How to Draw Feathers

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By Alina Bradford

Whether drawing birds, angels or gryphon’s, it is important to know how to draw feathers.
There are several types of feathers that an artist can draw. Mature feathers are slick and are drawn as one solid form. Younger, down feathers are drawn with individual strokes of the pen or pencil. These techniques are easy to master and are shown here, step-by-step.

Mature Feathers

As mentioned above, mature feathers are not drawn stroke-by-stroke, but as a solid object. This means that the artist doesn’t draw every hair (known as a barb) of the feather. Here is how it is done:
mature feather drawingDraw the shaft of the feather. This is the hollow tube that runs down the center of the feather. The shaft starts very wide, but tapers into a fine point. The part of the shaft that was connected to the bird (or angel or gryphon) is not straight across. It is an angle with an ellipse. This gives the illusion that it is a tube.

Once the shaft is drawn, then the barbs can be added. The barbs are drawn 1/3 of the way down the shaft. Drawing the barbs is done by making a rounded V-shape with smaller V-shapes jutting in and out of the sides. It is important to make the smaller V-shapes irregular and varied to get a more organic look.

Afterfeather can be drawn at the top of the barbs. Afterfeather is tufts of soft, down-like barbs. This is done by holding the pencil how to draw a feather shaftfrom the middle and loosely drawing strokes from the shaft outward.

The mature feather is finished by adding a few lines in the barbs for definition.

Young or Down Feathers

Younger feather’s barbs are light and fluffy and tend to bush out instead of growing in a neat pattern like older feathers. Because of this, the barbs need to be drawn one at a time.
The artist will start by drawing a shaft much like the one drawn for more mature feathers except that is thinner and more delicate looking.

how to draw a down featherStarting at the shaft, the artist will draw a barb by flicking the pencil outwards. This creates a barb that is thicker near the shaft and thinner at the end. The Afterfeather at the top of the feather will tend to go upwards, while the rest of the barbs will go down towards the tip, getting progressively shorter.

These steps are basics that can be applied to any type of feather the artist may need to draw.

To learn how to draw wings see: How to Draw Wings and How to Draw Birds.

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