Ever since the first cave drawings people have been fascinated by horses, even if you don’t find horses that interesting you will notice that when you draw them. They are gracious and magnificent animals.
Horses have a beatiful gesture which as a artist can be hard to capture, but by studying their anatomy and their behaviour . We hope to give them the honor they deserve.
They are graceful beasts which makes everyone a little bit loose. There are many different kinds of horses. But I’m going to teach you to draw every kind of horse.
I’m not saying it will be easy, maybe your first drawing won’t look right. But this doesn’t matter because my first horse wasn’t pretty either, and I promise you I’m still not a professional horse artist.
The most important thing is that you know what to look for in your subject and keep practising. As always we start by drawing the big basic shapes in combination with flowing lines, after which we refine them more and more.
In below step by step guide I hope to give you a sense on how I approach drawing horses. Keep in mind this is not ‘THE’ way to draw but just my method and thought process.
Horse Anatomy for Artists
Most online tutorials show only a step by step guide on how to draw a animal, in my opinion this is the easiest way to sell ‘how to draw’ tutorials. An important step which is often missing is the anatomy study.
Artists are doing anatomy studies to learn the structure/ gesture and planes of the animal. You are trying to solve problems before you are making a final art piece.
If you would skip the anatomy study when you start out with a new animal, you will notice it is difficult to draw a realistic animal.
When you start out with drawing a animal you the anatomy study is often neglected. Because it is often boring but nonetheless crucial for developing skill in mastering horse drawing.
Above you will find my detailed study for the skeleton and muscles. The most striking thing I found was that the neck is actually hidden between a lot of muscles.
I thought the neck was at the top, similar to the vertebra. Which was wrong afterwards.
This also gives the nice curvature in the neck that horses have. It gives them a good posture which radiates elegance and strength.
Like I said before, I’m not a horse expert, but I got more respect for the build and strenght that the horse radiates.
In the study below the skeleton I have tried to create shadow effects. This way the horse is more translated into planes and shapes.
You really don’t need to know the exact anatomy, it’s more about eventually getting an idea about how to put the horse on paper. In the end, your drawing gets a lot more life if the rough basic forms are correct.
This has everything to do with the fact that everyone has seen a horse before and subconsciously knows what a horse looks like. If you want to draw a realistic horse and the proportions or anatomy are not quite right then people will realize that there is something wrong with the drawing. Even if they can’t bring it home.
Therefore it doesn’t have to be a perfect drawing but sketching the rough lines or proportions can help a lot.
Drawing a horse | step by step
When you have a rough idea about anatomy, you’re ready to start drawing horses. When I want to draw an animal, I always try to get the essence on paper.
You work from big to smal, it’s a process or step-by-step plan that comes back all the time. When you see artist drawing from their head it means that they can skip several steps in their head.
I made these images in photoshop for the clarity of this 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 4B pencil from Step 4 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 it.
Step 1 | Flowing lines and large shapes
Start with large shapes and flowing lines to get the essence on paper. I usually start at the head and put a centerline over the head. As follows I put a circle to estimate the size of the body, when this is correct I put a couple of construction lines to put the shape of the neck.
As you get more drawing experience these steps go automatically, I always think from head to ass. Think in shapes like head, neck, shoulder, belly and legs.
Step 2 | More construction lines for head and legs
The next step is to get more clarity in the forms. We give the head more clarity and draw a cornerstone shape where the neck and body meet. This shape can be used in the construction to indicate the legs.
On the joint points of the legs I draw circles and try to indicate the direction with construction lines. I have also drawn a piece of the tail and mane.
Step 3 | Smaller basic shapes and ellipses
Slowly but surely we see the horse emerge, for example at the legs you can see that I have applied cone shapes and cylinders. If you now find it difficult to see depth in these 2D shapes, you can draw ellipses over the shape.
I also did this as an example and you can see that the horse has more form. This might help you if you want to hatch the different planes.
When you draw ellipses do this with a sharp HB pencil, when you go over them with a 2B pencil you can hardly see the lines anymore.
Step 4 | Hatching
If you don’t have colouring pencils at your disposal, you can use the hatch technique to indicate the areas within the shape. If you hatch try to follow the shape, it is also possible to indicate shadows. For shadows, for example, you can hatch it from another direction, for example as is done on the belly.
I always use the rule of thumb: “More tone is more line”. So keep an eye on the tone value you want when you hatch and plan your drawing as well.
You notice the construction lines are from step 1 to 3 are gone, be sure to erase them before you start hatching.
Step 5 | Color ,Tonal values and Shading
For just drawing the horse you could have stopped at Step 4, but when I was drawing the horse I enjoyed it so much that I also colored it and added shadow.
I usually start with a middle tone, as follows I color in the dark areas and add highlights.
Congratulations if you followed the steps above you can now draw horses. This is probably only the beginning and you will draw many more horses, because you will only get better if you keep drawing a lot.
And I trust that your horses will be much better than in this example.
If you still find it difficult to follow the step-by-step plan, take a look under the heading Drawing Fundamentals.
Here I explain what you need to know to become a good artist.
To study horse anatomy I recommend the book ‘Animal Anatomy for Artists by Eliot Goldfinger’ which I used for the example above. And besides horse anatomy there are many more animals in it.
Good luck and more importantly have fun.