We Value Your Privacy

We and our partners use technology such as cookies on our site to personalise content and ads, provide social media features, and analyse our traffic. Click below to consent to the use of this technology across the web. You can change your mind and change your consent choices at anytime by returning to this site.

Update Consent
Loading ...

How to Draw Realistic Animals Step-by-Step

Updated April 17, 2017

Animals have fascinated humans and have been the subject of paintings and drawings since man first smeared charcoal on the wall of a cave. There is something about animals---their mystery, their connection to the earth or their power---that leads humans to immortalise them in artistic mediums ranging from oil paintings to gigantic bronze sculptures. Drawing animals in a realistic manner requires you to break the animal down into basic shapes and add layers of details in slow steps. This will ensure that your animal drawing will look the best it can.

Loading ...
  1. Create the composition of the animal so that your illustration is both interesting and realistic. A good basic composition technique is to create the flow of the animal within a triangular shape. Once you have decided on the composition for the animal drawing, you need to create a basic guideline for the overall shape of the animal. Do this by drawing basic geometric shapes for each part of the animal. Most animal heads can be created with an oval for the top of the head and an upside-down triangle for the snout. The body can be created from a large cylinder, and the legs can be created from smaller cylinders. Make sure that the cylinders for the legs are wider at the top than at the bottom.

  2. Block out all of the details on the animal's face. While you are still drawing an animal, the face of the animal gives the illustration depth and character. If the animal is a predator, there will be a "V" shape to the overall face. An herbivore will have a slightly rounder face. Add the eyes to the middle of the face with small ovals. Predators like lions, wolves and bears look straight ahead at their prey, so their eyes will be closer together and facing forward. Herbivores like deer, cows and horses have their eyes closer to the sides of their faces so that they can see danger approaching from a wider field of vision.

  3. Create the ears for most mammals by drawing triangles and adding the inner edge with a parallel line on the inside of the ear. Creatures like rabbits and mice will have larger and more rounded ears. However, most mammals have a similar nose structure. This usually consists of an upside-down triangle with two teardrop-shaped nostrils inside the nose. Draw a vertical line down the centre of the nose to add realism.

  4. Colour the fur on your animal drawing with art markers to add an extra touch of realism. Use several shades within the same overall colour tone to show how the colour of fur changes in the light. For instance, if the animal has a dark-brown or black coat, use a grey-blue colour for the areas that are being hit with the most light. Add darker grey for the mid-tones of the fur and, finally, apply black or dark brown to only the darkest sections.

  5. Use coloured pencils to add highlights on the base colours of the fur. Use a coloured pencil that is one or two shades lighter than the area you are colouring over. Create the texture of fur by repeating loose strokes across the colour. For long fur, use long, slowly curving lines. For short fur, use short, fast strokes. Group the strokes of your pencil so that some cluster to form groups or locks of hair or fur. Be sure to alternate directions, however, so that the fur appears wild and realistic.

  6. Tip

    Be sure to have lots of reference photos of your animal handy. Study the anatomy, and draw the animal in a pose that you enjoy.


    Be sure to make a photocopy of your illustration before you colour it in case the colouring goes awry.

Loading ...

Things You'll Need

  • Paper
  • Pencil
  • Kneaded eraser
  • Art markers
  • Coloured pencils

About the Author

Andrew Dewitt

Andrew DeWitt is a freelance writer/illustrator and stand-up comic with more than eight years of professional experience. He has written for Chicago Public Radio, Vocalo Radio, Second City Chicago, and The Lemming. DeWitt has a liberal arts degree with a double major in theater and creative writing.

Loading ...
Loading ...