How to Draw a Mermaid Tail: Step-by-Step Guide for Beginners
Written by  Daisie Team
Published on 10 min read


1. Materials for Drawing a Mermaid Tail

2. Sketching the Basic Shape of a Mermaid Tail

3. Creating Texture for the Mermaid Tail

4. Coloring Tips for Your Mermaid Tail

5. Exploring Different Mermaid Tail Styles

Have you ever wanted to learn how to draw a mermaid tail? Look no further! In this step-by-step guide, we'll walk you through everything you need to know, from selecting the right materials to drawing different tail styles. Whether you're a beginner or a more experienced artist, you'll find helpful tips and tricks to create your very own mermaid tail masterpiece. So grab your art supplies and let's dive in!

1. Materials for Drawing a Mermaid Tail

Before we start sketching, it's important to gather the right materials to ensure a smooth drawing experience. In this section, we'll discuss everything from the best paper and pencils to erasers, blending tools, and coloring supplies.

Choosing the Right Paper and Pencil

When learning how to draw a mermaid tail, the right paper and pencil can make all the difference. For sketching, opt for a medium-weight drawing paper that can handle erasing and layering without tearing. Some artists prefer using a sketchbook, while others like loose sheets of paper—it's all about personal preference!

As for pencils, it's a good idea to have a few different types on hand. A standard HB pencil is great for initial sketches, while softer lead pencils like 2B or 4B work well for adding details and shading. Don't forget to keep a sharpener nearby to maintain a fine point on your pencils.

Using Erasers and Blending Tools

Erasers are essential for fixing mistakes and refining your mermaid tail drawing. A white eraser is gentle on paper and works well for most corrections. For more precise erasing, consider using a kneaded eraser, which can be molded into various shapes to remove small details or lighten specific areas.

Blending tools, like a blending stump or a tortillon, are useful for smoothing out pencil lines and creating gradients in your shading. Alternatively, a clean finger or a piece of tissue can also do the trick—just be careful not to smudge your drawing accidentally!

Colored Pencils and Markers for Finishing Touches

Once you've sketched your mermaid tail, you might want to add some color to bring it to life. Colored pencils are a popular choice for their versatility and control. They allow you to build up layers of color and blend shades easily. Be sure to have a variety of colors on hand to create the perfect underwater scene.

Markers can also be used for coloring your mermaid tail. They provide vibrant, bold colors and are especially useful for large areas or when you want a more graphic look. Just be cautious with markers, as they can bleed through certain types of paper, so it's best to test them on a separate sheet before diving into your final drawing.

2. Sketching the Basic Shape of a Mermaid Tail

Now that you have all your materials ready, it's time to start drawing your mermaid tail! In this section, we'll cover the basics of sketching the tail outline, adding fins and flukes, and transitioning from the mermaid's body to the tail. Remember, practice makes perfect, so don't worry if your first attempt isn't exactly what you had in mind—keep trying, and you'll get better at drawing mermaid tails in no time!

Drawing the Tail Outline

The first step in learning how to draw a mermaid tail is to create a simple outline. Begin by drawing a curved line that represents the top edge of the tail, where it connects to the mermaid's body. This line should have a slight "S" shape to give the tail a natural, flowing appearance.

Next, sketch two long, parallel lines that extend downward from the top edge to form the sides of the tail. These lines should curve gently outwards and then back inwards, creating a tapered shape that resembles a fish's tail. Finally, connect the two lines at the bottom with a wide "V" shape to complete the basic outline of your mermaid tail.

Adding Fins and Flukes

With the tail outline in place, it's time to add some fins and flukes to your mermaid tail. Fins are the smaller, decorative elements along the sides of the tail, while flukes are the larger, fan-like structures at the end of the tail. Both fins and flukes can have various shapes and sizes, so feel free to get creative and customize your mermaid tail to your liking!

When drawing fins, you can start by sketching small, curved lines along the sides of the tail, and then adding details like ridges or webbing. For flukes, consider drawing inspiration from real-life marine animals like whales and dolphins, which have unique fluke shapes that can add a touch of realism to your mermaid tail. Don't forget to keep the overall flow and curve of your tail in mind as you add these elements.

Transitioning from Body to Tail

The final step in sketching the basic shape of your mermaid tail is to create a smooth transition between the mermaid's body and the tail. This is where the magic happens, as you turn a simple fish tail into a beautiful, mythical creature!

