Drawing the female torso is an elusively difficult task. It is hard enough to keep all the muscles together, you also have to account for proportions and shape, and on top of it all, you have to get perspective just right, or the entire drawing falls apart.
Yet there is hope in a careful, focused approach to drawing, backed by knowledge of the skeletal structure. In this tutorial on drawing the female torso, we will start with a simplified underdrawing that helps us get perspective right. You will see that as long as you get perspective right in your drawing, all other elements will follow.
For those of you looking for a simple answer on how to draw the female torso, here it is:
Start with drawing two boxes to represent the ribcage and the pelvis, on top of this framework, begin to develop the torso drawing by paying special attention to the landmarks and proportions that are descriptive of the female form.
Let’s go over my top three tips for drawing the female torso, and then we will get into everything you will need to begin drawing on your own.
Gvaat’s top three tips for drawing the female torso:
- Start with a simplified form that helps you identify perspective and proportion. I really like drawing cuboid type forms that kind of look like soap bars. I like how angular they are because they help me understand the nuances in perspective. It works because they make it hard to confuse the side and the front of the form. By compartmentalizing the shape, our work in drawing the torso gets easier.
- Understand skeletal landmarks. No matter how much muscles move on the surface, the skeletal structure does not change. Understand the location fo these important landmarks: clavicles, scapulas, greater trochanter, iliac crest and spine, and location and shape of the rib cage.
- Check the location and angle of the (1) hips, the (2) ribcage, and the (3) head with your reference. In dynamic poses, these three main forms (the head, the ribcage, and the pelvis) are going to turn in different directions. Getting the direction of these forms right will make or break your drawing of the female torso.
The Method for Drawing the Female Torso
When drawing the human body, you must account for proportions, perspective, and angles or the drawing won’t look right. For me, drawing the female torso is all about getting the angles right from the first marks on paper.
I gauge proportions as I draw since they will change depending on the reference anyways. We can play with proportions to achieve different results. You can’t really play with perspective and angles.
The body twists a certain way and it doesn’t twist in other ways. You must place in front of the viewer something that looks realistic and is grounded in how the body behaves, or else your drawing of the female torso will just not look right.
The system I developed to draw the female torso is an adaptation of the popular box method. I shave off the edges from the boxes in my drawings so that the cuboid forms look a bit more organic. In the end, the structure quickly helps me understand the position of the pelvis and the rib cage.
Worry Less About Proportions and More About Perspective
I’m not too worried about the proportions of the boxy shapes that I’m drawing. Instead, I’m very focused on the angles and perspective.
(However, there’s a rule of thumb for proportions when using the box method for constructing the torso. The rule goes like this: stack two perfect cubes on top of each other, slice the bottom one across at halfway point. and the last bit on the bottom is the pelvis, while the box at the top is the rib cage.)
I don’t worry about creating this perfect situation of proportion, because for me I always had issues with placing the torso in proper perspective. So when I draw the boxes or the cube-like shapes to establish a torso, I do so only to establish the perspective and the angle. Once I have those identified and solidified on paper, it is so much easier to draw on top of it starting with really any major landmark of the torso.
To me, it’s much easier for a student to see that one leg is bigger than it should be, then to really understand that half of the torso that they’ve just drawn is just not placed in the correct perspective. My view is that you should focus on the perspective and the proportion issue will solve itself over time.
Consider that I never counted 8 heads to draw a human figure. Focus on perspective first and as you hone your artist eye the proportion issue will get easier over time.
Drawing the Female Torso, Major Landmarks
On the image above, note the sequence of landmarks appearing from 1 to 4. At 1, you see the ridge of the lower ribs (the end of the rib cage anteriorly). At 2, is the area where the torso folds on itself during a bending or twisting movement – this point is below the ribcage, and above the navel. At 3, the navel (belly button) is positioned above 4, the iliac crest of the pelvis.
Drawing the Female Torso, Skeletal Structure:
In this section let’s go over the ribcage, the pelvis, and other bones that make up the torso. Knowledge of the bones is absolutely critical to drawing the torso correctly. Don’t skip!
I wrote a detailed tutorial on how to draw the torso in general. In it, I went over all the bones and all the muscles that you need to know. I also went over the origin and insertion points of each muscle group you need to know. You can view the tutorial free by following this link.
Today, I still want to review the major landmarks and skeletal structure with you. Just because these landmarks are incredibly important in conveying proper information to the viewer.
Let’s first take a very general view of the torso and the landmarks we need to learn. Below you will see an illustration where I take the cuboid/boxy shapes and turn them into the general mass of the pelvic bones and the general mass of the ribcage.
