Drawing Shenanigans – Skull Anatomy Practice

Since I’ve gotten better at utilizing colours, shading, and vectors, I wanted to try myself at anatomy.

Since this may be a bit of a longer post, here’s a table of contents in case you wanna skip to the fun part (aka “3. To The Drawing Board”)!

  1. Mothgirl
  2. Research and Intentions
  3. To the Drawing Board!
    1. Sketches
    2. Line Art
    3. Base Colour
    4. Accents
    5. Shading
  4. The finished Skulls with and without LineArt look amazing!
  5. What’s next?

Mothgirl

A while ago, I used a friend’s character for the sake of reference material and created this sort of roach/moth girl that turned out incredibly well. I haven’t really drawn proper humanoid characters yet and figured that learning the basics of anatomy and posing might be necessary before I can proceed with stylizing stuff and drawing cuter characters… I also used some greek statues and busts for reference, which ended up being incredibly helpful.

Right here, I noticed that 1) boobs are incredibly hard to get “right” but I luckily had the help of two people that are not only great at drawing… but they also have boobs themselves and hence know what they’re supposed to look like or how they “work”… and 2) the shape and size of shoulder and collar bones are hard to get right. At the same time, the waistline, and other key parts of humanoid depictions require some sort of knowledge on the basics of anatomy.

Regardless of that, I learned a lot with this instance of me drawing something and I tasted blood, effectively.

Research and Intentions

Fast forward to today where I decided to learn how to actually draw skulls and bones. My current VTuber model is cute, don’t get me wrong, but it doesn’t really look nor feel like a “Lich”, which is why I want to redesign it and lean more into the Undead/Lich aesthetic.

My research on the matter resulted in a few key parts that I want to integrate:

  • Long garments, usually robes, often with many ornaments
    • What I mean by this is that, there are often chains holding together body parts or possibly functioning as magic items
    • There are sometimes a big array of rings, pearls, or just symbolic skulls present on the garments
    • Most of the Liches whose design I loved featured garments/robes either with a hood or just long collars
    • I may have to overthink the hat design…
  • Simpler colours for the robes, often quite tattered, but decorated with long strips of cloth bands, and typically wide sleeves
    • I knew that I would love to feature long sleeves but I didn’t realise how often they’d get drawn with wide sleeves… that also highlight the thin-ness of the bones, making them seem more alien in the process
  • Some armour, though mostly to protect the arms or one’s “core”, as well as shoulder pads
    • The Lich King in WoW seemed to be very heavily clad in armour on top of wielding a sword – but I personally didn’t like that.
    • There were a bunch of Liches, from 4e’s and 5e’s Monster Manual as well as Pathfinder’s Wiki, that were wearing some protective gear, like shoulder pads, chokers, some plates around the waistline, as well as wrist guards
  • Glowing eyes or a bright light emanating from the ribcage
    • Typically, because of the humanity being discarded, Liches appear to not care about appearance all that much. They decorate themselves often but don’t care too much about the look of their bodies. Apparently, there are spells in DnD that can stop eyes from rotting and stuff… But many Liches don’t seem to care.
    • The eyes appear to still glow due to the All-Seeing Eye that many Liches appear to acquire.
    • Let’s not think too much about all this: They just look super cool!
  • very stylized skull shapes and teeth, sometimes they have claws as hands
    • Using claws instead of hands not only allows me to have long and pretty finger nails… but it also means that I won’t need to draw hands/fingers. Hooray!
    • The stylized teeth and skull shapes are pretty cool most of the time. There are simpler skeletons out there but in my designs, I experimented with thicker jaw lines and sharper teeth and I love the idea of “fangs” that seem almost vampiric.
  • Some liches wear feathers, twigs, tentacles, horns or even flower-shaped ornaments
    • Feathers and Twigs give Liches a bit of an eccentric vibe that can even seem otherworldly and eldritch, almost
    • Horns may be too much. Tentacles are to be debated.
    • Flowers are great and I may consider adding crocus or nightshade flowers into the mix or as garment decorations and patterns.
      • I mention nightshade and crocus specifically here since they’re my favourite flowers.

