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How to Draw Animals: Elephants, Their Species and Anatomy

This post is part of a series called How to Draw Animals.
How to Draw Animals: The Importance of Drawing a Pose
How to Draw Animals: Spiders, Popular Species, Anatomy and Movement

Elephants are a one of a kind - there's no other animal with such amazing tusks and trunk. They can be also tricky to draw, since they look so simple. I will show you how to draw a realistic elephant, be it African or Asian, in every pose you'll want to. Follow me and I'll teach you all elephant things!

1. Basic Anatomy of an Elephant

Step 1

When we look at an elephant skeleton, we can see it's unproportional and somewhat clumsy, big head, long legs and bulgy barrow. Legs, unlike other animals, are very straight and are what makes an elephant similar to a human. Compare these feet to a dog or cat and you'll see what I mean.

Sketch the initial pose for your elephant using the second scheme.


Step 2

The contours of an elephant muscles are faded by thick skin, so there's no need to learn them all. You only need to draw the general masses that give a shape to the body.


Step 3

There are two species of elephant: African elephant and Asian elephant. They're quite easy to distinguish:

  • African elephants have a wide, Africa-shaped ears. They're so big that they cover the shoulders and are used as fans.
  • The back has two distinctive humps;
  • The forelegs have four or five toes, hind legs - only three;
  • There are two skin "fingers" at the tip of the trunk;
  • The skin is grey, very thick and strongly wrinkled even at a young age;
  • Both males and females have tusks of the same length.
  • Asian elephants have small, short ears - bigger ones could tear easily in the jungle;
  • The back bends gently;
  • There's a prominent double hump on the head;
  • The forelegs have five toes, hind legs only four;
  • There's only one skin "finger" at the tip of the trunk;
  • The skin is grey, but can get depigmented to pale, yellowish pink covered with grey dots, usually on the head and ears. It's wrinkled, but not as strongly as their African cousins;
  • Only males can grow real tusks. With females, they are very small and non distinctive.

Step 4

Now you can sketch your pose and body. I'm going to draw an African elephant.


2. Draw an Elephant Head - Profile, Front, Sex Differences

Step 1

To draw an elephant head in a profile view you can follow the instruction below. At this point, species or sex doesn't make any difference.


Step 2

Here comes the species difference: attach a big, wide ear for an African elephant and small, short ear for the Asian one.


Step 3

There's another difference coming from both species and sex.

  • Male and female Asian elephants have both "humpy" foreheads. Males can have tusks, females and most of males have them very small and hidden;
  • Male African elephants have straighter forehead than females. Females also have slender tusks, but not necessarily shorter than males.

Step 4

To draw a head in front view, follow the instructions below. Again, it's only useful to one point.


Step 5

Time to add the differences. We already know about the ears, but pay attention to the forehead: Asian elephants have a distinctive double hump at the top of their heads.


Step 6

I used the previous instructions to sketch the head for my elephants:


3. Details: Eye, Trunk, Tusks, Tail

Step 1

Elephant eyes are small, brown in color and covered with a thick curtain of eyelashes. The skin around them is as thick as everywhere else, so it is wrinkled like an elderly man. When drawing an elephant eye, pay more attention to the wrinkled area than to the eye itself.


Step 2

A trunk isn't really a tube - it's rather a half of a tube, cut lengthwise. It's very muscular and wrinkled (especially for African elephants).


Step 3

Tusks are really easy to draw, just keep in mind they're not flat and pointy - their tips wear out. Also, although most of the present elephants have quite short tusks and some of them grow none at all (as a result of "natural" selection propelled by ivory poachers), you can draw them very long and proudly curved - just as they should be!

When it comes to Asian elephant females, draw an upper lip in the place where the tusks usually begin.


Step 4

Elephant ears are flat and thin, perfect to be used as fans. As we noted earlier, African elephants have bigger ears than Asian ones. Also, ears of the latter are thinner and easily folded on the top.


Step 5

An elephants tail reaches to knee level or even lower. It ends with a tuft of strong, coarse hair, not fluffy as with lions, but rather flat and is used as an additional fan.


4. Elephant Feet

Step 1

Although elephant feet may seem easy to draw, they shouldn't be ignored in our lesson. Elephant legs only on first sight look like simple columns, and if you want to draw them realistically in every pose, you need to take a look at their anatomy too.

Elephants walk on their toes just like cats and dogs. It would be very hard to support their massive weight in this pose, so they also have fat pillows under their fingers. All these elements give a characteristic shape to the foot.


Step 2

To draw an elephant foot, start with a simple pose symbolizing the wrist and fingertips.


Step 3

Add a large circle between them and a line establishing the width of the wrist.


Step 4

Using these guidelines draw the foot. Follow the shape of elements you've drawn before.


Step 5

When sketching the details, remember about wrinkles! They're very helpful in avoiding that simple column look.


Step 6

Elephants can kneel on their forelegs, hence the popular myth they have four knees. We already know it's not true, but it doesn't change the fact you can use knee movement as a reference.


Step 7

Here you can see this technique in practice:


5. Elephant Skin

Step 1

Time to finish the picture! If you followed all the instructions carefully, you should now have something like this:


Step 2

As we said before, elephants have thick, wrinkled skin. It's quite easy to draw as long as you follow the general direction of wrinkles. The more time you spend drawing the lines, the more natural the skin will look. Don't draw them all the same, cross them all the time and don't make them too straight.


Step 3

When the skin is defined, you can now easily shade the picture using the same technique as you did before - crossing a lot of lines will give a natural effect.



Our happy elephant is done! I hope you enjoyed the lesson. If you want to learn about other animals too, don't stop now - check out my series on How to Draw Animals. If your favorite animal isn't on the list yet, let me know - I'll try to do something about it!

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