Monday, August 15, 2011

Drawing Dragons

There are a lot of tutorials on

how to draw dragons

. While there are popular designs, you shouldn't put yourself into a box when it comes to mythological creatures. Being creative and original are the most important aspects to your artwork. Dragons aren't real and shouldn't be confined to one person's imagination. With that said, here is a drawing dragons step by step example on how I designed Mirzym.

Step 1: Sketch a Crude Pose and Idea

This sketch gives me a guideline on the motion of my image.
Once I have a sense of direction, then I add a few more details.
Originally, I wanted to have more of a flying pose. I'll change this later though.
I don't feel the need to constrain myself when sketching on a computer. I find that using thick brushes, colors, and shapes are better for me to envision where I want to go.

Step 2: Details and More Crudeness

In this step, I'm playing with the shapes and positions. I've changed the orientation a little and added some color to get a better picture of what I'm working with. 
While it's still very crude, more shaping and ideas are being worked out.
Next, I started playing with the wings. When drawing dragon wings, remember that they are, essentially, arms with a small hand and long digits between the flaps.

Playing around with wing designs. 
This is a slow process, but I wasn't trying to make it look good yet. With digital programs, it's easier to play around with ideas without ruining anything.
Adding more details.

I decided to round out the eye, based on a lizards, and add more details. But the overall shape wasn't pleasing to me yet. I wanted to make Mirzym a bit stronger looking. So, I had to beef the dragon up a bit.
Step 3: Finishing, Texturing, and Presentation

Texturing is pretty important, and there are many different end results people like. Some want their work looking more CG. While others, want to reflect a more traditional style painting. Don't get too caught up in what people say you should or shouldn't do. Just make something that you'd like to see.
I added scales and finished with the overall position. Drawing dragon scales can be a bit tedious if you are doing art in a classical way, however, if you are using a digital program, either make a custom brush, buy one, or find one for free; this will make it much faster, and the results will look better. The only thing that's left to do is finish the wings with texture and add any small details I've missed.
The completed design.
The dragon is now complete. But leaving it this way is a bit unprofessional looking. If you don't feel like drawing a landscape, you can used a scanned piece of paper. I chose a parchment type for the final background.
The final result.

I took a lot of liberties with how I wanted my dragon to look. I used Gimp to digitally draw and paint it. I also had the help of some nice brushes from the Chaos and Evolutions DVDI didn't want to make a tutorial on how to draw a specific dragon. For the most part, I think those things are pretty lame. This is just my creative process, which is a little more unconventional than most. I like to play with shapes and ideas as I work. And I never have a finished image in my head until I'm already there.

Anatomy of a Dragon:

Dragons can take on any basic animal form you want, but there should be a few characteristics: scales, wings,  talons, and a tail. If you want some great ideas and guidelines to follow, click here. As you can see, lots of dragon designs follow different animals. A lot of artists use real life to inspire their creations. If you don't have a clear idea on what you want: instead of looking up something like "dragon eyes," look up "reptile eyes."


That pretty much sums up this pseudo tutorial on how to draw dragons. I do recommend getting the Chaos and Evolutions DVD and a graphics tablet if you are serious about digital art. It, also, has drawing dragons tutorials. I'm between tablets right now and actually used a normal optical mouse to draw and paint this (I don't recommend that!). I, also, like to use rectangular brushes over circular ones for contour lines; I find they give me sharper edges.

When you start, don't be afraid to go into ultra high resolutions if you're not using vectors. Going smaller, later on, is never a problem. And always open a new layer before you start drawing—make sure it has an alpha channel! There is no reason to confine yourself to the limitations of a physical canvas when you're not using one. And if you don't know how to shade, study classical lighting. The best way to do this is with one light source and a fruit of your choice. 

There are good how to draw dragon books out there for people who are not ready to be so creative: Dragon Art, seems to have a lot of expressive poses and styles of dragons in them. It's pretty affordable and perfect for the beginner who wants to ease into it. 

P.S. Dragons are cool. 


  1. Yes dragons are cool. It was neat to see the progression of the drawing:)

  2. I prefer the Strongbad method: