Drawing Realistic Wild Animals: Tips & Techniques
Written by  Daisie Team
Published on 10 min read


  1. Observe and study the animal
  2. Sketch the basic form of the animal
  3. Draw the animal in motion
  4. Focus on the animal's unique features
  5. Apply texture and patterns
  6. Draw the animal in its natural habitat
  7. Use shading and highlighting
  8. Add color
  9. Review and refine your drawing
  10. Draw different animals

Have you ever wanted to capture the stunning beauty of wild animals in your drawings, but weren't sure where to start? Don't worry, you're not alone. Learning how to draw a realistic wild animal in its habitat can be a fun and rewarding journey. This blog is all about helping you navigate this journey with practical tips and techniques. Let's embark on this artistic adventure together!

Observe and Study the Animal

The first step to drawing anything realistic is observation. Before you even put pencil to paper, take the time to study the animal you wish to draw. You might think it's enough to know that a tiger has stripes, but there's so much more to it. Let's break down what you should focus on:

  • Shape and Form: Try to see the animal as a combination of basic shapes. Is the body rectangular or oval? What about the head? Is it more like a circle or a triangle? These observations will guide you later when you start sketching.
  • Proportions: How does the size of the head compare to the body? How long are the legs in relation to the body? Noting these proportions will help you draw the animal accurately.
  • Movement: Observing how an animal moves can give you insights into its muscle structure. This can help you draw the animal in motion and make your drawing more lifelike.
  • Unique Features: Every animal has unique features that set it apart. For a tiger, it could be its stripes; for a giraffe, its long neck. Identifying these unique features will make your drawing recognizable.

You don't have to be a zoologist to learn how to draw a realistic wild animal in its habitat. All you need is patience, observation, and practice. So, grab your sketchbook, find some animal pictures or videos, and start studying!

Sketch the Basic Form of the Animal

Once you've spent enough time studying your animal, it's time to start sketching. This is where your observation of shapes and proportions comes into play.

Start by lightly sketching the basic shapes that make up the animal's body. This is not the time to worry about small details or textures. Think of this as creating a skeleton or framework for your drawing. It's okay if your sketch looks more like a bunch of circles, rectangles, and triangles than an animal at this stage.

Here's a step-by-step guide to help you out:

  1. Draw the Body: Start by sketching a basic shape for the body. This could be an oval, rectangle, or any other shape that fits the animal you're drawing.
  2. Add the Head: Add another shape for the head. Remember to keep in mind the size and shape you observed during your study.
  3. Sketch the Limbs: Draw the legs, arms, or wings as simple lines or cylinders. Pay attention to their length and thickness.
  4. Add the Tail: If the animal has a tail, add a line or shape for that as well.

Remember, these shapes are just a guide. They help ensure that your drawing has the right proportions and that everything is in the right place. Once you have these basic shapes down, you're well on your way to learning how to draw a realistic wild animal in its habitat.

Sketching can be challenging at first, but don't let that discourage you. The more you practice, the better you'll get. So, keep that pencil moving!

Draw the Animal in Motion

So, you've got the basic shapes of your wild animal down. Great job! But wild animals aren't statues—they move! So, our next challenge is figuring out how to draw a realistic wild animal in motion.

Movement adds life and vibrancy to your drawing, making it more realistic and engaging. Here's a step-by-step process to help you capture that motion:

  1. Visualize the Motion: Before you start drawing, imagine the animal moving. Is it running, jumping, flying, or maybe just walking? Picturing the movement in your mind will help guide your pencil.
  2. Adjust the Basic Shapes: Depending on the type of movement, the basic shapes you've drawn might need to change. For example, if the animal is running, its body might be more stretched out, or its legs bent differently.
  3. Use Action Lines: Action lines are imaginary lines that help represent movement. They guide the direction of the motion in your drawing. Draw an action line to help visualize the path of the movement, and adjust your shapes accordingly.
  4. Draw Dynamic Poses: Try to capture the animal in different poses. This will give your drawing a sense of movement and energy.

Remember, drawing movement is about capturing the essence of the animal's motion, not creating a perfect replica. It's okay if your drawing isn't perfect. The important thing is that it feels alive and in motion.

Now that you know how to draw a realistic wild animal in motion, you're one step closer to creating an amazing drawing of a wild animal in its natural habitat. Keep going, you're doing great!

