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Applying Human Anatomy to a Furry Character

First of all, this is wonderful, very helpful.

However, this is focused on applying human anatomy to mammalian, or even reptilian anthros, which is understandable because those are most commmon. I was wondering what sorts of considerations must be taken when applying it to invertebrete anthros. After all, the basis for their anatomy is completely different...

There's just enough insectoids around that one can learn those by looking around, but some people like myself are infatuated with drawing the weird. What sort of alteratations are required for anthropomorphizing, say, a starfish or a tardigrade?

I could do stuff with that. It would be a whole other sort of application, but I think human anatomy could be easily adapted for a bug of some sort.

I don't want to single out an otherwise okay piece for criticism but:


This is a good example of how center of gravity doesn't work. If you note the angle between hips and toes, and factor in the mild weight of her long tail, I really don't know this character is supposed to actually maintain balance. Not like that she doesn't....

That's also an example of terrible proportions. Either she has no ribcage, or she has no spine. Her torso should be much longer, which would help her keep her balance much better.


Hit 'em right between the eyes
Holy crap hi Zeddish, it's been a while.

Sarcastic Coffeecup

Hand. Cannot. Erase.
great tuts, just what i needed
Furry v Human: Hands and Claws

Okay. We've gone over proportions, and how the hand is structured internally, so now let's look at how to apply this to a generic furry character. As always species doesn't really matter, since most of them have some sort of paw in nature, and that's what we'll be looking at: making a hand resemble more of a paw.

As I was trying to come up with ideas for this one, it occurred to me to use an example of a human hand that is as far from paw-like as possible; someone with long, slender hands and fingers. This guy seems like a good choice.

The first thing I want to talk about is the way the fingers move. One thing to keep in mind is that fingers don't always have to bend the same way. We can do all sorts of things with our hands, which seems to be something that does often get overlooked.

Now that that's pointed out, let's take a look at his fingers and knuckles in particular. Everything flows evenly, and nothing sticks out too terribly much. The knuckles on his metacarpals are slightly pronounced, but that's it. Otherwise, his fingers bend evenly, and nothing really calls attention to itself. This is a very human hand, because it was drawn on a human character. But let's pretend for a moment that this character was not drawn as human.

Everything's pretty much the same, until you get to his fingers. His phalanges have all been shortened, for one. The second thing you may notice is that his knuckles have all been made more pronounced. Another change is that the pads of his fingers have also been made a bit bigger, and he has claws in place of fingernails. The combined effect of all of this is that the hand now resembles something more paw-like, but still enough like a hand that he's able to do everything a person would be able to do. This is a fairly common way of going about doing the hands, and you'll see incorporated into a lot of artists' styles.

Personally, I don't fancy it. Mainly because I have a lot of other very much human elements in my style, so this seems out of place.

What I do instead is simply add large-ish claws and paw 'pads.' Everyone does the pads a bit differently, but I fancy them this way. The claws that I tend to do go in exactly the same placement as the fingernails were, but they're much wider, thicker, and longer. Usually.

Another thing I like about doing the claws this way is if a character happens to play the violin, the claws can be clipped down relatively short, so as not to get in the way. As with the rest of this thread, it's all a matter of finding the right balance between just animal enough to get your point across, and just human enough to work to suit your needs and style.
Making the Face more Human

This is arguably the most difficult part to get right, because you have to know how both the animal looks, and how a human looks, and then you have to know how to combine the two. A lot of issues that pop up in this forum have to do with the face and/or head structure, so let's go back to the very first thing I posted in this thread: furry faces.

We start with a vaguely Alsatian-looking dog. Nothing about this dog looks too terribly human. He probably looks like your neighbour's dog, actually. But we don't want to draw your neighbour's dog. We want to draw a vaguely Alsatian-looking furry character.

The first thing we'll change are his eyes. Humans don't tend to have terribly round eyes; they're a bit flatter and a bit wider. So, let's do that. How you depict this depends on your style; I fancy a triangular shape, personally, because it also helps define the cheekbones a bit. Don't forget the cheekbones. And you'll also want to add on some eyebrows. Already, there's something about our vaguely Alsatian-looking dog that makes him that much easier to empathise with.

