Wildlife Pencil Drawing Guide for Beginners
Written by  Daisie Team
Published on 9 min read


  1. Gather your materials
  2. Select your subject
  3. Start with a basic outline
  4. Add in the details
  5. Practice shading and texturing
  6. Learn to layer
  7. Explore wildlife textures
  8. Practice drawing different animals
  9. Learn to capture emotion and movement
  10. Keep practicing and experimenting

Welcome to your first step into the world of realistic wildlife pencil drawing. If you've ever marveled at the intricate details of a wildlife sketch and wondered how you could replicate that, then you're in the right place. This guide will walk you through the process, from the basics of gathering your materials to the final stages of capturing emotion and movement. So, are you ready to start your journey with this realistic wildlife pencil drawing guide? Let's get started.

Gather Your Materials

Before we dive into the world of drawing, we need to make sure we have everything at our disposal. The first step in our realistic wildlife pencil drawing guide is gathering the right materials. Here's what you'll need:

  • Graphite Pencils: A basic set of graphite pencils is a must. They come in different grades from 9H to 9B. The H pencils are hard and they leave lighter marks, while the B pencils are soft and leave darker marks. For a start, you can go with a 2H, HB, 2B, 4B, and 6B.
  • Sketching Paper: It's important to use high-quality sketching paper. It should be thick enough to handle erasing and shading without tearing. Strathmore makes a good quality, affordable sketch pad.
  • Eraser: A good quality eraser is vital. The kneaded eraser is a great choice as it can be shaped to erase small areas without affecting the rest of your drawing.
  • Pencil Sharpener: Keep your pencils sharp. A simple metal sharpener will do the trick, but if you're feeling a bit fancy, you can invest in an electric one.

Remember, the quality of your materials can greatly influence your drawing experience. Always go for the best you can afford. Now that you've got your materials ready, it's time to select your subject. That's a whole new adventure in itself, which we will tackle next.

Select Your Subject

Now that we've got our materials, let's move on to the next step in our realistic wildlife pencil drawing guide: selecting your subject. Choosing what to draw can sometimes be as challenging as the drawing process itself. But not to worry, I'm here to help you through it.

When starting out, it's advisable to choose a subject that isn't too complex. A good place to begin could be with a bird or a squirrel. They are simple yet interesting subjects that can offer a great deal of variety. As you get more comfortable, you can gradually move on to more complex animals like lions, elephants, or wolves.

Photographs can be a great reference point when you're starting out. Having a clear image of your subject can help make your drawing more realistic. You could use a wildlife magazine or even a simple Google image search to find your inspiration. Just remember, the goal is not to copy the photograph, but to use it as a guide to understand the animal's structure, fur, and expressions.

So, take your time, find a subject that inspires you, and let's get ready to create some magic with our pencils!

Start with a Basic Outline

Now that you've selected your subject, the next step in our realistic wildlife pencil drawing guide is to start with a basic outline. Think of this as a rough sketch to map out the shape and proportions of your wildlife subject.

Begin with light, loose strokes—don't worry about the details just yet. The goal at this stage is to capture the overall shape of the animal. For example, if you're drawing a bird, you might start with a circle for the head, an oval for the body, and lines to represent the beak and legs.

Keep in mind that your first sketch won't be perfect, and that's okay. This is just your draft, and it's meant to be adjusted. As you continue to refine your sketch, you'll notice that the animal starts to take shape. It's like putting together a jigsaw puzzle: at first, you'll have a lot of separate pieces, but as you keep working, they'll start to come together to form a complete picture.

Remember, patience is key in this process. So, take a deep breath, relax and let your pencil do the talking!

Add in the Details

Once you've got a basic outline of your chosen wildlife, it's time to bring it to life with details. Picture a wolf without its fur texture or a tiger without its stripes — not quite the same, right?

The details are what make your drawing unique and realistic. So, let's dive into the world of details!

Start by observing your subject closely. Notice the pattern of the fur or scales, the shape of the eyes, the curve of the beak or the claws. Every animal has unique features that set it apart.

When adding details, use a sharper pencil and tighter strokes. For example, if you're drawing a fox, you might use short, quick strokes to mimic the texture of its fur. If you're drawing a turtle, you might use longer, curved lines to capture the pattern on its shell.

Remember: details matter, but don't stress about making it perfect. The goal is to capture the essence of the animal. After all, part of the beauty of wildlife is in its imperfections and uniqueness.

Happy detailing!

Practice Shading and Texturing

Good job on adding those details! Now that your animal has its individual features, let's add some depth and dimension with shading and texturing. This is a key step in our realistic wildlife pencil drawing guide.

Shading involves filling in areas of your drawing to create the illusion of depth, making your animal look three-dimensional. It's like adding shadows and highlights to your drawing. For example, the underside of a bird's wing might be darker than the top where the light hits it.

Texturing, on the other hand, is all about creating the feel and surface of your animal. Is the fur smooth or rough? Are the scales hard or soft? By adding texture, you make your animal more realistic and tangible.

Here's a tip: experiment with different pencil grades and pressure to achieve different shades and textures. A softer pencil (like a B2 or B3) can create darker, richer shades while a harder pencil (like an H2 or H3) is great for lighter shades and fine details.

Remember, practice makes perfect. It's okay if your first few attempts don't turn out as you hoped. Keep trying, and soon you'll see a noticeable improvement. Ready to add some depth to your wildlife drawing? Let's do it!

