the length of the legs and torso! Is this hard or is it just me?
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:icondragondescendant:
DragonDescendant Featured By Owner Dec 28, 2014
Yeah. I always seem to draw the head too big or the legs too short.
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:iconnsio:
Nsio Featured By Owner Nov 24, 2014  Hobbyist Digital Artist
It's a common issue, I have it as well. I usually tend to draw the legs too long. I've mostly gotten over it by drawing the legs intentionally shorter than I would expect them to be.
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:iconswordcat9:
swordcat9 Featured By Owner Nov 24, 2014
Its the opposite with me-i draw the legs too short lol. Say you wouldn't happen to have any tips on how to color anime characters in photoshop would you? Coloring skin and especially hair is a big issue for me. I still can't get the hang of it, I often have trouble choosing the correct tone and contrast as well.
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:iconferettoko:
Ferettoko Featured By Owner Nov 5, 2014
Like.
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:icontherikutakes:
TheRikuTakes Featured By Owner Oct 29, 2014  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
People who make easy-to-understand tutorials, YOU DA REAL MVP.
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:iconnewreform:
Newreform Featured By Owner Oct 17, 2014
I'm considering a ball joint doll for practice.
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:iconmakuilli-shochilt:
Makuilli-Shochilt Featured By Owner Oct 16, 2014
thanks i will practice that
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:iconjingai-jigokumoto:
Jingai-Jigokumoto Featured By Owner Sep 27, 2014
trill
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:iconabsolutephoenix:
AbsolutePhoenix Featured By Owner Sep 19, 2014  Professional Digital Artist
Lol please teach  me your ways sensei e.e
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:iconhermeanyx:
HermeaNyx Featured By Owner Sep 16, 2014  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
So how much are 7 heads for example in metre or foot? I can't really imagine that :s  But really great and detailled tutorial! It's easier to get proportions right now <3
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:iconnsio:
Nsio Featured By Owner Sep 16, 2014  Hobbyist Digital Artist
The last paragraph:
"Remember, that the number of heads has nothing to do with the actual height of the character. It's just determines the head size compared to the rest of the body. That said, a character with 3 heads can be as tall as character with 8 heads. The difference with the proportions is just tremendous."

That said, "head" as a measure don't translate directly into any measurement system. Stacking more or less heads on top of each other only affect the perceived scale of the character. For example, if we have a fairy character who is 7 heads tall, she is still much smaller than a human with the same 7 heads proportions.

But, you can decide that a character is, say, 170 cm tall and has 7 heads proportions. Then one head would equal about 24,3 cm. It's pretty much about deciding the height first and then choose appropriate head proportions. 7 heads work well with realistic human proportions. I however draw my characters 5-6 heads tall for cuter proportions. That makes the head look larger in comparison to the body, I suggest you take a look at the silhouettes of the two examples at the bottom to see the difference.
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:icontheskaldofnvrwinter:
TheSkaldofNvrwinter Featured By Owner Aug 29, 2014  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
i'm practicing the torso at mid-level from all views--will show an example when I'm done filling up the big piece of bristol paper i'm using--but am having the most trouble on 3/4 view, back
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:iconnsio:
Nsio Featured By Owner Aug 31, 2014  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Alright, poke me once you are done so that I can take a look :D. Back views are a bit harder since we don't get to see people from behind as often as we do from the front. Anyway, I can only suggest that you look for reference and draw the troubling view several times to get it place.
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:icontheskaldofnvrwinter:
TheSkaldofNvrwinter Featured By Owner Aug 31, 2014  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
I just posted it, should find it on my newest deviations on my home page.
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:iconelika2000:
Elika2000 Featured By Owner Aug 20, 2014
It is AWESOME!!!
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:iconelika2000:
Elika2000 Featured By Owner Edited Aug 20, 2014
How can you do these??!!! WOW :3
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:iconelinnyan:
elinnyan Featured By Owner Aug 17, 2014
this is great!! Gumball Wow Icon 
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:icontheskaldofnvrwinter:
TheSkaldofNvrwinter Featured By Owner Aug 14, 2014  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
this is great, but don't you think in the examples above the pose is a bit unnatural? or at least it's a bent back position. I've seen women drawing 3/4 and I've never seen them lean back a tad like that. I've now seen this on your tuts and Oceans-Art's, and no, I'm not a skilled experience artist, but my gut says it doesn't look right.
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:iconnsio:
Nsio Featured By Owner Aug 14, 2014  Hobbyist Digital Artist
It's called exaggeration, for additional dynamism. Making the torso arc like that emphasizes the action line of the body and gives more power to the pose. It doesn't have to be perfectly natural.
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:icontheskaldofnvrwinter:
TheSkaldofNvrwinter Featured By Owner Aug 18, 2014  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Oh, yes! That does make sense lol. I am so sorry!
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:iconsonic1234565:
Sonic1234565 Featured By Owner Jul 25, 2014
I am learning
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:iconfrienddesign:
Frienddesign Featured By Owner Jul 15, 2014  Hobbyist Digital Artist
POWER!!!
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:iconsniper0092:
Sniper0092 Featured By Owner Jun 30, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
This seems useful.
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:iconnanahuatli:
Nanahuatli Featured By Owner Jun 23, 2014
You're a god.
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:iconkitaromatsumoto:
kitaromatsumoto Featured By Owner Jun 23, 2014  Hobbyist Artist
this is very useful, thanks :3
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:iconuzumakiichigoy2k:
UzumakiIchigoY2K Featured By Owner Jun 1, 2014
Hmm this may help with my comic series. Thank you. :3
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:iconnicokbt:
NicokBT Featured By Owner May 31, 2014
isn't more accurate 7.5-8 heads?
at least where i'm studying the teachers said so , that, the renaissance measure was more correct towards the golden ratio
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:iconnsio:
Nsio Featured By Owner May 31, 2014  Hobbyist Digital Artist
What I gather, 8 heads is just more convenient, because all the key features are full heads away from each other (so it's easier to teach and remember). While I'm not sure what's the most accurate ratio, I myself have found that 7-7.5 is the maximum where I can still draw convincing body proportions.
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:iconkemikly:
KemikLy Featured By Owner May 31, 2014  Professional General Artist
This is very useful and incredibly well-written! Thanks so much for sharing! :hug:
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:iconnsio:
Nsio Featured By Owner May 31, 2014  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Thank you, and you're welcome! :D
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:iconkemikly:
KemikLy Featured By Owner Jun 1, 2014  Professional General Artist
:)
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:iconzunachina:
Zunachina Featured By Owner May 26, 2014  Student General Artist
don't you need a mature tag?!
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:icontanookipants:
TanookiPants Featured By Owner May 27, 2014  Hobbyist Digital Artist
It's a few cartoon breasts. Get over it.
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:iconseanpatrickkelly:
SeanPatrickKelly Featured By Owner Apr 28, 2014  Student General Artist
another great lesson
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:iconwhiteknightofchaos:
Whiteknightofchaos Featured By Owner Apr 12, 2014  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Thanks for sharing. This is very helpful.
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:iconzestybomb:
ZestyBomb Featured By Owner Mar 29, 2014  Student General Artist
Oober helpful! :D

Love your style :love:
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