how to draw a realistic shark

How to Draw a Realistic Shark

Step 1.

Begin with an elongated tear drop shape – the pointed end will serve as the tip of the shark’s spine and the rounded end will by the tip of the head. Note how the tear drop is sitting at a slight angle with the bottom segment sitting parallel to the bottom of the paper – this is important as it influences the perspective of the shark. Draw a small circle about half way between the highest point of the upper tear-drop arc and the tip of the nose, as shown. This will be the eye and should be drawn close to the top of the head, but leave a small gap as I have done.

Step 2.

In this step we draw four of the five main fins. These are quite straightforward to draw; the only difficulty lies in making sure they are placed correctly and are the right size. The tail fins are easy to place as they are drawn at the tip of the tail, as shown. Make the upper tail fin swept back and larger than the smaller and more vertical lower fin. The dorsal fin (the one on the top of the shark’s back) is also easy to place – make the leading edge start a bit over from the top of the teardrop shape. When drawing the shark’s left side fin, make its trailing edge end slightly in front of where the dorsal fin starts (in the vertical plane). Then you just have to draw the rest of the fin as shown – just make it roughly the same size as the dorsal fin.

Step 3.

Erase some of the lines where the fins attach to the body. Now add the upper edge of the right side fin – this fin is pretty much in line with the perspective of the drawing so we won’t really see that much of it. It should start in roughly the same vertical plane that the dorsal fin starts in. Now draw four equally spaced and more-or-less equally sized lines at a slight angle to form the outline of the gills, as shown. When drawing the mouth, make it start from the midway point between the left side fin and the tip of the shark’s nose/face. Finally, don’t forget the small fin just in front of the tail.

Step 4.

Finish the right side fin by drawing the trailing edge as shown. Notice how there is a weird hook-like shape at the one end of it – I know it looks strange at the moment, but when we start shading it will make sense. Next, you need to add a small fin on the top of the shark’s spine, just in front of the tail fins. Finally, add the slit in the nose for the nostril and a small semi-circle ring around the trailing side of the eye – make this ring have a slight pinched section in the middle.

Step 5.

First, add the small fin at the bottom of the shark that I missed in the last step. Now the outline of the drawing is complete and we can start the shading. The base layer of shading is quite a ragged process as you can see, but there is a specific method that you must pay attention to. Making a smooth patch of shading requires an initial layer of graphite which you then smooth out with a cotton pad or tissue. The initial layer of graphite is applied by using the blade of your pencil (so holding the pencil at an angle) and lightly dragging it across the page. As we will be shading multiple layers, you don’t have to worry about making this initial layer too smooth and consistent – the pencil strokes don’t have to be parallel and you can has some small gaps here and there. Note how there are different tones as well – for the darker areas, use a 2B or 3B pencil. For the lighter areas, use an HB pencil. Note how I have left the gill area completely blank and patches of highlights through the middle of the shark’s face and top of its head.

Step 6.

Shade a base layer for the rest of the shark’s body, as shown. Note how there is a thin band of lighter shading that runs down the top of the spine, and a section of the lower tail fin that is lighter than the rest.

Step 7.

Now we can smooth out the shading using cotton pads or tissues. If you aren’t familiar with this technique, it involves using a small bunch of the material and rubbing the graphite with it in small circular motions or left-right-left-right motions. It’s a fairly intuitive technique – you are basically trying to smudge the graphite around so that it blends together in a smooth manner. Some general tips when shading – (1) do not be too forceful or too fast as that could damage the paper, (2) make the motions cover a moderately sized area so that the graphite is distributed more equally, and (3) don’t blend across patches of darker and lighter shading, otherwise they blend together and loose their definition (unless you want a gradient effect). Oh, and do not use your fingers - ever! Your skin is covered in oily secretions that seep into the paper and interfere with how the graphite is applied. You should try to avoid all contact between your hand and the paper (rest your hand on a second sheet of paper when you draw).** Also read steps 9 and 10 for more tips before you begin**

Step 8.

