Traditionally, females didn't take a big part in medieval wars. They could be mothers, cooks, nurses, but as members of the "weaker sex" they wouldn't even think of fighting. Today, when those times are brought back to life in video role-playing games, the player can become whoever he or she wants to—a member of a different species, race, or sex.
However, this choice has little to do with equality. While male characters are pictured as the strongest members of their sex (which makes sense, since they're trained warriors), females seem to be chosen for their attractiveness, not their usefulness in a fight. The armor they wear confirms this view.
Even though initially most of the players were male and they liked it this way, it's no longer the case. It's time to change this ridiculous view of a female warrior, and you—a future concept artist, maybe—can be a part of this revolution. Follow me in this tutorial to learn how to design a realistic female fighter, as deadly on the battlefield as any male.
What's the Problem?
Someone could say: "It's fantasy, it's not supposed to be realistic! In these worlds everyone is attractive, both males and females, because it's our dream." The problem is that most games are about fighting, and while traditional male attractiveness is about his ability to fight (originally, to protect his family), female attractiveness just doesn't have anything to do with it. A "traditionally attractive" female looks ridiculous on a battlefield!
"But females are not made for fighting anyway, so it's impossible to design a realistic female warrior," one could say. It's true that males are on average stronger than females, but as with any average measurement, some females are stronger than some males. How many of you would stand a chance against a female boxer?
Weak females wouldn't go into military training any more than weak males. As a result, a female training to be a warrior was probably born with certain
male-associated traits, like a strongly built body. It would give her an advantage in fighting, but, according to a common belief, a disadvantage in
searching for a husband. But why would it mean anything in a game about killing each other...?
In the Middle Ages, females weren't warriors not because they were weak, but because they had other roles to do, irreplaceable by males. In a fantasy setting—where dreams come true—we can assume that females are more free to choose their path in life, not defined by their sex. Some may devote their life to their family, but others can train all day to be as strong as males. If it were any different, why would you even choose to play as a "weak, family-oriented" female?
Considering all this, let's try to design a female character that looks like a warrior without losing her femininity.
1. Draw the Upper Body
Start by sketching a simplified skeleton of the warrior. You can use the method from my complex tutorial about drawing a human figure. While wide shoulders are traditionally associated with a male figure, they're also associated with strength, and that's what our warrior needs. If you need inspiration, check what the best female athletes look like.
Make the pose relaxed and open, to present the armor clearly.
Lower the Opacity and lock the layer to make a template out of it. If you're drawing traditionally, use the method described in Part 5 of my tutorial about drawing a baby fox with a pencil.
Draw on a New Layer (or a new sheet of paper). Start with the torso. Don't make the waist ridiculously narrow—females don't have fewer internal organs than males!
Add the abdomen. It doesn't need to be detailed; your role here is to figure out where the torso bends.
Put the shoulder muscles on the shoulders.
Connect them to the chest. Don't draw breasts yet.
Add the neck.
Now the arms...
... and the forearms. Again, details aren't necessary, but make sure you're creating the right silhouette.
2. Draw the Lower Body and the Details
We're going to draw the thighs with a simple method, defining only these muscles that are important to the final shape:
Draw the shins...
... and the calves.
Add the hands and feet.
When it comes to the breasts, imagine them in a sports bra. Warriors aren't that different from athletes—they value efficiency over look. The more flattened the breasts, the less they'll get in the way during a fight. A sports bra (or simply wrapping) also stops uncomfortable movement.
3. Draw the Basic Armor
Because I'm not an armor expert, I strongly recommend that you do your own research on every part of the armor we're creating here, using the names I give you. Try to understand its function before you draw it—if you really pay attention to it, you'll be able to create an innovative but functional piece of armor.
Clean up the overlapping lines of the body and fix anything that feels wrong. Lower the Opacity of the layer and create a new one. We're going to create the armor now!
Draw the cuirass first. It's like a vest, except it's hard, padded, and ends below the ribcage level (where the torso bends). Don't create separate "cups" for the breasts—it would be best to ignore them completely for full realism, but you can also try a compromise with a slightly bent front.
Armor doesn't adhere right to the skin—there must be some kind of padding in between. Therefore the cuirass can't look like a tight corset—every female will look a bit bigger in it.
To elongate the cuirass without stiffening the torso, we can add a kind of "flange". It creates room in the waist area without revealing it.
We're going to create a metal "skirt" on the hips. This area needs flexibility, so we can't put solid plates here. Draw small plates connected to each other like scales. If you want to do some research about this part of the armor, try keywords like faulds and tassets.
Add a small, flexible set of plates to protect the crotch area.
Protect the forearm and arms with simple guards. I decided the make the vambraces (forearm guards) out of leather to make the overall weight smaller, and to spice up the design.
The elbows need protection, too, but they also require flexibility. There's a special part of the armor, called couter, that you can use here. It protects the elbow and creates some space to let the arm bend.
Draw the greaves (lower leg guards) and cuisses (upper leg guards).
Just like with the elbows, the knees need flexibility and protection at the same time. Use poleyns to cover them.
Let's return to the torso. You can protect the shoulders with pauldrons or spaulders. In fantasy designs they're often huge and impractical; try to avoid it.
There can be a space between the cuirass and the shoulder armor, leaving the armpit uncovered. This is a vital place to protect, so we can cover them with besagews. In my case I had to make them pretty small because of the frontal bending of the cuirass.
The neck can be protected with chainmail, or with a metal collar (gorget).
Put a helmet on the head. Don't make it too complicated—just make sure it does protect the skull.
Finish the details. Because the armor is already very heavy, I made the other components out of leather. The feet, for example, are not a common target, and they're much more flexible in light armor.
4. Customize the Armor
This is a very basic, vanilla set of armor. Let's work on it some more to make it fit a fantasy universe. Obviously, there's no perfect recipe, so I can only give you some pieces of advice.
It's best when the helmet is smooth and round, so that the attacking sword slides off. It looks pretty boring, though, so additions like horns are often added. This is a very impractical decoration, easy to hit (to knock the helmet/head off with the impact) or to catch (to break the neck). In my case I've used thin plates that don't have any influence on the protection, but they break the dull roundness of the helmet.
I've also added chainmail to protect the neck. This piece imitates long hair, which makes the armor slightly more feminine.
I've covered the "cleavage" and shoulders with ornaments, which makes it look like decorated sleeves of a plain short (cuirass), or naked, tattooed skin. This trick will work even better if you give this part of armor a different shade.
The front of the cuirass tempts us to decorate it heavily, but be careful here: the attacking sword will likely get stuck between protruding elements, instead of sliding off.
Notice the rivets on the vambraces (imitating bracelets) and the harmless decoration of the gauntlets.
The "metal skirt" gives us the opportunity to make the armor more feminine. Just make sure you don't make it less flexible in the process.
To continue the trick from the shoulders, I've decorated the "naked" thighs, too.
When you're done, remove the previous layer and clean it up.
Ready to Fight?
Our warrior is ready to take a sword in her hand and join the fight. In next part of this tutorial we're going to paint her in Adobe Photoshop. We're going to learn how to color and shade metal, so stay tuned!