Drawing a Bird: Tips & tricks to help you draw every bird possible
Birds are beautiful and captivating animals. With their feathers, beaks, or talons (depending on the species), they can fly through the air with ease while capturing prey within reach of those sharp claws! In this tutorial, I will show you how to draw one. We will first take a look at the anatomy of a bird and derive a basic structure that can be used to practice and for any bird drawing.
Although bird skeletons differ from each other (just think about the skeleton of an ostrich and that of a sparrow), for our drawing purposes we will allow ourselves to generalize the characteristics.
The least mobile part of the bird skeleton is the trunk. It consists of a solid bone structure, which is supposed to protect the organs. We can draw it as a simplified shape like an egg or an oval.
The neck, on the other hand, is very mobile thanks to the many cervical vertebrae and allows birds to perceive the surrounding environment. Even birds with seemingly short necks have such a neck vertebrae structure, but it is sometimes not noticeable under the feathers. When drawing birds with long necks, such as a swan, we should pay attention to the neck shape and work with a good reference photo.
Even though the wings of most birds move a lot, they seem to be less mobile in contrast to the neck. However, when drawing spread wings or flying birds, knowing the basics of the skeleton still helps us understand the shape of the wings.
The legs are in contrast to other parts of the body comparatively easy to draw.
For the example drawing, I use pencils and colored pencils, but if you like, you can follow this tutorial with other materials. A sketch is always recommended regardless of the material, furthermore, there can be material-specific differences that can make the final result look different.
With birds, it will be difficult to draw from a living reference, unless you have a pet bird that is committed to hold still for you for a while.
A good alternative can be a photo. Perhaps you have photographed a bird yourself, have a photographer in your circle of friends and family, or you can find a photo on popular stock sites such as Unsplash.
My reference photo shows a robin and was shot by a very talented hobby photographer in our family.
Let’s start by drawing the body of the bird as a simplified version. Here, we only need to capture its basic shape and implement the proportions of the individual parts well.
At first glance, the robin looks like a small, fluffy ball on a branch. But it is not so easy to draw the oval for the head proportionally correct to the circle for the body. It requires constant comparison with the reference.
For my drawing, I added a pointed arrow each for the wing and beak and drew a long rectangle for the tail.
In the next step, we add characteristic details of the bird to our sketch.
We work on refining the basic shapes to get closer to the actual shapes of the bird’s body. In the case of colorful feathers, we can also draw marks for the respective patterns.
In my case, I draw the marks of the different colored areas on the robin’s body. I also draw the branch and, last but not least, the bird’s legs, whose claws cling around part of the branch.
Now we can work out the individual areas of the sketch step by step with colored pencils.
I couldn’t find a suitable shade for the red feathers in my collection of colored pencils, so I decided to use a combination of orange (Faber Castell Goldfaber 115) and brown (Faber Castell Goldfaber 187).
For the gray feathers, on the other hand, I found a suitable gray (Faber Castell Goldfaber 273), under which I mixed a light blue (Faber Castell Goldfaber 140) in some areas.
At this point, I would like to share two very simple tips to draw the feathers realistically.
In the beginning, I drew the feathers on the head with strokes all going in the same direction. However, this made the feathers look like fur.
Then I panicked, tried to fix my mistake, and drew very unnatural-looking cross lines in the area around the throat and chest. The result looks more like netting than feathers.
So I strongly recommend not imitating these steps.
The feathers looked much better and more realistic when I drew the crossing strokes shorter.
You should also draw irregularly here because as soon as there is a regularity in the strokes, like in the red feathers, it will immediately look unnatural.
A good sketch is an excellent base for a bird drawing, and with a little practice, you can draw a wide variety of birds realistically.
It is all about the details when it comes to the hoopoe. Even though you can draw its feathers with just a few colors, you have to be precise with the pattern and structure of the feathers. Otherwise, the hoopoe will not look like one.
The most important characteristic of the european roller is the specific shade of blue of its feathers. If you don’t have a suitable color at hand, it will be much harder to draw the european roller convincingly.
If you like drawing gradients of color, you’ll like the bee-eater. It was a bit of a challenge to get the different colors to blend into each other within the feather structure, but it was still a great joy to draw.
The kingfisher was the first bird I drew. For this reason, it may have been a bit poorly executed compared to the other birds, but I learned a lot about feathers and birds from this drawing.