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  1. Design & Illustration
  2. Animal Anatomy
Design

How to Draw Animals: Small Rodents and Their Anatomy

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This post is part of a series called How to Draw Animals.
How to Draw Animals: Bats
How to Draw Animals: Big Rodents and Their Anatomy
Final product image
What You'll Be Creating

In this part of the series we're going to learn how to draw small rodents like mice, rats, squirrels and others. First we'll learn about the general traits of rodents and then about all the features of actual species.

1. General Rodent Anatomy

Though very different, small rodents share some body features you can use to learn faster about multiple species at the same time.

Skeleton

The skeletons of mammals generally look alike, but you can find even more resemblance among species. The most characteristic features of rodents are:

  • Elongated, tapered skull with huge incisors
  • Big head
  • Small chest
  • Flexible spine
  • Narrow hips
  • Sharp, prehensile claws
  • Short legs
  • Hind feet slightly larger than front ones
  • Ability to sit upright
  • Very agile forelimbs
small rodents skeleton mouse squirrel
Don't be confused by this iconic "sitting squirrel" pose—a squirrel is built the same way as a mouse

The skeleton of every animal can be simplified to basic forms that are easy to reproduce in various poses. This is a kind of artistic skeleton—it makes a proper base for the rest of the body without engaging us with the shape of bones or other unnecessary things. To learn more about using a simplified skeleton check my tutorial about poses.

small rodents skeleton simplified mouse squirrel

Body

Fortunately for us, a rodent's body is covered with quite loose skin that conceals the outline of the muscles. When you add fur to it, it's obvious there's no need to learn the actual musculature of these animals. Still, muscles define the shape of the body, so there are structures that you need to remember.

small rodents muscles mouse

Head

Since rodents' skulls are very similar, their heads can be drawn in a similar way too. For now we're focusing on similarities—we'll talk about particular species later. I'm going to show you three views at the same time, so that you can see different perspectives.

Step 1

Start with a big ball for the brain case and two smaller balls for the upper jaw.

how to draw rodent head mouse

Step 2

Add a ball below the upper jaw to create the lower jaw.

how to draw rodent head mouse 2

Step 3

Add details like the nose, eyes and ears. The eyes are big and oval, and should be placed on the sides of the head.

how to draw rodent head mouse 3

Step 4

Use the guide lines we've created to finish the head.

how to draw rodent head mouse 4

Eyes

The eyes of small rodents are dark and oval. If you're drawing them on a small scale, feel free to make them out of black ovals with white shine dots. On a bigger scale you can add more details:

how to draw rodent eyes mouse
Rodents' eyes can be drawn as simple black beads

Feet

Rodents have various number of fingers among species, but their feet are rather similar. Because they're not heavily furred (or at all), the fingers and their bending is clearly visible. Most rodents have four toes on their front feet and five toes on their hind feet, with the middle ones visibly longer.

rodent feet how to draw
rodent feet how to draw 2

Nose

The nose of small rodents is tiny, so you'll rarely need to draw it in detail. The most important thing to remember about it is a little hump above the nose, crucial for a proper rodent look.

rodent nose how to draw

2. Mouse

Body Features

  • Slender body
  • Tail longer than the whole body with head
  • The tail is covered with "scales" and hair
  • Big head in comparison to the body
  • "Naked" feet covered with thin, light hairs
rodents how to draw mouse
House mouse

Color

Wild mice (house mouse, field mouse) are usually gray or brown. For pet mice you can use almost any coloration you want!

rodents how to draw mouse colors

Head

  • Pointy muzzle
  • Big, round, hairless ears
  • Big eyes in comparison to the head
rodents how to draw mouse head

3. Rat

Body Features

  • Stocky body
  • Shorter tail
  • The tail is covered with "scales" and hair
  • Head proportional to the rest of the body
  • "Naked" feet covered with thin, light hairs
rodents how to draw rat
Rat

Color

Natural colors for rats are gray, grayish brown, and black. You can also use the coloration types of mice.

rodents how to draw rat colors

Head

  • Rounded muzzle
  • Small, hairless ears
  • Small eyes in comparison to the head
rodents how to draw rat head

4. Gray Squirrel

Body Features

  • Slender body
  • Curved claws
  • Strong hind legs
  • Long, bushy, but slightly flattened tail
  • Small head in comparison to the body
rodents how to draw gray squirrel
Eastern gray squirrel

Color

Gray squirrels are primarily gray, with a brown or blond tint on the head and the sides. The underside is white.

