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Learn How to Draw a Dog in Four Easy Stages

How to draw a dog - golden retriever

Learning how to draw a dog is not at all difficult if you follow some simple stages. Man's 'best friend' is a constantly popular subject for artists.

It may be a general sketch of a dog that fits into a bigger picture.

It could be a more detailed painting of a specific breed. Or it may be a favorite family pet, past or present, whose looks and character you want to preserve for all time.

Here, we're going to produce a sketch of a golden retriever - a lovable dog that is a favorite family pet the world over.

However, part of learning how to draw a dog is to look at pictures of as many breeds as you can.

Look at the basic shapes that you might use to form the make up of a bull-dog and compare those shapes that would create a believable greyhound, for example.

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How to draw a dog - shapes over photo

You should find that the actual shapes (triangles for the head and legs, oblong for the body, etc) remain much the same for both.

What changes is the proportions of these shapes, ie the triangles for a bulldogs legs would be more squat than the much thinner, longer triangels for those of the greyhound.

If you're still not sure, have a look at the picture alongside. I've super-imposed some basic shapes over the photograph at the top of the page to show you how simple it is.

Right. Let's get started.

All you will need is a pencil, paper and an eraser. I tend to use a putty eraser as it can be moulded to a fine point or chisel edge for lifting out fine detail and creating highlights.

So not only is it an eraser, it's also a drawing tool as well.

How to Draw a Dog - Stage 1

If you've looked at any of my other 'how to draw' articles, you'll see, as here, I use basic shapes such as an oblong, triangle and circle to create a sort of scaffolding before I draw the featured subject in detail.

I've done these lines in red and removed the photo so you can see them easier, but you should draw them in very lightly with a pencil.

This, I find, then gives students real confidence that they've got the basic outline correct as well as the important proportions right in relation to each other, such as the head, body and legs.

 However, if you see a different potential shape ie an oval instead of an oblong for the body, go ahead and use it. I'll be delighted because it means you've already picked up an important element in learning how to draw a dog.

Once you've done that, add some basic triangles oblongs or whatever shape you think best suits until you get a rough outline of your dog. 

How to Draw a Dog - Stage 2

How to draw a dog 2

Now start to work a more realistic outline using those basic shapes as guide. Keep the lines light. It's surprising but if you can develop a light touch with your lines, you'll find you drawing skills will actually improve.

I think the reason for this is that you develop mor confidence because you don't feel that a light sketchy lin (or even several of them) is a problem to erase if necessary.

However, a very laboured, heavy line feels like you'll never get it off the paper if it's wrong. And think about this it draws you in closer to the paper as you concentrate on putting the lines in exactly the right place.

The light touch helps you to avoid getting too close to your sketch. You tend to hold your paper slightly further away, so you are - quite literally - able to see the bigger picture!

I've put my lines in a little heavier and in ink and I've removed the red construction lines so you can see what I'm referring to.

Don't go for detail yet such as eyes or nose yet. That can come later. As I said, I've deleted the red lines for clarity but you should keep your own construction lines till you're happy with the realistic outline you're creating.

And don't worry if, at first, erasing the construction lines (or final image) starts to take the surface off your paper. It's all excellent practice - and you will improve!

How to Draw a Dog - Stage 3

Work through Stage 2 of How to Draw a Dog until you've got the outline in basic shapes correct.

How to draw a dog 3

I'll say again. Don't worry about rubbing out and re-doing at this stage. Remember, this is learning how to draw a dog and learning means making mistakes...

Believe me, when you've got it right in the basic shapes, it'll still look like you know how to draw a dog!

Now comes the exciting bit, when you start carefully (still quite lightly) start to develop the more realistic dog shapes. This is where you feel you're really learning how to draw a dog!

Look at the completed sketch at the bottom of the page and check out how the lines are drawn in a very raggedy fashion. This creates the illusion of a long-haired dog, which is characteristic of the retriever.

It has a great advantage as well in that when learning how to draw a dog, you don't need to worry about straight lines if the coat is somewhat shaggy.

In Stage 3, I've completed the outline of the dog and started to put some shadow in with hatched lines. Remember on this sketch, the sun is coming from the right. As well as simulating a long-haired coat, these hatched lines also help to create a three-dimensional dog. 

How to Draw a Dog - Stage 4

Finally, having created a realistic outline of your dog, if you haven't done so already, carefully erase all the construction lines.

Now you see the value of putting these in very lightly to start with!

I'm assuming you'll have used a pencil for this sketch and if you have, use your putty eraser to create some highlights, if necessary.

How to draw a dog 4

Remember, having decided on which direction your light source is coming from, you must stick to it throughout the drawing.

In this sketch, the light is coming from the same direction as in the main photo - ie: from the top and right, or about two o'clock. This means most of the darker areas of shadow are on the opposite, left side of the dog.

Notice also how I've added a few flicks of the pen to represent grass around the dog's feet. This helps to set it down on the ground. The darker shadow area underneath the retriever also helps to do this as well, so it doesn't appear to be floating in space.

See how I've carefully observed the photo to add shadows on and around the face to create its distinctive shape.

The eyes are no more than a small letter 'C' facing downwards.

And don't forget the slightly wavy hair you find on these dog's chests.

So, with a little perseverance, you will have learned how to draw a dog - a sketch that I hope brings you a good deal of satisfaction and the desire to keep practising and surprising yourself at what you can achieve!

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