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What makes a good pose?

What to do when all of your poses are boring. 

Things to decide before you start drawing

  • No orthographic views: An orthographic view is either completely to the front, side top or bottom. All of these make an image look fake or boring. If a head is turned at a ¾ angle that is better than a front or side view. If the head is also tilted slightly up or down that is even better still.
  • Viewing angle: The viewing angle should pretty much never be orthographic. The whole image, including the ground plane should be seen from above, below, left or right either to a slight degree or an extreme amount.
  • Focal length: This describes how much things are distorted by perspective. If you are very far away from your character there should be very little. If however, they are pointing their finger straight at your nose, there should be an extreme amount. Very tiny objects appear to have a short focal length while large objects appear to have a longer amount.
  • Character intent: A character in a pose just to be displayed is often boring. Think about what you character is feeling, thinking or doing. If you can make your character interact with an object of some kind, such as holding an umbrella, pushing their glasses up the bridge of their nose, fiddling with their phone or summoning a magic object out of thin air, these are all great ways to add intent.
  • The character’s overall action: Is your character sitting, standing, laying down, running, jumping, sinking, rising, on all fours, floating, leaning forward, or falling backwards? I know it sounds obvious, but these are things I forget to think about. Decide this in addition to character Intent and you’re already setting yourself for an interesting pose. Stacking actions can further increase visual interest. Maybe your character is falling while running and looking over her shoulder? Now that’s a very interesting pose.
  • Strength: How strong is your character in their intent? Are they using all of their effort to hold their pose? Are they laying back in a relax position. Are they standing strong with their muscles flexed or are they dangling limply? All of these aspects can create not just an interesting pose, but also convey the personality of your character.
  • Weight: Decide which limb your character is placing their weight on. Is it one leg, both legs, one arm? A line can be drawn through the middle of the center of gravity to the floor to make sure the character is standing straight and strong. All other parts of the character can appear to lean into the center of gravity while the limb that’s holding them up should appear straight. Or maybe you want your character to be off balance. If so , make sure that it’s obvious. Doing something too subtle can often look like a mistake if it’s not obvious enough. 

Things to decide as you are drawing

  • Asymmetry: the right side of the body and left side should not be doing the same thing. 
  • One limb up, one limb down: If one knee is bent the other knee can be at a different amount, either bend slightly or completely more or less than than the other. The same goes for hands, feet and arms
  • One limb foreshortened, the other less: If one foot is pointing towards you the other can point off to the side more, the same is true with hands, arms and knees.

In the character below demonstrates the visual interest of asymmetry. One leg is bent and pointed towards the viewer, while the other is straight. One foot is pointed down, while the other is pointing forward and to the right. Feet and legs are often shown contrasting at two different perspectives in anime to add to the visual interest of the pose. 

  • Joint Twist: The  torso can be  slightly twisted. If the shoulders are going one direction the hips can be going a slightly different direction, as seen in the image above.
  • Joint Angle: Similar to joint twist, joint angle specifies that joins don’t have to be bent at the same angle.  If the shoulders are tilted to the left than the  hips can be tilted  to the right, as seen in the image below. 

 Know as the contrapposto pose, joint angle was used in ancient Greek and Roman statues to create a more lifelike pose. The shoulders are bent at a different angle than the hips. All the weight is placed on leg. 

  • Flow: This might seem to run counter to contrast, which is why both should be used with your best judgment. Flow specifies that a character and it’s limbs should be following curves or lines of action.  This can add a sense of unity to your drawing.

While one foot is working with the arms and legs to create flow and unity, her other foot is sharply pointed in a different direction to add asymmetry and contrast.

  • Occlusion: Some parts of the body can be occluding other parts for the body. For example, one leg could be crossed over another. The arm could be completely behind the body and only the hand is visible. Having crossed legs and crossed arms and add visual interest. 
  • Dynamic Objects: Dynamic objects include hair. cloth, water, fire and fog. These things can often move against or in contrast to the way your character is moving. If your character is standing strong against the wind their clothes and hair could be blowing back. If your character is falling these things should be lifted up by momentum. Maybe gravity is stronger and all of these things are being pulled down while your character is fighting against it.
  • Never forget the z-axis: 2d art only allows 2 real dimensions, while the third is imagined. Because this it is easy to forget the third dimension. Always consider if you are using it enough. Is there any aspect of the pose that you can make go forward or backwards in space?
  • Flesh malleability: Similar to Dynamic objects, flesh malleability is how much the flesh of the character is moving on in own accord. Is your character’s flesh billowing out ad the edge of their clothing? Is their fat tummy sagging, or are their muscles bulging with effort?
  • Every opportunity not taken is a wasted opportunity: There is no reason not to add as much of these elements as you can. Every aspect of the character can be made interesting, down to the finger and toes. 

The hair is flowing backwards, then forwards and the knees are pointing towards the viewer to fully utilize z-space. Her fingers and toes are also bent in unique positions, which adds visual interest to even the smallest aspects of the pose.