Sketching Animals: How to Draw a Realistic Bird

Hi guys and welcome to another sketching tutorial! Today I’ll be showing you what I consider
when creating realistic sketches of small birds, as well as some common- but fixable-
mistakes that may detract from a realistic outcome. And just a quick disclaimer- this video is
of course based upon my own experience and opinions, so whilst the ideas I’m showing
here have worked for me, they aren’t the only ways of working! So jumping straight into it, here I’m starting
on the left hand side of the page where I’ll be demonstrating the problems that can be
fixed. I’m beginning with drawing just the body and
head shape of the bird- and I’ll be drawing three different birds in different poses today. I’m using Prismacolor Col-Erase pencils
for all of my sketching here, and I’m just using some no-name brand paper to work on. You can see I’m being pretty quick and rough
with how I put these bodies on the paper- which is an indication that I’m not paying
close attention to my reference photos. Rather than being slow and deliberate, I’m
rushing to put something down, and using far more lines than is necessary. I’ve drawn these birds in with simple geometry,
ovals, circles and egg-shapes, which doesn’t really represent the complex form of a realistic
bird. So now moving on to the right side- where
I’ll show you what I’d do differently to create a more realistic and convincing
outcome. Straight away you’ll notice I’m taking
a lot longer to draw each body out. I’m also being very gentle as to not indent
the paper and to keep the pencil lines light so they can be easily erased if I make any
mistakes- which is inevitable! If you’re looking to create a realistic
result, you should always be very closely observing a reference- and that’s what I’m
doing here. And if you’d like to see the royalty free
references I’m using, I’ll leave links in the description box down below. If you are following along with the tutorial
strongly recommend using the reference photos provided- copying my drawing means that you’re
interpreting from my interpretation, which will make it more difficult to draw realistically. As you can see, I build up the shape of the
bird by working my way around its outline, judging each line’s distance and angle in
relation to the rest. The benefit of this method over the way that
I drew the birds on the left hand side is that I’m giving an indication of all the
subtle shapes in the bird’s form- you can see that there’s an indication of the bird’s
anatomy, and that the bird is delicate-looking rather than one solid lump. Birds come in all sorts of shapes and sizes,
so it’s really important to see what sort of characteristics your bird has. Going back to the left side, I’m now going
to start drawing in the eyes and beaks of these birds. So a common mistake when drawing animals is
to draw the eyes too far up on the head- so that’s what I’ll do here. I’m not considering the shape of the eyes,
just drawing in what I *think* a bird eye might look like. The same applies for the beaks- I’m drawing
in a symbol of a beak- a triangle with a horizontal line down the middle of it. Needless to say, the result looks very flat
and cartoony, as I haven’t considered the three dimensional form of the beak. Now to draw the beak and eye in on the birds
on the right- again this is going to take a lot longer as I’m very carefully measuring
with my eye, and placing that onto the paper. I’m also open to making adjustments to the
lines I’ve already placed down- drawing is a process of refinement, and it’s unlikely
that I have everything exact the first time around- which is why it’s extra important
to use a light hand when sketching. And by this point, I’ve also broken up my
sketch already into smaller, more manageable sections, by outlining patterns and areas
of shadow or highlight. This means I can use these lines as guides
to help place the eye, and fit the eye shape into the mosaic of shapes around it. The same thinking goes for the beak. Again- I don’t want to oversimplify the
shape- and I can break the shape into smaller, more manageable sections by drawing in the
shapes of the shadows and highlights. Something that I really recommend is that
if you’re having difficulties, try tracing these areas on your reference photos. Long beaks in particular can be really difficult
to get right in terms of length and curve. I do want to quickly mention that this is
definitely not the usual sequence I draw something in, and I’m separating features out to make
the process easier to explain- so for example, usually I’d draw the beak and eyes whilst
I also draw in the outline of the head. But anyway, moving on to the wing and tail. I think these structures and feathers are
the most difficult to make sense of, and I know that I would rush them or try and find
shortcuts as to avoid drawing them altogether. So that’s what I’m doing here- giving
a rough representation of the wing for the bird at the top of the page and bottom of
the page. For the middle bird, I’ve again drawn what
I think I see, rather than closely observing the photo- and here I’ve given too much
of an indication of the wings- in reality the wing is barely visible. In fact, the wing on the right side isn’t
visible at all. And the same applies for the tails- again
for the middle bird I’ve shown too much of it, without thinking about the post the
bird’s in- and for the other two birds I’ve not considered how multiple feathers build
up the tail, and instead given it a very heavy and blocky-lookinh form. Heading on over to the right side of the page
to draw the wings and tails here too. Starting at the top, again I’m building
up this larger form by splitting it into smaller shapes. A lot of the wing isn’t visible because
of how the chest feathers obscure it, so I’m not being too careful about getting in the
details here. I draw in the tail by mapping in each large
feather- or block of colour- and it’s also important to remember to show how the tail
feathers join to the underside of the bird. It’s also worth mentioning that a tiny tip
of the bird’s far-side wing is visible under here, too. And this is certainly something I could’ve
easily missed if I wasn’t looking out for it. For the middle bird there’s little to draw
here for the wing, but to draw the tail I have to start drawing in the branch he’s
perching on, as the tail is partially obscured by it. The way that the bird is sitting means that
the tail is affected by perspective, so appears quite short. Now moving on to the sparrow at the bottom
of the page- and this one’s the most difficult because his wing is fully visible, and the
pattern makes it difficult to make sense of the individual feathers. It’s easy to get overwhelmed and lost in
this pattern. Even after drawing a lot of birds, I still
find this sort of drawing to be very demanding- so if this is the case for you too, I’d
recommend making a tracing. And you can use this tracing to directly transfer
your drawing onto the paper, or use it as a comparison tool. Bird wings are something I’d certainly trace
if I was planning to sink a lot of hours into the rendering stage, as I would want to be
100% certain that my foundation was accurate, without using up time needing to check and
double check everything. But the way thatI’m freehanding it here
is to group the feathers into sections to work on at a time. I’m using the features of one group of feathers
to help place the next- again, making sure different components fit together like a mosaic
or jigsaw puzzle. Bird wings are covered in lots of different
kinds and shapes of feathers, each with different tasks- and this is when referring to an image
showing wing anatomy might be helpful in order to break down and make sense of your reference
photo. Later on in the video, I’ll further refine
these feathers with some colour to help distinguish the brown and black pattern on the sparrow’s
wings. Next I want to draw in the legs and feet-
and an indication of the surface the bird is sitting on too. Again I’m going to oversimplify things on
this left side, and I’ll draw the legs and feet very flat-looking, almost stick-like. I also won’t really consider the anatomy
of the feet or toes here- on the top bird I’ve left the toes looking stiff, and on
the other two birds, I’ve drawn their toes as if they are entirely flexible and have
wrapped around the branch as if they were wire. But on the right- like usual I’m breaking
things into smaller sections, and I’ll use the negative space between the bird and the
branch or ground, or between the legs, to help position the legs. I’ll also make sure that the toes look like
they’re curling around the stick that the bird is sitting on, but making sure that the
toes bend just at the joints. At this size, I’m not going to try and outline
every abstract shape that makes up the toes- most of the definition and form would become
more apparent when colouring and rendering. Finally, as a bonus step, I’m going to show
some simple colouring and refining. If I was using the sketches as a foundation
for a fully rendered piece I would probably stop on the previous step, but as a slightly
more fleshed out sketchbook study I’ll render the birds a touch more. On the left side, there’s not much to refine
as I’ve used a firm hand over the entire sketch- things won’t easily erase. However, I will add some feather texture in,
and here I’m going to do this by drawing in lots of rough and long-looking strokes. I don’t know about you, but to me this looks
more like fur, and doesn’t successfully represent the texture of feathers. Going over to the right side of the paper
to finish up! I’m refining my sketches first, and then
I’ll start adding some simple shading. Sometimes when everything is put in place,
slight inaccuracies will become more apparent, so you’ll see that I’ll adjust a few things
until I’m happy with how they look. I also find that adding a bit of dimension
with some simple shading will help to make things look right. I’m going to give some very subtle indications
of feathers on the breast of the bird- and I’ll do this where there’s dark colouration
or a shadow. You can give the effect of these feathers
by using very short pencil strokes in small groups, and you can also put them in a sort
of curve or scallop shape to represent an individual feather. If I was creating these sketches as a foundation
for a coloured picture, I wouldn’t include these small details in the sketching stage
as they don’t contribute anything and would just be covered up. I’d also continue to use a very light hand
for the sketching and any shading, and would make sure to use a light coloured pencil for
any areas that would remain a pale colour in the colouring stage- and this is to avoid
my sketch lines showing through, or potentially mixing into the pale colours and muddying
them up. I adjust the bottom sketch of the sparrow
by using some different colours to help indicate the pattern on the bird’s wings. I find that blocking in the colours like this
can help make a complex sketch or pattern more easily readable, so this is definitely
something you’ll see me do in a lot of my foundation sketches for my coloured pencil
pieces. And here is the final result! If you use my tutorials to create something,
I’d love to see what you create- be sure to tag me on my social media and use the #claudiassketchers
hashtag- or you can join the Claudia’s Sketchers discord chat to share your work and chat with
fellow drawing enthusiasts! You can find the link in the description box
down below, along with everything else. If you found the tutorial useful don’t forget
to leave it a like, and I’d love to hear your comments too. Thank you very much for watching, hope you
have a lovely week and I’ll see you in the next video!


