In this tutorial, I will teach you how to draw a Viking raider. This, easy to follow, step by step tutorial will guide you through the whole process of creating a nice and believable Viking sketch. We will start drawing a dummy, that will serve us as a base over which we will draw our final sketch.
So, How to Draw a Viking Step by Step?
If you want to draw a Viking, you should follow this simple step by step process:
- Step 1: Gather references you can use as model and inspiration.
- Step 2: Start drawing your dummy. You gotta draw the torso, with the rib cage and the abdomen. This will condition the whole positioning of the body, so be careful. Draw the torso simplifying the shapes as much as you can. Do not focus on muscles and focus on general shape and form. Draw the hips. Again make it simple. You can draw this area of the body like a if it was a short underwear.
- Step 3: Draw the legs. Use tubes for the thighs and the shins, and triangles for the feet.
- Step 4: Draw the arms. Use simple shapes like an ellipse for the shoulder, tubes for the arms and squares for the hands will do the trick.
- Step 5: Draw the head.
- Step 6: Draw the Axe.
- Step 7: Draw the Cape on top of your dummy.
- Step 8: Draw the plated armor and the sword.
- Step 9: Detailed the face and the hair.
- Step 10: Draw the pants.
- Step 11: Add detail and shading to your drawing.
This tutorial can be followed no matter what medium you use, traditional or digital. In any case, if you wanna know more in-depth info regarding which materials I´ve been using through my professional career, feel free to check my article on “Recommended art supplies”.
Now let´s go more in depth and explain each step of the tutorial.
Step 1: Reference Gathering
The Viking on this tutorial will be wearing a scale armor covering the torso, a cape made of animal skins and a big two-handed ax as his primary weapon. My goal is to depict a Viking seafarer from the 9th and 10th century like the ones were living and fighting during the times of Ragnar Lothbrok and the invasion of the British Isles. Nordic warriors from later periods were not Vikings as we usually think. With the introduction and popularization of Christianity in the Nordic countries, during the 10th and 11th century, the Viking´s raider lifestyle entered into a decadence period and disappear towards the end of the 11th century.
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 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.
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. If you type Viking on Pinterest you will find lots of images you can use as references for your drawing.
Let´s draw a Viking
Once we will have our references gathered, it will be time to start our drawing. In this tutorial, I will draw our character in a 3/4 standing position. The character will be standing in a relax posse, with his hand crossed over his ax´s shaft butt. Let´s start with the torso!.
Step 2: The Torso and the Hips
The upper part of the torso will be the rib cage area, depicted in the image above, and the bottom part will be the lower ribs. as you can see we need also to divide the cage with a vertical line, where the pectoral muscles are divided into two. We will also create a shorter side with an ellipse where the shoulder and arm will be connected to the body.
Drawing the hips will be the next step in our journey. I usually start drawing the hips and the crotch like if our character was wearing a short swimsuit or male underwear. It simplifies the process creation and makes things easier to understand. Remember to keep the torso and the waist separated from each other. The space in between them will be the abdominal area.
Step 3: The Legs
Our character will be drawn in a relaxed pose. One leg will be fully extended so the weight of the body will be loaded on top of it. This leg will be drawn almost fully frontal. The other leg will be bend indicating it´s free of the major part of the body weight and we will draw it almost sideways.
The thighs will be drawn as massive tubes. This “tubes” will be wider when connecting with the hips and will become thinner when reaching the knees.
For the right leg, we will draw a curve line on top and another one under. The curve line on top will be longer than the one on the exterior side, but still shorter if we compare it with the curve line bellow that follows.
The left´s leg left side will be drawn almost in a straight line representing the shin. The other side will be drawn like a curved line, representing the calve.
Will be drawn as a straight line. It will starts on the knee and will end on the feet.
The kneecaps will be drawn as ellipses.
One foot will be drawn frontally. The one on the right will be placed almost fully frontally and the one on the left in a very open 3/4 angle, almost sideways.
Step 4: The Arms
The Left Arm
Next step will be to draw the arms. We will start with the left arm. The left side shoulder, which is almost totally hidden from the viewers perspective will be drawn as a short curve line coming out from behind the upper part of the torso. The biceps will be barely visible because immediate we will draw the forearm. Due to the perspective, the forearm will be placed almost frontally to the viewer, so it will appear to us like a short body part with the hand coming out of it.
