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How to Draw Bird Feathers

Updated March 23, 2017

Use the structure and texture of a basic feather to base your techniques when drawing bunches of bird feathers. Each type of bird feather has a basic shape and construction, depending on the type of bird that you are drawing. Some birds, such as hummingbirds, have small and delicate wings, and others, such as eagles, have large and strong wings. Pay attention to the quill of each feather, as well as the shape each feather makes as it grows from the quill.

Look at an image that shows you the basic construction of feathers for the bird you want to draw. Take note of the size and shape of each feather, as well as the texture, and how each feather lies on top of each other to cover the bird. Most bird feathers will have a shaft that runs down the centre and which ends at the tip of the feather, called the quill. The feather textures will extend from this basic framework.

Draw the outline of the bird feathers by sketching them with a pencil on your paper. Start with the perimeter of the mass of feather, and then work from the centre shaft out to draw the filaments that come out from the shaft, known as barbs, to fill in the feathers with texture from the shaft to the perimeter. This area between the shaft and the perimeter of the feather is known as the vane. You can draw even finer filaments, known as barbules, to branch out from the barbs to fill in the vane spaces.

Use your pencil to fill in the texture of the feathers, adding dynamic layers to the feathers as they gather together on the bird. Use the image to see whether you should use a light pencil shading technique to fill in the feathers, or if you should sketch in finer lines to show more defined feathers.

Things You'll Need

  • Pencil
  • Sketch paper
  • Image of bird feathers
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About the Author

Kim Fuller has been writing food and lifestyle features since 2007. She now lives in Vail, Colo., after spending one year traveling Europe. Fuller is a regular contributor to Gaiam Life, an online fitness and wellness publication. She holds a Bachelor of Science from the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Colorado in Boulder.