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Design

How to Draw Animals: Zebras and Giraffes

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Difficulty:IntermediateLength:MediumLanguages:
This post is part of a series called How to Draw Animals.
How to Draw Animals: Crocodiles, Alligators, Caimans and Gharials
How to Draw Feathers
Final product image
What You'll Be Creating

Today we're visiting Africa to learn about two unique species: the zebra and the giraffe. To draw them properly we need to understand that the zebra isn't just a striped horse, and that the giraffe isn't a camel-leopard hybrid. As always, we're going to take a look at their anatomy and learn about every little detail of them.

How to Draw a Zebra

General Anatomy: Horse vs. Zebra

We tend to think of zebras as striped horses, and it's not far from the truth. Horses and zebras belong to the same family and share a lot of features. I've already written a complex tutorial about drawing horses, and some information from there will be relevant here, too. However, it's necessary to define the differences, since they'll make your zebra a true zebra instead of a "striped horse".

This is a zebra in the form of a simplified skeleton. How is it different from a horse?

how to draw zebra skeleton anatomy

It's usually said that zebras are smaller than horses, which isn't always true, considering there are so many different horse breeds. It's better to think of a zebra as more heavily built, with a visibly rounded belly, shorter legs, and a bigger head. The neck itself isn't much thicker (though it's surely stronger), but the stiff mane makes it look so. Actually, zebras are closer in look to donkeys than to horses!

how to draw zebra skeleton anatomy 2
how to draw zebra skeleton anatomy 3

Keeping this in mind, you can use my tutorial about horses to learn how zebras move (they use the same gaits as horses), and to apply musculature to the skeleton. You can also use the parts about hooves, eyes, and muzzle. However, there are still some features left!

Zebra Head

Step 1

We're going to work on three views at the same time: side (A), three quarters (B), and front (C). This way you'll better understand the 3D construction of it.

Start with two side-flattened balls.

how to draw zebra head

Step 2

Add a smaller ball for the mouth. Use it as a starting point for the nostrils, and then lead a line from them to locate the eyes. The eye is placed in an egg-shaped "bulge".

how to draw zebra head 2

Step 3

Add a "cap" for the head to give the proper shape to the skull, and then attach the ears.

how to draw zebra head 3

Step 4

Use the previous guide lines to draw the head.

how to draw zebra head 4

Zebra Ears

Step 1

Zebra ears are very horse-like, except they're bigger and rounder. This difference is more prominent in front view (A) than in side view (B). The ears can move in almost every direction, so you can use the pose that you like the best, no matter in which pose the rest of the head is.

how to draw zebra ears

Step 2

how to draw zebra ears 2

Step 3

how to draw zebra ears 3

Step 4

how to draw zebra ears 4

Zebra Mane and Tail

After the distinctive pattern, the mane and tail of the zebra are what differentiates them from horses. The mane is stiff and Mohawk-like, and the fluffy tail begins somewhere in the middle, not at the base like with horses. Still, it's not a lion-like tuft—just a shorter horse tail!

how to draw zebra mane tail

Step 1

Before you start drawing the mane, you need to have the line of the neck well defined. The mane starts between or right over the shoulder blades, and ends on the forehead, not far from the ears.

how to draw zebra mane tail 2

Step 2

The mane is mostly straight and even, with two exceptions: it's a bit shorter towards the back, and it "bends" towards the forehead.

how to draw zebra mane tail 3

Step 3

Add lines of equal length along the neck line.

how to draw zebra mane tail 4

Step 4

If you connect the tops of the lines, you'll get the line of the mane.

how to draw zebra mane tail 5

Step 5

The mane is thick, so we need to add some width. Define the width for a few places first.

how to draw zebra mane tail 6

Step 6

Then you can use them as guide lines to draw the mane.

how to draw zebra mane tail 7

If you draw a mane in a close up view, it's important to know it's made of stiff tufts, not stiff hair. These tufts tend to "break", showing gaps in places where the neck is strongly bent.

how to draw zebra mane tail 8

Zebra Pattern

Step 1

Contrary to popular belief, zebras are black with white stripes. This scientific information doesn't matter for us, though, since in this case it's easier to paint black stripes on white.

When adding a pattern to your zebra, you need to consider the direction first. For all species the stripes go like this:

how to draw zebra pattern stripes

Step 2

Then you need to adjust the stripes to the body. Keep in mind that:

  1. The stripes are the thickest at the back.
  2. The stripes get very thin and dense towards the bottom.
how to draw zebra pattern stripes 2

Step 3

Finally, you need to adjust the stripes to the actual species. Let's take a look at two popular zebras.

