Breaking Down the Arm Shapes

Robert Marzullo
A free video tutorial from Robert Marzullo
Comic Book Artist / Illustrator
4.5 instructor rating • 17 courses • 30,644 students

Lecture description

In this lesson you will learn how to break down the arm shapes to effectively create your own poses more easily.  I will walk you through the process to simplify arm poses.

Learn more from the full course

How to Improve Your Figure Drawing - Step by Step

Learn how to draw the human form like a professional with these fundamental step by step techniques.

07:30:32 of on-demand video • Updated September 2020

  • Draw the human figure with more confidence and precision.
  • Create dynamic figure drawings quicker and more effectively.
  • Understand how to draw the various body parts from memory.
  • How to properly use Gesture to create more believable poses.
English [Auto] Hello everyone my name is Robert Marzo from Ramsdale comics. And welcome back to the course on how to figure drawing. So in this next lesson I'm going to show you how to break down arms. Just systematically go through parts of the body. But I think it's important to realize how you can individually separate certain components of the body and then reassemble them together. It's it's the way that I've found that's helped me the most with my finger dry. So when doing the arm I looked for some basic shapes. This is one that I see for the shoulder and for the bicep I generally see something like this some more of a football shape. The triceps like this or from this particular angle anyways. And then for the forum I generally will see this muscle here. And kind of a cylinder shape like this so on and so forth. And then we had a similar hand and won't be getting into hands later on in this course. So essentially that's kind of how I place some of the shapes now. This takes a bit of practice to even probably get to that level where you're comfortable just throwing in those shapes. So what I'll first do is show you how Add to that or you know how I get to that comfort level. Basically if you're starting out you might want to start more with a circle line or circle line and another circle. And this represents the shoulder the elbow from the wrist something to keep in mind is that generally the rest will line up to the shoulder and then you'll have the hand on afterwards. So you know we're starting with this basic guide you can give direction to your next part of your illustration and then from here you'll add cylinder's so much so so you know you see it's pretty crude but it helps us to you know see a little bit further into what we're doing. So I'll set this one off to the side. I actually have a copy of this in a silver OK. So if I was to take this now and refine it a bit and look into the illustration a bit more you can do a softer race sat down or use a light table or whatever method you're working with and then you can start to place the shapes that I illustrated over here. And you know obviously this is a different angle or I don't know if you could tell but it is a different angle than the one off to the right there. So basically we have to envision what those shapes will look like over here. And the part that you need to study you know you learn how to draw this way but then also you need to study the way that anatomy works in the way that muscles work muscles will always pull from one area of the drawing or arm and they'll connect to other areas and some parts will overlap and intersect in some parts will go behind other parts. So that's where studying your anatomy will teach you that. Now the other thing that you need to be aware of is say I'm just drawing the perimeter shape of the arm now so I'm trying to give it some form I'm not trying to draw into the anatomy too much but I am placing some of the muscles as I go here. So let's get it to about there and let's say it and draw them in the shape of the bicep Yeah. I just have mainly the silhouette which I think it's important to always study or silhouettes. I think that's another way to commit a lot of the stuff to memory. So said just did that and I didn't get into the musculature too much on the inside of the drawing yet. It's also important to study the thickness. So after you get the silhouette also study the thickness of the overall shapes. Syria to break them down like this and you get this by studying the shadows off of photo so small so it goes something like this. So just with those simple lines that are out of there we're able to give a lot more of a dimensional look to that arm. You know then you can start to perceive or maybe light hits on this part of the arm as well and bounce light and all that fun stuff. But you know we won't get too much into that because it's almost a whole nother series of videos and topics. But so by placing some of these smaller shadow shapes like that you can really start to get a more dimensional feel to the arm. So I think it's important to do that. So you want to study the overall silhouette and you want to study the way that shadows react and give it depth. But that all starts with these basic crude shapes when you go and take this scale it down over OK. So the other thing is just to log in. A lot of different poses. So let's do the back of the arm. So I'll start again with a very basic rudimentary building blocks. So let's say that this arm what I'm perceiving to say you know even though I've only put down a circle a line in a circle and I'm actually perceiving that already