Now we begin the second layer of shading. This time we want to make certain sections darker so use a 4B pencil. The dorsal fin should be made completely dark, whilst the section of highlight in the tail fins should remain lighter. The right side fin should have a dark tip and trailing edge, but ensure you leave the leading edge light as this will serve as a highlight later on. The section between the gills and the eye should be darkened, but leave a small streaky section of it lighter (look at the final image to see what we are trying to achieve here).

Step 9.

Smooth out the shading from the previous step using cotton pads/tissues. You must ensure there are no small eraser shavings on the paper or the cotton pad/tissue before you start blending or else you will erase thin lines all over the shading. Also, you most definitely do NOT need to be separating the two stages of shading (laying down the graphite and blending it) as I have done. I have only done this for the benefit of the tutorial – when I am just drawing normally, I will be *constantly* switching back and forth between blending and laying down graphite until I am happy with the result.

Step 10.

Continue to darken certain sections of the image and smooth it out with cotton pads/tissues. In this step I started to shade the tip of the nose/head and continued to define the shape of the fins. See how I have also been smudging graphite over the outline of the drawing? That’s probably unavoidable if you want to get smooth shading right up to the edges of the drawing.

Step 11.

In this step we will erase the unsightly ‘overflow’ of shading described in the previous step without erasing the part of the drawing you want to keep. This is quite easy with the shark as most of the drawing’s borders are straight lines. You will need to use a scrap sheet of paper and lay it over the actual drawing with the paper’s border aligning with the drawing’s border. You will want to make your erase strokes in one direction away from the drawing ( start with the erase on the edge of the paper covering your drawing and erase away from it). You will probably need to rearrange the paper mask quite often if the outline starts to curve and you may need to come back later and just redraw the edge of the drawing.

Step 12.

Develop the area surrounding the eye. You want to make this area very dark and the border between the top of the eye socket structure and the top of the head to be quite distinct. Also note how the shading wraps around the eye (see the enlarged inset image). I’ve also started to shade the area around the nostril slit – it looks kind of strange at this point and is probably darker than it needs to be, but will be developed in the next step.

Step 13.

As you darken the rest of the shark, it becomes pretty clear that the white sections of the face are too light. Here we very lightly shade over these areas and blend them. It’s better to do this gradually rather than make the area too dark (trying to erase shading becomes quite messy). Also note how the shading in front of the mouth has a section that remains light – this should stay untouched.

Step 14.

Darken the lines of the mouth. Note how there are two lines – one of the lower jaw and one of the upper – which sort of overlap.

Step 15.

Four things happen in this step. Firstly, the leading edge of the right side fin (top left image inset) is drawn – note how there are two thin bands of highlights along either side of the dark band. Secondly, another small tail fin is added to the rear section of the body. Because of the perspective, we can only see the leading edge and the whole thing looks kind of strange (bottom centre inset). Thirdly, we start to shade the gills (bottom right inset). Leave thin bands of highlights at the bottom and top of each gill, but not in the centre. You should also define the gill borders at the bottom and top of the gills, but again not so much in the centre. Finally, darken the outline of the eye (top right inset) and shade it as shown. Note the small oval of paper that is not shaded at the top of the eye.

Step 16.

Finish shading the gills and the area just above it. Note the two streaks of highlights in this area (shade the area first and then use your eraser to create the highlights). Finally, don’t forget to darken the pupil of the eye!

Step 17.

I hope you have enjoyed this tutorial on how to draw a realistic shark and found it helpful. If you have read through this tutorial and don’t think you can pull it off completely, I would still strongly encourage you to attempt the drawing anyway to develop your shading skills.

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Uploaded: August 4, 2013
Artist: JTM93
Difficulty: Advanced  Advanced Skill Level
Steps: 17
Updated: August 4, 2013
P.O.V: Side
Favourited: 12 times
Artist comments

Welcome to this tutorial on how to draw a realistic shark. The shark in question is a Caribbean Reef Shark, but the techniques explained in this tutorial will be applicable to any shark drawing. This is an excellent tutorial to attempt if you want to develop your shading skills – the majority of the drawing involves layering shading and you don’t have to draw any complicated textures or intricate details. To complete this drawing you will need HB->4B pencils, an eraser, sharpener, smooth paper (I used A4 printer paper), cotton pads/tissues and Q-tips.