How to draw a stick figure

All stick figures are not created equal.

By Dave Gray

1:47 pm
Thu, Apr 3, 2008

Cliff Atkinson asked if I would show how to draw a stick figure, so I decided to let you in on a little trade secret: All stick figures are not created equal. Today I’m going to teach you to draw a stick figure the way we do it at XPLANE.

Stick figures are a quick and easy way to visually represent the human body doing just about anything. I’m going to start you off easy by showing you how to draw a simple standing figure.

Here’s a larger image of the drawing above.

1. Most people start a stick figure by drawing the head. This is a mistake. Since a stick figure represents the whole person, the best way to draw it is the way you see a whole person. Think about what you notice first when seeing someone from a distance. Always start with the body. The body is the center of gravity and motion. By starting with the body you will capture the essence of the gesture you want to convey.

2. After you have drawn the body in the position that you want, draw in a circle for the head. The placement of the head in relation to the body is essential. Happiness, angst, speed and sluggishness can all be conveyed by the relative positions of the head and body. Observe people doing their daily routines and you’ll see what I mean.

3. Next, draw the facial expression. Your basic smiley face or frowney face will work here just fine. Adding a little line for a nose will help you show which direction the head is pointing. This can be especially important when you want to show two people interacting with each other.

4. Add the legs next — they are more essential to conveying the gesture than the arms. When my basketball coach taught me to shoot, he explained that the primary energy that propels the ball comes not from your arms but from your legs (Watch some basketball on TV and you can actually see this). The energy of a stick figure works the same way. Note the use of small ovals to represent feet. This helps connect the person to the imaginary ground.

5. Now draw the arms, and complete the gesture you started with the legs.

6. I made the hands a separate step so you could see what a difference a couple of little lines makes. A short, one-line stroke will suffice for nearly any gesture.

7. Of course you’re drawing the stick figure to convey some idea, action or emotion. Thought bubbles and word balloons are a great way to round out the complete thought.

Now that you’ve drawn a standing person, try your hand at some more tricky problems:
- How would you draw a tall person? A fat person? Someone with long hair or a beard?
- Go to a public place and see if you can capture the gestures of the people around you in stick-figure drawings. This is a great way to hone your observation skills.
- See if you can draw people running, dancing, fighting and sitting.
- Here’s a hard one: draw a stick figure riding a bike.

Please send me your drawings so I can share your successes!

Read more about sketching in visual thinking school.

As always, your comments, thoughts and feedback are much appreciated.


-------


Keep in touch! Sign up to get updates and occasional emails from Dave.


Tags: , , , , , ,

3 comments

  1. laumerritt commented on April 11, 2008 | Permalink

    Can you add a picture to a comment?

  2. Arif commented on June 24, 2010 | Permalink

    Oops, just saw this before I posted my comment on learning to draw a stick figure. Another Great Tutorial Dave. Thanks :-D.

  3. Drawing James commented on December 17, 2011 | Permalink

    Awesome drawing information, really inspiring!

6 Trackbacks

  1. mark larson | on April 10, 2008

    [...] Dave Gray teaches how to draw a stick figure. Thursday, April 10, 2008, 11:01pm. Learning. Permalink. Comments RSS. Leave a comment or a trackback. [...]

  2. [...] I did this and you can too. I can now draw a better stick figure. Check out Dave Gray’s How to draw a Stick Figure to get you [...]

  3. [...] get up to speed by using some tips and tricks like Dave Gray’s approach to drawing things and people, choosing a framework or template to structure your notes, or using different types of pens to [...]

  4. […] work” is a great introduction. And if you are convinced you cannot draw, this explanation to  drawing a stick figure can get you […]

  5. 14 Ways to Learn in 2014 on January 6, 2014

    […] exercise lessons at Brain Doodles (listed under Teacher Resources). Dave Gray has instructions for How to Draw a Stick Figure. As for sketch notes, see Kevin Thorn’s article on Sketch Notes and the videos by Mike […]

  6. […] first time we met, he explained to me how he draws stick figures. His trick? Draw the body first. Why? Because body language says so much! That’s really the […]

Post a comment

Your email is never published nor shared. Required fields are marked *

*
*