How to Draw Action Poses

Artist: KingTutorial / January 30, 2017

Step 1.

Drawing characters in action poses is actually one of the hardest things I can think of. Doing it right, however, can be very rewarding. While having a cool character in a standing pose is fine for... well, character design... the character can't rea   

Step 2.

So ok, here we have two figures. One is obviously a basic standing pose, and the other is in more of an action pose. I don't want to get too crazy with the pose just yet, but I want to illustrate how mixing up some basic things can really bring a cha   

Step 3.

Here's another pair of figures. On the standing figure, the horizontal lines of the eyes, shoulders and hips are all parallel and level. This is fine for some things, but not for action. The second figure is showing some body language, and appears in   

Step 4.

The torso is pretty much the first thing you should draw when drawing an action pose. The position of the arms, legs and head are totally dependent on the position of the torso. In the center of this image, I drew a front shot of a simple torso, spli   

Step 5.

Here we have two poses. The top figure is walking, and the bottom figure is putting itself on display, almost dancing. Of course, in the first shot of each pose, there's not much movement going on. These are way too stiff to be called action poses, s   

Step 6.

Something interesting I wanted to mention is the connection between dancing and battle poses. I remember being surprised when I heard guys like Jet Li actually studied ballet. What? It actually makes a lot of sense. A choreographed fight is a lot lik   

Step 7.

When I'm going to start a character illustration, I usually do some kind of exploratory sketches before starting the final image. Some people do tiny thumbnail drawings. I like to do a lot of messy sketching to feel out the figure and find shapes and   

Step 8.

Here are some more punching poses. I actually got some reference for these because I wanted to have some really strong poses to show. Look at how the head and arms relate to the torso, and note the twists and angles of the torso itself. Try to pictur   

Step 9.

Here I've laid some ridiculously bulked up muscles on top of the base drawings. Something worth mentioning is that you won't always see a character's face in an action pose. This is especially true in animation or comic books and manga. When you're t   

Step 10.

Here are some more wire figures, but this time we're going to look at kicking. We have one standing kick, and one jumping kick. I squeezed the jump kick onto the bottom of the image, so I apologize for that. The two figures weren't intended to be int   

Step 11.

More ridiculously large muscles. The strange thing about action poses is that a lot of the "cool" parts of the body tend to get covered up or hidden. What's cooler than pectoral muscles, right? Right?? Well, in both of these kicking poses, the chest    

Step 12.

Cleaned up the line art and decided to add some colors for fun. Even though I only used a little bit of clothing here, you can still see how the fabric is affected by the body's actions. Wrinkles and folds in clothing can help reinforce the action ta   

Step 13.

Here's a mini tutorial for you. This one deals with foreshortening. It's related to what I was saying about body parts covering up other body parts. In this case, it's objects closer to the camera that cover up objects behind it. Next time you look i   

Step 14.

In the center of this image, we have a little dude in a battle stance. It's not EXACTLY an action pose, but I picture him bouncing around a little bit, maybe like Bruce Lee. In the surrounding four shots, I've drawn the same pose from different angle   

Step 15.

Ok, enough lecture. Now let's get to some traditional tutorial action. I didn't want to hit you with anything TOO complex, so I just made this pose up on the fly and I think it works. This is a guy with a magical sceptor. See the sceptor? *nods* Ok,    

Step 16.

We want to draw the foremost object on the figure now. Hmm... it's a toss-up, actually, between the head and arm. Since those body parts don't cross each other, we can start with the face and hair.

Step 17.

The right arm obscures part of the chest, and crosses the right leg in two places. That's why we draw it before everything else. I'm tired of drawing near-naked muscle guys, so I'm going to give this guy a fancy coat cuff thing on his shoulder and a    

Step 18.

Ok, time for some fabric. Start this step by drawing the collar wrapping around the back of the neck and down the chest, disappearing behind the arm. The collar extends down and appears again on the other side of the arm, ending at the bottom of the    

Step 19.

Now we'll move on to the left leg. Due to some slight foreshortening, we can see a shadow beneath the kneecap. The most important part here is the curve of the leg, which gives a sense of direction, and the wrinkles around the crotch area. These spre   

Step 20.

As I said, we can use the direction of those crotch wrinkles to draw wrinkles on the thigh of the right leg. The fabric below the knee is more loose and the wrinkles are smooth and more curved. Note the different angles of the feet. This should reall   

Step 21.

For the final drawing step, we'll take care of the remaining arm and the headband flapping in the wind. Since the right arm is in the distance, we'll draw it smaller than the left arm. Look at your own hand for reference when drawing the hand holding   

Step 22.

So here's the final, inked artwork. There are a lot of places for the eye to travel around this figure. Those crossed limbs and the negative space shapes I mentioned actually create a sort of train track for the viewer's eye to follow.... so their ey   

Step 23.

I added some color and a few cartoony mountains to frame the figure. All in all, I think it looks pretty good. I hope this tutorial and the lecture steps from early have given you some ideas to keep in mind when drawing characters in action poses. Th   

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Artist: KingTutorial
Date Added: January 30, 2017
Steps: 23
Favorited: 1 (view)
Views: 3 in last hour, 20 in last day, 143 in last week, 156815 total
Comments: 3
Tags: how to draw people
Description: Hey, guys. Back with another tutorial, and this time I'm going to be talking about how to draw action poses. There's a lot to take in, so let's get started.