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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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:iconqtit:
Qtit Featured By Owner 6 days ago
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  New member
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?
Reply
:icondragondescendant:
DragonDescendant Featured By Owner Dec 28, 2014
Yeah. I always seem to draw the head too big or the legs too short.
Reply
: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.
Reply
: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
Reply
:iconjingai-jigokumoto:
Jingai-Jigokumoto Featured By Owner Sep 27, 2014
trill
Reply
:iconabsolutephoenix:
AbsolutePhoenix Featured By Owner Sep 19, 2014  Professional Digital Artist
Lol please teach  me your ways sensei e.e
Reply
: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!!!
Reply
:iconelika2000:
Elika2000 Featured By Owner Edited Aug 20, 2014
How can you do these??!!! WOW :3
Reply
: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!!!
Reply
:iconsniper0092:
Sniper0092 Featured By Owner Jun 30, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
This seems useful.
Reply
:iconnanahuatli:
Nanahuatli Featured By Owner Jun 23, 2014
You're a god.
Reply
:iconkitaromatsumoto:
kitaromatsumoto Featured By Owner Jun 23, 2014  Hobbyist Artist
this is very useful, thanks :3
Reply
:iconuzumakiichigoy2k:
UzumakiIchigoY2K Featured By Owner Jun 1, 2014
Hmm this may help with my comic series. Thank you. :3
Reply
: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  Student General Artist
This is very useful and incredibly well-written! Thanks so much for sharing! :hug:
Reply
: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  Student 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.
Reply
: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.
Reply
:iconzestybomb:
ZestyBomb Featured By Owner Mar 29, 2014  Student General Artist
Oober helpful! :D

Love your style :love:
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:icondennislego:
DennisLego Featured By Owner Mar 27, 2014  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Thank you for the tutorial.
But how can I do this with pencil? without any layers and stuff o 3 o
Reply
:iconjustmekenz:
JustMeKenz Featured By Owner Mar 29, 2014  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
It's best to try drawing lightly with the pencil, and then go over it with something permanent. For example, I use a mechanical pencil to sketch it out and erase most of the inside lines you don't need and then go over it with a pen or fine tipped sharpie.

I know I'm not the person who put this here, just trying to help since I do traditional as well! :D Hope this helped!
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:iconzecarnevilcat:
zecarnevilcat Featured By Owner Mar 22, 2014  Professional General Artist
Thanks for the tutorial, it's really helpful.:)
Do you have any tips to find good  pictures/websites for practicing anatomy or dynamic poses, please? 
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:iconnsio:
Nsio Featured By Owner Mar 23, 2014  Hobbyist Digital Artist
No problem :)

Hmm, well it's pretty easy to find poses just by searching them with google, but dynamic poses are a bit harder to find. I guess web comics could be useful for researching dynamism. I've been studying manga a lot
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:iconzecarnevilcat:
zecarnevilcat Featured By Owner Mar 23, 2014  Professional General Artist
Ok I should give it a try then, thanks a lot! :)
Reply
:iconmarlmo:
MARlMO Featured By Owner Dec 25, 2014  Hobbyist Digital Artist
[ This is suuuuupppppeeeer late, but I normally use SenshiStock ; w ;
senshistock.deviantart.com/gal…
hope this helps~ ]
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:iconzecarnevilcat:
zecarnevilcat Featured By Owner Dec 25, 2014  Professional General Artist
Thanks!
Reply
:iconkemikly:
KemikLy Featured By Owner May 31, 2014  Student General Artist
This is a bit late but my favourite website for practicing anatomy is posemaniacs.com. There's a great exercise I do every morning, where it gives you random poses to draw that last for 30 seconds (or 15, 45, 60 or 90). You can also browse the poses or filter them by action or gender/body type. Give it a try! :icongrin--plz:
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