is reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more

What is Armature in Art?

what is an armature in art

In art, an armature is a hidden structure that keeps the other parts of the piece in place. It is similar to how your skeleton works. It provides a base for your muscles and organs to hold onto.

Armatures are important in art because it helps you visualize what your project could look like. It is the first thing that you draw when you are drawing human or animal figures. It is also the first thing that you make when you are sculpting with clay.

In this article, you will learn what is armature in art and why they are important.

An Overview of Armature in Art

What is armature in art? The armature is the underlying, hidden support structure that helps a sculpture hold its shape. In drawings and paintings, it is the first sketch, usually stick figures, that artists use to set up the pose of their subject.

Now, what is an armature in sculpting? Although you can sculpt using clay even without using an armature, the number of things that you can do will be quite limited. Also, due to the density of modeling clay, the size of the sculpture is limited without an armature.

Benefits of Using Armature in Sculpture

What are the benefits of using armature in sculpture? Here are just a few:

Provides Support for the Sculpture

If you rely on just the clay to hold its shape, then you are only limited to doing miniatures. Without an armature, the sculpture will collapse due to its own weight.

Allows you to Create all Kinds of Poses

Again, if you try to create even a simple pose using just clay, it will not be able to hold its shape. Creating an armature and building on it will allow you to recreate all kinds of poses, even the fantastical ones, like flying.

Supports Fragile Parts

There are lots of things that you cannot achieve using just clay alone. For instance, if you want to give your sculpture hair or clothes that seem to be blown by the wind, clay alone will not be able to do that. You can do it technically by shaping and kiln-drying each part and then gluing them together but it will still result in a very fragile piece.

Armatures will provide ample stiffness so you can create delicate details for your sculptures without fear of any of them falling or breaking off later.

Saves on Clay

can you sculpt without using an armature

Armatures are not just inner frames made from wire. Many clay sculptors also use aluminum foil over the armature to flesh it out a bit before layering clay over it. This not only saves on clay but also lightens the sculpture quite a bit since the aluminum foil is significantly lighter than clay.

Easy to Make

You’ll only need a couple of basic materials to create an armature that is strong enough to hold the weight of the clay. However, it will still be flexible enough that you can pose it whichever way you like.

You need to have a wire hanger, which you can get for free if you get your clothes dry-cleaned. You may already have a couple of them lying around the house. It is also important to have a thin gauge wire. This will hold the pieces of the hanger together.

In addition, you need to have a wire cutter or a pair of longnose pliers. These will make it so much easier to create your armatures compared to just using your hands.

Lastly, you should have a bit of tin foil. This will serve as filler for your sculpture. This will allow you to use less clay but still get the right shape and volume.

What is an Armature in Drawing?

You can also use armature in drawing, particularly when drawing people and/or animals. Like in sculpting, the armature will help you determine the poses of your subject.

You can also enjoy several benefits when using armature in drawings. For one, it allows you to set the proportions. Drawing armatures first will help you figure out the proportions of your subject’s body parts.

For instance, if you are drawing a full-body figure, the armature of the legs should be equal in length to that of the torso and head combined. Drawing the armatures first is a lot easier and somewhat more precise compared to drawing shapes first and then erasing the whole thing when you make a mistake.

It also lets you try different poses before committing to one. The nice thing about armatures is that they are quick to sketch and redoing them is equally as quick. This means you can use them to visualize the poses your subject will be taking before you even start drawing seriously.

Do you want to draw a sitting person? Will the legs and/or arms be crossed? Is the subject sitting on a chair or crouching? You can test out these poses beforehand using the armatures.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Can you Sculpt without Using an Armature?

Yes, it is possible to sculpt using clay without using an armature. However, it will be quite limiting. First, you will have no way to support delicate details, so your sculpture might look like a block of clay, with details carved into it.

Also, if you will be doing human or animal figures, without armature supporting the clay, you will only be limited to poses where the limbs are stuck on the body. This means you cannot make any dynamic poses.

How do you Keep a Sculpture from Falling Over?

When you are constructing the armature for your sculpture, incorporate a way to insert it into a base of some kind. For instance, if you are making a dynamic sculpture of a person running, allow enough of the hanger wire to extend and go into the base.

For a base, you can use a slab of clay or a wide wooden base. While in the process of sculpting, you can use a large slab of Styrofoam.


What is armature in art? It is the frame holding the sculpture together, allowing for all kinds of poses. You will also be able to use armature in drawing but this time, for establishing the poses that the subject will make.

Although it is possible to sculpt or draw without using an armature, using it will make the whole process a lot smoother. In addition, the armature will open up a whole world of possibilities for you to unleash your imagination.