In this realistic fish drawing 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'll Learn in This Realistic Fish Drawing Tutorial
- How to draw a fish's body
- How to draw the fins and head details
- How to shade your fish drawing with graphite pencils
What You'll Need
To complete this realistic fish drawing project, you'll need the following equipment:
- an HB graphite pencil
- a 3B graphite pencil
- an eraser
- a sheet of drawing paper
1. How to Draw a Fish's Body
Let's see how to draw a fish realistically. First, with the HB pencil, I draw the horizontal core line of the fish and mark the borders of its body.
There's no need to use a ruler; the line doesn't have to be perfectly straight.
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.
I draw a trapezoid shape for the tail fin.
I join the body and the tail fin, forming the contours of the tail.
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.
I draw the eye with the pupil.
I add the mouth; it is slightly open.
2. How to Draw the Fins and Head Details
The fish sketch is done, so now let's continue with this easy fish drawing. In this part of the easy-to-draw fish 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.
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.
I draw a pair of the ventral fins; they are located under the body, in its middle part.
I add the rough shape of the anal fin. Its form is similar to a triangle with rounded edges.
I draw the pectoral fin, which is placed behind the head of the fish.
Let’s add the details of the head to our fish 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!
I also refine the shape of the mouth, adding details that make it look more three-dimensional.
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.
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 in this easy fish drawing.
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.
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.
3. How to Shade Your Fish Drawing With Graphite Pencils
This is the last phase when learning how to draw a detailed fish. 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.
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.
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.
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 have plenty of contrast.
Your Fish Drawing Is Complete
Congratulations! You’ve learned how to draw a realistic fish, and you've created a beautiful fish 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!
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