how to draw a male fashion figure

male figure colour

I don’t often have the opportunity to draw male fashion figures, although I wish I did, so I would get more practice at it. Like a lot of fashion illustrators, I find drawing male figures more challenging than drawing female figures. Last year, when I posted the tutorial on female fashion figures I got requests for this post… I guess it took me a while to work up to it.

It is interesting to consider why exactly male fashion figures are trickier – I think it has something to do with the masculine renunciation. In preparation for this post I did a lot of image reference research of male models and found that there are really only two basic variations on static “poses” – either standing or leaning against a wall. Maybe because male models are so top-heavy, =). “Masculine” poses tend to look un-posed, or they appear feminine. This paradox – the unpose – is what makes capturing that “straight dude” look so tricky. As with most things, subtlety is more demanding and less forgiving than flamboyance, and drawing successful male fashion figures requires the ability to unlearn a lot of the swoosh-y ‘flair’ that you get accustomed to using for female figures.

Despite the limitations you have to deal with when drawing “masculine” affectations, male figures are utterly delightful to render, especially if you enjoy being inspired by handsome men. So fear not: grab a pencil, a few sheets of translucent paper, pictures of your favourite boys, and whatever other materials you have on hand and give it a go.

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Just as we do for female figures, the first step (1) is to draw a vertical line down the center of our paper, and divide it into 8 equal sections. If your male figure will be shown beside a female figure, remember to make each section just slightly longer than the sections you used for her, so he will appear bigger-proportioned and taller.

It’s also important to establish an attitude or intention for the figure (2) by swiping a few loose lines. Here, if you want your dude to look ‘straight’, the trick is to make these lines virtually straight – no S-curves. Just a very restrained, masculine gesture. I’ve decided to be more casual here so I’ve laid down a relaxed swish. These are just abstract lines to establish a flow for your figure.

Draw a head shape in the top section.

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Next, draw two trapezoids (3) to represent the major sections of the torso. I’ve decided to have the figure facing slightly to the side, so I’ve drawn the torso as if it’s a cereal box, seen from the side. Divide the trapezoid in half to find the center front line of the figure.

Draw another trapezoid for the hips. Unlike female fashion figures, male figures generally do not have pronounced contrapposto. I also draw a little shape for his package, just as I do for the breasts on the female figure. It’s centered on the middle line of the figure. The current fashionable male silhouette has a long torso, so the legs aren’t as exaggerated as they can be for female figures.

Nipples are equidistant from that center front line, parallel with the shoulders, at the third mark from the top. (4) Belly button is on the fourth mark from the top.

This figure will have his hands in his pockets, so the first thing I position is the pockets, and how his thumbs will be oh-so-casually looped in them. Remember the hands should be big enough to cover the face.

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Once I know where the hands are, I can add the arms. (5) They’re just loose lines from the shoulder. Elbows are around belly-button level. I also draw feet, positioned at the bottom mark, with one on each side of the center line – or as I’ve done here, placing one foot directly on the center line. Just don’t put both feet on one side of the line or he’ll look like he’s falling over. Feet should be long, about a section-length. Knees are at the third mark from the bottom. Make sure the calves and thighs are the same length.

Now that the stick figure skeleton has established the proportions, (6) you can add the muscles on the shoulders and arms. Bigger circles for bigger muscles. Use reference images as a guide.

The one thing I prefer, especially if the figure is to be used as a croquis or paper doll, is to avoid too many muscles. It makes it easier to read the proportions of clothing drawn based on a more naturally muscled figure . If the fashion is a skinny suit or skinny jeans, they won’t look so skinny if they’re drawn on top of Superman. Or if the garment is meant to be loose, it would look comically large on an extremely large-chested figure.

But that could also relate to personal preference – in the past I’ve found it very difficult to draw very beefy dudes because I don’t find that much muscle aesthetically pleasing. I have a hard time drawing things that I don’t find aesthetically pleasing, that’s why I’m a fashion illustrator.

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When drawing a male figure, it’s helpful to change the gestures that you draw with too, to achieve a more mascu-line quality (sorry) – so instead of swishy curves, I try to use more straight lines and firm swipes. (7) As usual, I feel the rough sketch was in a way more successful than the final, but of course it’s just a smudgy mess by the time I get done with it. If yours is too, that’s all right. Start light, keep drawing lines and darken the ones that feel right. I gave him drop-crotch shorts to emphasize his long body even more.

I ink the figure on a new sheet of paper, also focusing on using gesture for a more angular line quality. (8, bottom right) Scan it into Photoshop, clean it up, and it’s ready to colour up like it is up top. I just put a multiply layer over the line art and colour using whatever techniques I please, liberally applying the Dodge and Burn tools to define his body. Here I added a touch of body hair and stubble and allowed the lines and edges to be a bit less precise to keep him from looking too smooth.

Meet your male fashion figure! If you followed this tutorial I’d love to see what you came up with.


5 thoughts on “how to draw a male fashion figure”

  1. I think the “rough sketch is better” phenomenon must be in our own heads because we can see the potential of where the sketch can go. Because to me your final is really awesome.

    But for my own work I too always feel like the final never lives up to the sketch.

  2. Love this tutorial. In have always failed to get the proportions just right on mine but perhaps need to spend longer getting it right at the sketching stage.

  3. Hi Kitty – I think it’s just that pencil offers a subtlety that ink can’t really capture. Sometimes inking something feels like a shame!

    Style is… – glad you found it useful!

  4. Thanks for the Tutorial Danielle, I really appreciate it. It’s so hard finding good tutorials on drawing the male figure.

    If I’ve never mentioned it. I LOVE your style of illustration; for it’s simplicity and elegance in execution.

    For me, I think I prefer the inked piece, it’s simple, straight to the point and nothing extra; everything where it should be, minimal details without taking away from the idea. Simple, Beautiful, Elegant.

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