The next thing we're going to change is the way his cervical column attaches to his skull. Dogs' spines attach toward the back, but we want him to look more human, so let's move his spine down to the base of his skull. While we're at it, let's give him an Adam's apple as well. Really, that's got to be one of my favourite aspects of the male neck, and it so often goes ignored in artwork.

Okay, this seems to be the bit that a lot of people get stuck on: his jaw. I like to square it out a bit, but that's just a matter of personal preference. Either way, you'll want to make it a bit more pronounced than it should be. Give him more of a chin than any vaguely Alsatian-looking dog should ever have. I also like to add a pronounced lower lip. On top of giving him that extra little boost, it can also really help with facial expressions.

This one's optional, but one I quite fancy. Make the nose pad a bit smaller than it should be. Not by much, but enough that it doesn't stand out as much as it did. Some people can work the more realistic nose pad. I never could.

Last one, and I don't know why it works, but it does: make the fur on the top of his head lie against the natural grain. For some reason, forward-facing fur up there just looks better. If I had to guess at why, I'd say it has something to do with our brain interpreting it as a fringe. In fact, I'd almost be willing to bet that most of you push the fur on the top of the head forward without even thinking about it. It's sort of like the tail placement we talked about earlier: wrong, but most people prefer it this way because something about it just looks right.
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Feet v Paws

This seems to be another problem area, so let's talk about feet and paws. Like hands, they can be fairly tricky, and do take a bit of practise to get right.

The easiest way to go about doing them is to look at the basic shape. Feet tend to be rather triangular when broken down to the very basic of shapes, with the points being the ankle, big, and pinkie toes (when looked at from a vaguely head-on view).

You get that same triangular shape when drawing profile. Pretty much, most of the time, the foot will look vaguely triangular.

I say most of the time, and then I show you a sort-of-rectangle. But you should be used to this sort of behaviour by now, since I do that a lot. The red hashing on this image shows the parts of the foot that come into contact with the ground (typically). If you were to tread in something wet, and then walk across the floor, your footprint would look something similar to this.

Okay, so there's a quick run down on the outside, so let's take a look at the inside.

There are a lot of bones in the foot, and I'm not going to bother going through them all today. But they're all crunched in there, making an arch shape, with the tibia/fibula connecting almost, but not quite at the top and centre of that arch. Humans are designed to be tall columns of heavy stuff, which all comes down and basically rests on our ankles. That arch (one of the strongest structures known to man, and all) takes all that weight and distributes it to the calcaneus and metatarsals, and now, big, heavy humans are able to stand on their hind legs and not have to worry about damaging themselves if they decide to jump around.

Of course, the result of this is that the calcaneus (heel bone) sticks out quite a long way. The reason we don't really seem to notice it is because the tibia sits quite a bit forward, and behind it are all sorts of muscles and tendons. But it does still stick out a bit, and that's something people tend to overlook.

Now, the easiest way to make the foot look more animal-like is to give it the same treatment I gave the hands in the above post: add paw pads and put claws where the nail are. I do this about half of the time, depending on the character, and just my general frame of mind at the time. Doing it this way leaves room for all five toes, which I like, but can also look a bit goofy.

The other way I do it is to give the feet the whole 'bigger knuckles and toes' treatment. There's typically only room for four toes this way, but that's fine. It bridges the gap between feet and paws quite nicely, I think. The claws are moved down to the end of the phalanges, rather than the more toenail-type placement, but from the metatarsals up, it's all the same as what we've been discussing already.

This is probably the most common way of doing it, because it does look pretty good, actually.

