How to Draw Animals & Simple Shapes

Written by jay leon
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How to Draw Animals & Simple Shapes
Drawing animals becomes easier when you know what to look for in the model. (Labrador puppy illustration image by hannahfelicity from

Animals make fascinating subjects for drawing and painting. With thousands of different species to choose from, you can never run out of new things to draw. The key to sketching animals is knowing how to look at them first. When you train your eyes to see basic shapes in your subject, it makes it easier to capture the proportions of the body. Once the overall shape is there, you can add the details.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Reference photos
  • Paper
  • Pencil
  • Ruler
  • Eraser
  • Pen

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  1. 1

    Find a picture of an animal you want to draw. Choose one that has no obtrusive background or other objects that distract from the subject. To make it easier to draw, pick a side view of the animal. Avoid foreshortened views that require you to visualise the body in deep space. The picture can be of any size so long as you can see the details.

  2. 2

    Draw a frame on paper. The frame should have the same proportions as the reference photo of the animal you want to draw. Draw a horizontal line and a vertical line that intersect in the centre of the paper. Make identical lines on the photo. These lines form a graph that will help you get the proportions right.

  3. 3

    Examine the animal in the photo. Try to imagine the shapes that define the overall appearance of the animal. For example if it were a picture of an elephant, you might see the belly as a circle, the trunk as a curved pipe and the ears as polygons or circles.

  4. 4

    Draw the shapes on the paper with pencil. Use the graph as a guide. You can make the sketch of the animal as rough or as detailed as you want. The important thing is to use those shapes that help you work out the outlines and proportions of the animal. Use a light touch when drawing these shapes.

  5. 5

    Erase and redraw the outlines until you get the proportions just right. Make sure you follow the graph as you do so. When you have finished drawing the basic shapes, add details as they appear in the reference photo. Say, if you drew the side of a dog's body as a tapered rectangle, you will now draw the soft contours along its back, chest and belly.

  6. 6

    Refine the details slightly. Once you have a fair amount of detail on top of the basic shapes, stop adding more. Review the drawing once more. When you are sure everything is correct, draw over the pencil lines with a pen until you have redrawn everything. Erase the pencil lines with an eraser.

Tips and warnings

  • Limit the time you work on each drawing. This may prevent you from getting too involved in what should be a fun activity.
  • Choose an animal that is not too challenging for you to draw. If it looks too complicated or intimidating, look for another subject.
  • Basic shapes include rectangle, square, circle, oval and alphabet letters for two-dimensional pictures. For three-dimensional rendering, try cube, wedge, sphere and cylinder.

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