in my mind that it's going this way and that the arm is going back out and away from camera just a little bit. So I just want to illustrate that for you because it's you know you want to start envisioning that as early on as you can in the process. So now it's a larger circle for the shoulder. Do so under up top the top the arm Ali-Allen round the cylinder in the way that I would perceive it connecting to the shoulder. So it is starting to illustrate that visual guide for myself and then here I want to perceive that it's going away from camera. I'll taper the cylinder just a bit and I try to always make sure that the cylinder for the form is the equal distance from this base cylinder to the top of the shoulder. Again I said like I said before if you were to raise this it would actually meet the top of the shoulder then you would add the hand down. So just keep in mind. I'll say a lot of illustrations and it seems like the forms are always too short. So let's make sure to add that enough and also the common mistake as well is not to taper the wrist as far as it need be OK. So now let's go and take this to the next stage and let's add a little bit more or even add a bit of a wedge shape for the hand but we won't get into detail on the hand yet because I want to save that for another lesson. So we've got the elbow back here. Let's go and copy this and shrink it down first. Move it over copy and paste move that back over OK. So now let's go ahead and give us a little bit more form. So in this next stage we can start to figure out the shapes a little bit more over top. This will do again that kind of oblong shape like this for the shoulder where you make sure to make the shoulder a good size larger in width and height than the rest of the arm. And then I notice a lot as people tend to draw the shoulders a bit small. So from back here we're going to see the tricep not to be like this. Now the tricep wall generally kind of come outward. I thought was was dropped off the side. It would almost be shaped like this somewhat. And then it splits down the back goes up one side is up higher. Generally the inside portion or not just that is the inside portion closest to the lab. So you know just kind of that shape there will draw that in. So depending on how defined you're trying to make a character look or muscular You could start out very light with this if you're not doing something as stylized or is as intense as comic book illustration. The. I like to just kind of keep with that circle. It's got a bit of a downward point to it. You know it kind of tapers up. It's also a good point for where to draw the line you see in the back of the arm. That kind of meets down to the back and the rest. So it actually did tilt this hand a bit more in the form generally is larger and wider at the top here and then tapers down pretty heavily and you get a bit of this muscle on the side there and the wrist right at the very end widens back out. So you know just knowing this about anatomy and studying the way the muscles go and what direction they head you know and obviously this isn't a perfect scatch I don't know if there is a such thing but you just keep doing it and doing it and you know you'll get a better feel for you know what you like to see in your own drawings and how much of a stylized representation you want versus realism. And you know the more time you put in the more realistic it's generally going to get. So if you keep a softer race than this and you keep coming back with a new perspective and draw over top then generally you're going to get closer and closer. Now especially if you're studying from France if you're just kind of eyeballing it like I'm doing here then you know you might tend to distort things and give it to a more stylized look but that's what I'm after. Being more into comic illustration. So I'm OK with that. But you know there's no harm in studying reference and recreating this stuff. It's you learn learned so you know like one of the tricky parts is right here how the tricep comes down and around I think it meets moron in here you know and I don't want to draw this overly segmented as a murder. Starting to do. But I do want to illustrate some of the parts where the muscles head and the shoulder does this tricky kind of thing where they almost rotate up and back around. So it comes down further and between the bicep and tricep and it goes up and around kind of like this and meets the back and you know a good way to perceive all of this is that all of it's interconnected that everything you know kind of segues into another thing you know muscle group muscle group. So this was something like that and that would give us you know kind of an overly straight down but a back view of an arm. And I don't know that you would actually see as much of the bicep as I've drawn here. I think the triceps but can't get in the way of more you see less of those bicep. Let's go and select this and scale it down and put it next to our base template there. OK so I want to show you one more before we conclude this lesson and I want to show you basically another way of looking at it so I've shown you how you can break down the shapes with a quick line for a shadow here and I'll show you how a couple representations of how you would work up from the basic form. Now the other thing I want to show you to get in the habit of is to break down the shapes even a step further. So let's go and take another arm position like this. So I'm just going to kind