I first came across Capcom’s anatomy guide when Kotaku reported on it in 2017. Being a big fan of artwork found in Street Fighter games I decided to take a closer look to see what we can learn from the guide. Since the Capcom’s anatomy guide was published in Japanese, in this post I provide English translation and analysis of the guide’s first half.
After doing some research online, I learned that Capcom art director Toshiyuki Kamei first discussed the guide publicly at GDC, that this anatomy guide dates back to the mid-1990s and that it was overseen by then Capcom’s in-house artist Akira Yasuda.
I also learned that the guide was probably written based on references from American illustrator William Andrew Loomis, with material added by Capcom artists to optimize it towards sprite drawing of early Street Fighter games.
Before we get into the pages of the guide, a disclaimer: below are my thoughts on the guide published by Capcom and now featured on many blogs online. There is no affiliation with, and no endorsement from Capcom. However, I am super glad they published this guide because as you will see, it contains great lessons. The pages published here remain unchanged and are available on Campcom’s website.
With that out of the way, let’s get to it!
Top of the page: here we will discuss the muscles and bones needed to know the structure of the neck. Think of the muscles at the core of the neck as one solid.
(1) The sternocleidomastoid muscle begins behind the ears and splits in the front moving to the chest and the collarbone.
(2) The trapezius extends from the back of the neck to the outer one-third of the collarbone. Notice arrows in the middle of the page indicating this muscle wrapping around.
Top-right of the page:
(c) Humerus (part of the arm section)
Bottom of the page: simple three-dimensional shapes shown as samples
On sternocleidomastoid splitting up
This split had to be indicated in the guide to help artists draw the neck muscles well. It indicates that the muscle splits into the clavicular branch that attaches at the inner 1/3 of the clavicle bone just like the guide says, and into the sternal branch that attaches to the sternum the bone at the center of the chest).
On arrows around the trapezius
These arrows indicate how the trapezius muscle wraps around from the back to the front and attaches at the outer rim of the clavicle bone, forming a pyramid-like structure.
Top of the page:
(3) Pectoral muscle. The pictorial muscle is connected to about 2/3rds of the clavicle bone.
(c) Humerus bone (in the arm)
Small drawings in the middle of the page: when the arm is raised, the pectoral muscle stretches and appears thinner (to the left of the arrow it looks thicker, to the right of the arrow it becomes thinner).
(1) Top-left illustration: Cross-section of the chest. Back on top and front at the bottom.
(2) Waist cross-section in the middle left of the page. It is a good idea to be aware of the waist cross-section as if a rectangle with corners that are shaved off.
(3) The bottom of the page: example of a three-dimensional body describing the planes.
This page focuses on the forearm.
Notes on the top left of the page: There is a vein that is often visible on the top of the biceps muscle, this does not mean that you have to draw it!
By considering the cross-section, it is easier to understand the dimension of the form.
Left-middle of the page: apart from the elbow, there is a bone projection.
Bottom left of the page: up to the point of the arrow (three out of four drawings of the forearm), the upper arm does not twist much. Note the relationship between the wrist and biceps orientation. Practice a lot!
Right bottom of the page inside a table: Think of the upper arm as two kamaboko put together.
Regarding the bone projection aside from the elbow
The bone projection indicated in addition to the elbow on this page is also discussed in Loomis’ book, Figure Drawing for All it’s Worth, in a section entitled “Landmarks you should know”. I highly recommend this book for anatomy drawing!
The bone indicated to stick out in Capcom’s guide and Loomis’ book is the humerus clasping around the ulna. While the ulna forms the pointy end of the elbow, on each side humerus sticks out as well. Note that the extent to which it is visible will vary by person.
Regarding the comment that you do not have to draw veins to describe form
Similar comments can be found in Loomis’ books as well, there is a section in Drawing the Head and Hands where Loomis alludes to the fact that drawing wrinkles on the face often creates a dull drawing and does not help describe form. The focus then is on the description of the form and not superficial detail. This sentiment is clearly pronounced in the work of Capcom’s artists as well.
Regarding the twisting of the forearm – pronation and supination
The guide demonstrates how the radius bone moves over the ulna when the hand is pronated. There is a lot of space dedicated to this and for good reason, without understanding pronation and supination of the hand it is very difficult to draw the arm well. You can read about the details of this movement in my tutorial on drawing arms.
Note the guide indicates exactly at what degree of the turn the upper arm begins to twist with the forearm.
(1) Deltoid muscle
(3) Coracobrachialis muscle
(5) Tares Major
(6) Latissimus dorsi
(7) External oblique muscle
(8) Rectus abdominal muscle
(9) A line consisting of the intersection of latissimus dorsi and serratus anterior
(10) Clavicle line
(11) Rib line
The coracobrachialis (3) muscle lies between the biceps (2) and triceps (4).
The teres major (5) and latissimus dorsi (6) go over and around the triceps and penetrate underneath the coracobrachialis (3) muscle.
The rectus abdominis (8) is three-tiered, but this is not easily noticeable except when flexed or when the figure leans forward.
This muscle is found around the armpit area and only visible when the arm is raised. It does wedge between the biceps and triceps muscles on the inside of the arm. On the outside of the arm, the brachioradialis wedges between the biceps and triceps. Both are important for the construction of the arm.
This page describes the body and the thickness of each section.
Top-left of the page with the figure drawn from the back: rib-cage is indicated with a bean-like shape. Lines that describe that shape are drawn on the surface so you can see the thickness of the back. A line along the back also serves as a three-dimensional description.
Top-right of the page: the rib-cage is egg-shaped and gets narrower and narrow at the top.
Right-middle of the page: diagram of how shoulders are connected. See at arrow of the top view of the shoulder: shoulders should be drawn slightly forward in their attachment to the neck.
(star) Extended arm diagram at bottom of page:
In poses where shoulders appear higher than the jaw, you can either move the head down or bring the arms up and move the shoulders forward.
Try not to be distracted drawing the muscles around the neck and omitting the neck of the character.
(star) The elbow lands around the waist of the figure, and the wrist can be found at the height of the the groin.
Be sure that joins of the upper body, at the shoulders, arms, waist, thighs, neck etc, are well thought out.
On the use of arcs for movement
I first read about the use of arcs to extrapolate the movement of the body in Loomis’ book on Anatomy.
Loomis states that “the arcs of movement can be drawn first to get the length of a foreshortened limb in perspective, simplifying a difficult problem”.
In the same way, Capcom artists appear to create arcs to properly map the proportions and position of the arm being raised as shown in the page above.
Capcom Anatomy Guide Analysis
From reading the guide, it is clear that it was made for artists who already have some knowledge of anatomy. It provides an overview of important anatomical features that intermediate artists often omit in their drawings. To see most improvement in your art, I suggest to pair studying this guide with daily drawing of the figure from reference.
For more, check out Capcom’s official site.
[All Images: Capcom]