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How to Draw an Octopus Step by Step

Final product image
What You'll Be Creating

The theme of this tutorial is drawing an octopus; we’ll base it on the anatomy of this mollusc but also bring some stylization into our artwork.

I’ll show you an easy way to create a pencil sketch from scratch, and then we’ll explore the step-by-step process of drawing with ink liners. We'll also learn to use dots and mix artistic techniques to our advantage! 

What You Will Need

  • A sheet of drawing paper
  • A graphite pencil (I recommend using an HB type)
  • An eraser
  • An ink liner number 0.2
  • An ink liner number 0.1
  • An ink liner number 0.05
The art supplies I will be using

1. How to Draw an Octopus With a Graphite Pencil

Step 1

I draw a slightly curved core line; it will help us to mark the positioning of the figure.

Drawing the core line

Step 2

I outline the rough shape of the head. Then I add an oblong shape where the eyes are located.

According to this foreshortening, one side of the octopus is more visible to the viewer than another.

Working on the head of the octopus

Step 3

I add the framework of the limbs. An octopus has eight arms that can be divided into four pairs.

Now I mark only the arms that are visible in the foreground, just to keep the process as simple as possible. We’ll add the hidden arms later.

Adding the arms

Step 4

I draw the eyes. They are large, enclosed in a capsule, and have a slit-shaped pupil.

Adding the eyes

Step 5

I draw the fold of the aperture at the side of the head.

Adding the head details

Step 6

I add the siphon; it resembles a funnel. An octopus uses a siphon for respiration and locomotion.

Now we are ready to proceed to drawing the tentacles, or the arms. This topic needs additional explanations, so I'll see you in the next section! 

Drawing the siphon

2. How to Draw Tentacles 

Step 1

It's worth mentioning that, according to Wikipedia, the correct name for the limbs of an octopus is "arms", not "tentacles". But since it is a common appellation, I'll be using "tentacles" now and then throughout the tutorial.

I draw the first pair of arms, keeping the lines smooth and soft.

Drawing the first pair of the arms

Step 2

To draw the inner parts of the tentacles correctly, we need to keep in mind the principles of perspective.

The foreshortening defines how much of the interior surface we see; the image below illustrates this concept.

We’ll dwell upon drawing the suckers (the round elements that cover the interior surfaces of the arms) just in the next step.

Comparing the foreshortening examples

I add the inner parts of the first pair of arms.

Refining the first pair of the arms

Step 3

The stylized form of a sucker resembles a bowl with a hollow central cavity.

The principles of perspective are applicable here, too: the point of view defines how we see the object. For example, if we have an overhead view of a sucker, we’ll see only the top plane with the cavity and no sides.

Exploring the perspective How to draw a sucker

Each arm has two rows of suckers. Depending on the species, the suckers can be placed in a parallel or a staggered order.

The rows of suckers

I add the suckers to the first pair of the arms. The suckers get smaller towards the end of the limb, so just mark the smallest ones without adding many details.

Adding the suckers to the first pair of the arms

Step 4

I draw the second pair of arms and then add the inner sides.

Adding the second pair of the arms

Step 5

I add the suckers to the second pair of arms.

Adding the suckers

Step 6

I draw the remaining tentacle of the third pair. Then I add the inner surface and the suckers, just as we did in the previous examples.

Working on the second pair of the arms

Step 7

I draw the second arm from the third pair; it is hidden behind one of the arms in the foreground.

Adding a new arm

Step 8

I add the fourth arm pair. Use your imagination and artistic flair to find the best direction for these arms; it’s important to keep the balance of the figure.

I applied light pencil hatching to the inner parts of the limbs just for your reference.

Drawing the fourth set of arms

Step 9

As a final addition to this pencil sketch, I draw the suckers.

I clean my drawing with the eraser. It's important to make sure that all unnecessary pencil lines are removed before proceeding to any additional artistic tool. 

The sketch is ready for inking!

Completing the pencil sketch

3. How to Draw With Ink Liners

Step 1

Before we begin inking our octopus drawing, let’s try some warm-up exercises and practice making dots on the paper. 

Dotwork (also known as stippling) is a great artistic technique; it’s a perfect choice for creating beautiful textures.

Draw a sample of dotwork that consists of two parts. Use the 0.2 ink liner for the left one and the 0.1 liner for the right one.

A dots size variation sample

Step 2

Create a line, using only dots. The speed of drawing influences the accuracy of the individual dots within the line.

The 0.2 ink liner is a great tool for this exercise.

Creating various kinds of lines

Step 3

The goal of the next exercise is to make a gradation of value. With the 0.2 ink liner, create a sample with an increasing density of ink dots.

Playing with the density of  the ink dots

4. How to Draw an Octopus With Ink Liners

Step 1

With the 0.2 ink liner, I create the main contours. 

To make the drawing more interesting, I use a dotted line in addition to a traditional continuous outline.

Working on the contours

Step 2

I add dots to the sides of the octopus, using the 0.2 ink liner. I also darken the pupils and mark the darker places of the figure.

Creating the main details and the texture

Step 3

With the 0.1 ink liner, I add a layer of dots to the drawing.

Completing the basic texture with dots

Step 4

I add dots to the back arms of the octopus, using the 0.1 ink liner. To create the core shadows of the arms, you can place dots closer to each other.

Working on the back arms

Step 5

I outline the suckers, using the 0.05 liner, and also add dots to the eyes to make them more three-dimensional.

Outlining the suckers

Step 6

With the 0.2 liner, I add another layer of dots to the sides of the octopus, giving the drawing more contrast and making it more three-dimensional.

I create a pattern of the skin, applying the groups of dots to the head and arms. Approximately five dots per group is the way to go.

Increasing the contrast and creating the pattern

Step 7

I make the contours of the drawing a bit thicker, using the 0.2 ink liner.

Working on the contours

Step 8

The ink drawing is complete!

As a finishing touch, I apply pencil hatches to the sides of the octopus, creating soft transitions from shadow to light. This combination of artistic techniques makes the drawing more unique and interesting.

Adding the graphite pencil strokes

Your Drawing Is Complete

Congratulations! You’ve created a beautiful artwork; I hope you enjoyed both the process and the result.

I wish you much success in drawing with pencils and ink. Have fun capturing the unique charm of the wonderful world of animals and nature!

Your drawing is complete
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