6 Best Figure Drawing Poses for Art Reference for Stunning Character Designs (2024)

Poses for art reference are essential for building your anatomical library and creating unforgettable character designs that resonate with your viewers. In this article, we’ll take a look into the types of art reference poses for character designs that will make your characters stand out and bring them to life. Each pose featured in this article has art reference photos with my personal notes, to help you understand how and why each stance can make your character designs. After all, would you rather draw a character that’s stiff or one that’s dynamic and full of personality?

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Table of Contents

  1. Why Are Poses for Art Reference So Important?
  2. Types of Art Reference Photos for Character Designs
  3. 6 Essential Poses for Art Reference for Dynamic Character Designs

Why Are Poses for Art Reference So Important?

The right poses for art reference can really make your characters and figure drawings look dynamic, emotional, and breath-taking instead of blocky and stiff. When thinking of poses for art reference, we usually imagine images of figure models posing or art reference photos. Photos for art reference are fantastic because they’re based in reality and great for achieving realism. But some of the most memorable art is when an artist creates gesture in their work with accentuation and exaggeration.

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Gesture and motion sometimes tend to get lost in our art when we always reference from reality. I personally find that artist interpretations of poses for art reference really help me grasp emotion and gesture. They help me bring life into my own drawings and give a sense motion that I sometimes can’t get from art reference photos of figures. Do you learn better from art reference photos or from how an artist interpret people and objects in their own way? I’m hoping that these poses for art reference do the same for you.

If you want to start drawing figures/characters right away, try these super easy and gestural Drawing Ideas of People to help make your drawings look more dynamic and fluid, perfect for all skill levels!

Types of Art Reference Photos for Character Designs

Choosing the right art reference photos are incredibly important. Why? Because you’re using that pic as inspiration and as a guideline. If you have a bad reference photo, you’re art will most likely be that same quality. So, having high standards in what photos for art reference you use will reflect in your art.

1. Photographs of Figure Models

These are just pictures/ photographs of (sometimes nude) figure models posing against plain backgrounds. For examples of what these look like, Line of Action has great professionally lit figure photography.

Pros of using photos for art reference:

  • Great lighting, dynamic poses, and good description of anatomy
  • Realistic and based in reality


  • Easy to get lost in detail
  • Photo quality and lighting may be bad
  • Hard to accentuate features and exaggerate muscular forms and anatomy
  • Drawings can end up looking stiff and static (no-movement) very easily

2. Drawings and Sketches by Professional Artists

These types of art reference photos are drawings and sketches of figure models drawn by professional artists and animators, not photography of the models themselves. You might not see dramatic lighting or even a background, just the sketch of the figure model an artist drew.

The image below is an example of using professional drawings and sketches as pose reference for character designs. For more great examples of this, check out Quickposes, a site with many types of drawing photos for art reference.

Pros of using drawings and sketches by professional artists as art reference photos:

  • Easy to focus on anatomy, form, and gesture
  • Won’t get caught up in fine details
  • Easy to understand exaggerations of forms and anatomical features
  • Gets your character designs and drawings to look more stylized and unique


  • You could be plagiarizing another artist’s work if you draw the exact same pose and style without giving credit to the artist if you post your art online
  • Art reference photos may not have realistic lighting or lighting at all
  • Some artwork photos for art reference may have very little to no anatomical detail or the anatomy may be incorrect
  • Some drawings and sketches may be hard for you to understand or visually interpret, depending on the artist’s style

Depending on the style you want to draw in, one type of art reference is better than the other. Keep this in mind when creating your characters or drawing people from life.

An important tip to remember is that hair and hair styles are a huge part of showing off the personality of a character or figure. So don’t forget to make it gestural as well. Check out this easy drawing tutorial & 9 Wacky, Unique Hair Bun Styles to make your characters stand out even more!

Now let’s move on to the poses for art reference!

