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How to Draw a Dolphin
in Just Four Simple Steps

In this simple, four step tutorial, we are going to learn how to draw a dolphin, one of the most endearing and best loved of the planet's marine creatures.

Dolphins are found in oceans all over the world. Their poise, power and energy, allied to their sense of fun and rapport with humans is legendary.

As friendly as they usually are, you wouldn't want to be on the wrong end of a disagreement with these guys!

They can easily grow to over 12 feet long and weigh in excess of 1000 lbs. Their color is generally grey or grey/green or sometimes there's a pinkish tinge on the top fading to pale grey/white underneath.

I believe the coloration is to provide camouflage from both above and below, to protect them from their main natural predator, the shark, and especially the tiger shark. (Yes I know you might say humans as well, but I'm talking about in their natural environment....)

We're going to draw a dolphin with an image that captures this grace and sense of freedom in open water. This example and probably the best known species, is the bottle-nose dolphin.

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How to draw a dolphin tutorial

Their skin is very smooth and streamlined - built for speed and power. Usually in the wild they swim in groups of around 6 or 7 called pods. Sometimes these pods combine to form herds of perhaps a hundred or more creatures. Have you ever been up close to these beautiful animals and noticed that smug, cheeky smile that the natural contours of their face and the sparkle in their eyes generates?

Highly intelligent as they are, you wonder at times just what they think of us humans and who is playing with who? Perhaps we're better off not knowing!

How To Draw A Dolphin - Stage 1

Anything you want to draw can be reduced to a few basic shapes. Click on this link to have a look at the article.

As you can see from the main photo, its body is essentially a banana shape tapering to the powerful tail- all built for speed.

For simplicity, I've used an elongated triangle and a stretched oval. The tail is composed of two flukes and at this stage, represented simply by two triangles. This shape also fixes the large dorsal fin on its back.

How to draw a dolphin Stage 1

A couple of smaller ovals position the distinctive nose and the visible flipper. The overlaid shapes don't cover the dolphin in the photo exactly but that doesn't matter.

Always remember these are only guidelines to give you a structure to develop your detailed drawing.

How To Draw A Dolphin - Stage 2

Now we've come to the part of this how to draw a dolphin page where we've removed the photo reference and you've got to swim on your own so to speak. But see how the shapes we've used have instantly given us the general outline of our friendly dolphin?

Already, without even drawing in any proper outlines you can see it looks right and in proportion. If it doesn't rub out the offending guidelines and redo them (lightly) 'till you're happy.

Remember, these guidelines should always be drawn in very lightly - just enough that you can see them.

You're going to rub these out when you've put in the main shapes in ink or a stronger pencil line. I've put the basic shapes in a lot stronger in these earlier illustrations so it's easier for you to see what I'm referring to.

You'll notice I've lightened the guidelines at each stage so it's easier for you to see the main drawing as it develops.

How To Draw A Dolphin - Stage 3

In this stage of how to draw a dolphin I've started to develop some of the important outlines, using the photo at the top of the page for reference.

What you're trying to achieve is this sense of a powerful lunge out of the water. A couple of points to note ...

How to draw a dolphin stage 3

Although in the main photo you can't actually see the tail as it's hidden by spray, I've added this by using other photos for reference.

This is so you understand how to draw a dolphin in its complete form. However, once you're comfortable with drawing the complete outline, you'll be able to practice learning how to draw dolphins in a variety of poses, in and out of the water, by combining different elements of several photos or video images. (See the extra Stage 5 I've added below....)

How To Draw A Dolphin - Stage 4

Well, here we are in the final stages of this how to draw a dolphin tutorial. I've sketched in the main features and added some shading to give the dolphin its roundness and bulk.

How to draw a dolphin stage 4

Now I know this how to draw a dolphin tutorial is based on four steps. But to pick up on the point I made in stage 3, I've also done an extra illustration below, erased some of the tail and left it in the water amidst a welter of spray. 

This is a good example of 'less is more', because the viewer 'fills in' the missing part of the dolphin.

It also gives me a chance to add the bursting spray which immediately adds energy and movement to the scene, with the dolphin still in the process of launching itself out of the ocean. Compare the two sketches. See what you think....

How to draw a dolphin stage 5

To get the viewer to realise the dolphin is not only out of the water but several feet above it, notice how I've put some shadow on the sea below its belly.

The bigger the gap between the shadow and the dolphin, the higher out of the water it will appear to be.

The spray is no more than a series of ragged, broken lines lightly sketched around the dolphin. This is where you will certainly need a photographic reference to get the spray right. Be bold - but don't overdo it!

So there you have it. Two sketches - one which shows the dolphin completely out of the water and the other bursting out of the sea. Which do you prefer? The choice is yours!

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