How to use reference images to make drawing poses easy!

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This article uses reference images from our friend Sarah at AdorkaStock. Read more about her awesome work in our article here!


Here at Anime Art Magazine, and over at our school, Anime Art Academy, our teachers are always telling students of the importance of using reference images to draw their poses. But how exactly should we use those images to help us draw?

Today, let’s go through some of the techniques you can use to make the most out of your reference materials!


Simple stick figures can help?!

Yes, that’s right! One of the first things we can do to get a feel for the shape of the body when drawing poses using reference images, is to draw a very simple stick figure over the image. This will help us get an idea of how the body is bending and how each body part is overlapping with the others.

Even if you don’t plan to fully draw the pose, trying this out with all different reference images is very good practice! It will help you understand how the body moves. You can practice in this way using either photos, 3D models, or even other illustrations. Whenever you see a pose you find interesting, try tracing over it with a stick figure.


Section off, and colour coordinate!

The next step is to divide the body up into sections, either by copying, or tracing over the reference image. The sections can be simple and boxy, or they can more accurately follow the lines of the body, but the key point here is to show the three-dimensional shape of the body with your lines and sections. Use lots of boxy and cylindrical shapes, and add in extra curved lines around the arms, legs and body to really flesh it out and give it weight.

You can start off with just one body part like the arm above, and then move on to the full body when you’re ready!

The more lines we use around the body parts to flesh them out the better!

Colouring helps with tricky perspective

Extreme perspective, like shots with the hand reaching out towards the viewer are one of the most difficult things to get right in illustration, and are extremely difficult to draw without reference material.

So practice drawing these kind of poses by using a reference image to copy or trace, sectioning off the different areas as we saw above, and then colouring in all of the overlapping sections. This will really help deepen your understanding of how the body is shaped, and how the different sections of the body fit together!

Hopefully this has helped you further understand how to use reference images to help with your work!

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