Focus on the Animal's Unique Features

Every animal has something that makes it special. For a giraffe, it's the long neck. For a zebra, it's the black and white stripes. And for a cheetah, it's the spots. These unique features are what make them stand out in the wild, and they'll make your drawing stand out too.

Here's how you can draw attention to these unique features:

  1. Identify the Unique Features: First, identify what makes the animal unique. Is it the pattern on its fur, the shape of its ears, or the color of its eyes?
  2. Emphasize the Unique Features: Once you've identified the unique features, make them the star of your drawing. For example, if you're drawing a cheetah, make sure to spend extra time on the spots.
  3. Use Detailing: Detailing is your best friend when drawing unique features. The more detail you add, the more realistic your wild animal will look.

Don't be afraid to spend a lot of time on this step. The unique features are what will make your animal come to life on the page. And remember, you're learning how to draw a realistic wild animal in its habitat, so don't forget to consider how these features help the animal blend in or stand out in its environment.

It's a bit challenging, but I bet you're up for it. After all, who doesn't love a challenge?

Apply Texture and Patterns

Textures and patterns play a major role in bringing your wild animal sketch to life. These elements not only make your drawing more visually appealing, but they also lend a sense of realism. So how do we add these interesting elements into our sketch? Let's dive in!

  1. Observe the Texture: Start by observing the textures on the animal's body. Does the animal have a smooth skin like a dolphin or a rough one like an alligator? Does it have fluffy fur like a bear or sleek fur like a lion?
  2. Recreate the Texture: Now try to recreate this texture on your sketch. Use the side of your pencil to create a rough texture or the tip of your pencil to create a smooth one. For fur, try using quick, short strokes.
  3. Notice the Patterns: Next, take note of the patterns on the animal's body. Does it have stripes like a tiger or spots like a leopard? Or maybe it has unique patterns like the giraffe's patches.
  4. Draw the Patterns: Once you've observed the patterns, draw them on your sketch. Remember to follow the direction and shape of the patterns as closely as possible. Don't rush this step; take your time to get it right.

Applying texture and patterns accurately is a significant step in learning how to draw a realistic wild animal in its habitat. It might seem intimidating at first, but with practice, you'll get the hang of it. And don't forget, art is all about expressing yourself, so feel free to add your own creative spin to these textures and patterns!

Draw the Animal in its Natural Habitat

When drawing a realistic wild animal, remember that the surroundings are equally as important as the animal itself. An animal's habitat can give your drawing a sense of depth and context. So, how do you incorporate the animal's environment into your sketch? Let's find out!

  1. Study the Habitat: Whether it's a lush jungle, a vast savannah, or a cold arctic terrain, each habitat has its characteristics. Try to understand these natural elements. For instance, if you're drawing a lion, observe the African savannah's flat landscape and sparse trees.
  2. Sketch the Background: Start by lightly sketching the basic shapes of the habitat in the background. These could be trees, mountains, or water bodies. Keep them simple at this stage. Remember, they should support the animal in your drawing, not compete with it for attention.
  3. Add Details: Now, add in the smaller details. This could be leaves on the trees, rocks on the ground, or ripples in the water. Make sure these details match the habitat you're trying to depict. For example, a cactus would look out of place in a rainforest setting!
  4. Consider Perspective: Keep in mind the perspective. Things that are closer to the viewer should be larger and more detailed. As objects move further away, they should become smaller and less detailed. This helps create a sense of depth in your drawing.

It's important to remember that when learning how to draw a realistic wild animal in its habitat, the habitat itself plays a crucial role. It not only sets the scene for your masterpiece but also helps to tell a story. So next time you draw, why not give your animal a home!

Use Shading and Highlighting

Shading and highlighting are powerful tools in your drawing arsenal. They can turn a flat, two-dimensional sketch into a lifelike, three-dimensional masterpiece. But how can you use them effectively when you're trying to draw a realistic wild animal in its habitat?

