With their pristine white plumage and piercing yellow eyes, snowy owls are majestic – and the perfect subject for festive art.
Their robust body and large wingspan enable them to soar gracefully through the icy, Arctic landscapes, and we think a snowy owl would look great perched among the branches of your tree drawing.
Whether you’re an aspiring artist looking to improve your skills, or simply seeking a fun and creative project, this step-by-step owl drawing tutorial will take you through each stage with clear and easy-to-follow instructions. From the intricate details of feathers, to capturing the enigmatic gaze of this beautiful bird, we’ll provide you with tips and techniques to create a stunning owl illustration that you can be proud of.
Is the owl drawing tutorial easy?
In this step-by-step tutorial, we start by showing you how to block out the shapes that make up the basic form of the owl. The basic shapes are just circles and lines, so we’re confident you’ll be able to do this – even if you’ve never picked up a pencil before. Then we’ll move on to refining these shapes, before adding optional details and texture.
Once you’ve mapped out the proportions of the owl’s body, the rest of the drawing will develop around these initial construction lines, so it’s important to get the proportions right at the start.
So, grab your drawing materials and let’s find out how to draw an owl.
How to draw an owl
You Will Need
- Sketching pencils (1)
- Sketchbook or paper (1)
- Coloured pencils (1), Optional
- Black fineliner pens (1), Optional
Plan out the proportions
Start by planning the proportions of your owl drawing. Draw a circle for the head, and an oval (orientated top-left to bottom-right) for the body. Overlap them slightly.
Plan the face
Draw a curved vertical line in the middle of the head. Halfway between the top of the body and the top of the head, draw a curved horizontal line.
On the vertical line, draw an elongated ‘V’ shape, for the beak. On the horizontal line, draw two ovals (more like sideways ‘D’ shapes) for the eyes.
Add two, short, curved lines above each eye for the ears.
Add the wing and tail
Touching the bottom of the head, draw a semi-circle that swoops down from the owl’s shoulder to the bottom-right.
Make it slightly larger than half the size of the main body oval. Extend the wing out behind the body, tapering it into a triangular point for the tail.
Plan the feather groups
Draw a straight, diagonal line from the middle of the head (touching that vertical line in the middle of the face) to the top of the tail.
Then draw two parallel lines across the middle of the wing, making sure the first touches the end of the diagonal line.
Finally, add a shorter parallel line outside of the tail, and join it to the body with two more straight lines.
Add some feet and facial features
Draw two stick feet at the base of the body. Make the one nearest us slightly larger, to give the impression of depth.
Draw two curved lines either side of the head and body, joining the two together in a nice, smooth curve.
Finally, draw two semi-circles either side of the eyes to help inform where to place the tufts later.
Fill out the feet
Give the feet some bulk by joining them onto the body with curved lines.
The back of the first foot (the foot most towards the left) is hidden by the front of the second foot (the foot nearest us and most towards the right).
Make them quite chunky, as we’ll be adding a lot of fluff later.
Draw the eyes
(For the purpose of this tutorial, from this step onwards we have lightened the construction lines. You may choose to do the same, or leave them as-is.)
Starting with the eyes, add detail by going over the construction lines. Darken the eyes and add a pupil to each one.
Following the lines of the outer semi-circles on the face, add some random, short, outwards-pointing lines (tufts).
Add more facial tufts
Continue adding more lines around the face, following the semi-circles as a guide. Add a few lines above and below each eye, radiating them outwards as you do so.
To make the beak appear more natural, add a few inwards-facing lines around the edge of the beak. Angle these lines diagonally, as though they’re hanging down from the top of the beak.
Add the beak
Shade in the ‘V’ shape you drew to plan out the beak. Taper the shape slightly towards the tip, and make the shading darker at the tip, and lighter at the sides.
Once you’re happy with the shading, add some more longer tufts around the beak to emphasise the shape of the owl’s face.
Fluff up the head
Add some more lines around the eyes and beak. Radiate them outwards as you do so, and try to keep them loose and carefree.
For the ears, use a slightly darker pencil, and add some short lines in a roughly triangular shape, following the direction of the ear-construction line.
Extend them slightly past the border of the head, and curve them back round to join with the head.
How to draw a bird
Looking for more easy drawing tutorials? Why not learn how to draw a bird and watch your creation take flight!
Fluff up the belly
Roughly following the shape of the main body oval, start defining the shape of the owl by going over the construction lines.
At the base of the owl, where the legs meet the body, add some longer tufts. Try to draw your tufts in ‘clusters’, to create a more natural and ruffled look.
Give your owl some feet
Again, following the construction lines, draw in some fluffy feet. You don’t need to join up the lines of the feet exactly, but instead draw a series of curved, downwards-facing lines around the shape of the feet.
