In this tutorial I will show you how to draw a cute dolphin step by step, from the silhouette and the details of the head to the fins. You will learn how to plan the drawing of an animal body, how to make it look 3D with some basic rules of perspective, and how to shade in a basic way. You can use any tools you want!
Before You Start
It's important to draw what we see, not what we think we see. So let's take a look at real dolphins to prepare for the task:
1. How to Draw a Dolphin's Body
Sketch the basic curve of the body.
Find the middle of this curve. Don't use any special tools—just estimate it.
Divide each half of the curve into halves. This will help us with proportions.
Draw a circle in the first quarter of the curve. It doesn't need to be a perfect circle!
Draw an oval across another two quarters. Make it rotated, so that the curve is going right through it.
Draw a row of circles, like beads on a string, until you reach the end of the curve. Make each gradually smaller than the previous one.
Let's add some perspective to the body to make it more realistic. Don't worry, it won't hurt! Draw an oval on the front of the head, creating a flat "face".
Cross the face in the middle to see this flatness better.
Can you see the form of the body? Draw a line along its side. Remember it's you who decides where the side is!
Draw a line going through the bottom of the body. It must follow the rhythm defined by the side line.
Outline the whole form of the body, following this rhythm.
You can add more form-creating lines along the body. They make it easier to see the depth of the drawing.
2. How to Draw a Dolphin's Head
Draw an oval on the front of the face.
Draw a small circle attached to that oval.
Find the position of the eye with a curve ending with an oval.
Place the eye inside the oval. It should be shaped like an oval as well.
Time for the smile! Cross the small circle on the tip of the mouth with a curve.
From here, draw a curve towards the eye, and turn down right before it.
You now have enough guide lines to outline the details of the head.
3. How to Draw Dolphin Fins
Draw a curve ending with a tiny circle on the back of the dolphin. It should start roughly in the middle of the body.
Draw a curve between the circle and the body.
Attach an upside-down "T" to the tail.
Draw an upside-down heart in this area.
Draw two tiny circles under the "T".
Outline the shape suggested by the guide lines.
Again, use a curve ended with an oval to find a perfect spot for the pectoral fin.
Another curve with a circle will create a part of the outline for the fin.
The fin is slightly wider than its base. Define this width with a flat curve.
Now you can outline the whole fin.
Use the same method to draw the other fin.
4. How to Finish the Drawing of a Dolphin
Now you have all the guide lines, so we just need to put the final lines over them. You can take a clean sheet of paper and put it over the sketch if you're drawing traditionally. You can also try to erase most of the guide lines and darken the ones you want to keep with a darker tool.
Outline the basic lines of the dolphin body.
Fill the oval of the eye with dark shade, leaving a dot of shine.
Use gentler, lighter strokes to show some less prominent features, like wrinkles of the skin.
Gently accentuate the lines of perspective to keep the body 3D.
Let's shade the dolphin now. Imagine the light source over its body and fill the shadowed area with strokes of one direction.
To create more levels of shade, change the direction of the strokes.
The perspective guide lines can be turned into rough details on the skin to keep their depth-defining function.
Finally, outline the silhouette with dark strokes to make it pop.
You have drawn a cute dolphin! If you want to learn more about these beautiful animals, as well as their relatives, check out this tutorial as well: