Learning about legs and their natural range of movement – part 1

Legs make up a whole half of a character’s body, so it’s no surprise that they’re a super important part of getting character poses right. Today let’s learn all about legs, and how to draw them moving in a natural way!

Raised legs

When drawing a character raising their leg, it’s important to think about the anatomy of the legs and hips. A really good way to make sure you get the balance of the leg right, whatever the angle, is to draw circular guidelines with the hip joint as the centre point. This will ensure you get the knee and the ankle joint in the right place every time!

In the below image, we see the hip joint in a slightly raised position, which is why the foot is raised off the floor a little, even in its lowest position.

Remembering this method, and thinking of the hip joint as the centre point of a compass is a great way to get a mental image of the proportions of leg at any angle!

Remember, a woman character’s legs should be exactly half of her total height (men’s legs in anime are sometimes a little shorter than half their body). So when drawing a woman raising her leg up to face level, we should have the heel of the foot coming at the same level as the top of the head.

Key points!

When a character raises their leg, the body will naturally bend and move to balance out the shift of weight. Drawing a character totally upright with just their leg out to the side will not look natural! The character would fall over if they don’t adjust their posture.

A good guide is to look at the character’s tummy button! This is the character’s centre of gravity, so be sure to tilt the body in a way that makes this area line up with the foot on which they are placing their weight.

Another key point is that when a character raises their leg into different positions, the angle and position of their toes will change. So if we measure the length of the leg from the hip joint to the tip of the toe, we will get some odd lengths for our legs! That’s why we measure from the hip joint to the ankle joint – not to the tip of the toe.

Example poses

Let’s take a look at some examples of poses where characters have their legs raised up!

Ballet – Having the leg create a smooth line as it raises at the back of the body will help this pose look more elegant and balletic.

Cheerleading – Using the whole body and creating a lot of motion will help make the pose look more energetic and beautiful!

High Kick – Remembering to use the “compass” method we talked about, let’s bring the leg right up to head-level for a vigorous and strong looking kick.

I hope you’ve picked up some useful tips about legs and overall character movement! Try out lots of poses for yourself, and remember to use the “compass” technique to keep the length of the legs looking natural.

Next time, we’ll be looking at how to draw bent legs, so watch this space!

Anime Art Academy is on Discord! Come and join our community!

Previous Story

Japanese anime fans rank the “best anime hot spring episodes” (boys’ choice edition)

Next Story

The best white-out pens for manga illustration, and how to use them!