How to Draw Foreshortening for Character Poses

In this lesson you will put foreshortening into action on a muscular arm. Concentrate on the overlap that is evident in this type of example. Learning the ins and outs of foreshortening is important to create believable and dynamic poses for your characters!

Learn the Basics of Foreshortening

Draw a series of cylinders that taper toward the bottom. Create three segments and use lines on both sides to keep the forms consistent at they taper. Notice how we can draw through the objects to better perceive them in a three-dimensional plane.

Practice different angles. Draw the same cylinders but in a perspective view directed toward the camera. Notice that they now appear larger at the closest point, even though they are actually smaller on this side. This is how foreshortening appears. Since we didn’t measure the objects and simply drew them by eye, the segments are not in the right place.

 

Drawing a Muscular Arm

How to draw | Foreshortening | comic characters | how to draw character poses

Step 1: Sketch Shapes for Foreshortening

Draw a series of cylinders to represent the arm coming out at an angle toward the viewer. The overlap of the forms helps to convey depth. Notice in the bottom example how much longer the individual sections would appear in the horizontal perspective. To get the foreshortening to look believable, you must overlap the forms and condense the length of the shapes according to the viewer’s position.

How to draw | Foreshortening | comic characters | how to draw character poses

Step 2: Add the Hand Shapes

Add in the hand using a wedge-like shape for the palm area and smaller cylinders to define the fingers. When drawing tricky hand poses, it can be helpful to use a mirror. Try not to use your drawing hand to pose with, unless you are ambidextrous, of course.

How to draw | Foreshortening | comic characters | how to draw character poses

Step 3: Define the Anatomy

Gently erase your guidelines and begin to draw the anatomy of the arm. Notice how each muscle goes in front of the previous muscle group as it comes closer to the viewer. Even if one line is only slightly in front of the other, it will help convey depth.

How to draw | Foreshortening | comic characters | how to draw character poses

Step 4: Clean Up the Anatomy

Draw over the anatomy again and this time focus on your line weight. Give the muscles more depth by adding thick to thin lines around the curves. There are lots of ways to stylize your work with line weight. The main thing is that you vary the line weights to give the art more appeal. You can also add thicker lines to the forms that are closer to the viewer (to create depth) or on the shadow side of the form (to enhance the light source).

How to draw | Foreshortening | comic characters | how to draw character poses

Step 5: Add Shadow Shapes

Shade the arm like it is covered with a darker suit material. Use heavy coverage to illustrate that material. When drawing the shadows, make sure to give the lines a feeling of movement or flow. Since you are shading muscles, they should look and feel organic. Notice that you are drawing a dual light source on this arm. It helps to add more curve to the muscles and provides a nice effect for coloring later.

How to draw | Foreshortening | comic characters | how to draw character poses

Step 6: Add Final Details

There are lots of ways to create your line work for the final shading. Using short abrupt lines illustrates a more specular material. On the second lower light source, use more line coverage to make that area appear darker. You can also leave a small white line around the bottom of the arm. This helps to keep the line weight separate and can provide a night effect against a darker background where the forms might otherwise get lost.

Find More Art Instruction

You can find this and more tutorials about drawing foreshortening, character poses and character details in Learn to Draw Action Heroes by Robert Marzullo.

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