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Applying Human Anatomy to a Furry Character

Fur!

Knowing how fur works is the first step toward making it look good on your character. If you just throw what you think fur looks like on your character, then chances are it will just bother the viewer on at least one level.


(Ignore the derpy face, please. It's an old sketch.)

Since we're dealing with the topic of furries on this site, not drawing any fur anywhere on your character tends to look rather... odd. Nicholas rather looks like he's had an unfortunate encounter with a razor. On the other hand, his musculature is quite clearly defined.



What you don't want to do is put the fur everywhere. Now poor Nicholas looks rather mangy, and he's lost a lot of his definition under all that fluff.



What you want to do instead is find a good middle-ground. An easy way to do that is to "imply" fur, rather than drawing out every single little strand of hair.

The easiest way to do that is to put the fur in places where it either bunch up, or fan out. Typically, this is on the convex curves (the lines that bend outward). Don't put it everywhere; just in places where there would typically be a lot of it. In this case, he's actually still got a bit more on him than I'd typically draw, but it serves as an illustration. You can also vary the amount of fluff depending on your character. Nicholas is very neat and tidy, so that's sort of portrayed with his short hair and short fur. Other characters may have more.



Now, an important thing to know about fur is that it will always follow the grain of the muscle. There are very specific rules for the direction the fur will go on different parts of the body. Knowing a bit about muscle anatomy will help you know which direction to have the fur lying, and also where the fur may bunch up.

For example, if you have a cat, go pick him up. If you can hold him long enough without him squirming away, try to get a good look at the bridge of his nose, as it were. There's a very definite vertical line right where different groups of muscle converge. Also, notice how his fur contours around his eyes, and up to his ears (it may be the same for dogs, but I haven't got a dog, so I'm not sure).



DON'T draw your fur like this; it looks ridiculous. This is just an illustration.

Knowing the grain of the muscle, and how the fur lies down on different parts of his body may seem kind of pointless at first, but it will help for some of the more odd angles you may draw. If I draw Nicholas lying on his side, I'd be outlining different bits of him than if I were drawing him at a straight-on angle. Those different would probably have different muscle masses that would affect his fur, if only slightly.


END NOTES: I don't really advocate trying to go into crazy detail with the fur. Most of the people I've seen posting here have a rather cartoony style. I have a VERY cartoony style, and I know it. Rather than trying to get away from it, it's something I've embraced, instead. For 90% of you, you'd do well just implying the fur. As a general rule of thumb, if you have outlines, they won't support a whole lot of detail. Stuff like this works to have a lot of detail, because the outline is in the paint (although, PLEASE don't use Blotch as a measuring stick. While their painting is wonderful, they have a lot of anatomy issues that I'll probably be pulverised for even daring to mention).

Bottom line, practise line economy with this one. You want just enough detail to see the fur, but not enough to where the fur is the focus.
 
Atypical Body Types

There's another reason knowing all these fiddly little details with bones and muscles and internal structure are useful. Most characters out there are either structured like a human, or are completely "feral." With either of these body types, you've already a sort of template as it were.

But what if you want to go for a sort of cross-breed or "were" body structure? Something that's sort of halfway between being human and feral.



What we have here is basically an engineered creature. It's actually a concept for an idea I've been kicking around, and have been spending several weeks tweaking bits of him to get him just the way I want him to look.

However, I've not designed him with form in mind, as much as I have for function. I wanted him to have a rather prosimian design, but not completely. The idea was for him to be sort of equally comfortable on all fours or on his hind legs. At slower speeds, he'd be quadrupedal, but like the Basiliscus lizards can achieve slightly faster speeds by adopting a bipedal stance.



Knowing how I want him to behave, I have to figure out how to structure him to be able to function in a natural sort of way.

I know that I want him to be rather flexible and bendy, but not overly so. He's got his little primate hands, so he probably doesn't need to scratch behind his ears with his feet. He does need to to be flexible enough to be able to comfortably move about on all fours, which is something that can be rather hard to to with a totally human structure.

First, his shoulders are quite a bit more narrow than a human's, but not quite as narrow as would be on most quadrupedal animals. Aside from his shoulders, his arms are mostly human. He has an opposable thumb, and two joints in each finger.

