Welcome to another step by step tutorial. This time I will teach you ” How to draw a Dragon”. Doesn’t matter if you work in digital or using a traditional medium, this tutorial works using both methods. The most important thing is for you to follow this tutorial, step by step, and mimic what I´m doing.
So, How to Draw a Dragon?
We will follow a step by step process, so you can learn easily how to draw a cool flying Dragon:
- Step 1: Gather references you can use as model and inspiration.
- Step 2: Start drawing your dummy. You gotta draw first the dragon´s rib cage.
- Step 3: Draw the abdomen and the hips.
- Step 4: Draw the wing closest to the viewer.
- Step 5: Draw the second wing.
- Step 6: Draw the dragon´s legs.
- Step 7: Draw the tail.
- Step 8: Draw the head.
- Step 9: Add detail to your dummy, like eyes, horns, claws, etc…
- Step 10: Finally add some texturing, drawing the scales. Also, you can add some volume with some shading.
Let´s Start The Tutorial
Now it´s time to elaborate on the steps I showed you before.
Step 1: Reference Gathering
This early stage is usually overlooked by beginners. If you are trying to draw an original drawing, is always useful to find all sorts of images we can use for inspiring ourselves.
I like to use a photo realistic references. The reason why is to avoid as much as I can other artist’s drawings as references to not contaminate my own style trying to imitate other artists styles. To depend completely on drawings of other artists can limit your own creativity. I think it can be useful to inspire yourself or to copy certain details. However, if we depend solely on the works of other artists, we can easily pass from creators to imitators or copyists without realizing it. We will also be constantly comparing our work with that of the artist we are taking as a reference.
Of course is impossible to find real-life photos of a fantastic creature like a Dragon. But we have many reptiles in nature that can give us some hints on how a dragon could look. Skin texture, proportions, the shape of the head and other body parts can some of the aspects of our drawing that can be inspired by real-life animals.
I recommend you to open a Pinterest account where you can create some mud boards and pin the images you consider useful. Pinterest is a great repository of images and I’m sure you will find tons of images there.
Before starting my full body drawing of a Dragon, I decided to draw a headshot of one of these mythical creatures. My goal was to be able to create a quick study so I can get a better clue of which shapes will work better for our Dragon. In this case, triangular shapes, like the ones you can see like little horns, teeth, etc… work perfectly. Triangles have a specific symbolism in nature. Triangular shapes are commonly found in predatory animals, like the head and the fin of a shark for example. For humans, we commonly associate a triangle with danger, alert and aggression.
My other reason for this head study is also to do a quick exploration in terms of texture. I wanted to have a good idea on how I will approach the texturing and shading of the skin. I wanted to achieve a realistic and believable look to my drawing. This is why I created this head study before jumping to the final full body image.
The posse I chose for drawing our creature is a profile view in a slightly 3/4 angle, so we can see the paws and the wings behind.
Step 2: Drawing the rib cage
The equivalents of the human upper torso will be this rib cage. The chest area appears on the bottom divided by a vertical line. The circle will be the connecting point where the shoulder and the winged arm connects with the body.
Step 3: Drawing the hips and the abdomen
Next, we will draw the hips and we will connect them with the rib cage, creating the abdominal area. The circle you see inside hips will be the connection point between the limbs and the hips.
Step 4: Drawing the wing
Following the hips, we will move on drawing the wing arms. We are going to draw the wings similar to a bat. Bats have arms and hands with elongated fingers. In between the fingers, you can see a membrane connecting them.
The arm will be divided into 4 parts:
- The shoulder: start drawing an elongated shoulder.
- The upper arm: This part will be drawn as a short and narrow cylinder.
- The forearm: Next you will draw the forearm as a long and narrow tube at least twice the length of the upper arm.
- The hand: Finally you will draw the hand. The palm will be drawn as a narrow rectangle. On top of the palm, you will draw the thumb as a short claw. On the bottom of the palm, the 4 other fingers will be placed following an arch disposition. The 4 fingers will be long and divided into 3 parts ( 2 phalanxes and one claw). The index finger will be the longest finger and the pinky on the opposite side the smallest of the 4.
