Do not skip leg day! This is not only true for the gym, but also for art studies, particularly figure drawing.
Although they make up half of the body’s weight, the legs are often overlooked because they lack the same gesture and range as the upper body. You’ll see your figure collapse just as in the gym if they are ignored.
Your character will be more credible if your legs are well-constructed. They are grounded! It firmly roots them in the setting or scene they are in. Let’s now take a look at how to draw well-constructed legs.
It is easiest to draw legs by drawing straight lines. It’s that easy to begin. It doesn’t really matter how long you write, but make sure to leave enough space on your paper. You will want to add a little notch at the top and bottom. The hip is represented by the top-notch, while the ankle is represented at the bottom. We’ll be getting there in a moment. You can measure halfway down the line that runs between these two points to add another notch. This will be your knee.
After you’ve got your lines set, you can add some form and mass to your work. An egg-shaped oval or small for the knee. An oval-shaped mass that extends beyond the hip. Another oval will extend below the knee. These masses will form the knee, thigh, and calf. You can adjust the size and proportions of these masses, but for now, you can just follow the diagrams.
This is still very rough. It’s only plotting the form. You can see the shape of your leg at this stage.
Let’s take a closer look at the quad, which is the front of your thigh. Its nickname comes from the four muscles in the front. They can be thought of as two teardrops, one that looks like it’s dropping, and one that splits that ‘drops’ upwards.
The center line of your upper leg divides them. After you have practiced drawing them straight on, you can try the other leg to see if there are any teardrops. (Remember that it is the opposite lane so they would be reversed in position). Once you have drawn the quad, draw the inner thigh which tracks towards your crotch.
Technically speaking, the quad is composed of:
- The Vastus latus(2) – On the outside of your thigh
- The Vastus Medialis(1)- This teardrop-shaped, inner thigh muscle attaches to the femur and the inner border of your kneecap.
- The Vastus intermedius(4): It is located between the vastus medialis (front of the femur) and the vastuslateralis (back of the femur), and it is the deepest of the quadriceps muscle.
- The Rectus Femoris(3)- This muscle attaches at the kneecap. It has the most effect on the knee flexion than any quadriceps muscle.
The muscles at the front of your leg are used to extend (straighten) the leg. They will be absolutely flexed if the leg is straight and stiff.
Next, we will take a look at what the back of your leg looks like. The hamstrings are the main component of this area. The colored highlights make it look almost like a ribbon or band. They start at the glutes and go down the leg, wrapping around the back of your knee.
You can see the inner quad and inner thigh from the rear of your leg. Sketching the rough shapes is best. Depending on your bum type, you can use circles for the glutes and then the expanded ovals for the main portion of the upper leg. Once you have the basic shapes, it’s easy to add details.
You can draw some ‘banding lines’ that run from your glutes to the back side of the knee. Then wrap them to one side. After that, you can finish filling in the cutter quad and inner thigh.
If you are interested in finding out the technical name of the back leg, please click here:
- The Biceps Femoris is a long muscle that flexes the knee. It starts in the thigh and ends at the head of the fibula, near the knee.
- The Semimembranosus is a long muscle that extends from the pelvis down to the tibia. It extends the leg, flexes your knee, and rotates the tibia.
- The Semitendinosus– This muscle extends the thigh, and also flexes your knee. It’s not always possible to see all of them, so it’s better to simplify them for drawing purposes.
The back muscles of the leg are used for flexion. This is when the heel moves towards the bum. When the leg is bent, the hamstring will be most engaged and flexed.
Lower Leg Muscles
There are some fascinating things happening in the lower leg. We’ll skip the feet for the sake of this tutorial. Sacrilege? You don’t have to worry. I will be covering them in another article.
This section will only focus on the area from the knee to the ankle. As you can see, the calf has a somewhat larger oval that sits below the knee. This can be adjusted to alter the position and proportions. There are many genetic variations in the size and position of calf insertions.
The sweep of the form is what I love about drawing. To emphasize this, I added darker blue lines. On the outer calf, there will be a nice sweep running from the knee to the ankle. The sweep goes around the ‘calf ball” that you have sketched. It starts at the ankle and hooks up to the knee. Try to fill in the blanks on the sheet with some blue-line sketches.
Once you’ve got all this, remember that you can see from the back a little triangle notch at the bottom of your ‘half ball’.
The lower leg’s muscular anatomy is dominated by:
- The Gastrocnemius – This is the largest muscle in the leg and connects to your heel. It extends and flexes the ankle, knee, and foot.
- The Soleus is a muscle that runs from the back of your knee to the heel. It is essential for standing and walking.
The calf’s function is to extend the foot. This is why you will notice that the calf becomes visible when the figure is on its tip-toes. When the muscle is extended, there is less detail and everything is stretched.
Bend the Leg
What if your leg has to be bent? How can you approach it? It’s really quite simple.
As you can see, we follow a regular process: establishing a line, finding the ends of the line (the ankle and hip), and finally finding the center (the knee). To give form, we add the ovals.
The muscles are then added. It’s the same as when we bend our legs. But, this time, we only bend half the way. To show you the inner thigh I have turned it to the side. You can see the inner teardrop drawn here. This is the Vastus medialis.
If you use the 50/50 ratio, the bend is easy and the knee is in the middle. In the bent leg, you can see how I measured the lengths of my upper and lower legs. They match perfectly!!
Amazing legs. They can be short or long, muscular, muscular, or thin. It is important to be comfortable with this. Keep working with the original lines of your sketch and have fun! What if the knee is not in the center? How does this affect the appearance of your leg? What if the calves were thicker than your thighs? This is a look that you might like for a character.
These examples show that the legs have different amounts of weight. You can easily distinguish between characters by adding or subtracting thickness. You can also alter the appearance of your figure by adding or subtracting thickness.
What kind of look are you trying to achieve? You want to be strong and heroic. You are likely to be muscular and athletic. How about a victim or hostage? It’s not your intention for them to be strong and competent. You might look at something more fragile. It might look like it can’t fight back.
Drawing legs involves understanding anatomy and another big part is knowing what to show.
Skeletal Structure of the Leg
At the beginning of the tutorial, I showed you a very simplified way to draw the structure. It is easier for me to use a stick figure as a starting point, but not everyone likes it. Some people enjoy the depths of the details.
Here’s how the simplified blue line can be placed over the actual skeleton. I have labeled the hips, femurs, patellas, tibias, and fibula. They aren’t necessary for drawing but they might be helpful if you have a character with a terrible injury.
Whatever your situation, it is important to know what lies beneath the surface so that you can better see and draw what you see.
Have I convinced you that leg-day is important? You can’t skip it or just wing it. Make sure you have solid figures. Give your figures the foundation they need. Your figures should be able to stand on a solid foundation. Even if the pin is just to show that it’s there, the human eye will see the credibility.
You will reap the benefits of practicing through this tutorial. How many times have you heard feedback such as “Work on your anatomy?” This is an ongoing problem that needs attention. You’ve probably already made it this far. You’re doing great!
This type of smart practice will help you become a better artist, no matter what.
I am so grateful that you joined me for this tutorial. This is the first tutorial I have done for How To Draw Comics. It was a lot of fun. Although writing was more fun than talking, it had its challenges.