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'I' Based Stick Figure

A stick figure can be used as a basic form in figure drawing. Learning to draw a more detailed stick figures can make it easier to draw the human body.




IsoRod, Published on Jun 24, 2012
The basic stick figure is great for simple layouts or animation, but is lacking for figure drawing. Key information about the shoulders and hips are missing from the basic stick figure, which can make it more difficult to place the arms and legs. That is where the 'I' base stick figure model is a better representation of the human body. In the image below, looking at poses that are represented by both type of stick figures you can plainly see the difference.


As shown on the diagram of the human skeleton the upper part of the 'I' shape represents the collar bone and shoulders. The lower part of the 'I' represents the upper part of the pelvis and hips. This allows for a lot of flexibility when posing a figure help provide guidelines for placing limbs. One important thing to remember is in most cases the upper part of the body is wider than the pelvis and hip area. This can be clearly seen in the skeleton diagram.

While the basic stick figure is easier to draw, it becomes very difficult to apply musculature and keep the character from looking distorted or misshapen. It's not impossible to draw a character using the basic stick figure but it will definitely require more work and a some knowledge of anatomy to allow you to correctly add the missing structure that the figure is lacking. The 'I' based figure is not that much more difficult to draw and provides a much better starting point when learning to draw the human body. I have been trying this out for a few months now and its a lot easier to use than another model I was developing for this lesson.

Below are examples of using the 'I' based stick figure to represents characters in different poses. One of the interesting things you might notice is the stick figure can be used to represent the front or the back of a character.



Now for the lesson. Using this I figure it can be used to draw both male and female characters. First, begin by setting up the figure. When multiple items are added to the drawing the order in which to draw them is color coded. No more then three colors will be used. The color order is black-first, red-second and gold-last. This will be clearer as the lesson proceeds.

1) Draw a vertical line down. Followed by two horizontal lines on at the top and on at the bottom of the vertical line. The top line should be longer than the bottom one.

2) Adding the neck and the head. Use the diagram 3 to reference where the neck and the head should be placed. First you draw the neck. The construct the lower jaw, using a horizontal line to from a capital 'T' with the neck line. Then add two angled lines to the each ends of the top line of the 'T' shape. Now and two vertical lines to form the side of the skull. Finally draw a half circle or 'C' shape to close off the skull.

3) After completeing the steps in part two the figure should look like this.


4) Add two angled lines to form the upper arm, followed by two more lines to created the lower arms. When complete the arms should look like wide 'V' shapes on their sides.

5) Add two vertical lines to create the thigh, the lines can have a slight angle, but isn't necessary. Now add to slightly curved lines to form the lower legs.

6) Adding the extremities, hands and feet. At the end of the lower part of each limb a triangle will be attached, use diagram 6 as a reference for size and placement. The left hand add a rectangle under the triangle. On the right hand you can add four ovals to create the thumb and finger use the diagram as reference. For the left foot add a trapezoid or a right triangle to complete the foot shape. Add an enlongated triangle to the right foot to complete it. The hands and the feet is not something to worry too much about. Ovals or circles can be used as place holders for the hands if this is to difficult and triangles can be used on the to represent of the feet.


Going forward the lesson will be showing the how to create a Male (left) or Female (right) body using this figure.

7) Creating the ribcage and the obliques.
Male(M) draw a 'U' shape from the top line of the 'I' that comes down to the about the half way down the vertical line. Then draw two vertical lines from the bottom of the 'U' shape down to the line lower line of the 'I' shape. Female(F): Draw two 'V' shapes on their side like when drawing the second part of the letter 'K' from the top line of the 'I' shape to its bottom line. Going forward (M) and (F) will be used in place of Male and Female.

8) For both (M) and (F) draw a 'V' shape to form the crotch of the figure. Refer diagram 8 for placement.


9) Defining the chest.
(M) Draw a horizontal line across the middle of the 'U' shape. (F) Draw a horizontal line across the upper part of the 'V' shape that represents the ribcage. Then under the line draw a two half circles one on each side of the vertical line of the 'I' shape. Add two upside down 'V' shape one on each side of the vertical line of the 'I' shape over each half circle.

10) The shoulders.
For both (M) and (F) draw an angled line from the upper line of the 'I' shape to the line the forms the upper arm on both side of the figure. This will create a triangle shape. Then draw a half circle over the line that was added again on both sides, refer to the diagram 10. The only difference between the two figures are the shoulders for the female figure are smaller.


11) Adding the bicep, tricep and elbow.
For both (M) and (F) draw a rectangle using the inner part of the line that represent the upper arm to create the bicep on both side of the figure. Then on the outer part of line add a triangle to create the triceps for both arms. For each arm add a small triangle to create the elbow at the bend that where the upper arm and lower arm meet, refer to diagram 11 for size and placement. The difference between the two figures is the shapes used for the female figure are thinner than the male figure.

12) Creating the forearm. The step described below should be repeated for both arms. For both (M) and (F) draw a triangle using the inner part of the line that represent the lower arm to create the inner muscle of the foreman. On the outer part of line add a trapezoid to create the outer forearm. As with the upper arm in the pervious step the shapes used for the female figure are thinner.


13) More definition for the chest and ribcages.
(M) add a two curve lines from the biceps to the line that represents the obliques, please see diagram 13. Now add wide 'W' shape to define the pectoral muscles of the chest. (F) add two wide 'V' to the side of the figure, refer to the figure on the right in diagram 13. Add two curve lines from the breast to the top of the biceps to fill out the figure.

14) Further defining the thigh and knee. The step described below should be repeated for both legs. For both (M) and (F) add a 'U' shape line from the end of the line that represent the top of the hip and pelvis and connect it to the bottom of the 'V' shape that represent the crotch. Add a oval to represents kneecaps. Finally only for (M) add 'J' shape line from the knee to the crotch, refer to the diagram 14 for placement of the line.


15) Defining the lower leg. The step described below should be repeated for both legs. For both (M) and (F) three triangle will be added. The first long triangle is used to outer part of the calf and shin. The next triangle is about half as long as the first and is placed in the inner part of the lower leg. The last triangle is thin and added below the second triangle. This completes the lower leg, see diagram 15 for reference. The difference between the two figures is the shapes use for the female figure are thinner.


16) Adding the neck and traps. For both (M) and (F) add two vertical lines from the head to the line that represent the collar bone. Add two angled lines for the neck to the upper part of the shoulder. The female neck should look thinner than the male.



17) Finishing off the shoulders and arms. These lines are added to make the figures look more organic by closing the gaps between the shape and softening the edge of the shape. First outline the contour of the shoulders, triceps and biceps. Then outline the forearms. Finally outline the hand and fingers.


18) Adding finishing lines to the legs, knees and feet. Following diagram 18, outline the contours of the left sides of the legs. Then define the knees and finally outline the feet. Use the lines in the diagram as a guide and remember the lines can be broken down to smaller segments, very similar to the method we used to create the figures themselves.


19) Completed drawing of the male and female figure.


20) A cleaned up version of the figures in black ink with some basic muscle detail is added.

21) Using the figures to create the characters Cardinal and Leopard.


If you are new to drawing practice is very important. Also studying muscle anatomy is important, there are a lot of pictures for muscle references available from this link. These references can be used during the outlining the contours or inking portions of the tutorials. Was the tutorial helpful? Too much information or too little? Please leave a comment or get in touch by leaving a message from our contact page .

TAGS: Lessons , Pen & Pencil , Education



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