Character Costume Figure Drawing

Character Costume Figure Drawing

by Tan Huaixiang

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Character Costume Figure Drawing will develop your drawing skills to improve your renderings. Not only is this book gorgeous and inspirational, but these comprehensive visual images carefully illustrate--step-by-step--how to successfully render dynamic characters with personality and life. This book presents drawing instruction with detailed breakdowns of various


Character Costume Figure Drawing will develop your drawing skills to improve your renderings. Not only is this book gorgeous and inspirational, but these comprehensive visual images carefully illustrate--step-by-step--how to successfully render dynamic characters with personality and life. This book presents drawing instruction with detailed breakdowns of various types of characters. Maternal? Elderly? Sassy? Sexy? It all startws with body proportion, bone structure, body masses, facial expressions, and the hands and feet. Hats, props, fabrics, and choice of medium are all thoroughly covered to ensure the ability to develop convincing lifelike characters.

* Includes unique three-step drawing guides that develop the sketch from stick figure to full-blown character
* Detailed examples of how to draw faces, hands, and feet
* Learn to draw realistic fabrics in a multitued of colors and textures
* NEW: Learn to draw your character based on the time period they are from
* NEW: Learn to draw children and music/dance characters

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character costume figure drawing

Step-by-Step Drawing Methods for Theatre Costume Designers
By Tan Huaixiang

Focal Press

Copyright © 2010 Elsevier, Inc.
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-08-095407-3

Chapter One

Drawing the Figure

My objective in writing this book is to show how to draw figures using a simple and easy drawing method. Specifically, the book is intended to help theatre students improve their drawing skills so that they can give effective design presentations. Most theatre students do not have any solid drawing training, or any human anatomy or figure-drawing courses in their curricula. Drawing requires a lot of practice and knowledge of the proportions of the human body. I believe that with effort, anybody can draw.

Theatre students typically have to do production assignments and work in the shops, helping to build either scenery or costumes for the production. Their time is occupied with those assignments, leaving them little time to improve their drawing skills. That is why I am trying to find a short, easy, and fast way to help them improve their drawing abilities. The methods in this book can be used without a model. However, if theatre students have the opportunity to draw the human figure from live models, they should do so. Drawing live models is a tremendous help in understanding the human body.


There are many concepts or methods for measuring the divisions of the human body. The eight-headstall figure proportion method is often used by artists or fashion illustrators. Some fashion drawings may use eight-and-a-half- or nine-heads-tall figures to demonstrate the garments, using a slim, sophisticated image. Realism is not the intent of fashion designers or illustrators. Rather, their objective is to create a stylized or exaggerated version of reality, which today is a tall, slim, and athletic figure, with a long neck and long legs. Fashion illustrations emphasize the current ideals or trends of fashion beauty. The thin body and specific poses are designed to enhance the garments. Fashion illustrators are creating the images of fashionable products to stimulate customers to purchase the garments. Beautiful illustrations can impress and influence customers to buy and wear the advertised clothing.

Costume designs for theatrical productions are quite different from fashion illustrations. The costume designer uses the history of fashion as a reference for creating costumes for many varieties of characters or groups of characters in plays. The characters are everyday-life people: young or old, thin or heavy, short or tall, with different nationalities and particular personalities. Costume design for productions requires creating practical garments that are going to be worn on stage by believable characters who have well-defined personalities. Sometimes a well-defined character costume design can inspire the actors and enhance the design presentation for the production team. In my drawings and designs, I try to emphasize a realistic style of body proportions, but I use slightly exaggerated facial features and body language to create characters with personality. The real creative challenge is how to express personalities of characters.

Most of the proportions of the body that I used in this book are based on the theories of proportions used in many other art books. There are fantastic art books from which you can learn about the proportions of the body and about figure drawing techniques, such as Bridgman's Complete Guide to Drawing from Life, by George B. Bridgman (Sterling, 2001); The Complete Book of Fashion Illustration, by Sharon Lee Tate and Mona Shafer Edwards (Prentice Hall, 1995); The Human Figure: An Anatomy for Artists, by David K. Rubins (Penguin, 1975); Drawing the Head and Figure, by Jack Hamm (Perigee, 1982); and Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain, by Betty Edwards (Tarcher, rev. ed. 1999). These books helped me improve my understanding of the human body and taught me how to present the body well. You can study the rules and principles of figure drawing, but you have to learn how to use them through practice.

