How to Draw a Dragon - Step by Step Art Tutorial
Dragons are a classic character type that you’ll see within fantasy stories and games, and while they classically play the villain, you may also see them as sidekicks or friends to the heroes and protagonists. But dragons can be more difficult to draw than you might think. How do you draw dragon wings? How do you draw a dragon’s body? With that being said, here’s a step by step tutorial about how to draw a classic European dragon!
If you're not a big fan of reading, don’t worry -- we have a step by step video about how to draw a dragon in Medibang Paint Pro!
1. Start with two circles for the dragon’s head.
A dragon’s head has a similar structure to a horse! You’ll want to start off with one larger circle, and one smaller circle to start with the head. You can connect these to create an almost pear-like shape. When drawing anything, you’ll want to start with the simple shapes so that it’s easier to get the correct proportions.
2. Draw the neck like a long “S” curve.
The neck of your dragon should curve like a large letter “S”. The width should also match the width of the large circle you drew for the head. It’s better to think of the neck as a long cylinder so that you’re thinking in 3D shapes!
3. Draw the dragon’s body like a snowman.
Start with a larger circle for the upper torso that slightly overlaps the end of the neck, and then create a slightly larger circle for the lower torso. That should overlap slightly with the first circle you drew as well. It’s very similar to how you would draw a snowman!
You can connect these two circles to make the transition smoother, so now you should have another shape that’s similar to a pear. Make sure you’re not connecting them with just straight lines -- you want to curve them so that the connection feels seamless! We’ll be drawing this dragon in a sitting position, but if you’d like a different pose, you can rearrange the circles and any other following limbs accordingly!
4. Draw the legs.
You can start off by drawing the legs similarly to the way you’d draw a paper clip -- like a long, spiraling oval that stops midway through the full shape.
Feel free to define the shape of the legs a little. Even though we’re starting with just ovals, legs still have muscle definition. With something as strong and powerful as a dragon, the muscular structure of the legs should be apparent. If you’re not sure how leg muscles work, they’re quite similar to the legs in human anatomy!
5. Draw the bird-like feet.
Lots of people think that you need to reference reptiles when drawing dragons, and while you can, it’s actually more helpful to reference birds! When dragons were initially “discovered”, people found dinosaur bones. Birds are our closest relatives to dinosaurs, so the best way to reference dragon anatomy is to reference birds. So, to draw the feet, we can start with feet that are duck-like for now. We can worry about the details later.
6. Draw the arms.
Starting from either side of the upper torso, you can draw two long ovals that end at around the midsection of the body. Draw another two long ovals that overlap the first pair, and they should end at the ends of the feet.
While you can keep the upper ovals the same, you should shape the lower ovals similarly to baseball bats to match the muscle structure of a forearm. If you think more geometrically, think of the shape as a long hexagon!
Once you finish those, you can draw the hands in at the bottom as those duck feet shapes.
7. Draw the tail.
Think of the tail as one long and curved triangle. You can make it as long as you want, but to make the overall silhouette feel more interesting, you can curve the tail around the feet similar to how a cat might curve its tail around its body while it sleeps or sits.
Make sure that your tail is nice and fluid! The best way to achieve this look is by starting with a gesture for the action of the tail, and then drawing long and large strokes with your whole arm. It doesn’t have to be perfect -- this is only the sketching phase!
8. Draw the horns and ears.
The shape you draw for the horns is up to you, but make sure you mark off the base of the horns on your head first! That way it’s easier to see how it attaches in a 3D sense. I drew mine similar to curvy cones.
Your ears can be drawn as a simple leaf shape, and because the head is facing sideways, I only have to draw one.
9. Draw the dragon wings.
Wings are very similar to arm anatomy, except the fingers are extended to create the points within a dragon’s wing. You can reference bat wings if you’re unsure! But instead of arms, you’ll be drawing them as if they’re coming from the shoulder blades.
The top part of the wing can be drawn almost like a skewed letter “M”, and the bottom points of the wings can be drawn as upside-down U’s.
10. Add details to the head and neck.
If you’re working digitally, create a new layer above your first one, and change the colour of your brush. If you’re working traditionally, you can press a little harder with your pencil to refine what you have. We’re on our second sketch pass now!
