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How to Draw Transport: How to Draw a Military Tank

This post is part of a series called How to Draw Vehicles.
How to Draw Transport: Drawing a Historic Plane From Scratch
Final product image
What You'll Be Creating

A hundred years ago in 1916, during WW1 on the battlefields of the Somme in Northern France, a revolution in armed conflict made its first appearance. This weapon was the tank! In this tutorial, come and learn how to sketch and construct a truly historic piece of modern warfare.

In 1916 these early machines were very clumsy at first, but over the next century these machines made static warfare a thing of the past and truly defined their place in history!

1. How to Set Up a Correct Perspective

Step 1

Firstly, we are going to establish a guideline for our tank, beginning by drawing a horizon line across your page just above the halfway point.

Start your drawing with a horizon line

Step 2

For this drawing we are going to be using two vanishing points. These points need to be correctly placed, and with this picture these have to be placed off the page in order to make the dimensions of the tank more believable. Therefore, to set this up correctly, you may have to use a single piece of masking tape placed on either side of your canvas and then add both of your points using a steel ruler and marking them with a cross.

You will need a steel ruler to establish your vanishing points

Step 3

Having drawn your vanishing points, take your ruler again and draw a single line from the left vanishing point across the canvas, marking the bottom of the tank.

This line coming from the left vanishing point is for the bottom of the tank

Step 4

Next, draw a second line coming from the left vanishing point that will be used as a guide for the top of the body.

This line will be for the top of the body

Step 5

Draw a third line coming from the right-hand vanishing point that converges with the first line.

This line coming from the right will establish the bottom of the tank

Step 6

Now draw a fourth line coming from the right vanishing point which converges with the upper line coming from the left-hand side vanishing point.

This second line is to mark out the rear of the tank

Step 7

We need to add two lines coming from the left-hand vanishing point for the turret section that sits directly above the tank, starting with the bottom of the turret.

A further two lines will mark out the bottom and top of the turret

Step 8

We then follow with two more lines from the right-hand side vanishing point for the top of the turret. Notice the upper lines for the turret sit just above the horizon line.

Follow up with another two lines coming from the right vanishing point

Step 9

To complete our rough guide, we need a final two lines to mark out where the tip of the main gun will be—this particular part of the tank will be a focus point for our image.

The two lines at the top of the canvas mark where the tip of the main gun will be

Step 10

Now we have a rough guideline that we can use to start blocking our tank out with.

2. How to Block Out a Tank

Step 1

Now that we have a perspective set up, the next step for us is to block out our tank using simple shapes, so start by drawing a simple box for the lower part of the tank body.

Start off with a simple box like this for the main body

Step 2

On top of this first box comes a slightly smaller box for the turret section.

Place a second smaller box on top of the first one

Step 3

Alongside the box for the lower part of the tank, we need to draw in a small rectangular box. This will be for one of the caterpillar tracks which give the tank its traction.

This rectangular box on the side will be for one of the tacks

Step 4

Next, you need to draw the track on the opposite side of the tank. The usage of tracks for tanks was originally developed from the inspiration of motorised tractors at the turn of the 20th century.

Dont forget the other side though

Step 5

On top of the turret sit two separate machine guns. To capture these, we need to draw a few thin rectangular boxes, and the first sits almost upright on its end. Additional weaponry beside the main gun has been in place since they first appeared in warfare.

We also need guides for any additional weaponry

Step 6

A second wider box needs to be drawn and placed on its side alongside this first box, depicting the second gun emplacement, which sits slightly lower than the first. This gun also has a shield around it, which is why we need to draw a wider box.

The two boxes on top of the tank are for two fixed heavy machine guns

Step 7

Now we have to draw in a guide for the main gun, and to create this we need to draw a long cylinder. Perspective plays a very important part with this section of the tank, so keep it in mind as you are drawing. The closer to the viewer the cylinder is, the larger the end should be, as you can see in the picture.

You can construct the main gun using cylinders

Step 8

We need to draw a slightly larger cylinder next to our first cylinder to represent a fume extractor within the main barrel.

It can be tricky drawing in perspective so be sure to practice first

Step 9

After the extractor, we need to draw a third cylinder for the end of the main gun, and again you must pay close attention to your perspective as the end will be very close to the viewer, thus increasing the drama.

Notice the size differences in the cylinders for parts of the main gun

Step 10

Now we have a complete layout with which to proceed into more detail.

Our blocked out tank using simple shapes

3. How to Build on a Rough Layout

Step 1

Now that we have a layout for our tank, we shall begin going into more detail with our drawing. Working from left to right (or if you are left-handed you can work the opposite way), we are going to start with the end of the main gun, including the sights on the top.

