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Applying Human Anatomy to a Furry Character

Re: Applying Human Anatomy to a Furry Character (Updated May 01 - legs and spine)

Something that gets mentioned on nearly every critique on this board is proportions and anatomy. It's not enough to just say that it's "your style" or that it doesn't matter because you're drawing a furry. Human anatomy can very easily be applied to nearly any sort of fantasy creature, because at the core of it, the fantasy creature is just a stylised human.


I cannot stress guidelines and skeletal undersketches heavily enough. Especially when you're just starting out. Circles and cylinders are the shapes you'll want to draw the most, and then refine the shapes later on.

For the face, you're going to want to divide it into quarters. They don't have to be perfect, but you want them to be near as possible to being all the same size.


Now, with the furry form, you do have a little bit more wiggle room, but I very strongly suggest learning how to do human AND animal proportions before trying to do too much stylising either way. I'm just doing a general sort of critter here, because we're not focusing on getting the head shaped correctly for any particular species right now. That's something totally different and best learned by drawing from photographs of that species.

In this case, we're applying human anatomy to a furry, so keep that in mind as we progress.

It's sometimes hard to tell, because of angles and the pesky version of hair, but the eyes should be in the centre of the vertical axis. Right there in the middle, dividing the head into two "equal" parts. That's the horizontal line in the middle of the face.


There are very specific rules to how everything is spaced on the face. The bottom of the nose should line up with the top of the jaw. It can be as wide as narrow as you like, but try to keep it within reason.

The eyes (on that centre line) will be spaced as far apart as the widest part of the nose (typically the nostrils).


The ears have three different points that you need to line up, typically. You've got the top bit where it connects to the head, which more or less lines up with the eyes.

Then you've got the top of the ear itself, which lines up more or less with the eyebrows.

Last, you've got the bit at the bottom where the ear connects to the head (not the hanging lobe part, since that's actually an issue of recessive genes, and they're all sorts of complicated). This bit lines up with the top of the jaw/bottom of the nose.

With furries, this is the bit that you have all sorts of wiggle room with. I like to set my ears rather a bit lower than they should be, to give the characters a more human-like appearance, by both having them line up somewhat-similarly, and they also help make the brow appear higher.


By setting the ears higher on the head, you get a more animal-like appearance, and it makes the brow appear lower, with a more extreme slope (sort of line an animal's).


Last, you have the mouth. This is typically centred between the bottom of the nose and the tip of the chin, but you can fiddle with this a little bit. Centring it is an example of "ideal proportions."

The mouth should also extend to about the middle of the person's eyes. Again, there's a small amount of room to play with here, but not a whole lot. Make it too wide or too narrow, and your character will look more alien than anything.

So, there we go. That's applying a human facial structure to a furry's. With the furry, you are of course able to play around a bit more, and exaggerate features, but by knowing how a human face is put together, it will make it easier to play around with the features and have it look good.

(If y'all like this, I can do a bit more with body types and stuff.)
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Kisses for everyone!
THANK you! This is a very insightful, very helpful post! It goes to show you that there's a lot more to it than people usually assume; they think they can get away with saying 'it's not realism' when really there's a lot that we as humans use to recognize things as 'appealing' to the eye, including proportions.

I'd love to see more like this, just in general. :>>


I call for a sticky!


Angyl Roper
As always when learning how to draw, one has to learn the rules before one breaks them, otherwise mistakes are made that are very easy to unlearn.
Somewhere, in one of the various tutorial threads around here, there's a question asking about digitigrade legs.

I'm going to come right out and say that I very strongly dislike digitigrade legs on a bipedal character, because on an anatomical level, it really doesn't make much sense. There is a reason most creatures that are bipedal or are able to be bipedal are plantigrade. But since a lot of folks out there like this style for their characters, here's a quick little rundown of it.


Whether digitigrade or plantigrade, the legs will have the exact same sorts of bones; they're just arranged a little bit differently. Typically, you want the femur and the tibia to be around about the same length. Really, the only difference in a human and a plantigrade furry is the length of the metatarsals and phalanges in the foot. More of a stylistic thing than anything, furries tend to have slightly larger hands and feet than humans.