6 Essential Figure Poses for Art Reference for Stunning Character Designs

Now, before we go further, I will say these art reference photos might be a little different than what you might be thinking. These are not photos but pages of my sketchbook where I made stick figure poses from imagination. I didn’t directly use references for these, as I mostly imagined them and pulled some aspects from memory.

Why Stick Figures?

For me, I find it easiest to understand the basics of character design poses without getting caught up in the details, by breaking the human figure down to it’s most basic shapes and forms. When I started drawing characters, I’d get so focused on clothing and making the hair and face look perfect, that the rest of the figure looked very stiff. Does this ever happen to you?

When you’re not distracted by things like anatomy and lighting, it’s much easier to understand body movement and position.

  • Easier to understand position of appendages and how they move.
  • Much easier to see the “line of action” – the main line of gesture or movement of a figure that gives an overall impression.
  • Starting with simple forms is less intimidating and more importantly less time-consuming!

I use circles as joints because those are the main pivot points for action and movement, as seen below with the first pose.

1. 3/4 Beauty Shot or “The Pose”

This is an essential pose for character design because it’s easy to execute while showing a hint of perspective with the left leg slightly bent. Showing just a tiny bit of perspective in your characters shows off your ability to create visual depth and make it more interesting to look at.

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A beauty shot is an image of a figure or object that is between a profile view and a side view, showing slight perspective.

If you were to draw a very good profile or side view of a character, no matter how good it looks, it will never be as interesting to look at vs. a slight 3/4 view. Why? Because there’s much more information to your character in a 3/4 view than just a side view. Also, a slight 3/4 view describes so much more of a character’s form and design giving it 3-dimensions rather than a flat 2D drawing.

2. Shy or “The Slouch”

Like the art reference photos above, this next pose is a more traditional 3/4 view where you can see more of the left side of the body.

Say you want to draw a shy character and show off that emotion. How would you do it?

Well, shy people are closed off with their body and more huddled, not open. So their arms and legs are closer to their body. Not outstretched like they want to give a hug or say hi to someone.

  • Create a curved line of action as the main line of movement for the figure. It sets up the pose to be hunched.
  • Draw the arms close to the body. They don’t have to be angles but the hands should be close or touching the figure’s body. It gives a sense of being closed-off.
  • The legs shouldn’t have much movement and should also stay relatively close to the center of the pelvis.
  • You can bend the legs to further accentuate the figure’s hunch.
  • Keep head close to shoulders – shows mystery, trying to hide, or lack of confidence.

3. Sad

You can’t have emotional poses for character designs if you don’t show a bit of vulnerability.

When drawing sad characters or figures, again make your figure closed off and contained.

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Unlike the shy art reference photos, the one above is more exaggerated.

When drawing a sad character, here are a few points to note:

  • Character’s head is either looking down and/or resting on something.
  • Overall pose is in a downward direction.
  • Back is not straight and upright but hunched or curved.

4. Back Pose at Low Angle

One of the next poses for art reference is drawing a character at a low angle. This means our view is low to the ground and we’re looking up at the figure.

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This is a great type of art reference pose because it’s very dynamic. Even though the character itself isn’t very gestural, the perspective appears to give the figure movement, volume, and dimension.

Main points when drawing these types of art reference poses:

  • Draw a 3D box where you can see the bottom.
  • Draw your character inside the box while following the box’s sides of when they converge and when they diverge to really push the perspective.
  • Make sure you see the undersides of your figure or bottom edges, like the bottom edge of a head or pelvis like in the purple

5. High Angle Pose

Here are some photos for art reference showing a character pose from a high angle.

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High angle poses have the same effect as low angle ones in that they’re very dynamic to look at. They’re usually used to show a character in a voyeuristic or semi-creepy angle or even to make the character look smaller or appear less important. Like something foreboding will happen. So if you’re drawing a villainous vampire, an evil ruler of the skies who commands soul-sucking dragons, or a witch who uses devouring enchantments and herbs to create hungry teenagers bent on rampaging through school cafeterias, then these are the perfect poses for character designs in similar categories.

