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How to Design and Draw a Realistic Female Warrior

Final product image
What You'll Be Creating

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!

female warrior armor metal bikini

"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...?

can females be stronger than males
Being a male doesn't make one automatically stronger than every female

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

Step 1

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.

draw a realistic female warrior skeleton

Step 2

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 a realistic female warrior opacity

Step 3

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!

draw a realistic female warrior torso waist

Step 4

Add the abdomen. It doesn't need to be detailed; your role here is to figure out where the torso bends.

draw a realistic female warrior abdominal muscles

Step 5

Put the shoulder muscles on the shoulders.

draw a realistic female warrior arm musles deltoids

Step 6

Connect them to the chest. Don't draw breasts yet.

draw a realistic female warrior chest muscles

Step 7

Add the neck.

draw a realistic female warrior neck

Step 8

Now the arms...

draw a realistic female warrior biceps arms

Step 9

... and the forearms. Again, details aren't necessary, but make sure you're creating the right silhouette.

draw a realistic female warrior forearms muscles

2. Draw the Lower Body and the Details

Step 1

We're going to draw the thighs with a simple method, defining only these muscles that are important to the final shape:

draw a realistic female warrior thigh muscle front
draw a realistic female warrior thigh muscle side
draw a realistic female warrior thigh muscle complete

Step 2

Draw the shins...

draw a realistic female warrior shins

... and the calves.

draw a realistic female warrior calves

Step 3

Add the hands and feet.

draw a realistic female warrior feet hands

Step 4

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.

draw a realistic female warrior breasts

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.

Step 1

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 a realistic female warrior whole body

Step 2

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.

draw a realistic female warrior armor cuirass

Step 3

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.

draw a realistic female warrior armor cuirass lower

Step 4

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.

draw a realistic female warrior armor faulds
draw a realistic female warrior armor tassets

Step 5

Add a small, flexible set of plates to protect the crotch area.

draw a realistic female warrior armor crotch tassets

Step 6

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.

draw a realistic female warrior armor arm guards

Step 7

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 a realistic female warrior armor couter elbow armor

Step 8

Draw the greaves (lower leg guards) and cuisses (upper leg guards).

draw a realistic female warrior armor greaves cuisses thigh

Step 9

Just like with the elbows, the knees need flexibility and protection at the same time. Use poleyns to cover them.

draw a realistic female warrior armor poleyn knee armor

Step 10

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.

draw a realistic female warrior armor shoulder pauldron spaulder

Step 11

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.

draw a realistic female warrior armor besagew armpit armor

Step 12

The neck can be protected with chainmail, or with a metal collar (gorget).

draw a realistic female warrior armor gorget neck armor

Step 13

Put a helmet on the head. Don't make it too complicated—just make sure it does protect the skull.

draw a realistic female warrior armor helmet

Step 14

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.

draw a realistic female warrior armor details gauntlets

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.

draw realistic female armor functional helmet cuirass decoration

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.

draw realistic female armor functional shoulder ornaments

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.

draw realistic female armor functional armguards rivets

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.

draw realistic female armor functional metal skirt

To continue the trick from the shoulders, I've decorated the "naked" thighs, too.

draw realistic female armor functional boots

When you're done, remove the previous layer and clean it up.

draw realistic female armor functional whole armor

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!

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