With digitigrade furries, some of the proportions are sort of the same. The femur and the tibia are still more or less equal, but they're usually a bit shorter than they would be on a human. The metatarsals are extended to sometimes twice what they would be on a human or plantigrade furry, and the phalanges are enlarged a little bit as well. Everything is still connected more or less in the same way, but it's all somewhat contracted (unlike a human leg, where everything is usually extended).


The reason why the femur and thigh muscles are typically as thick as they are is because that's the point at which the entire mass of your upper body is rested. That's a hell of a lot of weight to be settled on two ball and socket joints, so those joints have a lot of reinforcement.

Since a digitigrade furry's femur is a bit shorter than what it should be, and bent out at an angle that doesn't do much supporting at all, you'd want the thighs to be a bit more dense than they would be normally. And the same with his calves. If you've ever tried to stand or walk on your toes for any amount of time, you'd notice that some muscles that you hardly ever notice are pulling in really strange ways. Because these creatures are always walking on their toes, those muscles in the front of the thigh and back of the calves would be a bit larger from the constant working they'd get.


Humans have a natural curvature to our spines. It's curved this way for optimum balance and weight distribution.

In a plantigrade furry, nothing changes, except for the addition of a tail. Since he's already perfectly balanced, the tail (which is an extension of the spine) would be purely cosmetic.

But with this spine curvature in a digitigrade furry, he's totally off balance, and in danger of falling on his face, even with his tail held outward for balance.


Because he's got the lower leg structure of a quadrupedal animal, he'd have to have the same spine curvature to keep himself balanced. With his spine arched outward, his centre of gravity is pushed back over his hips, rather than over his knees.

Even in this case, his tail would still likely be used for balance, and so it would also be more compact and dense than it might be normally.
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Hey, Assbutt
Oh yes.

It annoys me how often you see people go for digitigrade, but leave them looking as though the slightest breeze would end up with them on their face.

See Scott Kellog, for more proof. Every single one of his characters is digitigrade and horribly unbalanced.
It's one of the reasons I honestly cannot stand digitigrade characters. There's very little thought behind them, and there's no way they'd be able to run. Even walking would be awkward, both visually and physically.

Another thing that gets me, is that people will make any animal digitigrade; even animals like roos or rabbits or lizards, which are very much plantigrade. D:


Play from your ****ing HEART
Another thing that gets me, is that people will make any animal digitigrade; even animals like roos or rabbits or lizards, which are very much plantigrade. D:

That FUCKING Ursa Major Awards logo. >:c


Cynical Dragon
Thread definitely deserves a sticky. Far too many artists throw anatomy out the window and claim "its furry" or "its anthro" as an excuse.
I haven't really much of an intro for this one. But basically, men and women are shaped differently. Even without the inclusion of breasts and hair, you want the viewer to be able to tell which gender your character is.


Guess what? More guide lines!

First, the horizontal line, because it's the same for men and women. The elbow is typically going to be right around the bottom of the ribcage. Like the legs, the humerus and the radius/ulna are going to be more or less samey. I'll probably do more on just the arm and shoulder later on.

Now, the vertical lines. With the bloke, his shoulders are going to be slightly wider than his hips, and at a relaxed stance, his feet will line up with his shoulders.

With the girl, her hips and shoulders will be more or less the same width, and her feet will be a bit closer together.


Now, going from top to bottom, a man's skull is going to be a bit bigger and wider than the girl's, with a squarer jaw. A woman's skull is more narrow, and her chin will typically come to more of a point.

Guys also tend to have thicker necks than women. This sometimes creates an illusion of women having a longer neck, even though both have the same amount of cervical vertebrae (in fact, most mammals have seven bones in their neck. A giraffe and a mouse both have the same amount of neck bones).

Men also have wider, more square shoulders than women, because their clavicle are longer. Men also have a wider ribcage than women, which will typically be as wide as, or wider than their hips.

Women have a wider, but shorter pelvis than men. Because of the wider pelvis, and the angle of it, the femur tends to tilt inward more than it does on men, which is why the stance is wider with men.


