Learning Anatomy - I don't know where to start



I’ve recently got a desire to learn human anatomy, both male and female. I’ve made plenty of cartoons and that’s all well and good, but I’d like to make realistic characters with huge bulky muscles or slender attractive bodies.

But I don’t know where to begin, my first step was to pick up human anatomy for artists. But now what, do I go into zbrush and begin sculpting onto a base mesh, do I pick up a pen and pencil? Or do I start modeling an entire skeleton then an entire set of muscles, I just don’t know.

I’ve tried pen and pencil and zbrush, spent a while doing each, and I can’t get a good basic form down if I draw, and in zbrush it just looks, well, bad. All I’ve been doing is using clay tubes then smoothing it out a bit.

Here’s my first attempt.


I would do some research and try find some life drawing classes to attend. It’s usually pretty cheap (where i live anyway), and well worth it.


Thanks for the suggestion; I think my school does those… I start in february, just wanted a head start… something I can do on my own to improve :slight_smile:


oh well definitely keep on doing what your doing then, learn as you go, look at reference, get comfortable with the program your school uses (if you know), post around and get feedback on what your doing right/wrong.

1 crit i have is try not to go right into the fine detais with zbrush right off the bat, you should start with blocking out the forms first, once the forms are looking nice sculpt in the details. Have you been watching some youtube vids on how other people sculpt with zbrush? That also helps when looking for workflows.



I highly recommend buying Zac Petroc’s form of anatomy series, i learned more by watching (and sculpting along is important too!) his videos than i did in a year
learning by myself.

(see digital lectures under store menu)


Thanks guys, much appreciated!


Hm… is there a tutorial that’ll show me how to actually sculpt the musculature onto a base mesh?


theres lots of youtube vids on how people do their anatomy.



lots of different ways to do it.


Thanks Dare-o, should of thought to check youtube. Silly me!


Helo if you are stil looking for some trainings, you should think of playing around with clay ( the really clay not the one from zbrush lol ). You will learn a lot from sculpting, especially if you are planning to use Zbrush in the future.

Also it will be easier to start on a small part of a human body. Start by the arm first and later on you can do a hand, etc…



oks for sculpting in Zbrush theres one book i love above all others

Bridgemans - Complete Guide to Drawing from Life.

the way hes drawn the human anatomy is perfect for zbrush refrence. either buy the book or find a PDF. aside from that gnomons tutorails are alwase good. there are some free ones. or look at the super avarage man for some basic refrence.

good luck :slight_smile:



The guy is superb at drawing muscle anatomy in a wide range of poses, a great perspective change from pure medical anatomy since he aims his work at fitness and strength trainers. Great reference material.


just draw people a lot, it will take a long time but it’s an essential skill in cg and there is no easy way around it.


Anatomy for artists is all well and good (and there are a lot of books pertaining to that). However, if you’re really interested in recreating, you’d be surprised how much you’ll learn from taking a science class. I’d suggest an intro class in any of the following disciplines:

Human Biology
Human Anatomy
Exercise Science

I’ve taken base classes in all of these, from high school through to college. They make you think of things you’d never think of otherwise. Of course, each of the above will probably have somewhere between a bit and a lot of information impertinent to what you want to learn. However, I think that sometimes that stuff is the best because it makes you wonder how you can apply it to what you want to do.

But anyways, you actually stumbled on a technique Dreamworks used to create Shrek: start with a skeleton. They created all of Shrek 3-dimensionally, anatomy and all. This has it’s pros and cons, of course, but can be a fun exercise I suppose…never tried it myself.


Thanks everyone, I’ve taken up drawing… :wink:


Hi, how is your anatomy study going?

I’m quite late to the thread, but I wanted to add that when I asked myself the same question as you, I ended up watching anatomy lessons by Glen Vilppu. And although he is an astounding teacher and artist, I must say that I didnt learn enough about anatomy to recreate it for myself. Following his instructions ended with me copying his drawing, which was alright for that specific angle, but when it came time to shift perspective I found myself frustrated!

I’ve recently been learning anatomy from Wikipedia. I learned by drawing every part of the body from the bone to the muscle. Not in high detail, but the basic form, and their orientation in space. I stuck to drawing mostly orthographic views and started building a library of muscles and major anchor points in my head. I’ve learned a tremendous amount like this. Learn the major muscles, and know where they anchor to-from. Know their relative mass and their orientation on the body (lateral vs medial, anterior vs posterior). Write down lots of useful notes. Its practically a science.

My point is just that there is no substitute for hard work. You have to interpret anatomy your own way. Simply following a highly acclaimed teacher will teach you surprisingly little. Its best to just plop down and really understand whats going on. It takes hundreds of hours of drawing to explain.


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