How to Draw a Pose Reference

Drawing a Pose Reference
Drawing a Pose Reference

We often think of life drawing as the final word in drawing any figure, but there is a little-known secret that you seldom hear about. Pose reference is an excellent method for drawing for artists who have plenty of ideas on how to draw a pose reference without needing to use a live model.

Drawing Poses For Beginners

Even if you've never taken a life drawing class in your life, you can still find a good start using drawing poses. There is no shortage of references that you can start to collect, including magazine pictures, newspapers, internet file pictures, and any other form of photo media. The best part is you can create a collection of poses that appeal to you. These can give you plenty of ideas on how to pose and create a model from scratch.

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What is a Pose Reference?

As mentioned before, pose references are pictures you're collecting from any source you can find, either from printed or online media. I recommend that you print them out to have plenty of pictures that go into a file or box for your reference material. These pictures can include photo references that you trace or copy to get an idea sketch or drawing that's a starting point for human figure poses.

These poses can also be pieced together from several pictures to create a whole new pose that you like. Although, there will be some artistic changes that you'll make since the anatomy of the human body can only allow certain poses to be physically possible.

Different Pose Reference Figures:

As a must-have collection you have for your reference collection, you want to separate this reference material into categories that make it easier for you to select a pose. File everything into groups that give you're the fastest access to an index of poses likewise. Use file separators that are marked on top so you can find the topic or theme you categorize them within.

• Drawing the skeleton structure

Skeletons are great for pose reference, and it wouldn't hurt to have an anatomical plastic skeleton that lets you creates a variety of natural poses. If this isn't possible, you can also find pictures of skeletons from online websites showing them arranged in exciting poses. This will show you where the bones are placed and how this would relate to a natural pose.



• Male figures

Try to collect a wide variety of male figure poses that don't hide the physical form so much. Football players have too many protective pads if you choose sports poses, so weight lifting, ice skating, and even track and field pics make great choices. Try to keep your sports separated from classical or figurative poses additionally. Every perspective you can find is helpful as long as you can still see 90% of the human anatomy showing.

• Female figures

Female figures are easier to find in all sorts of poses, and there are tons of workout and swimsuit photos that give you more selection. Nude pictures are fine, but they don't always give you the poses that will give you excellent references unless they're related to life drawing. Either way, there is no shortage of internet references these days. Be sure to separate these poses according to the style pose you categorize.

• Action figures

You can easily find miniature wooden mannequins that have joints that are used for creating poses. These are very rough and simple poses that work great when you're starting out. If you want more realistic models that you can pose, action figures are impressively jointed to give you a better example of making a custom pose. Probably not as flexible as you might like, but for reference, action toy figures do a decent job in a pinch.

• Dynamic poses

Some poses are nearly impossible to create if you don't reference action or movement poses. These are the types of pictures I call ‘The Matrix' poses since they're frozen in mid-air. These primarily are an excellent category to collect since they directly use frozen gravity to get poses that aren't so easy to replicate without photographing the action with a camera at just the right moment.

• Sitting figures

All models or photos you can find where people are sitting are essential for creating relaxing or emotional drawing references. Even though there isn't much happening, sitting poses still impact, creating powerful drawings that translate emotion from a person sitting in a chair or on the floor. You'll undoubtedly want to collect a wide variety of poses from this least popular topic within your pose collection.

• Learn about standing poses

There are thousands of standing poses with personalities and can be mixed as much as you like. You can learn a lot from this theme and apply them to all sorts of emotions that might apply to what kind of standing position a model is expressing. These emotions will also help you pick and choose a topic that best relates to your drawing so you can immediately give a sense of expressive emotion within your drawings.

Figures in Perspective

This doesn't always come down to angle but will provide you with more ideas for how a character is acting in your picture. This adds further interest in any drawing that will help complete added scenery or visual impact you want to build. Since drawing often includes lots of emotion or actions, these poses help tell a story that makes it possible to ask questions about what is going on within a picture easier to express.