To the Drawing Board!

Sketches

For starters, lately, I’ve been loving to use this beige background colour to draw on. It works really well for sketches and illustrations as it’s different enough from other colours to not distract on top of also featuring colour – as opposed to using the transparent or white background that I used to use until now.

For the sketches, I decided to draw a circle for the side view that is slightly elongated followed by some simple drawings as to where the eyes, nose, and jaw are supposed to be. I paid attention to realistic reference pictures to make note of cavities (mostly the jaw hole behind the teeth and the big hole behind it where your ear is).

These sketches look horrible btw… the final product doesn’t. I promise.

The front-view sketch is even worse but you can see what I was going for, right? Right! Great. Let’s move on.

Line Art

So, uh… I did this the vanilla way. No vectors, no fancy stuff. Just me drawing this with my free hand and it turned out well.

Well,… by “well” I mean that the side-view skull looks great but the front-view skull is too thin in terms of the jawline and stuff. On top of that, the teeth are too small and the shape of the jawline sucks.

Also, I used the symmetry tool for the front-view, which is fine in my opinion… but it didn’t turn out as great as the other one.

Base Colour

Afterwards, I decided to add colour to the mix.

Btw, I didn’t draw these steps in order for both versions but rather, drew the front-view skull after I finished the side-view skull. But I’ll show them both here to save you the trouble.

I decided to go for a blue-grey-ish colour as a base with some red-ish accents here and there to touch up the skull colour and make it less bleak. On top of that, I tried adding some darker and brighter spots already to give the skulls more shape… there is a word for it in German “Schraffur” but it appears to translate to “hatch”. Either way, I used circular lines and curves to give the back part of the head a more “round feeling”.

Accents

Afterwards, I added dark blue and purple in parts to essentially add a more ominous and sort of magical vibe to it… Mostly, I saw it in a picture and really loved it, so I wanted to try it out. The “shed tears” aesthetic works really, really, really, really, really well, in my opinion and is absolutely stellar in terms of design choices – on top of making the skull less boring!

Shading

I tried using red shading initially but it really didn’t work with the base colour and just everything. Blue is the way to go here, for sure!

More than anything, I used less shading on the side-view skull and figured I’d focus more on highlight in that instance to keep it prettier, although I should have maybe softened the blow on the back section.

For the front-view, I did shade it a lot more in the front region, as I wanted to check what lighting from below would look like.

The finished Skulls with and without LineArt look amazing!

The finished product included highlights using white that gave the skull more shape and added further colour into the mix. The white works as a contrast to the darker shades of blue but also the base colour, which is pretty great.

The front-view skull didn’t turn out as well but the white helped… a little.

Without the line art, you can tell what it’s supposed to be, so that’s pretty great.

The front-view skull doesn’t look as great but it appears to be recognizable. I’m happy with how these two turned out!

What’s next?

Next, I will be practicing other bones, such as the collarbones, the sternum and the scapula. I wanna get better at drawing a nice vertebrae and other key pieces. Possibly, I could also try myself at a proper illustration of a sitting skeleton of sorts that I could then use as a channel banner or something.

The idea is that I learn the basics and then move on to a more simpler design that is less realistic… mostly since realistic-looking skulls (even ones as amateur-ish as mine here) can seem creepy, unsettling and frankly, uncanny when they’re moving… and that’s the end goal, after all.

I want to have a VTuber model that works with a more Lich-esque and rather Skeleton-like design that is still inspired by a Black Mage… but I also want to have it lean more into traditional lich-designs and the like.

Also, I plan on rigging the head and body separately. I’d love to also rig clothes separately to then be able to add and remove them as I please… and I wanna learn how to do expressions that can be linked to button combinations and the like. Blush, Anger, etc. would be nice to have on command!

I’m incredibly excited about how this one turned out and can’t wait to see how far I’ll come with more practice.

This post was first published on Indiecator by Dan Indiecator aka MagiWasTaken. If you like what you see here and want to see more, you can check me out on Twitch and YouTube as well.

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