Spider anatomy for artists

Fall is here and it is time to draw spiders. In this season female spiders have reached their full size and are ready to mate. Their webs are easily seen in the morning dew. Understanding how the body is put together will help you draw what you see with greater ease.

spider body parts

cephalothoraxAs in insects, the body is divided into segments. The head and the thorax (where the legs attach) are fused into one pear shaped segment, the cephalothorax. The eyes are set in the front of the cephalothorax. The eyes are often in groups and make distinct patterns on different kinds of spiders.The chelicerae are stout appendages below the eyes that support the fangs. The large abdomen has most of the organs and the spinnerets that make silk for the web.

Think of the legs as having three big segments. The Femur is the first big segment. It is thick and muscular. The patella and tibia are effectively one segment although there is a little side-to-side movement at the joint between them. They are usually aligned. Similarly, the metatarsus and tarsus are usually aligned. Unless you have powerful magnification, you probably will not see the patella-tibia and metatarsus-tarsus joints. You can effectively ignore the coxa and trochanter as they are small segments close to the cephalothorax and do not make prominent angles on the legs. 

spider legs
Side view and top view of a spider’s leg showing range of movement.
Field study of a spider. Notice that I observe the spider and the web. Then zoom out to take in a larger context of where I found the web. Notes and questions about insects caught in the web while I observed are in the top right corner.
Click to enlarge: Field study of a spider. Notice that I observe the spider and the web. Then zoom out to take in a larger context of where I found the web. Notes and questions about insects caught in the web while I observed are in the top right corner.

One thought on “Spider anatomy for artists

  1. Anna says:

    Hmmm, I like all animals except spiders and some people, but this does look interesting. Love your posts, hope to come to California and participate someday. I experiment with colored pencils endlessly, some successes but also frustrations with wax bloom in Prismacolor, overworked passages, murking color in some brands, and the lack of blendable lights and dark in a single tone. Simply rendering in colored pencil is not hard, but trying for interesting effects can be challenging and, sometimes, very rewarding.

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