The last way of going about it, and the way in which I apparently lose all sense of perspective, is to go full-on paw with it. Long, slender foot with no arch, and almost no protruding calcaneus. I don't much fancy this way, just because of the whole deal we talked about up there a bit with the arch in our feet, and people generally being big, heavy things. If you wanted to go digitigrade, though, this is the sort of paw you'd want to use, because that's exactly what nature designed them for.
Form and Shape

Let's talk a bit about form and shape, and what those mean when you're drawing. While not strictly 100% on topic to this thread, it's quite important, and something which you do need to know. Also, I couldn't be arsed to create another thread.

We'll start off with shape. That's the two-dimensional image. For instance, a fox is vaguely dog-shaped, even though the two animals are quite different. If you were to see the outline of a fox, you would be forgiven for thinking that it was something else. Similarly, if you see the outline of a fox, you still have a fairly good idea of what it could be. Depending on how much of the outline you can see, that idea will become even more solid.

So, let's take a look at this. Even though he is quite stylised, you should have, within a certain margin of error, a fairly good idea of what you're seeing:

It's just an outline, but there are certain elements which should stand out to your brain as being specific to a very specific group of animals.

Did you answer 'rat?' Good. I'd have also accepted mouse and (given how Disney and Warner Bros like to draw them) weasel.

Now, what about these drawings suggest that it is a rat, and not something else? The ears are probably the biggest give away. They're large, round, and thin, as opposed to pointy and thick. His muzzle is another part that tells us what sort of species he is. Unlike a canine's muzzle, which is more blockish, his is more conical, coming to a point at the nose.

So, why don't we break all of him down into his simple shapes. In doing this, we'll get our form.

Again, his muzzle is sort of, but not quite, conical. His ears, in this case, are sort of cylindrical, as is his neck. It's his face where things get really tricky. The bridge of his nose is set further forward than his eyes, which are back in his skull a bit. The top of his head is rounded, but the sides of his face are sort of flat. Even though he has fuzzy cheeks, they are NOT round. Even if he had cheeks of a rounder shape, they still would not be spherical. They'd be slightly convex, yes, at the result of his little triangular cheekbones simply extending further back toward his ears a bit, which, depending on the light source, might let the light fall on his cheeks more than it would if you had a more human-shaped face.

Speaking of light sources:

With the light on his upper right (our upper left), all of the shadow wants to go down and to his left. His muzzle casts a bit of shadow on his neck, and his ears are shaded on the bottom, and lit on the top. His left shoulder is in shadow, and his right is not.

How this same light source would look on top of muscle and cartilage and bone of similar shapes would be like this:

Everything's more or less the same, but slightly more detailed. There are more ridges and valleys on the actual character than there are on the simple shapes, but even those extra details can still be broken down to the same sorts of simple shapes.

Now, I have left the hair unshaded, because while it follows the same rules, it is a bit more tricky.

Hair is not one solid mass. It's a bunch of little tiny bits that come together and will look very solid if you shade it incorrectly. What you have to do is define those little tiny bits. Obviously, you don't have to define EVERY ONE of them (nor should you), but you do want to give the impression of bits and pieces that don't all start and stop in the same place. You can even do this with cell-shading. You'll probably want to spend more than three minutes on it, but even with just that, it's clear that there's more going on than just an oddly-shaped plastic helmet.


I think you mentioned that you didn't want to do different species but I was wondering if that included animals like deer or horses or well, hooved(sp?) animals in general, and how to anthromorphize their feet and hands, as that is currently what I am having trouble with.

Also I generally draw Digigrade-with-the-human-spine Anthro, but your curved spine seems interesting, could you post an example of a more finished figure with that style spine for us?

and btw, thank you for this. I only found it today but I can imagine this will be VERY useful.
I think you mentioned that you didn't want to do different species but I was wondering if that included animals like deer or horses or well, hooved(sp?) animals in general, and how to anthromorphize their feet and hands, as that is currently what I am having trouble with.