  1. Understand Light and Shadow: The first step is to understand how light and shadow work. Imagine a light source and consider how it would cast shadows on your animal and its surroundings. Shadows can help define the shape and form of your subject, making it look more realistic.
  2. Apply Shading: Use different degrees of shading to create depth and volume in your drawing. For example, areas that are further from the light source should be shaded darker, while areas closer to the light should be lighter. This creates a sense of three-dimensionality.
  3. Add Highlights: Highlights are the areas where light hits your subject directly. They should be the lightest part of your drawing. Adding highlights can make your animal look shiny and give it a sense of life.
  4. Blend Your Shading: Use a blending tool, like a stump or a cotton swab, to smooth out your shading. This will create a gradient effect and make your drawing look more natural.

So there you have it! When you're learning how to draw a realistic wild animal in its habitat, don't forget to use shading and highlighting. They can make a world of difference in your artwork, adding depth, volume, and a sense of realism that flat colors alone can't achieve.

Add Color

Adding color to your wild animal drawing can be exciting. It brings your sketch to life, adding vibrancy and depth. But how do you go about picking the right colors and applying them effectively? Here are some tips:

  1. Study Your Subject: Start by studying the colors of the wild animal you're drawing. Notice the different shades and hues - the tawny browns of a lion, the vibrant greens and blues of a peacock, or the subtle grays and whites of a wolf.
  2. Choose Your Medium: Colored pencils, watercolors, or pastels? Each medium has its own strengths and can create different effects. Colored pencils allow for precision, watercolors can create soft, blended effects, and pastels are great for creating texture.
  3. Start with Light Colors: It's usually easier to add darker colors on top of light ones rather than the other way round. Start with your lighter colors and gradually work your way up to the darker ones.
  4. Consider the Light Source: Remember your light source from when you were shading? It plays a part in coloring too. Areas closer to the light source should be colored lighter, while areas further away should be darker.

Adding color is a major step in learning how to draw a realistic wild animal in its habitat. It can be a bit tricky at first, but with practice, you'll find it becomes easier and more enjoyable. So grab your colors and start adding life to your wild animal drawings!

Review and Refine Your Drawing

Once you've added color to your drawing, it's time to take a step back and review your work. This step is as important as each stroke you've made with your pencil or brush. It helps you see what you've nailed down and what needs a little more attention.

  1. Take a Break: Before you start refining, it's a good idea to take a short break. This allows you to come back with fresh eyes and a clear mind. You might spot things you missed earlier.
  2. Compare with the Reference: Look back at your reference image or object. How does your drawing compare? Don't be too hard on yourself - remember, the aim is not to create a carbon copy, but to capture the essence of the wild animal in its habitat.
  3. Check Proportions and Details: Check the proportions of your animal, the placement of its features, and the details. If something seems off, don't be afraid to correct it.
  4. Get Feedback: If you can, get someone else to look at your drawing. They might spot something you've missed. Plus, it's always good to get a second opinion.

Refining your drawing is a key part of learning how to draw a realistic wild animal in its habitat. It's about being your own critic and spotting areas where you can improve. But remember, art is subjective. Don't strive for perfection, strive for progression!

Draw Different Animals

Now that you've mastered how to draw one realistic wild animal in its habitat, why not try your hand at others? After all, the beauty of our natural world is in its diversity! Here's how you can go about it:

  1. Choose Your Animal: Start by selecting another animal you're interested in. Maybe you're fascinated by the majestic lion or the agile deer. The choice is yours.
  2. Research: Just as before, research is your best friend. Learn about the animal's morphology, behaviors, and habitat. The more you know, the better you can capture its essence in your drawing.
  3. Practice: Don't worry if your first few attempts don't turn out as expected. Keep practicing. Remember, each stroke you make brings you one step closer to mastering how to draw a realistic wild animal in its habitat.
  4. Experiment with Styles: Try different drawing styles. You might prefer a more detailed, realistic approach for some animals, and a simpler, stylized one for others. There's no right or wrong here—only what feels right to you.

Drawing different animals not only broadens your skills but also deepens your appreciation for wildlife. So go ahead, pick up your pencil, and start exploring the rich tapestry of the animal kingdom one drawing at a time.

If you enjoyed learning about drawing realistic wild animals and want to take your skills to the next level, we highly recommend Arianne Jeri's workshop, 'Drawing Realistic Fur Using The Indentation Technique.' This workshop will teach you a unique and effective technique for creating lifelike fur textures in your drawings, adding depth and realism to your artwork. Don't miss this opportunity to expand your artistic toolkit!