This tutorial explains the processes involved in drawing a bald eagle with graphite pencil. I used Flickr user pe_ha45’s Bald Eagle photograph, which you can see here.
- Pencils: HB-4B
- Cotton buds/pads/tissues or Q-Tips
Begin by drawing the top of the beak and outline of the head. If you aren’t confident enough to draw these outlines completely freehand, I recommend you measure out the proportions of the eagle’s features or trace a basic outline.
A quick tip when drawing birds is to try and choose photos where the bird is looking to the left of the page if you are right handed (and vice versa). This makes it somewhat easier to draw the beak, which is often heavily curved, as you can use the natural curvature in your wrist movements to get a smoother looking curve.
With a basic outline in place, the other features of the bird’s face become easier to draw.
Drawing the eye can be quite difficult as it is composed of multiple concentric ellipses. I always draw the inner ellipsis first because you can get a bit cramped if you draw concentric shapes from the outside in.
Finish drawing the beak/mouth. You can see that the corner of the mouth is in the same vertical axis of the pupil of the eye – look for features in the reference photo that align like this to help you draw the outlines accurately. This is a very important skill if you want to improve your freehand drawing ability and I will do a more detailed tutorial on this later.
Draw the outer line around the mouth, the nostril and some detail in the eye to finish the outline of the face.
Step 5 (Starting to Shade):
Begin to shade the base layer for the textures, but obviously leave any areas which are very light in the reference photo blank. I have written a tutorial on how to shade smoothly here.
Begin to draw the finer details – the beak has quite a few different shades and textures so make sure you look closely at your reference picture. You will probably have to use your eraser to create some highlights after shading the base layer in Step 5.
Drawing the feather texture under and around the eye just involve making small, crisp lines which follow the contours of the face. The feathers on top of the head require the same technique, but just make the lines thicker and darker. Again, make sure you look closely at the reference photo.
The feathers at the back of the head can be drawn with long, downward sweeping lines. Make sure you space these lines out slightly, and vary both the length and thickness/darkness of the lines. Drawing textures like this can be a case of trial and error until you produce something that looks good.
Add a base layer of shading beneath the beak/mouth. This area can be quite dark, so you should shade several layers.
Add the lines below the beak/jaw, and the hairs protruding from below the beak.
This step is just about finishing the drawing – I added a few more hairs/feathers around the eyes and darkened the iris of the eye. Below is the final finished product, with the scan cleaned up and the contrast adjusted: