Learning how to draw muscles is an interesting task because you see how muscle is formed under the skin. Muscles are a strange part of the body and their composition can seem tricky to capture in a drawing. However, drawing muscles is actually quite simple. Learning how to draw muscles also can be a weird and quirky skill that can be used in all sorts of drawing genres. Whether it be for anatomical understanding or as a zombie-like feature for other artworks, drawing muscles is a great skill to have in the drawing arsenal. It also gives you a better grasp of how drawing arms, legs, and other body parts are formed over the muscle. As you learn how to draw muscle you will gain a better understanding of anatomy as well as new and unique shading techniques.
Table of Contents
- 1 An Easy Guide to Drawing Muscles
- 2 Instructions on How to Draw Muscles
- 3 Tips to Remember
- 4 Frequently Asked Questions
An Easy Guide to Drawing Muscles
Muscle drawing can seem technical, however, when broken up into digestible bites it can be a really simple task. Perhaps the trickiest aspect of muscle drawing is the muscle shading aspect. The shading can seem technical; however, it is quite a simple technique once you understand it. In this tutorial, we will break down the major aspects of drawing muscles, and how to make them have a muscular stringy texture.
This tutorial is a really simple guide that breaks down the basics of drawing muscles. That being said, let us see what we will need for this tutorial on how to draw muscles.
Learning how to draw muscles requires very simple materials. Muscle drawing does require some fine line work, which means we want to have an HB pencil as well as a sharpener. We will also encounter a few mistakes along the way, which means we want to have an eraser to rectify any that we make.
We will also be using a pen in this tutorial to refine some of our drawings.
Drawing muscles with a pen can really enhance the contrast between different muscle groups. Lastly, we will want some paper for the tutorial on drawing muscles. Below is a list of materials that you can find online:
- Ballpoint pen
- Good paper (200 g/m – 250 g/m recommended)
Instructions on How to Draw Muscles
The tutorial will break down the basic process of drawing muscles, and how these muscles are defined within various body parts. We will look at the muscles within the male torso, back, leg and arm. This tutorial does not use any reference image as it is simply breaking down the basic drawing process for each body part.
We will look at how to do a light muscle sketch with our pencils, which we will then refine into a more realistic image with our pencils.
Still using our pencils, we will then proceed to add muscular definition. From there we will proceed to add in muscle shading using our pens, giving our drawing more contrast and definition. Now that we know what to expect, let us go through the tutorial on how to draw muscles.
How to Draw Muscle Fibers
The form of muscles is quite similar to all body parts. The muscle form and shape can be drawn in the same way using the same drawing and shading process. Muscle has these little thin string-like fibers that can be drawn with a set of lines. Firstly, identify the muscle shape by doing some research and seeing the form of different muscles.
Once you understand the muscle shape, you can work in lines to give the muscle the unique muscle fiber quality.
This linework approach can be applied to all muscle groups. For instance, if you consider the torso of the male body, we can see that the string-like fibers move in different directions. This is because the shape and form of each muscle group within the torso move in different directions.
To capture realistic muscle quality, you want to focus on drawing the lines in the same form and direction of the muscle itself.
If you consider the form of the back, you will see that its structure differs in flow. If you think about your own back and its range of motion, this can be a clue as to how different muscles move in different directions. Drawing muscles within bodies are also defined by other features around the muscles such as the spine and fascia for instance.
Understanding how these structures look compared to the muscle composition will you draw the muscular form more correctly.
Again, each muscle group is unique, this means the muscle formation within the arm is going to differ from that of the back. The back contains more complicated structures such as large surface areas of fascia. The arm, however, is a little simpler and more linear. Muscles are grouped together and move in a more singular direction.
Again, think about your own range of motion to help you understand the motion of different body members.
Most importantly replicating these qualities within a drawing is to use linework as a way of creating the muscle fibers. You also want to make sure that the muscle fibers move in the same direction as the muscles form. For instance, in the arm, we can see that the muscles move in quite a linear direction.
