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Final product image
What You'll Be Creating

In this tutorial, we’ll learn to draw a fish using the example of a rainbow trout. This beautiful underwater creature has a refined body shape and an amazing spotty pattern!

Fish are relatively easy to draw, which makes them a perfect choice for beginners. I’ll show you a simple way to design a typical fish; you can always add new features or change the proportions of your fish. 

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What You Will Need

To complete this project, you'll need the following equipment:

  • an HB graphite pencil
  • a 3B graphite pencil
  • an eraser
  • a sheet of drawing paper
The art supplies for this project

1. How to Draw a Fish's Body

Step 1

With the HB pencil, I draw the horizontal core line of the fish and mark the borders of its body.

There is no need to use a ruler; the line doesn't have to be perfectly even. 

Drawing the core line

Step 2

I add an elongated shape for the fish’s body. Only a quarter of the core line is left untouched—we'll draw the tail there.

Drawing the shape of the body

Step 3

I draw a trapezoid shape for the tail fin.

Adding the tail fin

Step 4

I join the body and the tail fin, forming the contours of the tail.

Drawing the general contour of the body

Step 5

Let’s refine the head of the fish. I mark the border between the head and the main body, and then add a curved line for the gill cover.

All species of fish have different proportions; let's agree that the length of our fish's head approximately equals the length of its tail.

Drawing the border between the head and body

Step 6

I draw the eye with the pupil.

Adding the eye to the head

Step 7

I add the mouth; it is slightly open.

Drawing the mouth

2. How to Draw the Fins and Head Details

Step 1

In this part of the tutorial, we'll add the details to the drawing. I recommend working on your sketch gradually; it's so easy to become carried away with a single part of the drawing and lose control over the general picture.

Let’s start with the front dorsal fin; it is placed at the top of the body. 

Front dorsal fins can vary in size and shape; a rainbow trout has a relatively small dorsal fin.

Drawing the front dorsal fin

Step 2

It would be logical to suppose that there should be a back dorsal fin, in addition to the front one. But some fish, including our trout, just don’t have any back dorsal fins.

A rainbow trout has an adipose fin instead—it is a small formation without the spikes.

Adding the adipose fin

Step 3

I draw a pair of the ventral fins; they are located under the body, in its middle part.

Adding the ventral fins

Step 4

I add the rough shape of the anal fin. Its form is similar to a triangle with rounded edges.

Drawing the anal fin

Step 5

I draw the pectoral fin, it is placed behind the head of the fish.

Adding the pectoral fin

Step 6

Let’s add the details of the head to our sketch. I draw the gill covers, and then add a set of smaller membranous support rays in the lower part of the head.

The details may seem overwhelming, but you don't have to make a perfect copy of a fish or overload your drawing with information. Usually, less is more—just be creative and have fun! 

Drawing the gill covers and details of the head

Step 7

I also refine the shape of the mouth, adding details that emphasize its relief and three-dimensionality.

Refining the mouth details

Step 8

I draw the nostril on the front part of the head and a couple of folds near the eye.

A fish's head usually has many individual details; you can be creative in adding them.

Adding the nostril

Step 9

I refine the shape of the fish’s body, narrowing the tail. I also change the contour of the tail fin, creating a small dent.

Refining the contour of the body

Step 10

The fins have spikes and rays. I fill the fins’ shapes with a pattern of paired lines. 

Be sure to leave enough space between each pair of lines. 

Adding the spikes to the fins

I draw the rays of the tail fin, too, starting with the sides of the shape. The rays split towards the end of the fin.

Try to keep a visual rhythm—the gaps between the rays should be close in width.

Drawing the details of the tail fin

3. How to Shade Your Drawing With Graphite Pencils

Step 1

With the HB pencil, I darken the pupil, leaving the highlights. I also apply graphite hatching to the top of the head and emphasize the details.

Working on the head of the fish with a graphite pencil

Step 2

I draw spots on the fish’s body, including the fins. 

The spots vary in size and intensity, so the best option is to use both HB and 3B pencils to draw them. The pattern created in this manner will have a natural, realistic look.

I don’t draw spots on the belly of the fish; the thin line that goes through the center of the body is untouched, too.

Drawing the spots on the body

Step 3

With the 3B graphite pencil, I apply hatching to the upper part of the fish—it is usually much darker than the middle and the lower parts.

You can use both long horizontal lines that repeat the direction of the fish’s body and curved contour hatches. A combination of shading techniques works great for creating a realistic effect.

Darkening the upper part of the fish body

Step 4

With the HB pencil, I cover the fish with a layer of contour hatching, just to make the drawing look harmonious.

Make sure that you emphasize the details like the gill covers and fins; the drawing should be contrasting enough.

Completing the drawing of the fish

Your Artwork Is Complete

Congratulations! You’ve created a beautiful drawing of a rainbow trout and learned more about the process of designing a typical fish.

I wish you much inspiration; just draw, experiment, and have fun! 

The result of our work
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