Drawing a Female Back Torso with Graphite Powder

See a drawing demo which explains the anatomy of the back while also showing pencil drawing techniques to achieve a convincing sense of realistic form.

Anatomical landmarks shown include the scapula, pelvis, centerline, the Posterior Superior Iliac Spine, and more.

Techniques for creating tone are shown using graphite powder, a white plastic eraser, a kneaded eraser, and a graphite stick on charcoal paper.

Demo led by Art Prof Clara Lieu.

Video Walkthrough

  • Curvature of the centerline on the back.
  • Don’t just outline the figure, draw inside and through the figure.
  • Look for areas of compression in the muscles and fat.
  • Block in a large “rug of tone” with the graphite stick
  • The difference between charcoal powder and graphite powder.
  • Graphite powder is incredibly messy.
  • Smudge with your fingers and also your palm.
  • Graphite powder allows for soft smooth areas and rougher marks.
  • Reductive drawing technique: removing highlights with your eraser.
  • White plastic eraser is great for very bold areas of highlights.
  • Crisp edges vs. soft areas.
  • There is a back and forth between adding and subtracting.
  • Look for the reflected light in the figure.
  • The back is a very subtle form, it’s challenging to draw for that reason.
  • Look for where the skin stretches in the torso.
  • Signs that you are almost finished with the drawing.

Show us what you make!

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Prof Lieu’s Tips

Clara cartoon

It’s easy to think that the human figure is all smooth. Certainly that is true in some places on the figure, but often too much smoothness can give the figure a plastic feeling that feels unnatural.

Jordan McCracken-Foster

You need the variety and textures to give your figure drawings a more naturalistic feel.

Anatomy Resources Page gif

Art Supplies

Muscles & Landmarks mentioned

  • Centerline
  • Deltoid
  • Trapezius

Bones mentioned

  • Scapula
  • Pelvis
  • PSIS (Posterior Superior Iliac Spine)

Reference Photo

Torso Reference, Back #4
Reference Photo Collection gif

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