  • Hwasa's_Thick_Juicy_Thighs


  • Claudia Sketches

    Sorry it's been so long since I last uploaded! I ran into some issues with this video, and have been incredibly busy with other projects too. I have some exciting tutorial pieces coming up, as well as some more product reviews too.
    Unfortunately, I no longer have the time to respond to non-business requires in my DMs on social media, so be sure to ask comments in the comment section- that's where I see and respond to them 🙂 Plus, if you see somebody asking a question you can answer- please do (and I'll "heart" your comment!).

  • Gina ́sArtCorner

    Very nice How to Video 🙂
    Great to see you here again and the birds are si adorable*-*!

  • çizim yap

    very nice


    Lovely birds!Nice drawing!

  • Parasol Mushroom Art

    Biiirdddddddddsssssssss :DDD

  • Ivy Brooke

    Thanks a lot for the tips!! I really love those erasable colored pencils for sketching myself. They’re great!

  • Lori's Art

    Absolutely love the process that you used here. Very clear and simple to follow. Such beautiful birds!

  • Meraki Painter

    Fantastic quality!

  • animziggy

    How do you find your animal reference photos can there be a copyright issue buy using photos for a drawing?
    I might take part in an exhibition for the London Wildlife Trust and I'm unsure on how to go about to find bird photos as I'm not a wildlife photographer myself.

  • Trickster Draws

    This is so useful thank youiuuu!!!


    Besssssssssst ~♡


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