How to draw Animals | Elephants in 7 Steps

African Elephant Drawing
African Elephant Drawing

Elephants are animals that appeal to everyone’s imagination.

There are three types of elephants, two of which live in Africa – the forest elephant and savannah elephant – and one which lives in Asia.

Actually, the elephant is not doing so well because it has less and less space to live. That is why it is even more important to give him attention.

For many cultures, the animal is the ultimate symbol of strength and power. The elephant is even the symbol for the king of Denmark and Thailand.

But enough information about these beautiful animals, we’re going to draw them. Because that’s even more fun.

In this example I took the african savannah elephant because I think it is a beautiful animal that stands high on its legs and has big ears.

All species have the same build and anatomy and if we make an anatomy study we can study how to draw the animal.

When you see artist drawing from their imagination, it means that they can skip several steps in their head.

As a artist you need to work on your visual library and process.

A visual library is necessary to allow yourself to come up with imaginary images and references.

The process is important to allow yourself to break the subject in smaller parts, after you can easily approach any subject.

By doing a anatomy study I allow myself to work on my visual library, I can check if I missed some details. And the Step by Step guide offers you a beginning reference on how I approach drawing animals.

The step by step guide is therefore my though process, If you need more steps there is nothing wrong with that, just determine what you personally need and put those smaller steps in your process.

African Elephant Anatomy for Artists

African Elephant Anatomy for Elephants
African Elephant Anatomy for Elephants

Elephants are magnificent creatures which resonate force and gentleness at the same time.

By studying the bone structure and muscle mass, it is shown that elephant can be heavily build or very agile depending on the job they are bred for.

This can also be seen in its appearance and posture. It is a heavily build animal which is not afraid to fight when it needs to.

So once again you don’t need to know the exact anatomy, it’s more about getting an idea about how to put the animal on paper.

In the picture you see the skeleton above with all the important muscle groups shown below.

In the study below the skeleton I tried to create shadows. This way the pig is more translated into large shapes and planes.

It doesn’t have to be a perfect anatomy drawing but as long as the rough shapes and proportions are correct the study should suffice.

Because remember you are only doing a anatomy study to solve problems for your initial art or drawings.

Drawing a Elephant | Step by step

When you have a rough idea about the anatomy, you’re ready to start drawing the Elephant. It is important that you can put the essence on paper.

When you draw the animal always start with the big shapes and work slowly towards the details. As shown in the steps below.

I made these images in photoshop for the sake of clarity for the website.

I advise you to start with an HB pencil and in your sketchbook or a piece of paper and for example change to a 2B or even 4B pencil from Step 3 onwards.

If you are not satisfied with a line, erase it. We are all students and don’t be ashamed to correct yourself if you don’t like the line.

Step 1 | Flowing lines and large shapes

Elephant Step 1 | Gesture and Organic shapes
Elephant Step 1 | Gesture and Organic shapes

Actually, all steps on this website regarding animal drawing are almost the same, it is important that you work from big to small shapes. The general though process of drawing animals is for me universal.

I always start with big organic shapes combined with gesture lines. This step is important because you lay the foundation for the rest of the drawing.

Pay also attention to correct proportions and placing of your drawing. The placement of shapes within your drawing boundaries determine your overall composition. If you only do a study this is not that important, but when you draw or sketch for a beginning painting keep this in mind.

When the ground work is laid on paper and step 1 is finished I dissect the animal in different parts mainly the head, neck, shoulders, belly and legs.

Step 2 | Construction of large shapes

Elephant Step 2 | Construction
Elephant Step 2 | Construction

This step is for the most part imaginary, I try to imagine for myself the big shapes.

Because these big shapes will often “muddy” down your drawing, therefore I try to avoid them to put them on paper.

When the drawing is ‘muddy’ed down it will lose it’s gesture, life or force. Therefore it becomes stiff and unpleasent to look at, you don’t want this because you wantthe animal to jump from the paper.

Off course, when you first draw a new animal it can help to put these big shapes on paper. But only if you find it hard to imagine then I would put the essential shapes in your drawing.

The most helpful shape for me is the keystone shape at the shoulders. You then have a good basis to put the legs down.

Step 3 | Head and Neck

Elephant Step 3 | Head and Trunk
Elephant Step 3 | Head and Trunk

When you have the essence on paper, we can draw over the large forms step by step.

As mentioned earlier I always divide my subject into sections, for animals this is head, neck, shoulders, body and legs.

For the Head, I start with the eyes and nose, these are important characteristics for me because they determine the proportion of the head. When these are correct I sketch the ears and the rest of the head on paper.

Try to get the proportions of the facial features right, these are often the focal point of your drawing. And people can easily sense if something is off with the drawing if the overall proportions does not match.

It is important that you draw between and around the large shapes. And only create the suggestion with minimal lines.

I work my way down and try to follow the anatomy of the beast. Try to draw ‘Over’ and ‘Around’ the imaginary shapes of step 2.

Don’t focus on every detail you see, because a drawing is just a representation of the artist perception of reality. And it is therefore not “THE” exact reality.

Step 4 | Shoulders and Body

elephant Step 4 | Body
elephant Step 4 | Body

Again, try to think in big shapes and don’t get distracted by the details.

You will notice that the simpler the drawing the more pleasant it is to look at.

Remember: When you put the lines of the shoulder and the body try to draw ‘around’ and ‘over’ the imaginary shapes and lines of step 1 and 2.

Step 5 | Legs

Elephant Step 5 | Legs
Elephant Step 5 | Legs

The legs can be a bit complex because muscles can be complex. Try to imagine the anatomy well and simplify it to the structure you see, for ease look to the anatomy study above.

If you have followed the steps above you will see that it slowly starts to look like a Elephant.

And if you have already created a good looking pig, the next step is to indicate the details. Try to stop in time and don’t include too many details in your drawing.

Sometimes drawing less lines tells you more about your subject.

Step 6 | Details , tonal value and color

Elephant Step 6 | Details
Elephant Step 6 | Details

When the ground work is layed down, you can finalize your line drawing by adding the details.

In the example above I sketched in the pupils of the eyes and put some suggestion of wrinkeld skin on the animal.t.

Step 7 | Color, Tonal Value and Shading

Elephant Step 7 | Color, Tone and Shade
Elephant Step 7 | Color, Tone and Shade

Try to add some tonal value, color and shade in your drawing, do this by applying the laws of light and shadow.

When you use a pencil only and don’t want to color the animal you can get tonal value by cross hatching or slightly fill the area with graphite. And when darker values needs to be put down on paper just press harder or use a 4B or even 6B graphite pencil.

Highlights can easily be created by erasing them in with your eraser.

Further Steps

If you have followed the steps above, there is now a cow on your drawing. Maybe you are not satisfied with it yet, but this is going to be fine if you keep practicing.

Drawing is a skill that takes time, the same as any other profession. Remember that drawing is just a hobby and try to have a lot of fun with it.

If you want to draw even more cows you can takeĀ  pictures of cows outside or look up pictures online. The steps are exactly as indicated above, keep repeating this and before you know it you may call yourself an professional artist.

Good luck and more importantly have fun!


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