Drawing leopard spots with pencil

Drawing Leopard Spots with Pencil

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On the last tutorial we worked on how to draw tiger stripes. This time we will learn how to draw leopard spots..  Drawing spots is basically the same idea using similar techniques.  For this tutorial we’ll be working on leopard spots.

This same technique can also be used for cheetah and jaguar spots, or any other animal that may have spots.  The important thing to keep in mind that these black spots is that they are not different than the hair around them. They are just different colored hair and it’s that bit of information will make drawing them much easier because you know what you are drawing. Lets get started.


Step 1:

Im not going to into the difference between leopard,cheetah and jaguar spots, it should be easy enough to find that information online.   Ok, first we are going to be drawing a rough outline, outline the basic shape of spots.


Step 2

We’re now going to add guidelines for when we start indenting. If you’re new here, i suggest  you read this tutorial. It explains the basic idea behind the technique that is use for hair.  Now, using 6b pencil and starting from the right, start adding guidelines for the hair.  The reason we start from the right side is because hair grows in that direction and by doing this, every layer that we add moving to the right will overlap the previous layer. Look at this diagram.


We have 4 layers. Each line represents a layer of hair. Now notice the direction of hair growth. With this knowledge we can now plan from where to start the guidelines. You start from the lowest part so that as you move up, each layer overlaps the previous one,giving the illusion of layers of hair.  In this diagram,i indicated the hair from first layer in black,the second in red, third in green and fourth in blue.  It’s a simple concept but it has an amazing effect if you follow this process. Its just a matter of understanding direction of hair growth and knowing which layers are the lowest.

 For this drawing we will start indenting from the same place we started the guidelines. This small detail makes a huge difference in how the drawing will look in the end.  If you would like, you can test it out and do this tutorial 2 times. The second time, you start from the other side and you will see how different it looks.  All this comes from knowledge about how hair behaves and how it looks up close. I’m sure you’ve heard me say this before, but you should study hair, understand how hair behaves. Pay attention to how it overlaps, the layers, the shadows cast by overlapping hair, clumps of hair, single strands of hair.  The more you know, the easier it will be to draw hair because you will know what to add.   Look at the image below and notice how the hair overlaps the edge of the spots. This is important because it will give the drawing much more realism. On the other side of spot we don’t have that because the black hair will be overlapping the light colored hair.  As we progress this will become more clear.


Step 3

Now that we have a rough guideline for hair, we will start indenting using the stylus.  I’ll be using the needle stylus. This is a tool that i made myself and its just a needle that i inserted into a mechanical pencil. I dulled the tip a bit and i use it to indent the paper so that when i run pencil over it leaves a white line.  That is a simple summary of the technique we’ll be using.  You can read more about it here

To make it easier, i suggest you use a lamp to see what you are indenting.  Here is a diagram of what im talking about. As you are indenting the, because of the light, the indentation will create a shadow. This will make the lines visible, making easier to see the pattern that you are making.

image02.jpgWhen you are indenting. I want you to keep the lines random, not straight, make them curve,some short, some longer, some overlap. Try to follow the pattern from the original reference picture at the beginning. Notice how the hair looks, that’s what we are going for. Make the indentations close together too, so that you get the look of lots of hair, Each indentation would be like a strand of hair. Of course we can’t draw every single hair, but this techniques gives the illusion of hair.  Again, like i mentioned before we are starting from the lowest layer, which means the right side.   Just follow the guidelines and move your way across, keeping in mind the direction of hair growth.  When done you should have something that looks like the image below.  Its hard to photograph the indentations, so i increased the contrast in Photoshop so you can see the lines a bit better. It won’t look exactly like mine, but you’ll have an idea of what we’re going for.


Step 4

Like i mentioned before, the spots are made up of darker hair.  To give the spots a bit more realism and so that they don’t look flat, we are going to add some highlights to the black hair.  Light hits the black hair, and sometimes depending on how the hair is positioned, it can reflect light, making some strands stand out.  We are going to do this by adding random indentations within the black hair, keeping in mind the direction of hair. Don’t make the indentations too deep, just light one. They shouldn’t stand out too much, just enough for them to be barely visible. We are not going to completely indent the whole spot,just a couple of quick lines. I want you to imagine the hair growing from the bottom and the tip is hit by light and it makes the tips of the black hair visible.  Now that we have that done, lets start adding pencil.

Step 5

We are going to first outline the spots with an 8b pencil. Make sure sure the tip of the pencil is dull so that it covers more surface area. Because the tip is not sharp, we won’t have a problem with it getting into the indentations.  Press lightly at first, so you can get a feeling of how much pressure you need for the lines to become visible. The reason we are going to outline the spots is so that we can find the tips of the light colored hair that is overlapping the spots. This will give is a glimpse of the layers that i mentioned earlier. As we progress, we are going to make this layers more significant.  This is what are left with.


Step 6

Now we can fill in the spot completely and start making the hair layers more noticeable. As we darken them you will begin to see how the random lines we added come together and start to look like hair. After filling in the area with 8b pencil, we blend the edges of the of the spot. This area is where light colored hair starts to grow.  At the end we’ll be extending the black hair so it overlaps this area, so we are now just adding the shadows that the black hair will add. It will make more sense as we continue. One of the best tools to blend here is a q-tip. The fibres are small enough that they can get into the indentations and darken them like we want.  We will also darken the patch of hair that is inside one of the spots, like you see in the reference image. We do this with the q-tip as well. Using a 6b pencil we will start adding the shadows, starting with this patch. I want to to pick out certain spots  to add pencil.  The spaces between the indentations are going to be shadows cast by the hairs. For lighter shadows use a 5b pencil and switch between the both.  As you darken these spaces, you will begin to see how hairs clump together to and begin to look like hair.  There is no quick way to find these spots. What makes it easier is to understand hair and as you are doing this you will have enough knowledge of how hair behaves that it will come naturally and you will add shadows where its necessary to make it look more like hair.  Turning the sheet around and getting a different perspective can also help you find these patterns.   As you keep rendering it should start looking like the image below.   All I’ve done is add shadows and have darken certain indentations to suggest that those hairs are lower that light does not reach them as much.


Step 7

From point on we’ll just finish off the rest of the hair.  Using a q-tip or some tissue paper, go spread some of the pencil from spots to the rest of the hair. Don’t press too hard, this is just so we can see the spaces between the indentations.  Seeing these spaces allows us to see which shadows to add to make the layers stand out.  Again, we’ll be using 6b and 5h pencil to add these shadows. The image below shows just how a difference adding these shadows make on the hair.


Step 8

We will now add highlights and there is no better way to do this than with a kneaded eraser. Just press it between your index finger and your thumb and you will be left with a fine edge that you can use to tap on indentations, making them lighter.  By doing this, you are suggesting that light is hitting these hairs and making them lighter than others.  Using this same technique, you can tap spaces between the indentations to erase the pencil, bringing 2 indentations together and getting the effect of clumps of hair. I use the term “clumping”.  Clumping is bringing more than one together by erasing the pencil between indentations.  This technique becomes easier as your knowledge about hair increases.  You’ll know where to use the kneaded eraser and where to add shadows with pencil.  Use the reference image as a guideline but with time and the more you use this technique, you’ll learn to add these details without reference pictures.



From here on its all about adding small details such as highlights and clumps of hair. Keep using the kneaded eraser to add those details that will give you drawing much more realism.  Pay attention to the gaps between the indentations. By darkening these, you are suggesting shadows and by singling out individual hairs with kneaded eraser, you begin to see the layers that I’ve talked about throughout tutorial.  I hope this tutorial was helpful and you find a way to use it in your drawings.

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