• Crouched

Crouching can tell viewers many things without having to say it out loud. In general, crouched figures bring mystery and intrigue to your drawings but do not always relate to fear or hiding. Find as many crouching pictures that tell many stories that you can use to your advantage later. Whatever emotion you attach to them is also an excellent way to label them for quick reference.

• Dancing

When dancing is shown in a pose, it usually reveals a form of joy or happiness that your model is expressing. It can also portray passion and energetic restlessness, so don't just settle for fun and happy themes. Imagine the power of Tango and how it's a careful dance between two people who are both telling very different stories. Your collection of dance poses should be well-rounded to tell why your figure will be dancing.

• Laying down

This is a wide-open topic that can apply to sleeping on a bed or sleeping on all sorts of surfaces. You might want to find poses of people laid down like a cowboy on a dirt and gravel valley or a fantasy character sleeping on a cloud. These can include sleeping on your side or semi-crouched but not limited to passing out on a couch after a wild party. The choices are endless when it comes to finding poses of people laid down.

• Relaxed

As opposed to sleeping, resting, and relaxing is all about finding that perfect neutral position that's comfortable. The whole idea here is that it's not just sitting that you're collecting but the positions in life that are all relaxed as can be. It might include reclining but is not limited to leaning on a wall with a leg bent upward. You see these poses often when a hero is waiting for someone and is usually played out for comic intent.

As long as a model is leaning against something or propped up in some way. That doesn't require much effort. This is a relaxed position. This can take more time to find, so be sure to separate sleeping or napping from resting and hanging out themes. Knowing how to draw a relaxed pose reference can be tricky but is universally accepted by those who look at your drawings.

• Kneeling

Kneeling has long been a tradition of showing respect or honor to something great or important. In recent months it's been twisted into showing fragility and disrespect out of social justice expectations. In a classical sense, kneeling is heroic and humble to a cause. Such as the return of a King or the power of witnessing a miracle. Look for kneeling poses that bring faithful emotion with meaning and power rather than empty-headed gestures.

• Twisted

This type of pose can mean anything, but I like to think of twisted poses as something related to agony or pain. Perhaps it's related to navigating a tight space or how you look when you fall off a cliff. Whatever the case could be, finding twisted body poses can be hard to find if you don't know what to look for. These poses need to be as unique and strange as the next, which might be exciting resources for you later.

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Different Figure Poses to Draw:

There are also specific poses that convey classic to particular styles meant for dramatic effects and added style. In your collection of pictures, these need to have their own separate file. These styles are pretty basic, so it's up to you to find the best pictures that represent these samples. You'll find more over time, but these are good samples to follow just for starting ideas.

• Stylization

Pick a style that you like for whatever reason, but when it comes to poses and style, these can include poses meant for modeling, fashion, or classic poses. These are your average out-of-the-box poses that give a reference point with many choices in between. Modern poses will be more dynamic and meant to show attitude, so you'll want to feature these kinds of stances in this collection.

• Dramatic lighting

This will help you when it comes to shadowing and shading, if not to give you a better reference for a pose you already have without any harsh lighting. It's a visual aid for getting your light source information figured out. Side lighting, overhead lighting, backlighting, and angled lighting are all excellent references to collect. As long as you have a dramatically lit pose, you're given an example you can use later to get more visual and artsy effects.

• Vintage

This is your opportunity to do some serious digging by looking at old pictures of poses or drawings that were done from generations ago. Vintage style can apply to specific periods, so the necessity to categorize these periods is critical. Just as the early 19th century doesn't fit with 20th-century sensibilities, keep them separate. Find a period you want to use as a reference so your poses won't look out of place.

Where Can I Find a Pose Reference For Drawing?

I use everything that I can find, which is often as accessible as it gets if it comes from magazine clippings, newspaper photos, and any image that's high quality. Now that the internet is easy to access photos on nearly anything, you can go image hunting to collect your favorite photos. Save them as jpeg files on your PC or make screenshots on your smartphone or tablet. Try all the local sources like Google search, Pinterest, and any online images you find.

What is a Pose Draw Maker?