Step 5: Drawing the second wing
After the wing arm closest to the viewer, we will proceed by drawing the other wing. Not much to say here, because is a similar process like the one you followed on the previous step. The only thing you gotta take into account is the perspective of this arm. In this case, the index finger will look smaller, because it is the farthest, and the pinky finger bigger, obviously because is closer.
Step 6: Drawing the legs
Drawing the neck will be quite an easy task. Think in a tube cut in half that connects the upper part of the “rib cage”, we drew on the first step and gets narrower closer to the Dragon´s head ( we will draw in a future step).
The Hind Limbs
When drawing the hind limbs of a Dragon, you can compare them to a cat´s limbs. Regarding shape and function, both are very similar. The only difference is a Dragon´s hind limbs will be way bigger and less furry compared to the cat´s limbs. Like we did for the arms we will divide them into 4 parts:
- The upper part is where the femur will be placed. If it was a human this parts would be the thighs.
- Under the “thighs” you will draw a narrow short tube. This part, in human anatomy terms, is where the tibia would be placed.
- This part is an elongated version of the metatarsals bones that we, humans, have in our feet.
- The paws with claws will be the last part.
Step 7: Drawing the tail
You can draw the tail just in one piece. I divided my tail into 4 parts because I want you to be able to deconstruct in your mind how the tail movement works. The thinner the tail becomes, the more flexible is and more curve lines present.
Step 8: Drawing the head
Finally, we can draw the head and the second part of the neck.
Regarding the neck, you just gotta draw a couple of curve lines connecting the neck part we drew before and your future head. Pretty easy right?
The head can be divided into 2 parts. The lower part will be the lower jaw. The upper part obviously the upper jaw, and also the cranium, were the eyes and the nostrils are placed.
Once you have the Dragon´s dummy build its time to clean the connecting parts and lines. The purpose here is to give to our Dragon the feeling of a real living being and not some sort of dummy made of different parts.
Creature design can be very fun, but also frustrating If you don´t understand how the body mechanics of animals and beasts work. It took me a while to learn how bipedal and quadrupedal animals move and interact with their surroundings. Understanding this key concept will help you to improve fastly your creature´s and monster drawings. Austin Bachelor has a great course on this topic, where he goes in detail on how to draw creatures and monsters, making them realistic and believable.
Step 9: Adding detail
Now it´s time to have some real fun! You gotta check your references and start adding details to your Dragon. In my case, I added several horns, crests with membranes, bones and muscle lines and wrinkles, etc… Enjoy this part and try not to overload your Dragon with too many details. Keep in mind, we gotta go for an extra step before we wrap this thing up!
Step 10: Texturing and shading
At this stage, you are almost done, but before it´s over maybe you wanna think of adding some texturing and a little bit of shading.
Regarding the texturing, you gotta check your references. Dragon´s are giant reptiles, and reptiles commonly have scales. The way we will create texture is drawing little curve lines. This little curves will be our scales. I want you to pay attention to one thing. Notice that the amount of scales I drew on the belly, lower parts of the neck, arms and tail, is way more significant compared to the parts on top. My intention in doing this is to create a clear difference between the parts in shadows and the parts where the light is hitting. On the parts on top, there is less noise and the area looks cleaner if we compare them with the parts on the bottom.
Another thing I did to reinforce this effect is adding some hatching on the bottom areas. Combining both techniques, drawing scale and hatching, we will obtain a convincing shading effect.
If you wanna learn more about pencil shading and techniques like hatching, you can check my article: “How to shade with a pencil”.
Now is your time to draw your own Dragon. You can draw a similar design than mine or you can try something different, is all up to you. Now you know the process, just go step by step and I’m sure you will have amazing results.
I hope this tutorial was useful to you. If you have any doubt or question please leave it in the comment section. This will encourage me to keep working on new tutorials and articles.
Toni Justamante Jacobs.