Due to the relax posse the hand will be drawn laying casually on top of something, with the fingers close grabbing something ( the right arm´s wrist and hands ), with the exception of the index finger, which is not fully closed. This indicates the hand is not a tight fit and it´s not fully close over the object is grabbing
I´ve defined clearly the different parts of the arms, separating the shoulders, from the biceps with the triceps and the forearms, so you can read better the different parts of the arms.
The Right Arm
The Right Arm´s shoulder is almost a full circle. The Biceps and Triceps will be drawn as a couple of curves. The Biceps will be drawn like a long curve and the triceps below will be drawn way shorter. The triceps will be followed by a descendant line that will connect it with the elbow.
The forearm will be drawn in a similar fashion than the thighs. You gotta think in some sort of cone-shaped tube, wider near the biceps and more narrow on the wrist area.
The hand will be laying over the ax’s butt and will be covered almost fully by the left hand. Regarding the fingers, only the pinky will be really visible and not fully. Due to the perspective, you can barely see the ring and the middle fingers. The index and the thumb will be not visible at all.
Step 5: The Head
The head will be drawn as an ellipse with a square shape on the bottom. The head will be placed on a slight 3/4 angle, so the squared bottom will be shorter on the right side and longer on the left. I will divide the head with a vertical curve. This curve will leave two half, one considerably bigger than the other, again due to the 3/4 angle. Next, we will draw a horizontal curve line. This curve will be crossing the head a little bit above of the center of the ellipse and will help us to define where the eyes will be placed.
On the bigger side of the head, You can see another vertical curve that divides again the head. This line will help us to discern the front of the face, were the eyes, the nose, and the mouth will be drawn, from the side of the head where the ear will be placed.
If you wanna learn more about drawing the human head, feel free to check my step by step tutorial “How to draw a face”. I think you will find it very useful. Also, I have another article on “How to draw the human body” you may find useful too.
How it´s going so far? I hope your drawing is looking even better than mine. But, if you are struggling to achieve the results you were expecting, DON´T WORRY IT´S NORMAL! You probably need to work more in your artistic skills. Like you, in my early days as an artist, I used to be where you are now, trying to make my drawings look cool and impressing. Practice is the answer to your problem. However, there are things you can do for shortening your learning curve. For me, a game changer was to take action and to enroll in drawing courses. The one course I found very useful, was a simple but effective video course I took years ago, which helped me to understand better the fundamentals of drawing. The lectures were easy to follow and I could feel my drawing skills were improving after each lesson.
Step 6: The Axe
The dummy on the images I showed you on the earlier steps was highlighted in red so you could see clearly and very schematically how the different parts of the dummy are built. When sketching, your drawing will look more like the image above.
The next element we can draw is the two-handed ax. This weapon will be drawn in a vertical position, with the ax’s blade laying on the ground and our character’s hand crossed over the shaft’s butt. You should pay attention to the fact that the shaft is not fully straight and is slightly curved towards the end. Also, the way the ax’s blade will be placed will hide almost completely the left foot.
Step 7: The Skin Cape
Now starts the fun part! We are going to dress our dummy like a true Viking raider. The first thing you gotta do is to reduce the visibility of the dummy so when drawing our Viking on top it will help us as a base structure and will not interfere much with the final drawing. You can do that by using a kneaded eraser. It will remove some of the graphite from the dummy sketch and will leave you with a very light version of the original sketch. If you are working in digital the solution is even easier, just reduce the opacity of the dummy’s sketch layer to 20%. If you are wanna know which digital tablets are the best right now, my article The Best Drawing Tablets 2019 will be a good source of information for you.
The character’s cape will be made of animal skins so it will be quite furry and rough. This means the sides of the cape should be drawn like a succession of little peaks representing the fur’s tufts. This tufts should be drawn irregular, in a random position and of different sizes.
Regarding the ax, you just gotta follow the original sketch and add some extra details like the little ropes near the blade, the veins, and marks of use on the shaft’s wood and some indentation on the edge of the blade.