To create this transition, start by drawing a curved line that connects the top edge of the tail to the mermaid's waist. This line should follow the natural curve of the body and blend seamlessly with the tail outline. Next, add some subtle shading or lines to suggest the scales that cover the tail, beginning at the waist and continuing down the tail. This will help to create the illusion of a smooth, continuous surface, making your mermaid tail look more realistic and convincing.

3. Creating Texture for the Mermaid Tail

Great job on sketching the basic shape of your mermaid tail! Now that you have the outline, fins, and flukes in place, let's focus on adding texture to make your mermaid tail even more captivating. In this section, we'll explore different scale patterns, shading and highlighting techniques, and adding details to fins and flukes. By the end of this section, you'll know how to draw a mermaid tail that looks both realistic and enchanting.

Designing Scale Patterns

One of the key features that sets a mermaid tail apart from a regular fish tail is the intricate pattern of scales. When designing scale patterns, you have the freedom to create a unique look for your mermaid tail. Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Classic fish scales: Overlapping semi-circles that resemble the scales on a typical fish. This pattern is simple, timeless, and easy to draw.
  • Hexagonal scales: A honeycomb-like pattern that gives your mermaid tail a modern and trendy look.
  • Mosaic scales: Irregular, interlocking shapes that create a stunning, one-of-a-kind pattern for your mermaid tail.

When drawing scales, start from the top of the tail and work your way down, making sure to follow the curve of the tail. This will help maintain the natural flow of the mermaid tail.

Shading and Highlighting Techniques

Shading and highlighting are essential for adding depth and dimension to your mermaid tail. These techniques can make your tail look more three-dimensional and lifelike. Here are some tips to help you enhance your mermaid tail:

  1. Identify the light source in your drawing. This will determine where shadows and highlights should be placed on the tail.
  2. Use a blending tool or your finger to gently smudge pencil lines, creating smoother transitions between light and shadow.
  3. Add highlights to the tops of scales and shadows to the bottom edges to make them appear more raised and curved.

Remember, practice makes perfect, so don't be afraid to experiment with different shading and highlighting techniques to find the one that works best for you!

Adding Details to Fins and Flukes

Now that your mermaid tail has texture, let's not forget about the fins and flukes. Adding details to these elements can make your tail look even more enchanting and dynamic. Here are some ideas to help you enhance your fins and flukes:

  • Ridges and veins: Add lines to represent the structural elements of fins and flukes, similar to those found in real-life aquatic animals.
  • Translucent effects: Use lighter colors and subtle shading to create the illusion of translucency, giving your fins and flukes a delicate, ethereal appearance.
  • Unique patterns: Design your own patterns for fins and flukes, such as stripes, spots, or swirls, to make your mermaid tail truly one-of-a-kind.

With these tips in mind, you're well on your way to mastering how to draw a mermaid tail that's both captivating and unique. Don't forget to have fun and let your creativity shine!

4. Coloring Tips for Your Mermaid Tail

Now that you've added texture and detail to your mermaid tail, it's time to bring it to life with color! In this section, we'll help you choose the perfect color scheme, blend colors for a smooth finish, and add depth with light and shadow. With these coloring tips, you'll soon master how to draw a mermaid tail that's not only visually stunning but also full of personality.

Choosing a Color Scheme

Deciding on a color scheme for your mermaid tail is a crucial step in creating a cohesive and eye-catching design. Consider the following when selecting colors:

  • Inspiration from nature: Look to the colors of real-life aquatic creatures, such as fish, dolphins, and even coral, for inspiration.
  • Theme or mood: Think about the overall feeling you want your mermaid tail to convey. For example, a bright and colorful tail might suggest a playful, energetic character, while a darker, more subdued color palette could indicate a mysterious or mystical personality.
  • Complementary colors: Choose colors that work well together, such as those that are opposite each other on the color wheel, to create a balanced and harmonious look.

Remember, you can always explore different color combinations and experiment with various shades and hues to find the perfect color scheme for your mermaid tail.

Blending Colors for a Smooth Finish

Once you've chosen your colors, it's time to apply them to your mermaid tail. Blending colors is an important technique that can give your tail a smooth, polished appearance. Here are some tips for blending colors effectively:

  1. Start with a light base color and gradually build up layers of darker colors to create depth and dimension.
  2. Use a clean, dry brush or a blending tool to gently smudge the edges of different colors together, creating a seamless transition between shades.
  3. For an extra smooth finish, try using a colorless blender—a special type of marker or colored pencil designed specifically for blending colors.

