Drawing abs is a great way to learn the male physique. The abdominal muscles constitute a large part of what we describe as core strength. This region of the body is a cluster of smaller muscles that protect the body and help with the mobility of the torso. When we learn how to draw abs we must know that they are never completely symmetrical which means the cluster of muscles can seem strange in their placement on the body. This is an interesting point to note as we dive into the tutorial on how to draw male abs. Lastly, drawing abs is not something to draw in isolation, thus we will be learning how to draw the pecs as a part of the abs drawing tutorial.
Table of Contents
- 1 Necessary Materials
- 2 Preparation
- 3 Before We Draw
- 4 Tips to Remember
- 5 Frequently Asked Questions
When learning how to draw abs, we should consider which medium will produce the best results for our abs drawing. In this tutorial, we will be drawing the abs and we will be drawing the pecs as well as general aspects around the core body area.
We will do so by using a series of pens and pencils.
Pen and pencil often work well in tandem with one another as the pencil can create a good layer to draw the finer details on top of with a pen. This is a particularly great medium combination when learning how to draw a six-pack. Here is what we will need:
- A good set of pencils
- A ballpoint pen
- A Micron pen
- A steel ruler
- An eraser
- A sharpener
- Good paper (200 g/m – 250 g/m recommended)
- Source material (could be from your phone or a printed image)
We want to make sure we have all these materials as each component will be important through this process of drawing. We will be drawing from the source image within this tutorial, which you can either draw directly from your phone or tablet. Whichever device you want is fine, however, using a tablet or an iPad is generally the better option.
You may also print the image out if you feel that this might be easier. With our materials and source image near and ready for use let us begin.
Before We Draw
Let us take a moment to consider our source image before we begin the tutorial on how to draw abs. When learning how to draw a six-pack specifically, they interact with various other aspects of the body. The abdominal muscles, like any muscle, protrude from the body. This means it defines the body through various shadows produced by the light interacting with the muscles.
These shadows will help guide us in our proportions and placement. When we learn the process of drawing abs, learning how to draw pecs or the pectoral muscles is an important feature to draw as well. With that important concept in the back of your mind let us begin.
Step 1: Grid Marks and General Shape
Let us begin by finding the center of our page and drawing a vertical line down our page. We can find the center of our page by measuring the page both vertically and horizontally. Once we have done this we then divide that measurement into two giving us the center of the page.
Once we have drawn a vertical line down our page we can start to analyze our source image and with our H pencil begin to draw the right pectoral muscle. This drawing is all about sizing each aspect of the abs to one another. So we need to contextualize the abdominal muscle by its surrounding muscles.
We must know how to draw the pecs for better context.
We can draw horizontal lines through the body to help us accurately place the features of the body. We do this by analyzing our source image and with our imagination trying to see where the left side of the body is in proportion to the right side of the body.
This source image is showing an image of a man from a slight side view so spend time here as it can be tricky to place correctly.
Step 2: Drawing the Abs
Once we have the general shape of the body and the muscle shapes, we will then start drawing the abs with our H pencil. Try to find how the shadows in the source image describe the placement of each muscle.
We can do this by starting on one side of the body and we will then slowly develop the abs drawing process.
Try to use the shadows as a guide for your pencil marks. See how the shadows are defined on the body, moving from the right all the way through to the left of the body. Notice the width of the shadows for now. By doing so we can see how the change between the abdominal muscles and the ribs.
As you draw, try to be patient. Placing these marks on the body can be tricky as they differ around different parts of the body. Notice the shape of the shadows around the pelvis area of the body vary in our abs drawing.
Take your time with this part of the tutorial. It is always important to make sure that the pencil marks areas best a description of our source image as possible. Thus, by doing so it will be easier for us when we draw with a pen.
With abs drawing, we want to solidify the marks with a pencil before we begin with a pen.
Slowly but surely, we should start to see the body coming out through the drawing process. Notice the little areas such as the belly button. The shadows from around the navel or belly button in a peculiar way. Moments like this and areas near the edges of the ribs should take a little time of your focus. Our abs drawing should start to seem complete in our pencil marks.
We want to make sure that the placement of these marks is as accurate as can be in relation to our source image.
Step 3: Shading the Abs
When learning how to draw abs, using a medium combination such as pencil and pen is particularly perfect for learning how to draw a six-pack. With a pen, we can get the finer details to come out within the torso. We can now begin the process of drawing with a pen. Similar to the previous step we should begin with one side of the abs drawing and slowly work our way through the whole body.