We shall draw the tip of the main gun in more detail and remember the sights

Step 2

We now move down the main gun, making sure to include all the joins.

Also remember this particular gun has a fume extractor

Step 3

Next, we can draw the turret section, and don’t forget the pivot section for the main gun.

The turret can be divided into two parts by the pivot for the main gun

Step 4

Having done the upper part of the tank, we can now move on to the lower body. Thanks to perspective, some of the tank is hidden, but be careful when you are drawing that you do not spoil the construction work you have done.

The lower body may resemble more of a boat at this point

Step 5

Now we are going to work on the driving wheels but, before we do, I would advise it is a good idea to practice drawing circles and ellipses. You will need to be comfortable with this to carry out the following steps.

For the tank wheels it is best to practice drawing ellipses

Step 6

You can now draw in the wheels on the side of the tank that might be partially hidden by the side armour plates and by the perspective of our drawing.

Notice you can only see just one wheel on the opposite side

Step 7

Next, we need to draw in those armour plates that sit alongside both sides of the tank and protect the wheels and tracks.

Once you have drawn the plates you can erase some of your wheels

Step 8

We then move on to draw the tracks themselves. Each one of these tracks is made up of segmented sections that help the tracks to pivot and run smoothly around the drive wheels.

Notice the tracks are made up in small sections connected via a pin

Step 9

Now a more detailed drawing for our particular tank is emerging. As you can see from the examples in the screenshot, tanks have changed much over the years. 

One of the earliest designs, the Mark 6 tank from 1916 (top), did resemble pretty much a mobile box, whereas the Lee and Sherman American tank of WW2 (bottom) incorporates a similar design to that we are used to seeing today.

WW1 tanks like the Mark 6 were not too successful compared to the Lee and Sherman of WW2

4. How to Add Finishing Details

Step 1

Now that we have a more refined basic sketch of our tank, we can add some of the finer details that will really make our piece stand out. We shall start first with the four radio aerials that are vital for communication in battle.

Communication in battle is vital

Step 2

Don’t forget to draw the hatch that allows access to the interior of the tank!

Also vital is being able to enter and exit a tank

Step 3

On top of the turret sits a thermal scope housed in a protective cowl, and we need to draw this next.

Tanks today have thermal scopes to allow them to fight in both day and night time

Step 4

We shall also add the machine gun that sits on top of the tank; at this point take great care as you draw, as this particular piece of the tank has a lot of fine details. A good drawing will pay off in the long run!

It takes a lot of care to draw one of the two machine guns

Step 5

A big machine gun like this needs a soldier to fire it, so let’s add him next.

You can construct a soldier firing the gun using simple shapes too

Step 6

For the soldier himself, you either can use references from various print or online sources to help construct him or, if you are confident enough with your drawing skills, you can create him from scratch.

Do not be afraid to use references to aid you

Step 7

Next we need to add the second gun emplacement that sits lower than the first. We shall leave this gun emplacement empty as the first is occupied by a soldier.

The second machine gun has a shield to protect the gunman

Step 8

Moving down to the main body of the tank, we can now also add the driver of the tank. Like the soldier we have already drawn, he is mostly obscured, but you can still see his head poking out of the driving hatch. 

The driver sits with his head just visible from below the turret

Step 9

Once more, you can either use references from print or online to help you draw him or create him from scratch.

Notice the tank driver still wears a protective helmet

Step 10

To the right of the driver sits the hatch cover, which can be moved to one side when the driver takes up his position. To the driver's left is an inspection cover which also needs to be added.

There are the driving and inspection hatches close by the driver

Step 11

On the front of the tank there are two small lights that need to be placed on either side.

Even tanks need lights for additional visiblity

Step 12

On the rear of the tank on either side are two air intakes but, because of the turret's angle, we can only see one in this image.

Tanks engines get very hot so having cooling sytems is very important

Step 13

There are many other small parts of this tank that now need to be added now that we are approaching completion of this drawing.

Other little touches can make your drawing stand out be creative

And There We Have It

Also at this point, if you are inking your drawing, you can flip your canvas horizontally if you wish to do so. And at last we have a completed tank! Now you can clean up all your construction lines, and you should have a completed drawing.

Our completed tank ready to do battle

You can now add a touch of colour to your drawing to bring your illustration to life. With the tank revolutionising warfare, battles began to cover larger distances much more rapidly, but that still has not diminished the reality that many lives have been lost over the last century, and it is those lives that we should never forget.

Tanks are still a force to be reckoned with on the battlefield

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