of skip talking about the beginning stages and you can just watch me rough this out or hopefully you're following along and you'll get these basic shapes into place. But then what I'll do now is I'll go ahead and go right to designing this and more of a 3D type fashion. You know you have to remember that we're creating 2D images to the surface but we're trying to envision 3-D. We're trying to make things look very dimensional and we're basically cheating. You know it's a bit of a tomfoolery if you will. They never use that term before. So basically you know you're trying to really make it look like it's three dimensional even though it's not. Now one way to do that is to actually get in here and do as many three dimensional lines as you can. So really draw these lines in you know pretend like you're looking at something in a 3D program. So oftentimes I'll tell my students to study a little bit of 3D even though you're working as an illustrator and you're trying to create things in a 2D space. I recommend that you study 3D programs and there are some free ones out there that you can get into without you know dedicating your life savings to it but you'll get in the habit of looking at three you know things like this in a 3-D space which is you know I think helps your visualization process. So you go like this you know you kind of draw as much of it into a 3-D kind of grid as you can. And then also you break certain parts down and you do your studies and you say OK this this muscle right here you know looking at photos or whatever you got to do. How is it looking at 3-D space and you can shade and and kind of visualize that better by segmenting these certain areas and breaking them down. So I guess you're just itemizing parts of the body and really focusing on it and then you know studying this muscle here. How does this react and how thick is it to the base and how then how quickly does it taper off this way. But I think these little lines that help you draw on 3-D space on the soft traces down again I'll illustrate them further. I think it really helps you to see that and break that down. So I'll draw it again just kind of quickly here I'll do a little bit of line wait just to illustrate it. You see I'm almost making things look a little too angular and a few spots but I'm doing that intentionally because I want to really kind of you know push that direction that I'm going for visually of the depth of these segmented muscles. I wasn't like that. There's a few more muscle strands the way it goes around like this and you know again this isn't entirely about accuracy as much as I'm trying to explain the process in which I break things down and study you know so the bicep in the way it connects to the shoulder. You're generally not going to have a segmented mass you're a really big body builder or something. But for the sake of studies it's not a bad thing. So we'll just kind of over illustrate that we'll show the separation from the shoulder muscles. Those again will show those those kind of three dimensional lines 3-D lines where you to have them taper off to just this muscle group like this you know almost picture like we're drawing on Colossus from X-Men. These are lines and if you're familiar with who that even is but maybe maybe not. But by doing this you know you're really painting the picture that each one of these areas are segmented and that they're rounded. They have a bit of depth to them. So again that's what this line here is for this line to the back of the elbow. It's kind of the bottom part of the forearm. And you know you can see these and if you want to keep in mind all these art files will be supplied with the course so they're available here for download so that you can follow along and study these already knew that but just in case you didn't. So just like that. So and again you know each part. So even though you don't want to get in the habit of over segmenting your natural drawings or your typical figure drawings. It's OK when you're studying because it kind of reinforces the shapes in your mind. Then you can go back and soften them up so you know I obviously don't recommend doing this if you're drawing up you know real life drawing or anything like that. But but for studying it it's more than adequate. So it really does. And again just really trying to visually get the idea of the shape of these muscles and the arm so I do this quite a bit for my studies. I just feel like it's it really helps me to understand it. And then from here just save these you know save them in your sketchbook save them in your computer under you know titles and things so that you can access them in that way if you do spend your time really doing some intense studies. You can pull from that reference can remember where you're at as an illustrator and what things were clicking mentally for yeah because that happens at times there's times you go back and look at some of your old work. I mean I was doing well with drawing hands or feet there and then I somehow forgot that and I don't know why that occurs but it's just something that does happen. Chances are what it probably is when you were doing well with it previously you were inspired because inspiration is a big part of drawing any of this stuff. So there you go that's how it breaks down and do some studies for some various arm poses. All right so that I conclude this lesson. Next we'll head over to studying the legs and breaking those down with shapes as well. So let's continue on.