This means we will draw our lines within each muscle group in the same direction.
This concept of drawing the fibers with lines can be applied to all muscle groups. COnsider the leg, again, if you think about the range of motion in a leg, we can conclude that it is quite a liner. However, there is a pivotal movement that moves from side to side, which is conducted by the glutes.
This means that the muscles in the glutes move in a horizontal direction to that of the other muscles in the leg which would move in a vertical direction.
Now that you have an understanding of how the muscle fibers are formed and drawn within different muscle groups, we can look at how we draw these different body structures from the beginning. Again, you can find resources to use as a reference.
However, this is just a guide that demonstrates the basic steps.
How to Draw Muscle in the Torso
Start with drawing a light sketch of the body, as you sketch the body lightly you can keep the marks light as you work out the shape and form of the body structure. Starting with a loose pencil sketch allows you to work out the sizes of different muscles and where exactly they are placed on the body.
Once you have your body sketched out start to work with the lines for each muscle group. Remember that muscle fibers flow with the shape of the muscle itself. This means the pectoral lines will be more horizontal, whereas the abdominal muscles will be more vertical.
The ribs will be diagonal because they move diagonally around the body.
Once you have drawn your torso in pencil and have completed the linework within each muscle group, you can then give it more contrast by going over the pencil lines in pen. You want to keep some light moments in between each muscle, giving the muscle a shine-like quality.
As you make lines with your pen, you want to make strokes starting from the endpoints of each muscle. By doing this you will lighten the mark as you arrive at the center of the muscle. This will leave some negative space in the muscle.
This will give it that shine quality.
Take your time with adding line work with the pen. The pen works well because it gives maximum contrast to the drawing, however, you can easily make a mistake with a pen, so keep your wits about you when adding line work with the pen.
How to Draw Muscle in the Back
Again, go look up different body parts to give yourself a clear image of how the back is formed with its different components. As before you want to start by lightly sketching the back with your pencils, focusing on grouping the muscles correctly.
This will help you to define the different areas of the back.
You can add some linework with your pencils again, working out the directions of the linework for each back muscle. Once you have done that, you can proceed to add lines with your pen, going over your pencil lines.
Make sure you keep the directions of your pen lines the same as the shape and form of the muscles in the back.
The back is a complicated structure that has fascia, tissue, and bone surrounding the muscle. You can also darken and lighten lines to distinguish between different parts of the back. This will distinguish between the fascia and muscle, giving the back a more realistic quality by the difference in tonal values.
Remember to take your time. Work slowly when drawing with a pen. Adding line work to create muscle quality in body parts should be approached with precision and caution. The back has a lot of directional changes between the muscle and fascia, as well as differences in tonal values.
You want to make sure you achieve these qualities by drawing slowly.
How to Draw Muscle in the Arm
We will follow the same process when drawing an arm. The arm is much more simplistic, however, muscles and tendons become narrow around the wrist. Make sure you sketch the arm until you have successfully captured the form and grouped the muscles correctly.
Once you have done so, you can add light pencil line work to define the muscle fibers.
Once you have completed that, you can proceed to add penwork over your pencil lines. You can follow the same process of drawing muscle fibers for each body part. Remember, to follow the form of each muscle.
You want to make sure you append some time on the intricate moments near the wrist where the lines become thinner. The muscles flow into thin sections and can be defined by darker moments of shading in between the muscle and tendons.
The same process applies to drawing the arm from the side view. Once you have sketched out the shape of the arm, you can add some light pencil line work that follows the form of each muscle. Remember to draw the linework in the same directional flow of the muscles.
In the arm, it will be quite vertical.
However, all body parts have different components in them that can only be distinguished by tonal variation within a drawing. Near the elbow area, we can see that there is a tendon that can be left lighter in tonal value than that of the muscle.