At this point, a lot of the details are up to you -- you don’t have to copy exactly what’s done here, but you can if you’d like to! You can add rings to the horns to emphasize the 3D form, and you can illustrate your ears similar to how a deer’s ears are. You can reference snake eyes for your dragon’s eyes, and you can draw the nostrils like a horizontal comma. You can add some teeth sticking out of the mouth if you’d like, and curve the mouth opening into whatever expression you want. Mine curves into a bit of a smile! Adding spikes to the back of the neck also gives your dragon a little more detail and interest.
11. Add details to the torso and draw in the feet.
You can clean up the body’s shapes from what you already have, but you should have a good base to go from that you can almost directly trace. Define the shape of the arms and legs a little more, and you can add in some belly scales. Curve them around your shapes so that they feel a little more 3D.
If you’d like to keep the webbed look to your feet, you can! But if not, you can use your webbed duck feet shape as a guideline to draw in the toes. Draw them as bent ovals, and you can add in the claws at the tips -- those should look like a long teardrop.
12. Add details to the tail.
While you can follow the initial shape you’ve drawn for the tail, if you drew spikes down the neck, they should continue onto the tail!
Make sure that your spikes don’t follow the exact outside of the tail -- they should curve around it as if the tail is one long 3D form. This also emphasizes the fact that the tail is like a tube, not a long rectangle.
You can also add whatever shape you’d like to the tip of the tail, or leave it completely blank! I decided to add a classic spade shape.
13. Add details to the wings.
This is where we add the “fingers” to the wings. From the top point of the wings, you can draw prongs that extend to each point on the bottom. It’s similar to how a fork looks! Once those prongs are drawn in, you can add the webbing back in between each one to make them feel like complete wings.
You can also add a small spike on the tops of your wings if you’d like!
14. Line your artwork.
When you’ve finished all that sketching, you can outline what you have with a clean and sharp tool! Create another layer above everything if you’re working digitally, or use a fine liner to create line art if you’re working traditionally. Don’t forget to erase your pencil sketch after!
Remember that your lines should be fixing your sketch, not necessarily copying it. So make sure that you’re fixing all the other things that you may have messed up with the first time you sketched the dragon.
15. Colour in your flat colours.
Now it’s time for colour! If you’re working traditionally, you can use whatever medium you think would work best. Digital artists can create another layer beneath your line art for your flat colours. Your colours that you choose are all up to you, but I stuck with a somewhat orange palette!
You can use the paint bucket tool set to reference the whole canvas and colour the dragon that way. There’s also another trick with the magic wand that you can try -- with the expand set to 2, select all of your negative space around your line art and inverse the selection. On your colour layer, you can use the paint bucket set to reference the layer, deselect, and turn on protect alpha. Now you have a flat base and you can’t colour outside the lines!
16. Add your shadows.
If you’re working traditionally, you can add some simple shadows with darker colours. The technique that’s shown is called cel shading, which is when you use blocks of colour for shadows instead of blending them all in!
If you’re working digitally, you can create a new layer above your flat colours, and set it to clipping. Now, you can’t draw outside the lines, but you also can change the colour without affecting your flats. Choose a light blue, and figure out where your shadows will go. Mine were drawn as if a light source was above my dragon! Once those are complete, set the blending style to multiply, and now they should look like shadows!
17. Add in your final touches.
You can add on a background, add a drop shadow for your dragon, or you can just leave it white! Your final touches are all up to you, but I decided to add a blue background to complement the orange dragon, and a drop shadow so that it looked like the dragon was actually in the scene.
Here’s my final dragon illustration! Of course there are many other types of dragons you could illustrate and many different poses, so feel free to experiment with the steps I’ve given! You can share your creations with us by tagging @wingedcanvas on Instagram!
If you’d like to draw more things like this, check out our cartooning and anime classes, where you can get guided lessons with added creativity and add some cartoon flavour to your illustrations! If you’d like more tutorials like this one, check out the digital drawing tutorials section on our blog, or if you’re not much of a reader, check out our digital drawing tutorials playlist on YouTube!