The best way to do that, really, is trial and error, since it's mostly a matter of technique than anything else. This page has a great little section on that: http://hippie.nu/~unicorn/tut/xhtml/

Also I generally draw Digigrade-with-the-human-spine Anthro, but your curved spine seems interesting, could you post an example of a more finished figure with that style spine for us?

and btw, thank you for this. I only found it today but I can imagine this will be VERY useful.
Honestly, every time I try to draw the full thing, I fail. Miserably. Because it makes no sense on a biological or anatomical level. There's really no example that I can find of a bipedal digitigrade that stands erect. The closest I can find would be our friend, the Utahraptor; an animal that was built for speed and murder. Three things stand out with him: he doesn't stand erect, but rather holds his torso parallel to the ground, his spine has an outward curve, and his tail is huge, heavy, and counterbalances the rest of his body.

Now, there's an animal that tends to come up as a bipedal erect digitigrade, and that's the kangaroo. But a kangaroo is sort of some of these, and definitely not one of them. For a start, he's plantigrade. He only ever goes up on his toes when he's at full speed, which is almost exactly like a rabbit. He's also only erect when he's standing. When he's in motion, he tends to have the same posture as our raptor up there.

I'm also finding it rather interesting that it doesn't seem as though there's any sort of agreement on which way his spine bends. Here's a Gray Kangaroo. And here's another Gray Kangaroo. Now, I'm not an expert of kangaroo pathology, but it does seem as though his spine is quite flexible, and can go either way. That, or whoever put one of those skeletons together had no idea what he was doing.

Either way, like our raptor, he was built for speed (but not for murder), because his body stays as close to parallel to the ground as possible when he's at his full speed. A digitigrade with an inward-bend on his spine can't do that. He has legs that are designed to go really fast, providing he has a massive huge tail to balance for him. Take off the tail, and he has no balance. He'll fall on his face because his centre of gravity is over his knees, rather than his hips. The closer to parallel he his, the closer to his torso his centre of gravity becomes, but at the added advantage of more speed, which requires an outward bend on his spine and a whopping great tail for balance.

Basically, I don't like digitigrade furries because they make no sense.
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The reason those two skeletons are differently arched is that the body will naturally arch different when in different poses. They're flexible, but so are humans. If you were to hunker down, the lumbar in-curve of your spine would lessen and your thoracic curve would take over to balance the weight to better manage gravity. Both still have the same curve, but it's been exaggerated a bit on the semi erect-standing kangaroo.

As a rule of thumb, most animals will need to be judged in a sedentary position to learn the type of feet needed.

Digitigrades are pregeared to be able to sprint very quickly to hone in on prey at high speeds from a dead stop. Think about big cats in particular-- they stalk and then spring into a full run rather quickly. They are built for interception.

However, plantigrades are flat-footed to make them more stable during complex ground navigation. This means they can potentially walk sideways if needed, and may in fact have more turn left in their bodies. Otters would be a good example-- they have their webbed feet flat on the ground and could slink and turn with relative ease compared to a dog, who would have to slow up considerably or slide/drift to take a new course. This is how plantigrades work. They're built for avoidance.

Now comes the tough part: all animals, including humans, tend to run on their tip-toes. It's true. I've used the analogy of running on the beach and looking at the print-- you'll see you're going tip-toes. This is why it's essentially to determine structure in a stable photo of the creature instead of an action shot, otherwise it confuses the body type. Another point: otters can stand on their back legs, making their spines straighten out like a pole. In that same sense, you need to see a grounded, stable otter to get the body type down correctly. However, once the body type is familiar and workable to you, then you may pull some of these action shots and they will make sense. Remember a body is a living, breathing, changing thing. If you understand the basics, you will get the dynamics.


I've read the TL;DR tutorial so many times...its too basic for me, I like the way you were showing things, is why I asked. Just a little comparative bone structure like you did for the others, but It's cool if you don't want to, like I said what you have so far is great.

My view of drawing anthros was the same as drawing a dragon or alien or some other thing that no one has ever seen. Yes it has to look believable but half the fun is drawing something that doesn't exist. That's why the argument against digigrade (it doesn't exist that way in nature etc) always bothered me. It may not look exactly like nature would do it, but most people don't draw dragons with the correct proportion of wings to body either because it would be just too big, depending on your theory of how they work.