Because of his narrow shoulders, his ribcage would be deeper (sternum to spine) to compensate the narrow (side to side) build.

Below the ribcage is where the real engineering happens. He has a long, flexible spine that can arch in either direction. His hip joint is high on his pelvis, with a sort of ball-in-socket joint. His metatarsals in his feet are much shorter than you'd see on a typical bipedal digitigrade furry, or even on most feral characters, because during the time that he'd be on his hind legs, he'd be plantigrade for better balance. However, like the digitigrade characters, he'd have the dense muscle mass on his legs, as well as on his upper arms, to compensate for a skeletal structure that doesn't do much in the way of support while in this position.

His tail would have the same sort of hinge joint as a cat that we discussed earlier, so that he could use his tail for balance when he's bipedal.



Going through a process like this may seem tedious, but engineering your own character can open up whole new doors to unique and interesting designs.
 

Van Ishikawa

ZOMBIE KAEL LOVES YOU
Oh hey, I missed the fur update on this one. :D

Great tutorial as always, Zed. If you're looking for more ideas on what to cover, one of the things I've always had trouble with and see others struggle with is facial expressions, especially when dealing with muzzles. I notice you add a "lip" to your characters as well, which is an interesting thing to cover in terms of style variance.

Anyways, keep up the good work :)
 
Facial expressions are my biggest failing, admittedly. D:

As for the bottom lip thing, I think that it makes the characters look that much more human, and therefore makes them that much easier to empathise with? I dunno. They just look weird when I try to draw without it. lol
 

Van Ishikawa

ZOMBIE KAEL LOVES YOU
Facial expressions are my biggest failing, admittedly. D:

As for the bottom lip thing, I think that it makes the characters look that much more human, and therefore makes them that much easier to empathise with? I dunno. They just look weird when I try to draw without it. lol
I'm usually okay with expressions, that is until I try to open their mouths. D: I dunno, I keep ending up with dislocated jaws or mis-proportioned muzzles. And it wasn't until about a week ago that someone pointed out that I often drew characters with a severe overbite XD. So I'm workin on that too.

And I seem to have the opposite issue with the lip: I tried adding it for similar reasons, but either my style or just not knowing how to do it right just made them look..tumorous, for lack of a better word. Might try it again in the future, but its really interesting mixing and matching human and animal traits on that level. And while I don't have much a plan to draw a hybrid like your latest tutorial, its a really fantastic look at breaking down anatomy and showing what really goes into designing these furry things we draw so much.
 
I used to have the same problem with the overbite. As for the little lip bit, a big part of getting it to look right is making sure the jaw is big enough.
 
Joints, and Other Bits that Bend

Especially important in animation, but also just a generally Good Thing to Know, is where exactly the joints are. Now, some of them are pretty easy to keep consistent; knees, elbows, shoulders, and to an extent, hips. Others are rather hidden, though. The jaw is a good example of this one.



Drawing your character with his mouth shut is pretty simple once you get the hang of how his face is shaped.

But there's only so much you can do with his mouth closed.



There we go. His mouth is open. On the surface, it seems simple. Just draw a few more lines. But there are actually a few very common errors when drawing a characters face, and they're not exactly small.



The first thing to keep in mind is that the hinge is not actually at the corner of the mouth. In fact, it's quite a bit further back. Depending on the species, it can actually be all the way at the back of the skull.

This seems like a fairly minor detail, but if you draw the hinge at the corner of the mouth, his jaw won't actually line up properly, and will do weird things by way of cutting into his neck or hanging awkwardly off of his face.



The bottom of his jaw should actually line up with the bottom of his cheek. My characters tend to have flatter, more human-like cheekbones, and lack the big fluffy cheeks that a lot of characters have, but even if you do have all that fluff, the jaw and the cheek should line up just like this.



Most characters can also move their ears about. While there are no bones in the ear, the issue of things lining up properly is still present. With the ears, you'll typically have between two to four points that you have to keep consistent. Depending on the character design, you may even have more than that.

In this case, we have the top of the ear, the front of the ear, the inside, and the bottom.

