Practicing Anatomy for Character Design

Main Goal

I already studied anatomy in school when I was a Fine Arts student but since I am currently studying character design on Schoolism I figured brushing up and expanding on anatomy will help make my characters more believable.

Principles vs Tools

When you study art, it's important to know that principles and tools are separate things. Simply picking a pencil and a sketch, or any other medium for that matter, is not enough to make you a professional illustrator. Of course you need to familiarize yourself with your tools to make the best out of them but you still need to learn drawing principles such as gesture, anatomy, composition, design, perspective and colors.

A pen is a simple tool that will make it easier to focus on a more complex subject like anatomy. You don't want a battle on 2 fronts: studying anatomy while learning how to use a new medium. Good idea to start with a simple tool before you moving to something more complex like watercolors, oil painting, or digital art.

Resources for Studying Anatomy

It goes without saying that being able to draw still-life properly is a prerequisite to studying anatomy. You always want to go from simple to complex and from general to specific. So here's somewhere to start: Draw a Box

Something was very clear to me from the start. You can't get far on your own when it comes to anatomy so I put together what I consider the best resources for studying anatomy:


Rey Bustos

I cannot recommend his courses enough! Rey draws the body parts using different colors, draws over existing images as an exercise after he finishes explaining each section. He even walks you through building an écorché. once you build it with your own hands you'll have a much better understanding of the forms.

Steve Huston

It's not an exaggeration to say he's the ultimate teacher. He can make complex topics simple by breaking them down to consumable size. Very organized line of thought, clear drawing steps, and draw over lessons.

Glenn Vilppu

I can't thank Vilppu enough. His courses helped improve my line quality by leaps.

Kamille Corry

This one is the best I could find for hands anatomy.



I follow his videos on Youtube. Very unique teaching style. He deconstructs complex body parts and does it in a funny, entertaining and organized approach. I highly recommend it. Never tried the premium videos though.


Anatomy books I bought to use as a reference. copied from, and even traced.

Figure Drawing Design and Invention by Michael Hampton

Great book I followed the exercises, and copied most of the drawings in it and in a short time I could see improvement in the way I think about the human form and how it works.

Anatomy for Artists

This book helped me a lot before I found all the other resources. I even used to trace the drawings in it to develop my muscle memory.

Andrew Loomis's books on drawing:

I didn't try them myself but many recommend them.

Anatomy is a big part of drawing characters so I started a while back and I continue to study it in circuits! Here's something I shared in a previous blog

heads and portraits from New Masters Academy:

The new circuit was mostly based on Hampton's book.


  • Study still life first

  • Figure out what the body looks like under the skin. From the bones outwards.

  • Learn how the bones and muscles curve, tilt, move, where do they start and end/attach.

  • No need to memorize the names of each bone and muscle.

  • Draw graceful lines to indicate shapes and forms.

  • Draw through your shapes to have strong forms.

  • Study first so when you do break a rule it's on purpose, which is what design is all about.

  • Learn by Copying: There is no shame in copying as long as it's not your end goal. Build your visual library by copying your favorite artists, then create your own work.

Concluding a Circuit

As always after every "circuit" I try my hand at a personal project. Since the main goal of these drills is to become better at character design I thought I'd stylized a couple of characters. The first was Michael Jackson for Michael Jackson Day. I'm actually planning on developing this further into a digital sketch.

The second was based on a reference I found on Bodies In Motion

Any other resources you think I should mention? Let me know in the Facebook Group

Heidi Ahmad (@heidiGFX)

Digital Illustrator & Colorist

Telling Stories Through Light & Color

Bachelor of Fine Arts

Third Culture Kid (TCK)

Freelance Writer/Translator - Design Guide Magazine

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