Step 8: The Body Armor and The Sword
Now we are going to focus on the body armor and the bracelets. These protective elements were very common during the middle ages. The armor is a “scale” type armor. Basically a succession of little metal plates. The “scales” of the armor are placed side by side like a stripe of plates that surrounds the body. Stripes are placed one below the other, starting from the shoulders and going to the thighs. The scales of stripe above will cover in part the scales of the stripe below. The armor will cover also the shoulders and part of the biceps.
Below the armor, you can see the sleeves of a shirt. This gives the impression of a third layer of clothing on our character( the cape, the armor, and the shirt ), which gives more realism. The bracelets will be made of a mix of leather for the strips and metal for the protection plate.
As you can see, in this step we will draw also the skin of the arms and the hands. Follow the dummy sketch and draw the hand and arm details carefully. Respect the knuckles placement on top of the fingers and the finger joints when detailing.
The belts around the waist and the sword will be the final elements we will be drawing on this step. The first belt will be a thick leather belt tight around the waist. The second one, the sword’s belt will be crossing from the left side of the waist to the right hip do to the sword hanging on this side. Regarding the sword, I tried to be as historically accurate I could. Viking sword used to be single hand weapons, with a small curved cross guard and a big pommel.
Step 9: The Head
The character’s face must look like the one of a though Viking seafarer. This means our character will wear a long beard, long hair with several braids tight in one big tail. The sides of the head will be shaved and will show Nordic symbol type tattoos. The face should look angular, with strong features, like pronounced bone chicks, small eyes and wrinkles, and scars. In my tutorial “How to draw a face” I go more in depth on how to draw properly a face from a 3/4 angle. feel free to check it if you wanna learn more about it.
Step 10: The Legs
For the legs, we will draw some pants. From the Knee to the feet the trousers will be inside some high leather boots. The key element here is the wrinkles on the trousers, just on top of the boots, giving the effect that the trouser’s fabric is too thick to stick inside the boots and is folding from its own weight. Another similar effect is the leather from the boot folding on top of the foot due to its own weight. This wrinkle effect brings realism to the drawing.
On top of the trouser is some piece of fabric, like it was the bottom part of a long shirt that almost reached the knees. This shirt is the same one we see coming under the armor sleeves on the arms. This layering is also another of those elements which bring realism to the drawing. Usually, beginner artist tends to draw a character wearing just an armor, like they were wearing nothing under. Vikings used to wear several layers of clothing, like we drawn here( cape, armor, shirt, pants, and boots).
Step 11: Detailing and Shading
This is the final step. Here I will focus on detailing certain parts of the clothing, the face, and the armor. But, more importantly, I will add some shadows to the character so it will become less flat and more three dimensional. I will add this shadows by using shading techniques like hatching and cross-hatching. If you are not familiar with this techniques, you can check my tutorial on “How to shade with a pencil” where I explain in detail the best shading techniques you can use when drawing with pencil.
The main goal when shading is to use the white of the paper as the lighter areas. The areas where you will apply the shading will be the ones in shadow. This also allows you to create a hierarchy of relevance inside the character. Let’s take the legs as an example. As you can see, the right leg is fully shaded, meanwhile, the left leg has some shading but is minor compared to the left leg. This leaves the right leg in shadows and the left leg more exposed to the light.
Another cool resource is to create cast shadows with the shading. A good example is the shadow cast by the head over the cape’s left shoulder. This cast shadow creates a sensation of depth in the character.
If you want to keep learning more about drawing and painting cool characters and take things to the next level, let me recommend you a fantastic course I took myself a few months ago and I found really useful. The course will take from the basics of sketching your own characters and will introduce you to digital painting techniques that will really skyrocket the quality of your art.
Now is your turn to draw your own Viking raider. Try to follow the steps as close as you can, at least the first time you try. If you already finished your Viking’s drawing try to draw another one, this time with a different posse or a different armor design. You can find lots of historical references on the internet regarding other types of weapons and armors Vikings use to carry into battle.
I hope this tutorial was useful to you. If you have any doubt or question please leave it on the comment section. This will encourage me to keep working on new tutorials and articles.
Toni Justamante Jacobs.