How to Draw a Chimpanzee

Updated April 17, 2017

If you've ever been to the zoo, chances are you have seen a chimpanzee. Drawing one can be intimidating because chimpanzees are constantly moving. Their active nature makes it almost impossible to get a good enough view to draw an accurate rendering, so you will probably need a reference, such as a photograph. However, the chimp is not that different from its simian cousin, the human. Aimed with persistence and a decent reference model, you can create an accurate chimp drawing that looks realistic.

Find a reference. You can use a picture of a chimpanzee or even draw one live. Drawing from life can offer a variety of poses and an opportunity to examine the animal's movement in detail, but of course, it will be extremely difficult because a chimp is not likely to obey your request to stand still. You'll find your task easier if you use a simple drawing or photograph for a model.

Begin with the head, which is composed of two main shapes. The main shape is a circle, and the nose protrudes as another circle. Draw a rough outline of these two shapes.

Sketch a rough draft of the overall body. A chimp can take many different positions, so you will need to check your reference picture to identify the basic shapes. Depending on the pose, the legs may look like rectangles and the body may resemble an oval. Sketch these shapes out, but don't worry about the details.

Add details to the head. Give it eyes, lips and nostrils. To do this, draw a triangle point down, with the top line connecting the two locations for the eyes. Sketch in rough ovals for the eyes at the two top points of the triangle. The bottom of the triangle will be the nose, which is roughly the same size as one of the eyes. Give it nostrils by adding two small circles of equal size that when placed side by side span only about a width larger than one of the eyes. Add a line for the mouth below the nose. The mouth is the same distance from the nose as the eyes from the nose. Do not shade it in yet.

Sketch the chimp's face by checking your reference. Notice the shape of the face (the part of the head that does not have hair). Depending on the chimp, it might resemble an figure eight or a rectangular shape. Sketch this into your drawing.

Begin to give more precise shapes to the chimpanzee's lower body and extremities. Perfect the general shapes you drew in Step 3, making sure to draw more detail. If an arm is bent, for example, the forearm might bulge slightly toward the elbow. Again, study the reference picture and follow the lines with your pencil on your own rendering.

Add more detail around the body, such as wrinkles and markings. Most chimps have wrinkles around the eyes and nose especially. To add wrinkles, draw lines using the tip of your pencil.

Shade the body where it needs to be darker. To shade, use the side of your pencil lead, making sure all the lead is touching the paper. Look at your reference to locate the darker areas, such as the head.

Add hair all over the body with quick, short strokes. Make sure it looks realistic by keeping the strokes roughly the same size, using the tip of your pencil. Take the tip of your eraser and use short strokes to add highlights where you'd like them. This will make your drawing look more accurate.

Things You'll Need

  • Pencil
  • Paper
  • Eraser
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About the Author

Sarah Streitwieser has been writing professionally since 2009, with many articles appearing on various websites. Streitwieser is seeking her Bachelor of Arts in industrial design with a double major in English from Purdue University.