The left-hand most foot has two visible talons, while the right-hand most foot has four.
Begin defining the wing
The wing is perhaps the trickiest part of this owl drawing, so be sure to take it slow.
First, sketch out the top of the wing, following the diagonal construction line. Don’t use a solid line; instead use a series of short, scruffy, curved lines to denote the bottom edge of the wing.
Close up the top of the wing by roughly following the outer edge of the main body oval.
Add some feathers
If you look at a real-life snowy owl, it’s relatively difficult to discern individual feathers on the wings. But for the purpose of this tutorial, we’ve decided to add in individual feathers, to help you get a feel for the layering and structure of a bird’s wings (they’re all quite similar).
Following the two parallel lines you drew in the middle of the wings, add in a series of feathers. Practise on a piece of scrap paper first, but essentially, you’re just drawing a series of interlocking stretched-semi-circles, with each one touching the one before.
Start on the right-hand side, working your way towards the left.
Complete the wing
In the third segment of the wing, add in a series of longer feathers. Use the same overlapping pattern that you used with the other feather groups, and taper them into a point at the end of the wing.
Make the tail feathers less uniform, and fan them out slightly so they stick out at odd angles.
Use detail to emphasise key features
Shade in the tail feathers, then add some ‘V’ shaped tufts on the upper wing.
Taper the ends of the tufts together, and space them roughly evenly over the upper wing. Snowy owls have lots of different wing patterns, so have fun with it.
Add detail to the belly
Replicate the tufts you drew on the wings, on the belly. Leave a white bib at the top of the owl, then scatter the ‘V’ shape tufts all the way down the front of the owl.
It’s quite common for snowy owls to be completely white, so don’t feel that you must add these darker areas if you don’t want to.
Add some dark spots on the wings
Using a brush pen, add some sweeping, darker ‘ticks’ (or ‘check marks’) to the base of each of the tufts.
These dark colourings create a mottled appearance to provide camouflage among the Arctic tundra, but to draw them is optional.
Add some finishing touches
Repeat these marks over the larger feathers that make up the bulk of the wings. You can do them randomly, or add them just up from the tips of the feathers, as we’ve done.
Add a few more dark marks here and there, as many or as little as you like. Every owl is different!
Erase the construction lines
Finally, erase the construction lines and enjoy your masterpiece! If you’re doing this owl drawing just for you, there’s no need to erase the construction lines, and it’s quite useful to keep them in the drawing.
Otherwise, sit back and give yourself a big pat on the back for completing your owl drawing.
Top tips for drawing owls
- Shape blocking: Start by blocking in the shapes to determine proportion. These shapes will provide the guidelines for when you come to add detail.
- Lighten construction lines: Once you have your owl planned out, go over the construction lines with an eraser, and erase any rogue or overlapping lines, leaving only a faint outline. Then it’s easier to add detail on top.
- Don’t draw every itty-bitty detail: You don’t need to draw every line or feather, sometimes just a suggestion will be enough to capture the essence of your owl.
- Use different materials: For the dark feathers, try using a brush pen or fat marker to make little ticks (aka ‘check’ marks). Don’t overdo it, just add a few on the wing and belly of your owl drawing. This will help you owl ‘pop’ from the page – and you’ll have fun in the process.
- A realistic beak: Add little tufts of feathers around the beak to avoid making it look like its ‘floating’ in the middle of your owl’s face.
- Use parallel strokes: To emphasise the ruffled edge of the owl, use small parallel strokes along the edges of your owl.
- Ground your owl (optional): If you have decided to ‘ground’ your owl, by perching them on a branch, stump or even just the floor, shade in some of the feathers at the bottom of your owl to help add dimension and separate them from the scenery.
- Hide the feet: If you’re struggling with the feet, draw a squiggly line at the base of the body, so that it looks like your owl is standing in a clump of snow (hiding the feet). No one will ever know! (There’s an example in our snowman drawing).
How to draw an owl the easy way
By following the steps outlined in this tutorial, you’ll soon be sketching a whole parliament of owls.
Remember to start by planning the posture and proportions of your owl by blocking out shapes, then once you’re happy, you can go in and refine the details.
Leave your owl white, or add some detail to the feathers, either by drawing little tufts with your pencil, or go bold with a black brush pen.
Take your time to get the correct proportions in the planning stage, as this will help you later when you add the details.
Draw more animals and birds with expert tutorials from Gathered
If you’ve enjoyed this owl drawing tutorial, we have a lot of other drawing tutorials on Gathered for you to fine-tune your drawing skills.
There’s so many to choose from in fact, that we’ve rounded them all up in this collection of easy animals to draw.
Each project listed will take you through to an expert tutorial, packed with tips and advice so you can sketch with confidence.