  • High angle poses are also fantastic for showing characters or figures that are less important. Like dwarves, a beefed-up meat head who occasionally talks to the main charcter, or any secondary or sub-character.
  • Draw a box in perspective, then your figure inside, making sure it converges downward. Hint: it’ll really help sell this point of view!
  • When done right, you should see (or pay attention to) the top sides of your figure (colored in purple below).

The pose above is something simple to get you started. If you’re not used to drawing characters from high or low angles, a simple straight pose with the figure’s hands on their sides is a great place to start. Don’t try to make it too complicated, though, esp. if this isn’t something you’re used to drawing.

6. Foreshortening – “Flying Hero Pose”

The last of these essential poses for character designs is foreshortening.

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Foreshortening is when a part of an object or figure appears closer to us than the rest of the object due to our viewpoint in perspective. Basically, the closer something is to us, the larger it looks. And the further something is, the smaller it appears. For example, if you hold your hand right up to your face, it looks large but when you extend your arm and hand in front of you, it looks smaller. It’s the same when drawing objects and figures.

There are many different types of art reference poses showing foreshortening from all sorts of angles.

  • Good foreshortening photos for art reference have figures posed where you can’t see their full body, only from certain angles where parts of their body are obscured or when you can only see 1 angle or side of their face.
  • Try taking your own art reference photos with a friend using your phone camera by placing an arm or hand in front of you.

The art reference photos above show a “flying hero” pose.

  • Draw a box in perspective that goes to a vanishing point.
  • One hand or limb is closer to us, so it looks bigger than other areas – Draw it bigger!
  • The line of action is shaped like a ‘swoosh’, like a trail of wind to give a weightless feel.
  • Pose is diagonal but can be horizontal when you want to show a character’s speed when flying or in full-flight.

Now you’re ready to create some stunning character and figure drawings using these awesome poses! With the right kinds of art reference photos, you can create unique figures and characters while standing out from the crowd.

More Helpful Drawing Tutorials & Guides

Check out some of these helpful resources for more figure drawing ideas, tutorials, and more:

  • | Post
  • 10 Random Doodles to Draw When You’re Bored | Post
  • How to Start Drawing with No Art Experience| Post
  • 9 Brutal Truths Before You Start Drawing to Always Be Successful at Art | Post
  • How to Get Back Into Drawing After a Long Break | Post
  • How to Make Stylized Fantasy Mushroom Drawings Step by Step | Post
  • | Post
  • How to Draw Awesome Hair Buns for Male and Female Character Designs| Post
  • 9 Easy Hair Bun Styles that Will Make Your Characters Stand Out| Post
  • 10 Art Inspiration Ideas to Jumpstart Your Creativitiy| Post

Other Resources for easy ways of drawing the human figure from life:

  • Quick Poses– A unique site of multiple drawing ideas of people based on artists’ sketches.
  • Line of Action– Timed figure drawing sessions customized to you, with human figure drawing, animal drawing, expressions, & more.

See you in the next post!

6 Best Figure Drawing Poses for Art Reference for Stunning Character Designs (2024)


What is a pose in character design? ›

While design determines how a character looks, their pose is what reveals their emotions. Their body language helps the audience understand how they feel. If the pose of a character is off, a scene could fall flat. Learning how to pose characters is an essential skill in any visual storytelling project.

Where can I find good art poses? ›

Pinterest.com. If you like more creative and modern poses – Pinterest is something for you. It is a preferred drawing reference wesbite of many artists, because of how easy it is to find what you are looking for. I really like using Pinterest, because it already gives you the sphere and style in most of the pictures.

