How to draw Animals | Giraffe tutorial step by step

Giraffe Drawing
Giraffe Drawing
Giraffe Drawing

Giraffes are the tallest animals on the african savanna, you can easily recognize them by their long neck and legs.

This long neck comes handy for picking the most juicy leaves on the top of the tree. And they posess a long tong which makes it easy to devour the leaves.

Don’t be fooled about the speed of the giraffe, because they have long legs they could travel vast distances.

But enough about those fascinating animals let’s start drawing.

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 the 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 thoughprocess, If you need more steps there is nothing wrong with that.

Giraffe Anatomy

Giraffe Anatomy for Artists
Giraffe Anatomy for Artists

Giraffe come in all shapes and sizes, although these differences the species generally all have similar skeleton and muscle groups. Therefore by making one overall anatomy study I could already tackle 95 percent of the problems.

By studying the bone structure and muscle mass, it is shown that giraffe are very agile.

This can also be seen in its appearance and posture.

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 giraffe 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 future drawings.

Drawing a Giraffe | Step by step

When you have a rough idea about the anatomy, you’re ready to start drawing the Giraffe. 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 with a eraser if you don’t like the line.

Step 1 | Flowing lines and large shapes

Giraffe Step 1 | Gesture and Organic shapes
Giraffe 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

Giraffe Step 2 | Construction
Giraffe 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 want the 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 only 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

Giraffe Step 3 | Head and Neck
Giraffe Step 3 | Head and Neck

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.  for example when you draw a Giraffe with fur you only want the suggestion of hair or fur.

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

Giraffe Step 4 | Body
Giraffe 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

Giraffe Step 5 | Legs + erasing
Giraffe Step 5 | Legs + erasing

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 giraffe.

And if you have already created a good looking giraffe, 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.

In this step I also deleted most of the lines which we have drawn in step 1. In this case it makes the image more clear and it is easier to draw in all the spots clearly.

Step 6 | Details

Giraffe Step 6 | Spots
Giraffe Step 6 | Spots

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

Although I say it very easily this was the most difficult and tedious task of the drawing. Drawing all the spots correctly took me quite some time.

But nonetheless fun to do!

Step 7 | Local Color

Giraffe Step 7 | Local Color
Giraffe Step 7 | Local Color

Normally I put tone, color and shade under the last step. But for the giraffe I made a exception.

Drawing in photoshop can be somewhat different then drawing with pencil.

But if you find it interesting you can follow a long with the last few steps.

First I colored the giraffe in with it’s local color, meaning I neglect shadow and highlights. Painters also use this methods in traditional painting, because it allows them to add or substract color to the picture.

Step 8

Giraffe Step 8 | Adding Shade
Giraffe Step 8 | Adding Shade

Next I use multiply mode on photoshop to add a blueish shade to the giraffe.

Step 9

Giraffe Step 9 | Adding light
Giraffe Step 9 | Adding light

Lastly I add light where it is necessary.

The shade of the ground I did together with the quick background. Which can be seen in the first image of this blogpost.

Further Steps

If you have followed the steps above, there is now a giraffe 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 for most and try to have a lot of fun with it.

If you want to draw even more giraffes you can take pictures in the zoo near you or look up pictures online.

The steps or process is 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!