Character Creation Module 04


Welcome to Module 04!!


You could easily fill several classes with fundamental anatomical information and leave more to be desired. This module is intended to give you key, fundamental ideas upon which you can build your knowledge of anatomy. The entire process of mastering anatomy is after all, a life long endeavor.

The Design of Anatomy
As we talk more about the specifics of anatomy it is important to realize that memorizing anatomy does not mean your character sculpture will be great! After all, your doctor probably knows quite a bit about human anatomy but that does not mean they could create a beautiful character sculpt. The act of memorizing the information is only the first step.  As an artist you need to sculpt your character’s anatomy in a way that creates rhythms that flow throughout the figure and understand how they influence the overall gesture. Not understanding how to do this is an easy trap to fall into and it is the most common shortcoming of character art. Today it runs rampant in our CG community, but I’ll let you in on a little secret: it’s something that has been happening for centuries!

Take a look at the image below of the two statues flanking the town hall’s entrance in the Palazzo Vechio, in Florence, Italy.  On the left is a replica of Michelangelo Buonarroti’s David and on the right is Baccio Bandinelli’s Heracles. The difference in quality between these two sculptures could not be greater. Can you guess which one has been ridiculed for centuries? If you said, not Michelangelo’s, you are correct. In Heracles, the anatomy is all there. The muscles originate from the right points and they insert into their correct landmarks, so what is the problem? What is it lacking? Why have locals been leaving sacks of potatoes next to it for hundreds of years?

As you might have already guessed, it is lacking anatomical design; including rhythms, gesture, proper posture and planned straights-to-curves (topics we will be covering in depth as part of module 5). All the individual parts of its anatomy are executed with educated accuracy but they have absolutely no designed relationship to one another. Like a sack of potatoes, all the muscles and forms are given equal attention. Every muscle is flexed and exaggerated. And, when you exaggerate everything it all becomes the same, which does not give your eye a place to rest, or allow for designed areas of interest.

Use this knowledge to examine and critique how you have executed the anatomy in your previous character sculpts. Keep these ideas at the forefront of your creative process as you begin to refine the anatomy of your current character design.

For the purposes of this module, I would like to grab a few of your WIP models and do sculpt-overs to showcase how subtle form changes based on the underlying anatomy can improve the quality of any sculpt. I will be posting the sculpt-overs at the bottom of this page.


Quick Anatomy Turntable Reference
Here’s a turntable reference I created with ZBrush and Photoshop for the recent ZBrush Central interview on Zack Petroc Studios. We will be talking about rendering and presenting your work in the weeks to come. I think you guys will easily be able to outdo the quality of this render once I show you the simple underlying steps.

Anatomy Structure
Over the years I’ve gotten many emails with questions about best approaches for learning anatomy and what references I would recommend. To be honest, I was never really satisfied with the answers I was able to give people and that’s what inspired me to create my anatomy .ZTL. No matter what you end up using to improve your anatomy skills, there was one element of my education that helped me more than any other. It was learning the origin and insertion points of each of the major muscles. Knowing where a muscle starts and stops is 90% of the battle. The sooner you start mastering that information, the sooner your character work will improve.


Video: Anatomy, Short Overview

  • Importance of Anatomy Gesture
  • Benefits of learning Origin and Insertion Points
  • Creating your own Ecroche’
  • Accentuate the straights and curves in your sculpt

Some of you may already have access to this video but I wanted to embed it here just in case. Again, I cannot stress enough how much studying the origin and insertion points of the outer level muscles will improve your character sculpts. The parameters of this class will not allow for us to do a complete digital ecroche’, but I would highly recommend FORCING yourself to do one in the near future if you have not done so already.


Video: Anatomy Origin and Insertion Points

  • Overall gesture of the skeleton
  • Major forms of the skull
  • Major masses of the rib cage
  • Angle of legs
  • Main muscles of the chest
  • Main muscles of the arm
  • Main muscles of the leg

These proportion drawings by Andrew Loomis¹ are amazing. I would highly recommend studying them, and even trying to recreate them! They encompass a balance of proportion, stance, and straights and curves, that add an elevated sense of “life” while showcasing a master’s level of execution. We will be talking about some of the key elements and lessons to be learned from these drawings in the video: Thark Anatomy and Andrew Loomis located further down in this module.


Anatomy Across Creatures
This image is worth singling out to showcase how the same principle anatomy takes different forms in all these different creatures. Try to see how the anatomical layout of your creation would be structured relative to these other animals. Building your designs on this kind of real foundation will always make them more believable².



Video: Thark Anatomy and Andrew Loomis

  • Gestures of the drawings
  • Shape of the head through growth
  • Proportions influencing movement
  • Lower Leg Proportions
  • Height and Frame
  • Pectoralis Major muscle direction example
  • Forearm structure
  • Triceps Band
  • Quad Rhythms
  • Lower Leg Rhythms
  • Leading the Character (sneak peak)


It’s time to really start diving in to your sculpt- literally. Get in there and figure out those insides! What is your character’s anatomy lacking? What about it looks odd to you? The first step in fixing a problem is finding it. Identify an issue and dive into your reference materials to seek out the solution. But remember, don’t get caught up in those details. Try to focus on the overall foundation, structure and anatomy. I’ll be checking in on your individual posts this week and providing feedback.

Human, animal and fantasy anatomy is such and incredibly complex subject that even though I’ve collected several books on the subject over the years, I still find myself wishing I had more and even thinking how great it would be to go back and hit the cadaver labs again. Here are a few book references I’d recommend.

Anatomy and Structure
Human Anatomy For Artists by Eliot Goldfinger
An Atlas of Anatomy For Artists by Fritz Schider
Constructive Anatomy by George B. Bridgman (I think this one’s online now)
Figure Drawing For All It’s Worth¹ by Andrew Loomis (Owning the physical book is worth every penny!)
Download Link- Figure Drawing For All It’s Worth, since the original one is out of print I don’t mind including the pdf
Anatomy for the Artist by Sarah Simblet
Drawing the Head and Hands by Andrew Loomis


Animal Anatomy and Structure
An Atlas of Animal Anatomy
 by W. Ellenberger, H. Dittrich H. Baum
The Weatherly Guide to Drawing Animals² by Joe Weatherly




In addition to the Face Anatomy and Landmarks lecture, I’ve added a few select sculpt-overs that showcase common problemsthat often occur when developing a character.

Video: Face Anatomy and Landmarks

  • The skull
  • Proportions and relationships
  • Muscles of the face
  • Developing muscle form


Video: Base mesh Sculpt Over_01

  • Establish torso, then adjust limb and head placement
  • Proportions and rhythms of the appendages
  • Avoid details of the body and face


Video: Anatomy Sculpt Over_01

  • Global masses first
  • Proportions and limb length
  • Arm orientation
  • Stance
  • Face scale on younger characters


Video: Anatomy Gesture Sculpt Over_01

  • Contrapposto
  • Proportions and limb length
  • Open and closed sides of a pose
  • Stance
  • Balance of the pose