To give my characters a realistic appearance, I slightly change the size of the head. Compared to the eight-heads-tall proportions, I enlarge the head to extend outside the usual boundary of the first head area. This enlarges the head in proportion to the top half of the body. I keep the feet within the bottom-half portion of the body. When I start the foundation of a figure, however, I still start with the eight-heads-tall method because it is an even number and easier to divide for calculation purposes. My divisions on the body may differ from other books, but the measurements work for my figure drawings. My primary intent is to have a system that is easy to use.

The key for developing a character figure drawing that is in proportion is to keep the top half (from the crotch up to the top of the skull) equal to the bottom half (from the crotch down to the bottom of the feet). The crotch is the main division point. The head can actually be made either a little bigger or smaller. A small head will make the figure look taller or thinner; a bigger head will make the figure look shorter or chubbier. When keeping these measurements in mind, the figure will always look right.

I recommend that you use the following steps to create a figure drawing until you become familiar with body proportions. Refer to Figures 1-1 and 1-2 as you complete these steps:

1. Place two marks on the paper-one on the top portion of the page, one on the bottom portion of the page-to indicate the height of the body. Then draw a vertical line from the top mark to the bottom mark. The composition of the figure should be considered; that is, keeping the figure centered or off-centered, more to the left or to the right side, and so on. These guidelines control the figure height.

2. Draw a mark at the middle point of the vertical line to find the middle point of the body. This mark is where the crotch is located and is also the half-height of the body. I am going to call the area from this mark up the upper half of the body. To me, this mark is the most critical reference point for good proportions of the body. (See Figure 1-1, mark #5.)

3. Divide the upper body from the top mark to the crotch line into four equal parts. This creates five marks but four portions. Number all the marks: The very top mark, mark #1, is the top of the skull; we won't use mark #2; mark #3 is the armpit; mark #4 is the waistline; and mark #5 is the half-body mark (it is also the crotch, pelvis, or hipline). The very bottom mark drawn in step 1 is mark #6. I will refer by numbers to these six marks extensively in the discussion that follows.

4. Make the head bigger compared to mark #2 (usually considered the chin in measurement systems used in other drawing books). The head will be increased by adding a distance approximately the size of a chin from mark #2 down (see letter A on the sketch in Figure 1-1). This shortens the neck. Fashion drawings usually are just the opposite, showing a longer neck. The mark at letter A is going to be the bottom of the chin.

5. Draw an egg-shaped frame between the top mark and the chin mark, A, to indicate the shape of the head.

6. Divide the distance between mark #2 and the armpit line (mark #3) in half and mark it as letter B; this mark is going to be the shoulder line or collarbone. Generally speaking, the width of the shoulders is a measurement about two heads wide for females and two-and-a-half heads wide for males. Measure the width of the shoulders and add two marks (see letter C in Figure 1-1).

7. Divide the distance between mark #2 and the shoulder line, B, in half and add another mark. This mark helps to establish the shoulder-slope line (see letter D in Figure 1-1). Look at the sketch and review this in detail.

8. Divide the distance between the armpit (mark #3) and the waistline (mark #4) into four equal parts. Now you have drawn three marks to create four parts. The first mark from the top of this group is the bustline (see letter E in Figure 1-1); this mark usually refers to the nipples position or bustline. The third mark from the top is the bottom of the rib cage (see letter F in Figure 1-1). The second mark is not used.

9. Divide the distance between the waistline (mark #4) and the crotch or hipline (mark #5) into four equal parts. The first mark is the top of the pelvis (see letter G in Figure 1-1). The male pelvis width is different from the female. The female hip width is usually wider than her shoulders. The male hip width is less wide than the shoulders. For both males and females, the width of the top of the pelvis usually equals the width of the bottom of the rib cage or chest. The bottom of the pelvis/hipline/crotch line is wider than width of the the top of the pelvis (see letter H in Figure 1-1). The hipline's width will depend on whether you are drawing a female or male. The other two marks are not used.

10. Treat the chest/rib cage as a tapered box (refer to Figure 1-2). Connect the shoulder line with the bottom of the rib cage to make a tapered-down box. The shoulder should be wider than the bottom of the rib cage. Keep both sides of the body symmetrical with the body centerline. The pit of the neck is at the middle of the shoulder line-it is the body centerline.

11. Treat the pelvis as a tapered-up box. Connect the top of the pelvis line with the bottom of the pelvis line (mark #5, also the hipline/ crotch line) to draw a tapered-up box. The female hipline is wider than the male hipline.

12. The area from the crotch down will be for the legs and feet. The legs join the pelvis at the hipline. Before starting to draw the legs, divide the distance between mark #5 (crotch line) and mark #6 (the bottom of the feet) into four equal parts. Then mark them from the top down (see letters I, J, and K in Figure 1-2).

13. Divide the distance between K and mark #6 into three equal parts. The feet are drawn in the bottom third (see letter L in Figure 1-2).

