Using contrapposto to create beautiful standing poses for women

Have you ever tried to draw your character in a cute pose, but for some reason it just doesn’t look right? You’ve drawn the face perfectly, but for some reason the body and pose looks stiff or awkward? Today we’ll be looking at an artistic theory that will help you make your poses more beautiful and dynamic. The technique is called “contrapposto”, and can be used on both men and women, but is especially effective on women, as it accentuates the curved lines of a feminine form.

So let’s take a look at how contrapposto can help us to create beautiful, feminine poses!

Note: Throughout this lesson, I will be referring to the sides of the body as viewed by the character, not the viewer. So the “character’s left hand side” will be on the right as we are viewing it. Left and right are very important here, so I wanted to make that clear before we start!

What is contrapposto?

Ancient Greek statues of Venus, and Renaissance sculpture of David.

Throughout the ages, contrapposto has been considered a beautiful way to display the human form. It was used in ancient Greece and Rome, and after that, in the renaissance period, it was founded as an artistic theory.

So what is contrapposto?

You’ll see that the two statues above have one thing in common – they are both placing the majority of their weight on one leg. This one of the key of contrapposto.

You can try this for yourself and see, but when you are standing upright, in a stiff, forward-facing position, you place your weight on both legs evenly. However, if you shift your hips to the side and put your weight on one leg, the ribs and pelvis will naturally tilt in opposite directions to stabilize your body.

The axis of the body, which was formally a straight vertical line, is forced into an S-shaped curve. This curve in the axis is another key point of contrapposto, and is what makes the pose look appealing.

So, to summarise…

Key points of contrapposto

1 – Weight is placed on one leg

2 – Ribs and pelvis are tilted in opposite directions

3 – The axis of the body forms an “S” shape

How to create a pose using contrapposto

When a character is standing upright, with their weight evenly distributed between both feet, they may be stable, but it doesn’t make for an attractive or interesting pose.

So let’s try breaking up some of that balance and symmetry!

The centre of gravity comes at the character’s core, behind the belly button. So we can see that the pose below shows the character leaning most of their weight on their right leg.

Next, we spread out her legs a little, shift her waist to the right (as we indicated with the blue arrow in the last picture) and shift her weight so that her weight rests on her right leg.

When we place our weight on one foot, the body shifts, tilting the hips and shoulders in opposite directions and creating an S curve in the body. This is contrapposto!

Above, we have a bad example of failed contrapposto. Can you see why this is not good?

Because the character’s core is not in line with the foot, the character’s weight falls outside of the character’s body. The character would not be able to balance themselves in this position, and would become unstable or fall down.

So you can see how important it is to think about the core, and centre of gravity when drawing poses in contrapposto!

Contrapposto, as seen from the front

Bending the body axis into an S-shape creates a flexible, dynamic, attractive pose. This is called an “S Line”, and is part of what makes for great feminine poses.

Contrapposto puts the weight on one leg, tilts the hips and shoulders in opposite directions, and creates that S Line that we want to see in our work.

The above figure has their hip tilted out to the side, and is placing their weight on to their right foot, with their right hand placed on that raised side of the hip. This is a pose you will often see models use, as it looks dynamic, and shows off the curves of the body.

The centre of gravity comes at the thickest part of the torso, which when a character is viewed from the front, happens to be right behind the navel.

Point 1 – The shoulders

You’ll see they are tilted on an opposite angle to the hips.

Point 2 – The waist

The side of the hips that the weight is not placed on, is lowered for balance.

Point 3 – Pay attention to the S Line!

The opposing angles of the hips and shoulders should create that all-important S Line in the body.

PRO TIP 1 – Raised chest

The side of the chest on the side with the raised shoulder will be pulled up a little, so remember to draw the breast on that side a little higher.

PRO TIP 2 – Waist dip

The S Line will emphasise the curve of the waist, so make sure to have the waist dip in a little more on the right side of her body.

PRO TIP 3 – Raised hip

Remember to draw the raised hip a little larger, as well as higher, as the character is sticking out their hips/butt to one side.

I hope this has served as a good introduction to the artistic theory of contrapposto! Be sure to use it in your work, to create more dynamic, attractive poses!

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Drawing the face from above, at an angle

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Using contrapposto to create beautiful sitting poses for women