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How to Draw a Roaring Lion Step by Step

Final product image
What You'll Be Creating

The best thing about drawing is that it can be learned through... drawing. In this tutorial I will show you how to draw a realistic lion without too much theory or explanations—just a step-by-step process that will teach you a few useful things about drawing animals from scratch. You can also use this technique to draw other big cats!

A Warm-Up

Before we start, let's take a look at some lions to understand what we're going for:

1. How to Draw a Lion's Body

Step 1

Draw a horizontal teardrop shape. This will be the chest and belly of our lion.

lion chest drawing

Step 2

The chest ends with the shoulders in the front.

lions shoulders drawing

Step 3

Now add the back to finish the main body.

lion rump drawing

Step 4

To achieve correct proportions of the legs, we need to find the level of the ground first. Generally, a standing lion has one height of its torso between the belly and the ground, but I want to create a slightly crouching pose, so I placed the ground higher.

lion proportions

Step 5

Before we add the limbs, draw the hips in the back.

lion hips drawing

Step 6

Draw all the legs and the tail. You don't need to include any details—just capture their rhythm.

lion legs drawing

Step 7

To make the head proportional, use the length of the shoulders as a guide. The head will be exactly as long, and the neck can be slightly shorter than this.

lion head neck proportions

2. How to Draw a Roaring Lion's Head

Step 1

Draw the main part of the skull. It's made of the upper jaw and the braincase.

lion skull drawing

Step 2

Draw the lower jaw hinging from the bottom of the braincase. Its length can be defined by imagining it moving towards the upper jaw.

lion open mouth drawing

Step 3

Finish the lower jaw.

lion lower jaw open

Step 4

Add the details of the skull that will be important for the rest of the anatomy: the eye socket, the cheekbone, and the hollow of the nose.

lion skull drawing

Step 5

Time for the teeth! They don't need to be super detailed, but make sure the lower canine goes right before the upper one.

lion teeth drawing

3. How to Draw Realistic Lion Anatomy

Step 1

Let's add the paws now. Start with the "outer" toes—they're close to the base of the paw, and they have a steep silhouette.

lion paws drawing

Step 2

Draw the inner toes now—not much larger, but more protruding and going down in the opposite direction.

lion claws drawing

Step 3

Add the paw pads.

lion paw pads drawing

Step 4

The joints are great anatomical landmarks, and if we set them properly, the lion will look correct even without detailed muscles. Start with the wrists...

lion wrists drawing

Step 5

... and the ankles. They're quite complex:

lion ankles drawing
lion heels drawing
lion joints drawing

Step 6

Now, cross the elbows and knees with lines.

lion knees elbows drawing

Step 7

Add narrow ovals on the inner side of these lines. These will be the elbows and the kneecaps.

lion knees albows detail drawing

Step 8

Add curves on both sides of each joint. This will be a good base for the muscles.

lion joints details drawing

Step 9

Finally, add the heads of the shoulder bone and the thigh bone.

lion bones drawing

4. How to Draw a Lion's Muscles

Step 1

We've got a great base for a realistic lion, so now we just need to follow it. First, draw the big cheek muscle between the jaws.

lion jaw muscle drawing

Step 2

Place the nose inside its cavity, and the eyeball inside the socket.

lion nose

Step 3

The area with the whiskers is dragged towards the eye by muscles when the lion is roaring. This will let us see the teeth.

lion whisker muscle drawing

Step 4

To draw the ear, first draw its base...

lion ear drawing

... then draw its sides, folding it as you please.

lion ear back drawing
angry lion ear drawing

Step 5

Cover the paws with fur, making them soft and round. Keep in mind they get pretty flat in the front if the lion is showing its claws.

lion furry paws drawing

Step 6

Now, time for the actual muscles of the body. Connect the wrist with the elbow area, and the ankle with the knee area.

lion forearms drawing

Step 7

Add the shoulders and the thigh.

lion thigh shoulders

Step 8

Close the shape of the limbs by adding more muscles:

lion muscles drawing

Step 9

Finish the paws:

lion feet drawing
lion claws details

Step 10

Outline the whole silhouette based on the shapes we already have.

lion body drawing

Step 11

We have the body of a powerful big cat, but it looks more like a muscular lioness than a lion. Let's add the mane! Start with little tufts of hair here and there...

lion mane tufts

... then add a ruff around the head.

lion ruff

Finally, cover the whole neck with long, fluffy hair.

lion mane drawing

5. How to Draw a Realistic Lion

Step 1

Let's finish this picture! Draw the details of the face. Notice how the skin gets wrinkled over the muscle pulling the whiskers back. This will add to the angry expression of the lion. Keep the eye wide open—this is how a lion tries to intimidate its opponent. If you make the eyes closed, it will look like yawning or sneezing!

lion face angry drawing

Step 2

Draw the outline of the mane with light, wiggly lines. Try to draw tufts rather than the single hair.

lion mane fluffy

Step 3

Draw the rest of the mane, again drawing tufts, not hair. Try to think about the shadows between the tufts, to reveal them by contrast. You can learn more about drawing fur here:

realistic lion mane drawing

Step 4

Add the details to the paws.

realistic lion paws drawing

Step 5

Draw the back and the tufted tail.

realistic lion tail drawing

Step 6

Outline the rest of the body. Keep in mind all the parts of the body are covered with one piece of skin, and thus they should not be outlined separately.

realistic lion drawing

Step 7

Add the subtle outline of the muscles. This is not necessary, but it will help add some volume to the body,

lion muscles outline

Step 8

Finally, remove the guide lines completely and clean up the drawing.

lion drawing clean

Feel free to add some shading as well.

how to draw a realistic lion

Good Job!

Do you want to learn more about lions, as well as other big cats? You'll love these tutorials:

And if you want to draw your lions in other, more interesting poses, you may find this helpful:

lion drawing step by step
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