Then at the top of the rib cage I add the clavicles and the scapulas. (We will cover each one below).
And then at the bottom, I add two bones sticking out of each side of the pelvis, those bones as they stick out are called the greater trochanter and they are actually very close to the surface of the skin, meaning in certain poses they will become visible.
Notice also how I indicated the edges of the rib cage and the pelvis, the hard bone at those edges well at certain times stick out the top and the bottom of the stomach. let’s look a little closer at the skeletal structure together.
The rib cage:
The rib cage has a hollow egg-like shape. In the above image of the rib cage and the spine are highlighted in purple. Notice the bottom of the rib cage at the front. It creates an upside-down V shape, this v shape will often become visible through the skin especially on a thin person, or in poses where the torso is stretched by extending the arms up.
The pelvic bones get pretty complicated, we can talk about the two most important items we need to memorize to draw the female torso well.
The most important areas as you begin to study the female torso are the iliac crest/iliac spine section that you see indicated in the image below as well as the greater trochanter. Study those areas on the image below.
Notice the shape of the iliac crest in profile view, the front of it creates a curved, blade-like edge. It will very often become visible on the surface.
The clavicles are going to be very important to learn because many muscles attach to them from the front of the torso. From the bottom, the chest and shoulder muscles attach to the clavicle. From the top, the trapezius attaches as well as sternocleidomastoid (SCM or Sterno) which is the largest muscle at the front of the neck.
Clavicle bones are often difficult to draw in perspective, due to foreshortening, and also due to their position, they ascend as they move from the center of the chest out to the shoulder. Getting their angle right is imperative to drawing the torso since they define the location of muscle attachments. Start with good reference and triple check your angles as you draw the clavicle.
In the diagram above you can see the interaction of the scapula is in the clavicles on the back. The outer edge of the clavicle meets the scapula at the acromion of the scapula, forming an acromioclavicular joint (AC joint).
The scapulas play a major role in defining the muscles of the back. They are so hugely important that they deserve two of their own tutorials! You can find much detail on the scapulas in my tutorials in how to draw the back at this link, and the shoulders at this link.
Drawing the Female Torso: Shape
So why do I simplify the female torso into cube-like shapes? It makes the three-dimensional nature of the human torso easier to envision on canvas.
Notice that my focus is not on the proportion as it is on the angle of the pelvis and the ribcage. I find that thinking about exact proportions and defining the tilt of each, as well as accounting for perspective is too much to do in a single step. You may find different, and complete the proportion and angle placement in one step. Try and see what works for you. Know that you must account for all three, perspective, the angel of the main body masses to clarify the movement, and proportions as well.
Is important to note that the boxes are not stacked on top of each other. That is something that is easy to see in the lateral (side) view indicated above.
The pelvis is tilted to the front in its upper portion, while the lower portion pushes back. The ribcage is positioned in the opposite, it is pushed forward at the bottom, and backward at the top.
The female torso differs from the male in a few key ways. Generally, the shoulders and waist are narrower and the hips are wider due to the underlying skeletal structure.
You can draw through the other side, to check your work – see above.
Shapes will vary greatly, depending on the type of form you want to depict in your drawing. Approach each form with the underdrawings first, work from general to specific (from big shapes to smaller shapes).
In the above example, you can see how organic forms of the ribcage and the pelvis fit in the boxy simplified shapes.
Below are examples of more complex drawings of the female torso laying down, and twisting movements. These drawings are usually harder to do because of foreshortening. Muscles begin to take unfamiliar shape if you have been drawing the torso standing up until now.
However, you can still use the box method to identify the angles of the torso before doing the drawing.
Why is drawing boxes so helpful in drawing the torso? It helps to know what sides of any given body part are visible under certain angles.
The box is a simplification with large flat areas, it helps us identify the angle at which to draw. In the image above, from drawing the box sketch on the left, it became clear that we won’t see the top of the shoulders from our viewpoint. It also helped identify the position of the hips.
Another example of using the box structure is above. As you can see I very loosely rely on the box shape. It is not a one-to-one simplification of the human torso. The simplicity of the box drawing lends it to many easy variations, so you can adapt it to your own preference.
Drawing the Female Torso, Final Thoughts
Drawing the female torso is hard. Focus on making sure the shapes you draw correctly fit in perspective on your canvas. (My tutorial on perspective at this link). Study the skeletal and macular structure to help you identify shapes from your reference. You will find my tutorials on drawing the torso, the back, the shoulders, the arms, and a lot more at this link.
Above all, spend a lot of time drawing from reference. Identify your weak points and study those areas, then come back to draw more from reference. Repeat the process to see vast improvement in your drawings!