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Uploaded: September 14, 2013
Artist: JTM93
Difficulty: Advanced  Advanced Skill Level
Steps: 21
Updated: September 14, 2013
P.O.V: Side
Favourited: 5 times
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Hello and welcome to this tutorial on drawing a realistic horse. Horses have very unusual shapes which can be difficult to draw, especially because of their muscular body and shiny fur. In this tutorial, I will show you how to draw a hyper-realistic horse. You will need HB-4B pencils, an eraser, a sharpener and cotton-pads/tissues/Q-tips.

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how to draw a realistic horse

How to Draw a Realistic Horse

how to draw a realistic horse step 1

STEP 1.

Draw a large oval at a slight angle to form the body of the horse. Then draw a second, more elongated oval to form the head – this oval should be lying vertically and also at a slight angle, as shown.
 
how to draw a realistic horse step 2

STEP 2.

Add curved indents to the oval representing the head. These indents shape the snout of the horse. Then connect the two ovals by drawing the outline of the neck. The top of the neck curves slightly and joins the top of the head-oval with the body-oval. At the point where this line meets the body, it dips a bit, creating an indent in the top of the oval. This creates the slight valley in the back of the horse (where you would usually put a saddle). The bottom of the neck is just a quick line joining the two ovals – but note that it joins at around the middle of the head-oval and lies at around a 45-50 degree angle downwards.
 
how to draw a realistic horse step 3

STEP 3.

Horses have large bulbous joints in their legs and it’s important to draw them in the correct location. The front legs are mostly vertical with large knee joints about halfway down the leg and then smaller ankle joints about two-thirds the way down the lower half of the leg. The rear legs are bent slightly and are slightly thicker, especially towards the top.
 
how to draw a realistic horse step 4

STEP 4.

The hooves are slightly wider than the legs and slope forwards.
 
how to draw a realistic horse step 5

STEP 5.

Erase most of the guidelines of the head oval and the body oval, except for the bottom of the body. Add a curved line splitting off from the bottom of the body oval and curling up between the rear legs, parallel with the rear of the horse. This represents the belly. Next, add the two ears. The ear on the far side is facing outward so we can’t see the inside of it, but we can see inside the closer ear which is facing towards us. Keep that in mind when we start the shading. Finally, add the horse’s left eye in the same vertical axis as the ear and in line with the bottom of the neck (SEE INSET).
 
how to draw a realistic horse step 6

STEP 6.

Now we can start shading. I like to do my drawings in segments and so we’ll start with the largest surface area – the body. Begin by just making a rough but even layer of shading across the body. You don’t have to make it smooth yet, just make the tones even. I’ve also made the shadow-areas (under the belly, under the neck, behind the hip) a little darker, but we’ll add the shadows in properly in a few more steps.
 
how to draw a realistic horse step 7

STEP 7.

Here we smooth out the shading by dragging a cotton pad/tissue across it. I like to use small circular movements and fast left-right movements with cotton pads/tissues to do so, but there isn’t really any special technique involved and it’s quite easy to smooth out. However, it can be difficult to get an even tone in the shading and this can be due to two main factors. Firstly, the base layer of shading that you’re smoothing out may have uneven tones – this will translate into uneven tones in the smoothed-out shading. Secondly, the cotton pad/tissue may have gotten very dark and may be smudging darker tones onto lighter areas. You may want to periodically change to a fresh cotton pad/tissue to avoid it. To rectify uneven tones, just add more shading and smooth it out where it is too light or lightly use an eraser to lighten darker areas (and then smooth it out again).
 
how to draw a realistic horse step 8

STEP 8.

Here we smooth out the shading by dragging a cotton pad/tissue across it. I like to use small circular movements and fast left-right movements with cotton pads/tissues to do so, but there isn’t really any special technique involved and it’s quite easy to smooth out. However, it can be difficult to get an even tone in the shading and this can be due to two main factors. Firstly, the base layer of shading that you’re smoothing out may have uneven tones – this will translate into uneven tones in the smoothed-out shading. Secondly, the cotton pad/tissue may have gotten very dark and may be smudging darker tones onto lighter areas. You may want to periodically change to a fresh cotton pad/tissue to avoid it. To rectify uneven tones, just add more shading and smooth it out where it is too light or lightly use an eraser to lighten darker areas (and then smooth it out again).
 
how to draw a realistic horse step 9

STEP 9.

Here I have smoothed out the shading of the shadows. I’ve also added some more layers of shading and smoothed it out extensively to produce the smooth gradients of shading seen here.
 
how to draw a realistic horse step 10

STEP 10.

