How to Draw a Real Looking Pirate Ship

Written by carol kory
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How to Draw a Real Looking Pirate Ship
Model pirate ships can help. (Jupiterimages/ Images)

If you illustrate for children, chances are you will have to draw a realistic-looking pirate ship. Since there are few old-time pirate ships around, you will have to find references to give you an accurate picture of what a real pirate ship looked like, so you can recreate the image. You can buy a model ship to help you visualise detail and perspective. And you can view a pirate movie for more ideas.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Model pirate ship
  • Pirate movie
  • Sketch pad
  • Pencil
  • Eraser
  • Ink and pen

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    Drawing step-by-step

  1. 1

    Order a model ship to study. Using a model will allow you to draw your ship from several different angles. And you'll be able to choose a style of ship that is right for your project.

  2. 2

    Draw a horizon line - where the ocean meets the sky. Draw the bottom of the base of the ship somewhere below your horizon line, in the water and in perspective with your horizon line. Draw the shape of the boat hull to match your model. Draw the back of the ship slightly taller than the front. Draw the cabin of the ship in perspective. All horizontal lines of your ship should converge toward a point on the horizon line.

  3. 3

    Lightly draw all masts -- the tall poles that host the sails -- parallel to each other. Matching the number and respective size to reflect your model ship. Lightly draw the yardarms -- the horizontal poles that cross the masts -- in perspective with your scene. The yards will converge to a point on your horizon line. Draw the bowsprit, which is the long pole that juts from the bow or front of the ship.

  4. 4

    Lightly draw the triangular sails between the masts and at the front and back (stern) of the ship. Lightly draw the square sails over the triangular sails, yards and masts. Pirate ships have several layers of sails. Draw everything lightly until you have a clear picture where each sail fits into the ship and which sails overlap each other.

  5. 5

    Once you have the basic parts of your ship in perspective, outline the masts, sails and elements that are in clear view, with no overlapping elements. Use a darker pencil. Add portholes, netting, cannon, chains, anchors, rudders, and the name of your ship in scripted letters.

  6. 6

    Consider your light source and shade the ship accordingly, making dark tones for the shadows and leaving the highlights in white, or the colour of the paper. Name your ship. Create a caption. Sign and date your work. Share with family and friends.

Tips and warnings

  • If your model boat doesn't provide enough detail for the final realistic stages, rent some pirate movies and pause the scenes that show the ship close up. From still shots on screen, you can see how light affects shadows on the ship. Add elements like fog and figures to your drawing for a realistic effect.

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