A dog is a man’s best friend. They come in every size and shape, so everyone can find their favorite breed. If you want to learn what dogs are made of and how to draw them, and also their ancestor, the wolf, check out this tutorial!
It’s often useful to start by gathering reference images, so feel free to browse Envato Market for photos of dogs and wolves.
1. The Dog Skeleton Structure
To create a believable pose, you need to understand the skeletal structure of a dog first. The problem is there are so many breeds of dog, and they differ a lot. We can solve it by going back to the past, to their common ancestor – the wolf.
We can now break the complicated skeleton into something more simple and easier to remember.
Once we’ve got the structure, we can create any breed from it. Before you start building your pose though, you should first take a look at a photo reference. This is because breeds have their unique features, and you need to spot them before building a pose. Of course, it doesn’t mean you’ll need references all the time. You just need to understand what the differences between your breed and a wolf is, and you’re set!
If you want to draw a puppy, just make the head bigger. If it’s a puppy of a large breed, it will also have unusually large paws.
The skeleton itself isn’t the only thing that makes the pose. Joints are very important for the animal to move, so you need to understand them before drawing something else than a rigid side view. Dogs are really similar to cats here, so I suggest you take a look at the first step of my cat tutorial to find out more.
When you’re sure you’ve learn’t it, you can draw your pose.
2. The Dog Muscle Structure
To add a body to your dog you can use simplified muscle masses. They’re also all you need if you’re drawing a long haired dog like the Afghan Hound – nobody will see any muscles under all that hair!
In my picture, I’ve added simplified muscle masses for both dogs.
If you want to draw a short haired dog, there’s more to learn. More detailed muscles also come in handy when you need to emphasize the dog’s strength.
My little dog family is now very muscular!
3. How To Draw Dog Paws
Although they look very similar, hind and forepaws aren’t the same, just like our hands and feet. “Hands”, or the forepaws, have a thumb called a dewclaw. And a carpal ball on the “feet”, or the hind paws, called a lack.
Dogs, just like cats, walk on their fingertips. They don’t have actual claws, they’re more like nails and they’re not used for fighting.
To draw a dog paw, start with four lines bent in a way shown below.
Add the pads.
You can now draw the contours of the paw and add the nails. Don’t make them pointy and sharp. They wear down all the time, as they can’t be retracted like a cats claw.
Cover the paw with fur, leaving the pads visible.
Here’s how to create a paw from the front:
My dogs now have cute paws!
4. How To Draw a Dog/Wolf Head Proportionally
We’ll start with a wolf head and work from there for different breeds. Draw a circle first.
Add a muzzle.
Draw a symbolic nose at the bottom of the muzzle.
Sketch contours of the skull.
Add ears on the top of the head.
Then add the forehead.
Now you can place the eyes between the forehead lines. The central line of the circle should cross them right through the middle.
If you want to draw a puppy, you need to change this scheme a bit:
The eyes are going to be rounder and placed under the central horizontal line;
The muzzle can be rounder and shorter too;
The ears should be soft and easily folded.
If you want to draw the profile of a dog’s head, you’ll need different guide lines. Start with a circle again and add a muzzle.
Attach the nose on the tip of the muzzle.
Add the ear.
Use additional guide lines to find a place for the eye.
But what about all the breeds? Most of them aren’t really similar to a wolf. Well, that’s not a problem – just modify the size of the elements of the head, adjust the space between eyes and so on.
When looking at a reference, locate the big circle, its central lines and check all the proportions. Most likely it’ll stay in your mind after your first try!
I added heads to my dogs.
5. How To Draw a Dog/Wolf Eye
Draw an oval first.
Add the rims of the eyelids.
Add the corners of the eye.
Draw the pupil. Remember, its size depends on the amount of light.
Draw a light areas around the eye. Think of them as eyelids and eyebrows.
To create depth, add a shadow under the upper eyelid (it’s placed forward), between both light areas, and inside the eye itself.
To draw an eye in profile, start with a teardrop rather than an oval. The rest is pretty much the same.
You know how to draw a wolf eye now. The main difference between the wolf and dog eye is the eyelids’ rims aren’t always so dark as dogs, and their eyes are also rounder (so a bit of the eyeball white can be visible). The most popular color for dogs’ eyes is brown, while wolves have mostly amber/yellow eyes (and never blue!).
6. How to Draw a Dog’s Nose
It’s pretty easy! Start with an anchor, then draw a fin at the top of it. Now just close the shape and draw the nostrils shaped as commas. It’s done!
If you want to draw nose in profile, draw only a half of the anchor and the fin, and attach a ball to it.
7. How to Draw Dog Ears
The ancestor of dogs, a wolf, has pointed ears, and they still can be found in many breeds. They’re quite easy to draw. The more hairy the dog, the more fluffy the ears (compare a German Shepherd and Alaskan Malamute).
So, where do floppy ears come from? All puppies are born with floppy ears, as the structures supporting them aren’t developed yet. Dogs have been bred to become more friendly and more sociable than wolves, humans wanted them to have a wolf-puppy-like personality. As a result we’ve got adult dogs with puppy features – playful, curious, immature, and sometimes, with soft, floppy ears.
When drawing floppy ears, just keep in mind their origin. Start with a rigid base and then break it. Also, remember that in the breeding process some floppy ears become much longer and wider, losing their typical triangular shape. Such as the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel.
8. Draw a Dog’s Mouth
Dogs use their mouths to prevent overheating, so panting is pretty normal for them. Also, drawing a dog with an open mouth will help you create a cute, natural smile. So, look at the picture below and remember the layers. It’s important when creating a realistic dog mouth!
I added all the elements of the dogs’ face.
9. A Few Words About Dog Fur
If you want to learn about drawing fur, check my tutorial all about drawing fur. Here I’ll just show you how important is fur for the silhouette. Notice that the dogs below are the same size. Always start with a pose and simplified muscles before drawing the fur to avoid mistakes. Also, the shorter fur, the more attention you’ll need to pay to the muscles.
Woof! It’s Done!
Thanks for staying with me on how to draw dogs and wolves. There are so many breeds to cover, but with basic knowledge on their structure, you can draw any dog you wish! Until next time, happy drawing.