Separate from keeping the joins to align, you also have to be mindful of length. No matter how he moves his ear, all of the bits are going to be the same length. The bottom/back bits may fold into themselves, but if he were able to rotate his ear in a full 360°, the tip would make a near-perfect circle.



The ear on the other side of his head can be a bit more tricky, still. It's very easy to get this ear to look like it's become detached or moved to a different part of his head.

Basically, what you have to do is figure out where his ear is attached on the side of the head you can't see. This is something that, the more you do it, the more naturally it will come to you.



Once you find those points, you can move his ear to the appropriate position.



This is something that you have to practise with any bit of his body that's partially obscured. You're not always going to be able to see both shoulders or both hips, and if you guess as to where to put his hand, the results can be quite interesting. You can wind up with his arm seeming to come from his hips, or with his leg coming out of his ribcage.




One last thing that I want to touch on is lines in the face. It's not related to this subject, but it's not really related to any other subject either.



Skin, like clothing, has various tension points, and they're the same for everyone. They're the reason why when people get old, they have the same sort of wrinkle pattern as most everybody else. Lines around the mouth, around the eyes, and on the neck.

Some of these points have to be slightly moved or modified for furries, but even so, they should still occur in uniform positions; outer corners of the eyes, radiating outward from the inner corners of the eyes, radiating from the bridge of the muzzle to the corners of the mouth, and from the chin inward to the neck. You can, of course, mix and match these as is fit for your character. Obviously, a younger character won't display all these signs of ageing, but if he smiles widely or scrunches up his nose, he'd probably have a few creases on his face.
 

CaramelMilk

New Member
I actually have a high tailbone, so if I had a tail it would be like the "acceptable" placement.
This thread is highly helpful.
 
K

Karclan

Guest
I know this is a Tutorial and stuff but can i have premission to put some try outs of similar things you've done here on FA ? ill make sure i link this page in for the info in the subs so people know who origianlly did it.
 
I know this is a Tutorial and stuff but can i have premission to put some try outs of similar things you've done here on FA ? ill make sure i link this page in for the info in the subs so people know who origianlly did it.


If you drew it, I'm not sure why you'd need permission, but sure.
 
K

Karclan

Guest
Thanks

P.S could you put some stuff up about running, like how to structure a running pose?
 
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Spikeheila

New Member
Thank you for the lessons on drawing in such a way. I,myself, have an incredibly hard time drawing using tutorials because my head,for whatever reason, can not translate it down to my fingers almost at all(possibly due to my particular grouping of disorders and such), which is why I usually just make up random creatures myself and shit on anatomy in most cases. For myself it's more about me expressing my thoughts and desires more than if things are 'right'. But I'll try to keep these pictures and words in mind.
 
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Smelge

Hey, Assbutt
If you're going action poses, explaining the theory behind action lines would be funky too.
 
If you're going action poses, explaining the theory behind action lines would be funky too.

You really can't do a proper action pose without some sort of action line. At least, not properly.
 
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Arms and Hands

We've done a lot with the lower body, so let's take a look at the upper body.



Proportions and stuff may be a tad off, because Fred (the human skeleton that I have in my sitting room) is from a 12-14 year old boy and is very poorly constructed, and I used him for a reference.

ANYWAY, the humerus should be slightly longer than the ulna. The hand, from wrist to fingertips, should be about half the length of the ulna. As always, I'm being slightly wishy-washy with this, because everybody's different, so the lengths aren't going to be exact.



If you simplify all of the bones down to just the basic of basics, things start to get interesting. Mammals are all rather samey (for the most part. Let's leave sea mammals out of this discussion for now). Even birds, to an extent, have the same sorts of bones. Take these simplified arm bones and hold them out, and all of a sudden, it becomes more of a wing.



Rotate a few of the bones around, and now you've got something rather a bit more canine.

The only things that really change between species are joint placement and muscles. The bones themselves tend to be arranged similarly, like we saw in the post about the legs and spine. The real trick with the arms/wings/whatever is mainly one of proportions and making sure the joints stay consistent.





Now, on to hands. There's a lot of overlooked proportions and small details in the hands, and I think this may be why so many people seem to have problems with them.