rodents how to draw gray squirrel colors

Head

  • Rounded muzzle
  • Small ears
  • Large eyes in comparison to the head
rodents how to draw gray squirrel head

5. Red Squirrel

Body Features

  • Slender body
  • Curved claws
  • Strong hind legs
  • Long, bushy, but slightly flattened tail
  • Small head in comparison to the body
rodents how to draw red squirrel
Red squirrel

Color

Coloration can vary within the species, but the coat is usually red, brown or reddish gray, with a white underside.

rodents how to draw red squirrel colors

Head

  • Slightly pointed muzzle
  • Pointy, tufted ears
  • Large eyes in comparison to the head
rodents how to draw red squirrel head

6. Chipmunk

Body Features

  • Small, slender body
  • Head proportional to the body
  • Long, quite bushy tail
rodents how to draw chipmunk
Chipmunk

Color

Chipmunks are mainly reddish brown, with a white underside and characteristic stripes. To draw them correctly, start with wide black stripes and add narrow yellow‑cream stripes inside (the inside stripes can be a less saturated version of the main coat).

rodents how to draw chipmunk colors stripes back

Head

  • Slightly pointy muzzle
  • Small ears
  • Very large eyes in comparison to the head
rodents how to draw chipmunk head

7. Hamster

Body Features

  • Stocky body
  • Proportional head
  • Short tail
  • Little paws
  • Feet naked or furry
rodents how to draw hamster
Hamster

Color

A typical Syrian hamster is reddish blond, but there are lots of pattern and fur type variations.

rodents how to draw hamster colors

Head

  • Rounded muzzle
  • Proportional eyes
  • Small ears
rodents how to draw hamster head

8. Gerbil

Body Features

  • "A hamster with a long tail" type of body
  • Proportional head
  • Big hind legs
rodents how to draw gerbil
Gerbil

Color

Wild gerbils are typically yellowish brown with a lighter underside and white tip of the tail. Domesticated gerbils have a wide variety of coloration.

rodents how to draw gerbil colors

Head

  • Rounded muzzle
  • Small, hairless ears
  • Large eyes in comparison to the head
rodents how to draw gerbil head

9. Guinea Pig

Body Features

  • Very stocky, round body
  • Very big head in comparison to the body
  • No visible tail (human-like tail)
  • Four toes on the front feet, three toes on the hind feet
  • Neck merged with the body
rodents how to draw guinea pig
Guinea pig

Color

There's no typical coloration for a guinea pig, but you can choose from a variety of coats. For simplicity's sake, you can choose a plain color like blond or brown.

Head

  • Rounded muzzle
  • Floppy ears
  • Proportional eyes
rodents how to draw guinea pig colors

10. Chinchilla

Body Features

  • Stocky body
  • Very soft, thick fur
  • Medium long, fluffy tail
  • Big head in comparison to the body
  • Four toes on every foot, with "thumbs" on both the front and hind legs
rodents how to draw chinchilla
Chinchilla

Color

Chinchillas are traditionally dark gray, with a light underside and darker back. They can also be black, beige, or almost white.

rodents how to draw chinchilla colors

Head

  • Rounded muzzle
  • Very big, almost hairless ears
  • Big eyes in comparison to the head
  • Very long, straight whiskers
  • "Sleepy" eyes
rodents how to draw chinchilla head

11. Practice Exercise—Draw an Illustration

Let's use all this knowledge in practice!

Step 1

The biggest problem with a planned picture is that it's very hard to get started while keeping it interesting. To avoid it, start with a simple sketch of your idea. Don't think about anatomy, just draw what you imagine.

draw a rodent squirrel mouse

Step 2

Use the messy sketch to build a pose-skeleton on its base. Look how easily these simple forms can be converted to 3D view!

draw a rodent squirrel mouse 2

Step 3

Add the muscle mass. Remember—muscles and the actual shape of the body may differ depending of the amount of fur on the species.

draw a rodent squirrel mouse 3

Step 4

Add the fingers. By using only two fingers as a base, you make it more clear, and the rest of them will follow their rhythm.

draw a rodent squirrel mouse 4
draw a rodent squirrel mouse 5
draw a rodent squirrel mouse 6

Step 5

Add the head following the perspective.

draw a rodent squirrel mouse 7

Step 6

Now you can sketch the picture emerging from the guide lines.

draw a rodent squirrel mouse 8

Step 7

You can leave the sketch as it is, or clean it up to create line art.

draw a rodent squirrel mouse 9

Done

You can add a whole new family to your animal drawing skills! If you enjoyed this one, make sure to check my other drawing tutorials and articles. See you next time!

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