How to Draw Arms in Charcoal & Photoshop

Get concrete tips and anatomy advice on how to draw arms in a convincing way.

Arms have a complex structure of bones, ligaments, and muscles that can be challenging to figure out.

46 min. video

This drawing tutorial provides specific landmarks to identify and how to put all the parts together to create a fluid drawing.

Demo by Teaching Artist Jordan McCracken-Foster and Art Prof Clara Lieu.

Charcoal Drawing: Arms

Video Walkthrough

  • Arms can be relatively “easy” to draw compared to legs.
  • Arms do not have as many prominent muscles, and the structures are more clear compared to legs.
  • There are many very thin, small muscles, like the extensor and flexor muscles, inside the arm that really are not necessary to learn and identify.
  • Anatomy is a skill that takes years to hone, it takes much more study for a longer period of time than most art skills.
  • The 2500 Challenge is a great way to get lots of “pencil mileage. The Brachioradialis is a prominent muscles that wraps around the arm, it’s very sculptural as a form.
  • Our free Anatomy Track is a sequence of anatomy lessons and prompts you can do at your own pace.
  • Drawing anatomy from imagination is more about “memorizing” the image from drawing it very often.
  • Use our slideshow on arms (used in our video lecture) to get a quick overview of the structure.
  • Being able to draw from imagination is not a sign of being a “better” artist, most artists draw from reference.
  • Often times it’s the hand that you spend much more time on than the arm itself.
  • We recommend drawing where the arm connects into the torso, that connection is important for the arm to look convincing.
  • There are a lot of ideas out there about “how to draw women” and “how to draw men,” but really, each person is different and lot of those ideas go out the window for that reason.
  • Proportions are not necessarily about your drawing being accurate to the reference photo.
  • The important part is that your drawing is convincing, so it may not be accurate, but as long as no one immediately notices a body part being out of proportion, you’re good!
  • Often times copying a photo to be as accurate as possible can make for a very boring drawing.
Anatomy Resources
Draw a Skull Inside a Portrait

Bones mentioned

  • Humerus
  • Radius
  • Ulna
  • Elbow

Muscles in the video

  • Deltoid
  • Triceps
  • Bicep
  • Brachioradialis
  • Pectoralis Major
  • Extensor muscle group
  • Flexor muscle group
Anatomy Resources Page gif

Timed Drawing Videos

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