Learn to Layer

Layering is a powerful tool in your realistic wildlife pencil drawing guide. It takes your artwork to a new level, adding depth and richness to your drawings. But what exactly is layering, and how do you do it? Let's find out.

Layering is simply the process of adding multiple layers of pencil to your drawing. Each layer adds a new level of color, texture, or shadow, which brings your drawing to life. It's like stacking several sheets of colored glass on top of each other — each layer adds a new hue, and the final result is a rich, deep color.

Start with light layers first, gradually building up to darker tones. This gives you more control over your drawing, and it's easier to erase mistakes. For example, if you're drawing a bear, you might start with a light layer to create the basic shape and color of the bear. Then, add more layers to create the texture of the fur, the shadows under the bear, and the highlights on its coat.

One thing to remember: layering is a slow process. It requires patience and precision. But trust me, the end result is worth it. So grab your pencils, take a deep breath, and let's start layering!

Explore Wildlife Textures

Now, let's dive into the next step of your realistic wildlife pencil drawing guide: exploring wildlife textures. This is where your drawings start to really come to life.

Wildlife is full of diverse textures. From the smoothness of a dolphin's skin to the roughness of a rhino's hide, every animal has its unique texture. As an artist, your job is to capture these textures on paper.

First, study your subject. If you're drawing a lion, look at pictures of lions and observe the texture of their fur. Notice how it's different on different parts of their body — it's thicker around the mane and thinner on the rest of the body. Try to visualize how you would recreate these textures with your pencil.

Next, experiment with different pencil strokes. For example, short, quick strokes can create the illusion of short fur or feathers, while longer, smoother strokes can be used for longer fur or smooth skin.

Remember, it's all about observation and practice. The more you draw, the better you'll become at capturing these textures. So don't be afraid to experiment and try new things. After all, that's what art is all about!

Practice Drawing Different Animals

Moving on with our realistic wildlife pencil drawing guide, it's time to practice drawing a variety of animals. As the saying goes, variety is the spice of life, and the same goes for your sketchbook.

Start by picking different species from various environments. For instance, you might choose a desert-dwelling camel, a deep-sea dolphin, or a tropical parrot. Each of these animals will present unique challenges and learning opportunities.

When you draw a variety of animals, you're not just learning how to draw their shapes and textures. You're learning about their habitats, their behaviors, and their unique physical attributes. All this knowledge will make your artwork richer and more realistic.

Let's say you're drawing a parrot. You'll need to capture not only the vibrant colors of its feathers but also its sharp beak, its curious eye, and the delicate grip of its talons on a tree branch. Each animal offers a new set of features to tackle.

Remember, practice makes perfect. The more animals you draw, the wider your range of skills will become. So, grab your pencil and let's get started!

Learn to Capture Emotion and Movement

Now, let's dive further into our realistic wildlife pencil drawing guide by focusing on two elements that can bring your art to life: emotion and movement.

Animals, like humans, exhibit a wide range of emotions. A lion may show aggression while protecting its territory, a rabbit might display fear when it senses a predator, and a dog can express sheer joy when playing fetch. Capturing these emotions can give your drawings a new depth and realism.

But how do you show these emotions in your drawings? Look for the small details. Maybe it's the way a bear's eyes narrow when it's on the hunt, or the way a bird's feathers ruffle in the wind. These little details can speak volumes about an animal's emotional state.

Movement, on the other hand, deals with the animal's physical actions. It can be a galloping horse, a soaring eagle, or a swimming fish. To capture movement, pay attention to the flow of the animal's body and the way it interacts with its environment.

For instance, if you're drawing a galloping horse, think about how its muscles flex and stretch with each stride, how its mane and tail flow in the wind, and how its hooves strike the ground. These details can help create a sense of motion in your drawing.

Remember, capturing emotion and movement in your wildlife drawings not only brings them to life but also showcases your understanding and respect for the natural world. So keep observing, keep practicing, and keep drawing!

Keep Practicing and Experimenting

As the last step in our realistic wildlife pencil drawing guide, it's all about practice and experimentation. Drawing is a skill, and like any skill, it improves with practice. But remember, practice doesn't just mean doing the same thing over and over. It's about experimenting, pushing your boundaries, and trying new things.

Start by setting aside a few hours a week for drawing. Use this time to explore different techniques, work on your weak areas, and refine your strengths. Test out different types of pencils, from hard to soft leads, to see how they affect your shading and texturing. Experiment with different paper types, too—you'd be amazed at how much the texture of the paper can influence your final piece.

Don't shy away from challenges. If you've been drawing a lot of mammals, try shifting your focus to birds or reptiles. Each type of animal comes with its own set of textures and shapes, so this can be a great way to push your skills.

Beyond real-life observation, consider using references from wildlife photography books or reputable online resources. These can be invaluable tools for understanding animal anatomy and movement.

Lastly, don't be too hard on yourself. Every artist, no matter how experienced, has room for improvement. Each piece you create is a stepping stone in your journey. Celebrate your progress, learn from your mistakes, and keep pushing forward. With patience, practice, and a spirit of exploration, you'll continue to grow in your realistic wildlife pencil drawing journey.

If you found this blog post on wildlife pencil drawing for beginners helpful and want to take your skills to the next level, check out Arianne Jeri's workshop, 'Drawing Realistic Fur Using The Indentation Technique.' This workshop will provide you with the knowledge and techniques needed to draw realistic fur textures, making your wildlife pencil drawings even more stunning.