How to Draw an Owl

Create an Owl Step by Step

Drawing an owl is a lot easier than it looks if you begin the project with a secret trick artists use: geometric shapes. Use ovals, arcs and lines to make up the basic owl form, then fill in the details afterwards. Draw the owl in pencil so that you can erase overlapping parts of the ovals and lines once the owl takes shape.

Forming the Head

To start your drawing, lightly sketch a large, horizontal oval for the owl's head near the top of the page. Leave enough space on the page around the top of each side to add the feather tufts that look like ears.

Add the Body

Form the body by drawing an elongated, upside-down egg shape beneath the head, so that the head rests atop the body. The body portion should be wider than the head and two to three times as tall.

Define the Head

Sketch a right-angled V shape that looks a bit like a giant, connected eyebrow extending beyond the sides of the owl's head. The point of the V should be centered and halfway down the owl's face area. The V will help you place the eyes, beak and "ear" tufts.

Draw a set of parentheses shapes (arced lines) inside the head oval, mimicking the outer shape of the head. These new curves hang down from the V near each side. It should look a bit like a haircut on a cartoon face at this point.

Add the Facial Details

Draw the "ear" tufts by making outward-facing curves down from either side of the protruding V lines, as if drawing cat ears. The bottom of each curve should connect to the head.

Draw the eyes by making circles that look out from either side of the V on the face. The bottom of each eye should hang down as low as the point of the V. The circles should be slightly flat on top, as if drawing eyeglasses.

Make the beak by drawing a long, narrow, vertical football shape that starts at the point of the V and continues most of the way down the owl's face.

Detail the Eyes

Trace around the outline of each eye several times to give the eyes more definition. Shade the top lines more than the others to add depth. Draw circles inside the eyes for the irises (the dark parts of the eyes). Leave a small white circle inside each eye to look like light reflecting off the eyes, which makes them more realistic. Darken the irises almost completely.

Shape the Neck and Wings

Erase the outer lines where the head and shoulders connect, then draw new lines that angle slightly inward to reconnect the head to the body. The owl should now have one continuous body shape with a face. Add the wings by drawing curves downward from the owl's shoulders, within the body shape. The curves should arc in the opposite direction of the outer body shape, with the right wing longer than the left. The right wing should be as long as 3/4 of the owl's body, not including the head.

Add a Branch

Approximately 2/3 of the way down the body, sketch a curved horizontal line to be the top of a branch. Follow the curve of the top line to create the bottom of the branch. End the branch by continuing it off the page, or by drawing it like a broken stick with a distinct end; either way will work.

Form the Feet

Erase the parts of the owl body covered by the branch, so the branch sits in front of the owl. Draw the feet by making two rice or capsule shapes for each foot. These should overlap the branch slightly. Draw one curved claw extending out from each capsule shape as if the claws are gripping the branch. Erase areas of the branch where the toes overlap it so that the toes look as though they rest atop the branch.

Add Feathers and Detail to the Face

Erase the rounded bottom line of the owl face and replace it with an upside-down bracket shape with the point touching the bottom of the beak. This bracket should connect with the lines on the sides of the face. Draw tiny horizontal lines along this outline to denote small feathers. Draw a second, lighter bracket shape under the bottom bracket, going over the line with a light touch to represent a layer of feathers.

Enhance the eye area by drawing curved lines that arc outward from the inner corner of each eye. The bottom of these lines should be level with the middle of the beak.

Detail the Head

Darken the V-shaped line above the eyes, out to the ears, to add shading. Use short strokes to create feathers all around the tufts. Connect the tops of the tufts to the head with a series of short vertical lines in a slightly curved shape. The tufts should look similar to cat ear shapes. Darken the underside of each tuft. Add more feather details with short, light strokes radiating outward from the eye and across the top of the head. Continue adding shading across the face and just underneath the outline.

Detail the Body and Wings

Define the wing feathers by drawing three or four angled, slightly curved lines down the length of each wing. These are the ends of the feather layers. Next, draw nearly vertical lines within each wing to mark the edges of individual large feathers. Round and angle the tips of each feather slightly. To create the body feathers, draw horizontal, somewhat angled squiggly lines across the body.

Make the Tail

Lightly draw a U shape under the branch and within the body area of the owl to outline the stomach. The area beneath the stomach section is the underside of the owl's tail. Create several vertical lines within the tail area, denoting large feathers. Round the bottom edges of the individual tail feathers so the bottom of the owl looks more realistic. Draw jagged horizontal lines within the tail area to create markings on the individual feathers. Add horizontal squiggly lines to the stomach area to match the line style of the rest of the body.

Detail the Branch and Toes

Draw long and short horizontal strokes along the inside of the branch for a bark texture, making it slightly darker along the bottom than on the top. Create tiny, light strokes on the outer edges of the toes to make them appear feathered. Shade the underside of each toe slightly.

Final Shading and Finishing

Make the owl look even more realistic with shading in areas such as under the wings and the underside of the belly and tail. Shading also makes the owl look more three-dimensional. Draw a background or shaded area for the owl to complete the picture if you like.

Drawing owls becomes easier after you've done it a few times. The same overlapping ovals technique can be used to draw other animals as well.

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How to Draw an Owl