How to Draw a Wolf in Colored Pencil

01
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How to Draw a Wolf

draw a wolf
© Janet Griffin-Scott, licensed to About.com, Inc.

Here is the completed picture of the wolf that we will draw in this step by step lesson. You can adapt the steps shown in this tutorial to suit any photograph of a dog or wolf, just adjusting your colors as necessary. Note that you can click on the images to see the full size image.

First, a note about my wolf reference photo. I bought the right to use this photo from an incredible, well known wildlife photographer about fifteen years ago and then never drew it until now. If you do not have access to wild wolves you must either buy photos from a photographer that allows you to make derivative art from it, or go to zoos and photograph captive wolves and scenic backgrounds and combine the two. If you do not, and just copy things out of books and magazines, you are infringing on the photographer’s copyright. There are no exceptions to this rule. If you do, you can get sued by the photographer. The copyright laws are very clear on this and can be researched online very easily.

All text and images in this tutorial are copyright (c) Janet Griffin-Scott, licensed to About.com, Inc.

02
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Draw a Wolf - Preliminary Sketch

the preliminary drawing of the wolf
Janet Griffin-Scott, licensed to About.com, Inc.
To begin drawing the wolf, I break the photo down into basic shapes for the animal and the background. I use the kite shape on the wolf's face to get the eyes level and the pose and proportions of the wolf correct. Draw lightly at this stage, so as not to indent the paper or deposit too much graphite.
03
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How to Draw a Wolf - The Detailed Outline

the detailed outline transferred to the drawing paper
Janet Griffin-Scott, licensed to About.com, Inc.
My pencil drawing changed many elements from the photo but they are basically the outlines of the wolf and trees. I got this by erasing areas of the basic shapes and adding in a bit more detail. I will now constantly refer to this drawing as well as the photo. I transferred the drawing onto watercolour paper and begin.
04
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Beginning with the Wolf's Head

Janet Griffin-Scott, licensed to About.com, Inc.
Notice that the wolf drawing alone is transferred. I tend to want to draw in the background more freely and less photographic. I look at the preliminary drawing if I need guidelines for where the trees and grass grow.

I start sketching in light greys here using a combination of different brands of coloured pencil. I use Berol, Prismacolour, Faber Castell and even student grades such as Laurentian and Crayola. Each brand has different hardness, texture, amount of wax binder, and a slightly different colour range. Some leads are harder and hold a sharpened point easier.

I do the eyes and nose of the wolf in light grey strokes and start the detailed hair on the wolf’s head with tiny strokes.

05
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Draw a Wolf - Developing the Wolf's Coat

Janet Griffin-Scott, licensed to About.com, Inc.
I have added more strokes and layers on the wolf's coat, paying careful attention to what direction the hair grows and emulating that with the strokes. Wolves have beautifully coloured coats that tend to be organized into some really pleasing abstract shapes. I follow those carefully, adding layers of strokes on top of each other in the darker areas and adding guidelines for the lighter areas.
06
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Draw the Wolf Fur - How to Draw the Wolf's Fur

Janet Griffin-Scott, licensed to About.com, Inc.
This is a detail about the wolf’s fur. Notice the darker hairs and the wonderful textures that are created by the hair patterns on this animal’s coat. I do many layers of strokes to emphasize the way the hair grows, and add darker areas where one layer of fur overlaps the next.
07
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Drawing Fur - Erasing and Blending

blending with a q-tip
Janet Griffin-Scott, licensed to About.com, Inc.
Erasing and blending are useful techniques when drawing fur. Kneaded and vinyl erasers are valuable here for lifting off areas of colour that get too intense or too smudged. The Q tips aids in smudging areas. I rotate the tip of the Q Tip as I go for clean areas. Many get thrown out every day.
08
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Draw a Wolf - Working the Background

developing the background
Janet Griffin-Scott, licensed to About.com, Inc.
I begin to think about the background now, and switch media to water soluble coloured pencils, which have a pigment that dissolves quite readily in water, blurring the boundary between drawing and painting. Some water soluble brands I use are Derwent, Prismacolour and Faber Castell.

There are two ways I use these pencils, first, lay down colour layers and smudge with a Qtip which is what I did here, or two, wet the lead and draw in a circular motion with the wet lead, very effective for dark areas. The leads tend to dissolve in the water so I constantly dry them out under the heat of an old fashioned light bulb.

I start to sketch in the deep grass of the rise he is standing on with the regular pencils with very very sharp tips as I am outlining each blade and clump of grass. I start to outline trees with darker and lighter areas. I simply cannot say enough about the flexibility of Q tips for drawing, smudging and erasing techniques. They are the cheapest, most flexible art supply around. I use them all day, every day.

09
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Draw a Wolf - Completing the Background

developing the background landscape
Janet Griffin-Scott, licensed to About.com, Inc.
The drawing continues, adding more long strokes of grass and small trees and weeds growing in the grass. I add ultramarine blue strokes to the grass to suggest a shadow. I continue adding layers of both kinds of coloured pencil in the trees to outline and define each shape. I try not to draw in every needle or bough, but make pleasing blurred shapes. I changed the position of many of the trees and the horizon line to make a more even composition, thus changing the original sketch slightly. These things become more apparent as you get more into the drawing.
10
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Completing the Wolf Drawing in Coloured Pencil

the completed wolf drawing
© Janet Griffin-Scott, licensed to About.com, Inc.
Now we are at the final stage of drawing, balancing the colours and cleaning up the surface. The colours had become too harsh and too blue in my opinion so I lightened areas of the drawing with a vinyl eraser, Kleenex and Q tips. Sometimes wax binder builds up on the surface of the paper, called wax bloom, so this has to also be removed by eraser. I added more detail and single long strokes to the grass. I covered his feet as they would not show in the deep grass. I smudged areas of his coat with Burnt Sienna and Yellow Ochre coloured pencils and the regular coloured pencil black areas do not dissolve so it is a handy technique to mix both types. I darkened his tongue and added a shadow on the pink.

I finish by scanning and taking out any tiny mistakes or dirt smudges in Photoshop. I title this drawing “His Place in Nature” and add it to my catalogue (Master List) of drawings and date it. It is always interesting to look at my older work to see how far I have come and how my work has changed over the decades.