14. Draw two lines from both corners of mark #5 (hipline/crotch) down to letter L to indicate the legs. Keep them symmetrical. Then divide these two lines in half; the middle marks on these two lines are the knee positions (see letter M in Figure 1-2). This method of drawing leg length avoids the leggy look of fashion-illustration figures. Our objective is to create a realistic look corresponding to the actors, rather than a fashion ideal.

15. The arms join to the chest at the shoulder line. In human anatomy theory, the upper arm from the shoulder to the elbow is longer than the distance from the elbow to wrist. In my method, I treat them as two equal parts in length for an easy calculation ratio. When the arm is hanging down, the elbow usually lines up with the waistline. The measurement from the shoulder to the elbow should equal the measurement from the elbow to the wrist. From the elbow joint, measure down to indicate the placement of the wrist.

16. Add hands to the wrists. The fingertips usually stop at letter I (the fifth head in other books). Asian people often have shorter arms, African people usually have longer arms, and Caucasians often have arms that are longer than Asians' but shorter than Africans'. There are many variations and exceptions to any racial generality.

17. As shown in Figure 1-3, contour the body according to the basic bone/stick structure (see the section, "Contouring the Stick Figure"). Figures 1-4 and 1-5 show the contouring lines for the male and female body, respectively.

The proportions of the body, either seven or eight heads tall, work only for the body standing in a straight position. When the body is bending or the head is facing up or down, you cannot apply the measurements to the body because of foreshortening.

The body measurement methods used in this book are not the only methods you should follow, but I recommend you use my system as a guide or reference for drawing stage costumes.


The bone structure in this book is symbolic and abstract. It is not my intention to copy the real human skeleton. My objective in using a simple and abstract bone structure is to make it easier to draw and understand, and easier to obtain the proper proportions of the figures. The shape of the human body is complex. To draw it well, you need to spend extensive time studying bones and muscles. Unfortunately, in most cases, theatre students don't have a long time to study the human anatomy. The simplified abstract bone structure used here is going to help students to better understand the human body and its movements (see Figure 1-6).

The skeleton dominates and directs all surfaces of the body, and the bone joints determine and dominate all the movements of the body. We must discuss the basic bone structure of the human body to understand body movements. To keep it clear and simple, my discussion is focused on the basic length and width of the outer edges of the skeleton, and on the major joints of the skeleton. The outer edges of the skeleton include the outline of the skull and the outline, or frame, of the chest and pelvis masses. The major joints include the spine, shoulder, elbow, wrist, hip/leg, knee, and ankle. In real life, the chest and pelvis are irregular shapes. In this book, I am going to use either boxes or abstract shapes to demonstrate the body parts. Small circles will be used for each joint. Abstract sticks will be used for the length of the bone. The length of the bones between the forearm and upper arm, and between the lower leg and thigh, may differ in real skeletons, but I will make them equal distances here because it will be easier to calculate the proportion ratio.

The Joints of the Body

Joints connect or hinge together two things. There are many joints on the human body. The spine joins the head mass, chest mass, and pelvis mass. The collarbone, shoulder blade, and arm are joined together at the shoulder and connected with the chest as a unit. Joints are capable of moving in many directions within their limitations. Each arm has its own joints: shoulder, elbow, wrist, and finger. Each leg also has its joints: hip, knee, ankle, and toe. Each joint directs body movements. In figure drawing, when joints are in the correct positions, they will show comfortable movements and body rhythm with natural expressiveness as a whole. Incorrect positions will make the figures seem stiff or lopsided. Through our experiences during our daily activities, we know how joints work. But showing the joints properly through drawing is critical and requires practice. The bone joints allow us to move our body parts comfortably and also inform us of the limitations of our joints. Consider and study how your own joints work; practice stick figure drawings to analyze the joint functions and limitations in different positions.

The Head, Chest, and Pelvis

There are three major masses of the human body—the head, chest, and pelvis. They are joined together by the spine, which controls the movements and turning directions of the head, chest, and pelvis. The significant fact here is that these three masses are able to move independently of one another (see Figure 1-7).

Making the three masses move in different directions will add dramatic excitement and personality to the figure. When the body moves, the balance has to be maintained. The proper angles between the body masses maintain this balance. The neck area of the spine usually has more flexibility than the lumbar spine. The flexible spine allows the head, chest, and pelvis to face up, down, or sideways, or to turn around. When each mass faces in different directions, you will see twisting movements.


Excerpted from character costume figure drawing by Tan Huaixiang Copyright © 2010 by Elsevier, Inc. . Excerpted by permission of Focal Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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