With all body parts, you want to figure out how to distinguish between muscle and other materials. As a rule of thumb, the muscle will always be darker.
How to Draw Muscle in the Leg
Once again, the same process applies to the muscle features within a leg. Again, you want to start by sketching the leg. Perhaps sketch the leg from the side, as this way you can work out the differences between tendon, tissues, and muscle. It’s a good way to practice and challenge yourself.
Once you have sketched out the leg and placed the different muscles correctly in their respective positions within the leg you can add light pencil lines to indicate the muscle fibers within the leg. The leg has some intricate parts surrounding the muscle as well.
Approach the drawing process with attention.
From there, you will follow the same process of adding pen lines to your drawing, using the pencil marks as a means of guiding your drawing process. Remember, the muscles flow in specific directions, which means you want to make sure your linework follows that flow.
Again, you can distinguish between muscle and other components in the leg by using different tonal values. The muscle will always be darker than that of the other features such as bone, tissue, and tendons.
Make sure you go through the drawing process slowly and with patience.
That is how the general approach to drawing muscle is done. Starting with the light sketch of the body part, followed by some light pencil detailing, and finished off with refined pen work. The pen is particularly helpful when drawing muscle because you can capture the string-like muscle fibers quite effectively by contrasting line work.
Just remember to do some research on different body parts, but always take your time when drawing something tricky like a muscle drawing.
Tips to Remember
- Work out the drawing before using a pen. You want to get the linework right with a pencil before going over it in pen.
- Take your time. Muscle formations can be tricky, so you want to take time on the drawing process for the best results possible.
- Muscle shading is simply a series of lines. Remember, you create the muscle shading effect by line work, so go through it slowly.
- Do some research. It’s always good to use images as references to guide you in the drawing process.
- Have fun. Drawing is a learned skill that takes time, remember to not put too much pressure on yourself and be patient with the practice.
The process of drawing muscles is quite simple once you understand the shading process. To make muscle drawings look realistic, you need to simply work on the line style that defines the muscle qualities. Once you get that right, you will find that the drawing process is the same for all muscles in each body part. Once you are confident with the shading process, you can then work on forming the different muscles by creating muscle sketches. Work on the form of the muscle shape, then add detailing with shading and line work.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Do You Shade in Muscles?
Muscle shading is a little different from normal shading. This is because instead of trying to create smooth gradients with a drawing tool, you want to create the muscle qualities with line work. Using line work is how you define the fiber string-like qualities that are associated with the muscle form. By working with creating contrast between your lines and space in between the lines, you will give the muscles a shine-like quality, which gives it dimension and shading qualities. The best way to do this is to lightly sketch out the body member, which you then create muscle groups within. Once you have that sketched out, you can work lines within each muscle group, using lines to create the muscle-like qualities. These lines will flow with the form of the muscle and the directions it moves in. If the muscle moves diagonally, so will the little lines within the muscle, keeping the muscle consistent in its form.
How Do You Draw Different Muscle Groups?
The first thing to do is do some research, go look up some images of different muscle groups, and analyze their forms. For instance, the leg muscles tend to be long, thin, and football shape, ending in two points. Whereas, the pectoral muscles or muscles found in the chest tend to have a more square-like quality. However, all muscles are divided by ligaments and bone, giving each muscle group distinct sections within the body. Once you understand the position of the different muscles, work on making them look realistic in a drawing by utilizing line work to create string-like features within each muscle group. This is done by creating a series of lines within each muscle group. So, first, identify the different muscle groups through some research, and from there, sketch out your muscle groups, and then lastly refine your drawing with line work to give the muscles their unique muscle quality.
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 Muscles – Learn How to Create Your Own Muscle Sketch.” Art in Context. June 26, 2022. URL: https://artincontext.org/how-to-draw-muscles/
Matthysen, M. (2022, 26 June). How to Draw Muscles – Learn How to Create Your Own Muscle Sketch. Art in Context. https://artincontext.org/how-to-draw-muscles/