Attitude Poses using the Two Can technique

Understanding body language is essential to making your character poses more expressive. When most novice artists start out, they tend to draw their characters in an upright position. This position is usually symmetric (figure on left below). The neutral position makes it difficult to ascertain the character’s attitude without any other details. The figure on the right seems to be more expressive and naturally posed. Why?

line of action: Two Can technique

The “two can” technique consists of locating the shoulders and pelvis and isolating them into individual cylinders (or “cans”). By understanding the relationship between these cans, we can not only make our poses more dynamic, but we can infuse a sense of both attitude and personality to the character we are drawing.

So how does this “Two Can” Technique work?

Let’s start with the line of action. For a biped character, it represents the spine. The line of action should always be curved when you are drawing a dynamic pose. In fact, the more curved the line of action is, the more force (or tension) your character will appear to have. This is known as “pushing the pose”.

Two Can Technique

The “cans” themselves can be of different thicknesses and widths. Altering the widths and thicknesses allows us to create more variety within our character body types. The “cans” follow the line of action. They can be placed anywhere on the line of action, but it’s important that they are ON the line of action. Picture two cans, with a curved plastic tube intersecting them both. You can move the cans up and down along the tube, and you can also ROTATE the cans independently as well.

Two Can Technique

Rotating the cans independently of one another will add a twist to the pose. A twist in the character pose causes overlap, and overlap suggests depth. (See below.)

Two Can Technique

Note that with this approach, one side of the pose is “stretched”, while the other side is “squashed”.

Squash and stretch

Once you have established the line of action and the “two cans”, you can start to add the other features (legs, heads, hands, etc.).

Two Can Technique

If you found this tip to be useful, please share it! And if you have other cartooning tuts you want me to consider, please drop me a comment below.


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  • Nate the RobotReply
    February 24, 2014 at 10:20 am

    Great tip, thanks for sharing!

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