As we refer to our source image, let us take note of how the body defines the shadows in our source image. We want our pencil marks to resemble the flow of the shadows as we begin our shading with our ballpoint pen.
This step is about layer application. When we draw with our pen we want to keep our hands light and tilted as we apply the pen marks. The pen marks should be applied slowly and lightly, following the pencil marks as a guide for our shadows. Make note of the nipples, the nipples should be carefully attended to as they slightly protrude outward which makes light reflect off of them.
A good suggestion is to follow the line of shadow from wherever you begin on the body. For instance, as you draw with your ballpoint pen follow the shadows as they move from the ribs under the pectoral muscles.
Shade the marks with your ballpoint pen as they move around the pectoral muscles.
As you shade around the pectoral muscles consider how the muscle creates different types of shadows. For instance, between the pectoral muscles, we can see the muscle fibers as they sprout outward into the pectorals. However, we should also take note of how the light source influences the shadows. We can see that the shadows change in gradient in the different areas of the body. As we carry on with our shading process, consider the form of the abdominal muscles. Very similar to the pectoral muscles, they protrude outward which develops a shadow underneath each one.
This is where the shadows will tend to be mostly dark for each muscle, including the pectorals.
Remember the pressure that you apply to your pen as you shade. The pressure that you apply to your pen as you shade will affect the outcome of your marks. Remember to keep a light hand as you shade. You should slowly and carefully apply the shading marks layer by layer.
As you move through the abdominal area and as you come to the lower area of the abs be cautious about your application of pen marks around the belly button. The belly button is a tricky part of the stomach. With your ballpoint pen apply the shadows inside the belly button.
These shadows generally fall under the little bends of skin in and around the belly button.
Step 4: Continue Shading the Abs
As we carry on with shading our abs drawing, let us move toward the lower part of the abdominal area, we can see that there is a shift in the tonal value of the skin. The lower area of the stomach, under the belly button, is slightly darker compared to the upper part.
This is because the muscles that protrude catch the reflection of light.
As we shade the lower area on the body with our pen make sure that your hand is slanted and light as you apply these marks. Take note of the hip area where the indentations near the pelvis cause a dark shadow lining to appear under each protruding hip.
We want to lightly draw layer by layer over our marks until we reach the tonal values that we want in each area of the body. This is the best way to shade with a pen, by simply adding layer over layer as lightly as possible.
Each hip protrusion is different, as the hip in the foreground seems slightly larger due to the position and angle of the body. This means that the shadowing will be seen much more near the left hip protrusion of the body.
The shadowing will then seem slightly broader than that of the hip shadow in the background.
Always remember to stop and take an arms-length look at your drawing compared to your source image. See how your source image demonstrates the ebbs and flow of the shadowing in the abdominal area. Especially when learning how to draw pecs or pectoral muscles, we want to make sure they are correctly shaded in.
Something to note is that abdominal muscles are not always symmetrical and the same in size. In the source image, we can see that the asymmetrical nature of the abdominal muscles causes the dark shadowing moments to occur in different types of shapes on the body.
Keep this in mind as we begin to shade the darker moments of the muscular body.
We want to make sure that we fill in the darkest moments on the body with the same layering process of shading that we have been doing throughout this tutorial. These moments are generally under the muscles that protrude, which then fade as the muscle becomes more exposed to light.
Work through the abs, ribs, and pectoral shadows that you have drawn with your pen and layer over any marks that you feel might need more shading. Do so with patience and attentiveness to both the source image.
Additionally, do this with the pressure that you apply to your pen.
Step 5: Shading the Arms and Neck Area
This tutorial is about how to draw the abs but the abs are contextualized by the surrounding features, including the arms. You can take your pencil and redraw the general arm shape moving toward the neck and shoulders as a way to contextualize your drawing.
With your ballpoint pen begin to shade from the armpit area, where shadowing is defined.
The neck in the source image has various little shadows in it as an effect of the bone and muscle structure. With your ballpoint pen begin to lightly shade these marks as you refer to your source image. Notice how the shadow’s gradients shift in the pectoral muscles as they move toward the upper part of the pectoral muscles. This is because this area is exposed to more light similar to that of the neck.
With your ballpoint pen, try to shade these shadows by using your source image as a reference for comparison between the various shadow gradients on the body.
We can do the same as before for this part, as we refer back and forth between our drawing and the source image. Let the source image guide your mark-making as you compare the positioning and tonal value of each shadow on the body.
A good suggestion is to draw from the pectoral muscles into the neck and shoulders.
The neck and shoulders have various little shadows that interact with each other in various ways. Again, we want to make sure that we patiently attend to all these little shadowy areas as we draw. If you need to redo a pencil mark before shading in a pen, it is better that you do it for assurance. This tutorial is not about the neck, shoulders, or arms, so don’t worry too much about making them a perfect replication of your source image.
We just want to do the right shading around the armpit area and light shading around the neck area as a way of defining the abs more clearly.
As we shade, remember to always keep your hand light, especially when shading lighter shadows. The shadows are slightly darker near the collarbone where the shoulder’s bones protrude a bit on the right, and near the area of the neck that shows its distinct line.
Otherwise, we can keep these shadows fairly light as they are exposed to light.
Always work through your drawing one last time with your ballpoint pen, to attend to all the areas that need a little more shading. You don’t need to draw the arms fully, as keeping the arms as a more gestural sketch is a great way to bring emphasis to the abdominal area.
Tips to Remember
- Drawing abdominal muscles should always be contextualized by the surrounding features.
- Shadows are simply lines that move through the body. A good suggestion is to draw these lines with our pencil and then layer pen shading over them.
- Take your time with drawing in pen. Drawing in pen has a higher susceptibility to mistakes, so be patient.
- Drawing in a pen is about lightly and gently adding layer over layer.
- Abdominal muscles are not always symmetrical, this various shaping of the muscles develops different shadowing.
Drawing abdominal muscles is simple when we understand a single fundamental concept. It’s about knowing how the shadows are defined on the body as various lines. These lines should guide your shading process, allowing you to see the direction of your shading in between the various muscles. Then it is all about focusing on little moments in these shadows where they either become lighter or darker, depending on their exposure to light. Drawing something like abs is specifically about shading. We define the shadows with our pencils and spend time perfecting them. This is a simple way of how to draw abs in five simple steps.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Do I Draw Realistic Abs?
Drawing any anatomical structure is about identifying the light source. Once we identify the light source we can begin to place the shadows accurately on the structure. Shadowing is an effect of light interacting with an object therefore we want to make sure that the shadows realistically fall on the structure.
How Do I Shade the Abs?
As we analyze the shadows in our source image we then can use these shadows to guide our shading process. Shadows around muscles are generally like lines that shift between dark and light. Shading is all about layering. A good suggestion is to see where the shadows are in your source image and this is where you will shade in your image. We do this by slowly and softly applying layer over layer until we achieve the tonal variations that we want in our drawing.
How Do I Draw Muscular Abs?
When learning how to draw abs, we define muscles by the way we understand the way the shadows fall on them. Muscles protrude which means that some parts of the protruding muscle are more exposed to light than others. This generally means that there is a slight shift in the gradients of shading. There darker aspects will be where light struggles to penetrate a surface, so always consider the direction from which your light source comes.
Matthew Matthysen is an educated multidisciplinary artist and illustrator. He successfully completed his art degree at the University of Witwatersrand in South Africa, majoring in art history and contemporary drawing. The focus of his thesis was to explore the philosophical implications of the macro and micro-universe on the human experience. Matthew uses diverse media, such as written and hands-on components, to explore various approaches that are on the border between philosophy and science.
Matthew organized various exhibitions before and during his years as a student and is still passionate about doing so today. He currently works as a freelance artist and writer in various fields. He also has a permanent position at a renowned online gallery (ArtGazette) where he produces various works on commission. As a freelance artist, he creates several series and successfully sells them to galleries and collectors. He loves to use his work and skills in various fields of interest.
Matthew has been creating drawing and painting tutorials since the relaunch in 2020. Through his involvement with artincontext.org, he has been able to deepen his knowledge of various painting mediums. For example, watercolor techniques, calligraphy and lately digital drawing, which is becoming more and more popular.
Cite this Article
Matthew, Matthysen, “How to Draw Abs – A Step-by-Step Guide to Creating an Abs Drawing.” Art in Context. June 21, 2022. URL: https://artincontext.org/how-to-draw-abs/
Matthysen, M. (2022, 21 June). How to Draw Abs – A Step-by-Step Guide to Creating an Abs Drawing. Art in Context. https://artincontext.org/how-to-draw-abs/