How to Draw Realistic Animal Horns – Buffalo Study

How to Draw Realistic Animal Horns – Buffalo Study

This tutorial explains how to draw buffalo horns, probably the most difficult of all animal horns to draw. The reason buffalo horns are so difficult is because they have a wide range of textures – some areas are very smooth and others are rough and have deep cracks and ridges. These variations make drawing a natural and realistic looking horn very difficult.

Difficulty: 4/5*

Required Equipment:

  • Pencils: HB-4B
  • Cotton buds/pads/tissues or Q-Tips


Step 1:

Begin by drawing an outline of the horn.



Step 2:

With a basic outline in place, we can begin to draw the texture. First, apply a light base layer of rough shading over areas of the horn where there is a rough texture. The shading should be nice and consistent, as shown, but you shouldn’t bother smoothing the shading out with cotton pads or q-tips – the roughness is important.



Step 3:

A buffalo horn is heavily pitted where the horn attaches to the head and drawing this texture is difficult. I drew the ridges and pits in three stages. In this first stage, I drew the basic shape of the pits and shadows of the ridges. The actual technique used to draw these base layer shadows is simple – just shade the areas as shown. The more difficult aspect is where you decide to draw the ridges. The arrangement must look natural and the easiest way to achieve that is to base your drawing off a photo and to try and match the pattern of ridges in the photo. Generally, the ridges flow in the same sort of direction and because of perspective, they will appear thicker near the base of the horns and thin on top. Be sure to leave gaps between these shadows as these gaps will form the highlights later.



Step 4:

Now you must add darker shades and details to the base shadows of the ridges – but first, you should smooth out the shadows with cotton pads/q-tips. The aim of this step is to add more shape to the ridges and give them more depth. Make sure you don’t make the darker shadows too wide – they should be kept pretty thin.



Step 5:

Add the final details to the ridges and cracks. In this step, I just added a few very defined edges to these features to really make them stand out. It is difficult to find the correct balance though as you must ensure that there is a more-or-less equal distribution of features across this area of the horn to achieve a natural look. You can now apply the same process to the central region of the horn. This area of a buffalo horn generally has fewer, but larger, features. Make sure you study your reference image closely to ensure that you achieve that natural look.


You must also begin to draw the inferior edge of the horn – the underside region. There is a very distinct ridge line that separates the two sides of the horn. This is a very important feature of your drawing as it really transforms the horn and makes it look very realistic – that is, if you draw it correctly. The most important thing to include are the highlighted ridges amongst the shadows. The effect is very easy to achieve – just draw some strips of very dark shadows (use a 4B pencils for these) at an angle (as I have done), but leave small gaps between the strips to form the highlights. Make sure you vary the sizes and shapes of the strips and the levels of darkness as well – don’t exclusively use your 4B pencils. Your reference photo should guide you here.



Step 6:

This is the fun part of the process. The central part of buffalo horns have a lot of thin cracks and lines which are very easy to draw, but give a great textural effect. All you need to do is draw thin lines that follow the contours of the horn. Again, it is the placement of these lines which is the more difficult aspect. Don’t make the lines too long, but make them as short as you like. Don’t make too many short lines though as it will look strange. Take note of the ridges that I have drawn in this area – they are the highlights running perpendicular through some of the lines. Just use a thin eraser to form these highlights.


To draw the far right part of the horn, you need to shade the areas pretty dark (use a 3 or 4B pencil) and then smooth them out nicely. Then, you must draw many dark lines that follow the counter of the horn. These lines should be long and most of them should be pretty thick. Use a sharp 4B pencil to do these lines. Finally, you may want to add a small discoloured region of the horn – I’ve done this half way up the tip of the horn. I really used the same techniques and principles to do this area of the horn as I do when I draw wood – I recommend reading that tutorial here – just don’t go overboard with the highlights.


This ends the tutorial – a lot of this is very difficult to explain and you will need to be a pretty competent artist to achieve a similar result. The best thing you can do is study a reference image closely and follow the tips I have written in this tutorial.


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