These are tools that you can find online to create a character or model poses in minutes. It will have the option to choose from several poses or create your own based on what you select. These programs will render a high-quality image that saves you time to make something particular to your drawing needs. You can choose from realistic models, cartoon characters, and Anime characters.

Since every program is different, not every pose maker will give you what you need unless you know what to draw first. It's absolutely not a substitute for collecting posed photos despite it being a modern artist reference tool. If you find an app or downloadable program that's for free, you might save yourself some money too.

Is it Ok to use Pose References to Draw:

Drawing is one thing, but there is also the element of perspective that hasn't been brought up so far. You'll need a reference that gives you ideas for creating the proper perspective in your picture. These are essential if you want to make more dramatic angles you don't see so often, but you'll learn about them soon enough as an artist.

• 3/4 view

One of my all-time favorite styles in the drawing includes the three-quarter view of a character in a drawing. It's not as cut-and-dry as a front or side profile and gives you an image that simply appears just right or natural in any setting. Collect every image you can find with this angle to get ideas added to your pose. Ideally, this angle gives you the subtle quality that other angles just cannot express so easily.

• Back

Drawing a pose from the back is harder to pull off unless you have something to tell about the picture you want others to see. It's more about the internal message that you imply than anything else. There aren't going to be so many images or poses shown from the back that gives you a complete library, but there are plenty if you search regularly. Look at pictures that relate to what you want to show and find images related to that feeling.

• Extreme angle

If you've seen any Steven Spielberg movie poster from the 80s, chances are you've seen some extreme angle picture. “The Goonies” original theatrical poster is a perfect example of an extreme angle. The idea is that any extreme angle is seen from above or below and slightly off to the side. Just as if you're looking over a cliff edge or up towards a towering waterfall. Your focus is on the extreme angle that most people will find thrilling to look at.

• Front high angle (top)

This is similar to the extreme angle but more centered on looking directly down at something. If you were to look into a hole and see someone at the bottom, this is the kind of image you want. Alternatively, many fashion magazines have a photographer stand on a ladder to get perspective shots overhead that can appear edgy and hip. This angle also teaches you more about forced perspective due to the head-to-body ratios.

• Low angle (bottom)

Unless you're looking to make everything appear more significant than they appear, finding images viewed from below makes everyone look like giants. Perhaps this is the view of Antman or something evil lurking beneath the floorboards. It's also a great practice tool for perspective since buildings and structures will tower overhead. Feet and legs are visually larger, with the model's heads being incredibly smaller.

• Side

Any side profile is simply fantastic, as you can ask for when it comes to a posed model seen from the side. It can relay motion or movement or attitude and decisiveness. All the classical and stoic characters were all seen with a side profile. It's more impressive when dramatic lighting is also used. Base your side-pose collection on emotions that appeal to you, as these will enhance your ability to add feelings into your drawing using only a profile.

We often think of life drawing as the final word in drawing any figure, but there is a little-known secret that you seldom hear about. Pose reference is an excellent method for drawing for artists who have plenty of ideas on how to draw a pose reference without needing to use a live model.

Create Art With My Favourite Drawing Resources

General Drawing Courses. I like Udemy if you want to develop your knowledge of drawing techniques. Udemy is an excellent choice due to its wide range of creative courses and excellent refund policy. They often have monthly discounts for new customers, which you can check here. Use my link.

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Proko. Is one of my favorite teachers who surpasses in the teaching of Anatomy and Figure drawing. Prokos course breaks down the drawing of the human body into easy-to-follow components aiding the beginner to make rapid progress. For this, I really like Proko.

Art Easels. One of my favorite ways to draw is by using a drawing easel, which develops the skill of drawing on a vertical surface. The H frame easel is an excellent vertical way to add variety to the style and type of marks you create when using a drawing board.

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Ian Walsh is the creator and author of and an Art teacher based in Merseyside in the United Kingdom. He holds a BA in Fine Art and a PGCE in teaching Art and Design. He has been teaching Art for over 24 Years in different parts of the UK. When not teaching Ian spending his time developing this website and creating content for the improvedrawing channel.

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