I thought digigrade always looked better and now coming more active in the fandom I am always surprised and amused by the heated discussions on how they would work, and if at all.

But I will stop derailing your thread, and go try to put the information presented here to good use.


amica mea Musica
God dammit you made me draw a decent picture! And I had a good record of terrible pics going too!


New Member
realized a simple thing about fingers that i don't think any one pointed out. if you draw human hands, it's very important to know how the proportions are on the bones in the fingers.



New Member
well... i have something i struggle with on my own fursona, multitails, i am a 6 tailed kitsune, and it is hard to get the anatomy correct on something that has that many "attachments" in one small area, think you can shed some light on that area?


And then there was Troll
Wow, this entire thread has been just wonderful. You guys are awesome =]


This has cleared up most of issues. i cannot find a good explanation of how to draw legs on google. thankx.


Uhmm.. Well... Nevermind.
Thank you so much for the tutorial! It really helped me!


New Member
Nice tutorial, but a strange moment. I doubt that the tail can grow between the buttocks. It is understandable that want to the spine "of a man," but it is implausible. Will also be rubbing. Or have to walk on all fours.


50 Shades of Gay
Howdy, I have a question, I read through all the pages of this thread and still feel confused. I don't know if it's because I'm trying to do this in reverse or because I'm seeking an aesthetic, I'unno. I feel like uh, ... Being outside looking in, I guess.

As I am practicing how to draw furry characters, I am figuring out the same thing I figured out when I tried to transition back and forth between realistic and anime. Do you know somebody -- or ARE you somebody -- who draws or used to draw only anime and is now trying to transition into "western" or "realistic" styles but keeps getting told things like, "They have the longest nose in the world!" and thus frets over drawings going, "I don't understand what you're talking about, s/he looks fine to me, okay D:<"?

Because after having drawn anime, there's this ... Canon of proportions with anime (it's not the "right" term I don't suppose but it seems appropriate: for instance the Egyptians had these measurements they would adhere to no matter how disproportionate it made something and that was called a canon of proportions so I'm just using that term, IDK) where, even though anime art will vastly vary from style to style (Compare Madoka and Initial D or something, and they don't belong on the same page) but can still be unified through some sort of almost-unidentifiable quality as "anime". And part of it, IMO, is with the tendency towards certain proportions which are *not* realistic proportions by far. Noses way further down the face than they need to be on account of the usually larger-than-normal eyes, for instance, so whenever an artist who was suckled on anime tries to wear his big boy pants and draw western style, they are woefully insensitive to the crazy horseface abominations they create (this is not a personal insult towards anybody, I did this and noticed it in other people too so I figured this was a pattern).

And so I feel like I'm running into the same problem when I am trying to attempt animal people. I can rock cartoons just fine, but when I try to go for semirealistic, unless I pass it around I end up doing this horrifying uncanny valley nonsense: http://i253.photobucket.com/albums/hh57/Pcarlolayouts/baa.jpg

Build the foundation before you build the house, learn the rules before you break them, et cetera. I can stylize me the hell out of some humans. I can draw me some anthros that look like they were drawn by someone who generally has a clue what they're doing. But I still feel about as graceful doing it as picking things up with my elbows. Sure, some things come "with practice," but practice makes HABITS, not perfect.

I was told how to fix this and I had it redlined, if you want to critique it that's fine too -- but at any rate, with the tail placement post as an example, is there some set of aesthetic expectations, proportions wise, in anthro art, despite the huge variety of styles you find in anthro art? Because it's apparently not, "Well here's how humans are proportioned, <golden ratio, how to draw humans, etc>, stick some fluffy ears and a tail on it, great success", as when you do that you get something like baa.jpg above. I'm noticing, "Larger eyes than reality make great justice, noses shorter than the animal counterpart more than half of the time kind of balance out things, heads are bigger than humans even without the fur put on there, and everybody is really really brachycephalic mostly because the animals theyre modeled after are." Yes? No? Toaster?

ETA: I don't care this is an old thread, I MUST BE ANSWERED. D:<
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