Add some more shadows in the areas I have done so. It can get a little difficult to add layers of shading over a base layer of shading, so I used a 4B pencil (but LIGHTLY!) to develop the shadows. Also note the regions that I haven’t made darker just in front of the shoulder and around the hip – these will be used to create highlights later.
 
how to draw a realistic horse step 11

STEP 11.

Domesticated horses have somewhat glossy coats which create distinctive highlights around their body. In this drawing, these highlights are mainly found on the shoulders and the hips. The highlight around the hip joint winds around the crease between the belly and the rear leg. In this step I have also started to shade the bottom region of the horse’s shoulders. This area is very muscular with many strange bulges and valleys, but it is also quite dark in the final product so details aren't so important.
 
how to draw a realistic horse step 12

STEP 12.

This shows the sort of rough shading of the shoulder area you need to do before you smooth it out. Notice how it appears darker than the smoothed out final product and also how there are more distinctive gaps between areas of shading.
 
how to draw a realistic horse step 13

STEP 13.

Now smooth out the shading so that the different tones all blend together. You may have to do several layers and continually work on this area until you get it looking right.
 
how to draw a realistic horse step 14

STEP 14.

Now we can start shading the legs. This is a lot easier than the body as the legs are very thin and there are no large surface areas. This makes it easier to make the shading consistent and appear smooth. Start by shading the very dark shadows on the horse’s right front and hind legs. These shadows should be drawn in 4B or darker and make sure you build up the layers of shading rather than just applying more pressure as this could damage the paper. The rest of the legs have pretty simple shading and you use the same technique of doing a base layer of sketchy shading which you then smooth out and repeat. Draw darker tones on the underside of joint bulges and on the sides of the legs. Also note that the horse’s front feet and the lower halves of the two hind legs are white and require much lighter shading which we will do in later steps.
 
how to draw a realistic horse step 15

STEP 15.

Now add some of the details around the leg joints. The important things to capture are the shadows that curve around the underside of the bulbous joints. Add some patches of darker shading here and there along the legs as well. Then shade the hooves – you can make these either pretty smooth or you can make them a bit rough, which is what I have done. I have also made the lower halves of the rear legs white (so in this graphite drawing, they are not shaded extensively). I've just shaded a couple of sinews and notches into the leg which I will smooth out in the next step.
 
how to draw a realistic horse step 16

STEP 16.

Smooth out the shading and details on the legs. Then we can finally start the face
 
how to draw a realistic horse step 17

STEP 17.

_(1)_ Begin by shading a base layer and then smooth it out with a cotton pad/tissue (not shown) _(2)_ Shade the facial features as I have done. Make sure you note that there are dark shadows around the cheeks and some darker patches around the eye. _(3)_ Smooth out the shading. You may have to do several layers of shading until you get the tone you want. There’s a stripe of white fur down the middle of the horse’s face so only shade it very lightly (unless you don’t want the stripe). _(4)_ Add the hair on the neck and middle of the face. See the next step for a description of the technique I used to do this.
 
how to draw a realistic horse step 18

STEP 18.

_(1)_ Start by making jagged lines to form the tips of the hair _(2)_ Now shade the bulk of the hair _(3)_ Smooth out the shading _(4)_ Get a sharp 4B pencil (or darker) and draw the shadows beneath the hair. _(5)_ Smooth it out and make some of the hairs and gaps in the hair darker and sharper.
 
how to draw a realistic horse step 19

STEP 19.

Erase the shading that has spilled outside the boundaries of the horse by using a sheet of paper to cover the actual drawing as shown and then erasing in the direction of the arrow. This allows you to erase the excess shading right up to the border of the drawing. You may want to cut a curve into the paper mask to make this process easier.
 
how to draw a realistic horse step 20

STEP 20.

Finally, we start the final step of the drawing - the tail. _(1)_ Begin by roughly shading the area. _(2)_ Smooth out the shading. _(3)_ Using a sharp 4B pencil (or darker), draw the hair details of the tail. I got a little carried away and didn't show much of an intermediate step here, but it's actually quite easy to do. Practice on a scrap piece of paper first if you are not confident. Note how I've left some hairs at the top of the tail light to give some different tone to the tail – this isn't absolutely necessary, but I think it looks better. _(4)_ You can’t really notice it in the picture, but just add a few lighter hairs with a HB or 2B pencil to the tail.
 
how to draw a realistic horse step 21

STEP 21.

That wraps up this tutorial on drawing a realistic horse. I hope you have found it helpful, if you have any questions just message me and I’ll try get back to you. Thank you