With practice, you'll soon master the art of color blending and create a mermaid tail that looks professional and captivating.

Adding Depth with Light and Shadow

Finally, to truly make your mermaid tail stand out, you'll want to add depth using light and shadow. This will help bring your tail to life and make it appear more three-dimensional. Keep these tips in mind as you add depth to your mermaid tail:

  • Consistent light source: Just like with shading and highlighting earlier, consider the light source in your drawing. This will determine where to place lighter and darker colors on your tail.
  • Contrast: Don't be afraid to use bold, contrasting colors to create a striking effect. For example, try using a bright, saturated color for highlights and a deep, rich color for shadows.
  • Layering: Build up layers of color to create a sense of depth and dimension in your mermaid tail. This can be especially effective when working with translucent colors, such as those used for fins and flukes.

By following these coloring tips and techniques, you'll be well on your way to learning how to draw a mermaid tail that's not only beautiful but also full of depth and character. Now, go forth and create your masterpiece!

5. Exploring Different Mermaid Tail Styles

As you continue your journey of learning how to draw a mermaid tail, it's important to remember that there's no one-size-fits-all approach. Mermaid tails come in a variety of styles, each with its own unique characteristics and appeal. In this section, we'll explore three popular mermaid tail styles—realistic, fantasy, and stylized—giving you the chance to experiment and find the perfect style for your artistic vision.

Drawing Realistic Tails Inspired by Marine Life

Realistic mermaid tails take inspiration from the natural world, drawing on the characteristics and features of actual marine creatures. To create a realistic mermaid tail, consider:

  • Studying marine animals: Look at photos of fish, dolphins, whales, and other aquatic creatures to get a feel for their anatomy and learn how their tails function. This will help you create a mermaid tail that appears more believable and true-to-life.
  • Texture and details: Pay close attention to the texture and patterns found on real-life marine animals. Incorporate these into your mermaid tail, along with other details like fin rays, veins, and natural markings, to enhance the realistic appearance.

By drawing on nature for inspiration, you'll be able to create a mermaid tail that's both captivating and grounded in reality.

Creating Fantasy Tails with Unique Designs

Fantasy mermaid tails allow you to stretch your imagination and explore the realm of the extraordinary. When designing a fantasy mermaid tail, don't be afraid to:

  • Think outside the box: Break free from traditional mermaid tail designs and experiment with unconventional shapes, textures, and patterns. For example, you could create a tail with a swirling, ribbon-like shape, or one that resembles a peacock's fan.
  • Play with color: Fantasy tails are the perfect canvas for bold, vibrant colors and eye-catching combinations. Use your newfound knowledge on how to draw a mermaid tail with color to make your fantasy tail truly stand out.

Remember, when creating a fantasy mermaid tail, the only limit is your imagination!

Stylized Tails for Cartoon and Anime Characters

Stylized mermaid tails are often seen in cartoons, anime, and other animated media. These tails focus on simplicity and visual appeal, making them perfect for character design. To create a stylized mermaid tail, keep the following tips in mind:

  • Simplified shapes: Stylized tails often have a streamlined, simplified appearance. Focus on capturing the essence of a mermaid tail with basic shapes and curves, rather than getting bogged down in intricate details.
  • Exaggeration: Feel free to exaggerate certain features of the tail, such as making the fins larger or the tail more curved, to give your character a distinctive look.

With a stylized mermaid tail, you can create memorable and visually appealing characters that are perfect for animated stories and adventures.

In conclusion, learning how to draw a mermaid tail is not just about mastering techniques, but also about exploring different styles and finding the one that speaks to you as an artist. By experimenting with realistic, fantasy, and stylized tails, you'll soon develop a unique artistic voice and create mermaid tails that are truly one-of-a-kind. So, grab your pencils and paper, and dive into the magical world of mermaid tail design!

If you enjoyed learning how to draw a mermaid tail and want to expand your skills in drawing mermaids, don't miss the workshop 'Making a Mermaid' by Hope Christofferson. This workshop will guide you through the process of creating a beautiful and unique mermaid illustration from start to finish, perfect for beginners and aspiring artists alike.