How do I choose a pose for art? ›

Here are some ways to work on that:
  1. Be your own reference. If you're struggling to think of a pose, get up and strike some poses! ...
  2. Gesture drawing warmups... ...
  3. Memory training: this is an exercise, not for finished art. ...
  4. Scribbles/cloud watching: one of my favorite ways for starting when I am totally blank from ideas.
Jun 12, 2020

How do I find a specific pose for a drawing? ›

If you can think of a pose, you could take a picture of yourself doing said pose as a reference. But if not, you can use this app called pinterest, and look up drawing poses. It's the most useful app I've ever used for references/help.

What are the basic drawing poses needed for a character animation? ›

To create a good pose for animation, start by understanding the character's personality and the scene's context. Think about the character's emotions and motivations. Use strong silhouettes to make the pose clear and expressive. Pay attention to weight distribution, balance, and the character's center of gravity.

What are the basic shapes of character design? ›

One might think that all characters in storyboard animation are made up of basic shapes like circles, squares, and triangles, but there are situations where we can mix all these shapes to create a character. Besides, circles, squares, and triangles don't always mean one thing.

Where do you find reference photos for figure drawings? ›

FREE Reference Photo Websites for Artists
  • The Artist Reference Image Library. Go to the Image Library.
  • Pixabay.
  • Unsplash.
  • Flickr. Not all photos are Creative Commons, be sure the ones you choose are free.
  • Dreamstime. Both free and paid images are available on this website. ...
  • Jason Morgan.
  • Morguefile.
  • Paint My Photo.

What is the best art pose app? ›

Ever tried googling for a pose or asking your friend to pose for your artwork? Then you should download and try Magic Poser! Magic Poser is the leading app for posing 3D characters, creating 3D scenes and setting up stunning lighting effects. 12+ million artists use our app to draw better and faster.

What is the perfect pose for a picture? ›

If you don't know how to pose for a photo, try this neat trick and see a big difference. Instead of facing straight towards the camera, twist your body to one side – your best side. Don't turn all the way to your profile – stop halfway, when you're at a 45-degree angle from the camera.

How do you pose beautifully? ›

4 – Create Distance Between Your Torso & Arm

It's instinct! Tell someone to pose for a photo, and inevitably, they will press their arms tight against their torso. In fact, when we stand naturally, we usually place our arms flat against our sides.

What is an artistic pose? ›

Pose refers to the way in which a figure is positioned in an artwork, or their body language. While a straightforward definition, artists rely on recognizable poses that they've tweaked (a change of medium or an added exaggeration) to convey their narrative.

What is the website for pose references? ›

Sketch Daily is one of the first websites that come mind for practicing or getting some pose inspiration. For practice it is one of the best resources because it comes with a nifty timer feature that lets you decide how long you want to spend sketching a given reference picture.

What is the website that gives poses? ›

This is a tool for practicing drawing that displays random poses at regular intervals. In 2005, posemaniacs.com was the first in the world to make it available on the web, and it has since spread to a variety of sites.

What is a drawing from life pose called? ›

A life drawing is a drawing of the human figure, traditionally nude, from observation of a live model. Creating life drawings, or life studies, in a life class, has been a large element in the traditional training of artists in the Western world since the Renaissance.

What is an example of pose? ›

To pose is to assume a particular stance. Like a runway model strutting to the end of the catwalk, posing with her hands on her hips, and then gracefully walking back.

What does pose mean in writing? ›

verb (used without object),posed, pos·ing. to assume a particular attitude or stance, especially with the hope of impressing others: He likes to pose as an authority on literature. to present oneself insincerely: He seems to be posing in all his behavior.

What is poses in art? ›

Pose refers to the way in which a figure is positioned in an artwork, or their body language. While a straightforward definition, artists rely on recognizable poses that they've tweaked (a change of medium or an added exaggeration) to convey their narrative.

What is the concept of posing? ›

1. : to assume a posture or attitude usually for artistic purposes. 2. : to affect an attitude or character usually to deceive or impress.


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