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How to Draw the Spine

February 10, 201510 Comments

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Assignment: Draw the Spine

There are 3 assignments. “Draw Skelly”, “Trace Models” and “Draw Models”. Scroll down for instructions.

joint assignment

Download Assignment Photos


Last time you learned about the anatomy of the spine. In this lesson you will learn how to draw the spine in motion along with 3 assignments to practice drawing the spine.

We’re going to draw the spine as a simple cylindrical shape. This will help us focus on the motion of the spine rather than trying to render the details. Rendering the details of the spine will help you get better at rendering, but that’s not the priority of this lesson. Let’s stick to learning the mechanics of the spine. That will be much more beneficial to your understanding of the human body and how to draw it. It will help you invent poses from your imagination.

How to Draw the Spine Temp 2

Proportions of the Spine

Before we get into posing the spine we need to learn the proportions. So, let’s start with a drawing of the side view. I measure out 4 equal units.

How-To-Draw-the-Spine-Step-1The Lumbar section is 1 ¼ units.
The Cervical section is ¾ of a unit.
And that leaves 2 units for the Thoracic section.

I know that’s kind of technical, so you can remember that the cervical is a bit less than 1 unit, lumbar is a bit more than 1 unit and thoracic is exactly 2 units. Everybody’s individual proportions will vary a bit anyway.

A thick curvy cylinder for the lumbar section. This section is not tilted forward or back in the neutral position. The top and bottom will be aligned vertically with a forward curve between. Now, of course this is only in the neutral position. When the spine moves, they won’t be aligned vertically.

The thoracic section however is tilted backward. So, the top will be farther back than the bottom, resulting in the backward lean of the ribcage. And again, this is for the neutral position. The thickness of the cylinder will get thinner as we get closer to the top.

Finally the cervical section. It’s the thinnest and straightest of the sections.

How-To-Draw-the-Spine-Step-2If you really want to challenge yourself, draw the spine in various positions. This is really helpful to imagine the spine moving in space. If you don’t have experience with perspective this will be a challenge. But it’s a good challenge. Keep that in mind and do your best. If you struggle with it, the best way to improve is to keep working at it.

How-To-Draw-the-Spine-Step-3Now, let’s add a sacrum to these spines. The height of the sacrum is about ¾ of the Lumbar section. The bottom is farther back than the top. The sacrum is very curvy. It starts thicker at the top and thin at the tailbone.


The 3 major masses

One of the most important things about the spine is that it moves the 3 major masses – The head, rib cage and pelvis. So, it makes sense to include the 3 masses while you practice drawing the spine.

In the next lessons, on the pelvis and rib cage, I’ll show you how to construct more descriptive volumes. For now you can just stick to a cylinder for the pelvis (which is narrower at the bottom) and an egg-like shape for the rib cage. Remember, the ribcage tilts backward and the pelvis tilts forward.

Let’s put a head on this guy. I’m a big fan of the Loomis Method, so I’ll put a Loomis head on there. If you don’t know what that is, check out my video called How to Draw the Head from Any Angle

Exercise #1 – Draw Skelly

In the assignment images above, there are 5 images of Skelly in various poses. The challenge here is to simplify the bones into the simple volumes that I just showed you. This will help you get familiar with the shapes and their relationships.

Exercise #2 – Trace Models

This is very much like the Anatomy Tracing assignment we did earlier in this course. Except this time, instead of analyzing the surface anatomy, we will be finding the skeletal structure underneath all the surface anatomy.

So, in Exercise 1 you got familiar with the shapes and relationships of the Spine and the 3 major masses. Now, with the real models, those shapes are not so obvious. You have to think a bit. Figure out where they are.

Exercise #3 – Draw Models

Very similar to Exercise 2, except this time we’re not tracing! You have to find the masses while keeping track of proportions and gesture. Do you remember those from the Figure Drawing course?

This exists under the surface of this. But can you see it? Well, probably not at first. It’s not going to happen on your first try. You need to keep trying, keep searching for those masses and slowly your ability to see under the surface will improve.


Alright guys, so now it’s your turn. Go ahead and download the assignment images from the link in the description. Post your drawings in the anatomy facebook group at And check out for extended anatomy lessons and more examples of the assignments. Once your finished continue on to the next lesson.

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Comments (10)

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  1. Sergey Kraynik says:

    I liked this lesson. Very interesting.
    Stan, will these new lessons be included in “Figure Drawning Premium”? Will I be able to download them after buying?

    Thanks a lot for such great lessons!
    From Russia with thankfulness, Sergey K.

  2. rosasu says:

    Just a question.
    If we buy the Premium course we’ll be able to download the 3D models?

  3. Art Stark says:

    Hi Stan,
    How does the thoracic rotate without the rib pairs moving relative to each other? Your video says the lumbar does not rotate and the thoracic is confined with the ribcage. I’m having a hard time picturing the thoracic vertebrae rotating without the ribcage coming apart.
    By the way, with your help, I’m finally getting through Peck’s Anatomy for the Artist after owning it for 30 some years!
    Thanks for your help,
    — Art Stark

  4. Mohamed says:

    Just writing to say “Thanks” for all the effort. I love the assignments, and the downloadable contents.

  5. Timothy Bunn says:

    hey I love the assignments and how you present themlove the way you teach that’s what draws me to you thanks

  6. Vausant Basset says:

    The first few times I watch these tutorials I didn’t follow the instructions or do the assignments. After grasping the concepts, thinking about why I should learn, I finally have some patience to focus and try.

    If it is not a free trial, so nicely presented, being updated regularly, I would have given up early.

  7. Eluc says:

    Great information. Lucky me I came across your
    blog by accident (stumbleupon). I have book-marked it for later!

  8. Benjamin says:

    Thanks from Hungary!

    But, I don’t know how to find the cylinder at the bottom. :/

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