How to Draw Insects: Understanding and Drawing the Legs (part 1)

One of the hardest things about how to draw insects is getting the legs right. This is a place where a little bit of study in advance will really pay off. But this is also a place where a little bit of information can get you into trouble. A careful analysis of insect leg anatomy and attachment will prevent you from making the most common mistake in insect illustration.

Lets start by studying the parts of the leg itself. The three most important parts to learn are the femur, the tibia, and the tarsus. These three parts are visible on most insects when viewed from above. Remember them as the thigh, shin, and foot. The tarsus is made of small segments and ends in little claws. The other two sections, close to the body, are usually hard to see and can be ignored on most insects.

insect leg parts.003


The exception to this is on wasps where these segments are elongated and add an extra bend to the leg.

H Ammophila macra or azteca

As you see above, the legs (and wings) attach to the middle segment, or thorax, of the insect’s body.   This observation is essential to accurately drawing insects but also is responsable for the most common mistake that people make when drawing insects. Below are two beetles. One has the legs placed correctly, the other is the most common mistake. Choose which one looks right before proceeding to the next post for the answer.