Plains Zebra

  1. The mouth is very dark.
  2. Sometimes brownish "shadow" stripes appear between the black stripes.
  3. The stripes curl up under the belly.
  4. The tail is black.
how to draw zebra pattern stripes 3

Grévy's Zebra

  1. The mouth is more grayish.
  2. The head is bigger and heavier.
  3. The mane goes far beyond the shoulder blades.
  4. The stripes are thin and dense.
  5. The belly is visibly white and stripeless.
  6. The tail is white, with a dark underside.
how to draw zebra pattern stripes 4

It's important to pay attention to the head:

how to draw zebra pattern stripes 5

How to Draw a Giraffe

General Anatomy

Although the giraffe looks like an extraordinary animal, it's actually constructed quite typically. If you compare it to a horse or cow, the only differences are its very long legs and neck, and the short torso.

In fact, giraffes are more closely related to cows than to horses, so this time, instead of supporting yourself with horse anatomy, feel free to take a look at my bovine tutorial.

how to draw skeleton giraffe pose

Let's simplify it for our purpose:

how to draw skeleton giraffe pose 2

Because the structure of the skeleton isn't much different than that of a cow or a horse, you can safely use the musculature diagram from my cow tutorial and only adjust it to the skeleton. Giraffes, though strong, are not very muscular in look, so there's no need to memorize the muscles—use them only to understand how they build the body.

how to draw skeleton giraffe pose 3

Giraffe Head

Step 1

Again, we're going to take care of three views at the same time: side (A), three-quarters (B) and front (C).

Start with a big, side flattened ball, and attach one small ball and a half ball to it.

how to draw giraffe head

Step 2

Add the nostrils.

how to draw giraffe head 2

Step 3

Lead a line from the nostrils to find places for the eyes and ears.

how to draw giraffe head 3

Step 4

Add a "cap" at the tip of the head, and add the "alien antennae" on it.

how to draw giraffe head 4

Step 5

Add an "egg" in the middle of the forehead.

how to draw giraffe head 5

Step 6

Finish the sketch.

how to draw giraffe head 6

Giraffe Eyes

When giraffes feed on thorny acacia trees, their eyes are protected by big, protruding ridges (over the upper eyelid), thick eyelashes and eyelids. Apart from this, their eyes are not so much different from bovines. Their pupils are horizontal, too, but because the irises are very dark, you don't need to include them in your drawing at all.

how to draw giraffe eyes

Giraffe Ears

The ears are very bovine-like, too, except that they're more narrow and slender.

how to draw giraffe ears

Giraffe Horns

Giraffes have three "horns" on their heads, which are actually bony protuberances called ossicones. There's a pair of long ones, and a single hump in the middle (the "egg" we were adding to the sketch of the head). The long ones have a bunch of dark hair at the top, but it's more prominent with females. Males often have the very tips bald.

how to draw giraffe horns

Giraffe Hooves

The hooves are very cow-like, except they don't have any "dew claws".

how to draw giraffe hooves

Giraffe Mane and Tail

The mane on a giraffe's neck is stiff, but not very tall. It's more even than a zebra's, but it still has a certain width. You can use the "zebra" method to draw it. The tail is usually darker than the mane, and it looks like a horse tail, too.

how to draw giraffe mane tail

Giraffe Pattern

The "spots" of the giraffe only look like a leopard's from a distance. They're actually more like cracks. Their color and density vary across species or even specimens, but the general rule for them stays the same:

how to draw giraffe pattern

Practical Exercise: Draw a Zebra and a Giraffe Step by Step

Let's see how to use this information to create a picture.

Step 1

Start with a very loose sketch of your idea. The more experienced you are, the more accurate this sketch will be, but you don't really need to care about it now.

how to draw zebra giraffe
how to draw zebra giraffe 2

Step 2

Adjust the simplified skeleton of the animal to the sketched pose.

how to draw zebra giraffe 3
how to draw zebra giraffe 4

Step 3

Prepare guide lines for the details.

how to draw zebra giraffe 5

Step 4

Build the body by simply connecting the parts.

how to draw zebra giraffe 6

Step 5

Add the details.

how to draw zebra giraffe 7

Step 6

Sketch the direction of the stripes on the zebra's body.

how to draw zebra giraffe 8

Then draw them using the guide lines. You can use a reference to create an interesting pattern.

how to draw zebra giraffe 9

Step 7

When it comes to the giraffe, the guide lines for the patches will be the same as for cracked ground.

how to draw zebra giraffe 10

Create the patches by adding distance between them. The size of the cracks depends on the species.

how to draw zebra giraffe 11

Step 8

The sketch is done! You can now clean it up and add some colors.

how to draw zebra giraffe 12
how to draw zebra giraffe 13

That's All!

I hope you had fun! Make sure to check my profile for more animal tutorials.

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