The palm of the hand and the middle finger should be around about the same length. The thumb is also longer than people seem to realise. It attaches at the wrist, and extends to approximately the middle of the first phalanx of the index finger (while it has no intermediate phalanx, the metacarpal is isn't "fixed", like in the fingers, which gives us our opposable thumb).



The knuckles also don't line up, contrary to what you see in every cartoon ever. It's only because of the way that that the metatarsals shift slightly, and the curve of the knuckles that makes everything appear to line up when you make a fist.



The best way to learn to draw hands is to draw your own. Most of us have two of them, and which makes it a bit easier than using oneself as a full-body model.

Hands are also one of those things that it helps to break down as you draw. I tend to draw a square-ish shape for the palm, and then the knuckles, and figuring out the fingers from there.



Knowing where the bones and joints go, even in really odd poses, can help you figure out how to eventually start drawing hands without having to use yourself as a reference every time.


This is an area where there's really not a whole lot of theory behind when adapting it to a fantasy creature. Some people will stylise the hands either by removing a phalanx from each finger, making it slightly more cartoony, or by shortening everything and making the knuckles larger, making the hand more paw-like. Either way, it's one of those things where even if you do stylise it, you still need to get the proportions right, or it'll just look weird and wrong.
 

Smelge

Hey, Assbutt
Nice. Though those last two pictures worry me...

1) "Oh look, a bar of soap"
2) "Oh, whoops, I dropped it! TeeHeeHee!"
 

Van Ishikawa

ZOMBIE KAEL LOVES YOU
Awesome help :D I shall be returning to this often.
 
Re: Arms and Hands

XD nice wordy placement Zeddey XP

Well, at their basics, they are. The bones may be shaped differently, but they're arranged in similar orders.
 
Action Lines and Simple Shapes

Action lines are quite a bit more simple than they may sound. In fact, they're the simplest part of any drawing.



What appears to just be a few random curved lines is actually a pirate. Really. It's a pirate. The "vertical" line representing his spine and right leg, the "horizontal" line being his arms, and the hooked like at the bottom being his left leg.

See? Pirate.



Before I explain these lines, I'm going to explain opacity and layers. I do every stage on a separate layer. When I move to a new layer, I move the layer I had just finished working on down to 50% opacity. When it's just lines on a solid background, it just makes those lines appear really light. This way, I can see the lines, but they don't get in my way (an average drawing for me is around 10 layers, consisting of sketch, ink, colour, and shading).

Always work in simple shapes. You may have heard me say to avoid drawing the form, and instead draw the smaller pieces that make the whole.

What I mean is this: a character's head, shoulder, and hand aren't circles. But they can look like circles if you squint. A character's hips aren't just a straight line, but there is a straight line between the joints.

At this point, you're just refining your action lines. Make it look rather stick-figure-ish. You needn't really worry about proportions too much by this point, but if it helps you, by all means do a more detailed "wire skeleton" for your character.



This is the point by which I tend to start thinking about "lateral proportions"; the lengths of the torso, arms, legs, neck, etcetera. He's taking on a more recognisable form, but he's still very rough. That's fine. You're basically just mapping out what will become his outline, in the simplest of ways. He has no depth to him right now, but that's fine.



Now that you have your pose mapped out against your action lines, and it's something resembling your character, you can start to refine the details. Add some definition to his muscles, give some weight to his hand, give him a sense of balance.

Detail the important bits -- bits like his muscles. I know he'll be wearing boots, so I didn't deal with his feet all that much. His right hand's going to have a sword in it, so I didn't really bother with that, either. And just as a personal thing, the face is something that I tend to detail last, just because too many lines there will just confuse me.

Even though I changed it around a few times, his tail also follows that main line. He's arching his spine inward, so his tail is following that same line -- swooping down and out before going back up (and possibly a bit too high, but I don't care. I did this whole sketch in about 10 minutes).



Ignoring my failtastic foreshortening, it's at this final sketch stage that you add any "extra" details. Clothes should only ever be added once you have the character's entire body drawn. Draw any items he's holding FIRST, and then draw his hand around that. And spend a bit more time than I did on your sketch, or it will probably look awful, as mine does.
 
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