Puberty sniper will get you!
Man this is better than some books because you put step-by-step how to draw humans and furries.
It's also a myth that men have more ribs than women.

I'm totally not surprised, actually. Though, I do wish that I had a female skeleton to compare against my male skeleton (we call him Fred. Right now, he's dressed up like a police officer).

I have actually seen this particular topic incite wank and ragequits. I'm not sure why the subject of putting a tail on gets people so pissed off, but it does.


The first thing we're going to look at, since most furries are drawn with human or human-like anatomy is the spine. Earlier, I mentioned the curvature of the spine when relating to balance and stance, but now it's important again; particularly the tailbone, or coccyx. On men, more-so than women, it curves slightly forward. It also ends around about the middle of the pelvis, and points more or less downward. The tail, being an extension of the spine, would connect at the very base of the coccyx.


The "correct" position for the tail is to come as close to possible as being attached to the end of the coccyx as possible. Typically, because of the frontward curve, the tail is pulled back slightly, but it still follows the curve of the spine.

Despite being the most anatomically accurate, you don't see this placement very frequently.


The main reason you don't see it very frequently is because despite being "correct," it's not very visually appealing. Put trousers on your character, and it's even worse. The only way this placement ever looks even remotely appealing is if the character is bent over.


Attaching the tail to the top of the pelvis, rather than the base of the spine, is more visually appealing and the most common tail placement, despite being "wrong."


Better yet, it works both nude and clothed characters. The tail is still below the waistline this way, but trousers are easily modified to work. Despite this, placement on the body still looks "right;" there's a good flow from the spine to the tail, but the tail doesn't get in the way of anything.


You will occasionally see people place the tail on the small of the back. Most people will agree that this is "WRONG." Not only does it look wrong, but it leaves the pelvis completely detached from the spine.


The main reason people tend to lift the tail this high is typically a reason of clothing. You don't have to modify the trousers, because the tail sits just on top of the waistband.

Regardless, you generally want to avoid this placement. Most people really don't like this.


(woo, bad drawings)

The pelvis is attached to the spinal column, with the spine continuing down to about the half-way point of the pelvis. If the tail attaches to the spine, then it should be attached at the half-way point of the pelvis. As we've already been over, it looks rather awkward and isn't very common.


The reason the "acceptable" placement is acceptable is because it can still work on an anatomical level.

If the spine were truncated to the point just below where it attaches to the pelvis, and the shape of the pelvis changed slightly, attaching a tail at the mid-level could work quite well. And add at the base of the tail the sort of hinge joint that a cat has in its tail, then the character would be able to sit properly with his tail out of the way.


Kisses for everyone!
That is so informative that it's beyond awesome :3 this is an awesome series!
Absolutely amazing man, I was looking for something like this to help me out with my sketches. Thanks.

Nice Hitchhiker's Guide reference in your icon by the way.

Van Ishikawa

I don't know why but I busted out laughing at the "correct" tail placement backside pictures.

This is really useful, keep up the good work Zeddish :)
I don't know why but I busted out laughing at the "correct" tail placement backside pictures.

This is really useful, keep up the good work Zeddish :)

No, it really is ridiculous-looking. I laugh every time I see someone post a serious piece of artwork with the tail there.


Pronounced 'Foxglove'
This fandom sucks, I quit!

(Also, I think the reason nobody uses the "Correct" placement for the tail is that it looks kinda like one of those buttplugs with tail attachment. =D)
(Also, I think the reason nobody uses the "Correct" placement for the tail is that it looks kinda like one of those buttplugs with tail attachment. =D)

I can see how it can look like that, but the anus is further down, still.

Since the forums are supposed to be work safe, though, there won't be any diagrams for that sort of stuff.

Lord Honk

New Member
holy mackerel, this is so helpful :D

not that anyone who had biology in the 5th grade wouldn't know that the tail extends the spine, but still, i've got in so many "discussions" ("b'awwww, stop hatin' my drawing, it's a furry, they're supposed to have tails") about anatomy + furries.

the problem with the correct placement is that with two-legged furries, the butt kinda encases the base of the tail. still doesn't justify placing it completely detached.

again, thanks Zeddish ;)