How to Draw Wings for Fantasy Creatures

By Alina Bradford

wings 5Being able to draw wings is a staple of fantasy, anime, manga, sci-fi and cartoon art. Luckily, just a few simple steps are needed to create a wide-range of wing types.
Wings come in several varieties. There are wings that are covered with nothing but skin, as usually are drawn on dragons. Then there are the wings that are covered with either scales (think space creatures or demons) or feathers (think angels or griffins).

All three types of wings are drawn in a similar way. First, the artist starts with a basic frame and then moves on to adding the details.

wingsDrawing the Frame

Each set of wings has a “frame” of bone that the skin underneath attaches to. To draw wings, the artist must start by drawing this simple frame.

To do this, the artist draws an M-shape on the back of their character. This M-shape can be as wide or as narrow as needed to create the look the artist is going for.

See Illustration 1. Notice how the center of the M is in the middle of the back and the legs of the M arch out, away from the body.

wings 2Drawing Guidelines

Before drawing the scales or feathers the artist should draw a guide to help place the scales or feathers in the right spot. To do this, a circle is drawn around the tip of the wing, then three guidelines are drawn down from the circle in an arch, trisecting the wing.

The artist can use more or less guidelines, depending on how many feathers or scales they want on the wing. The fewer the lines, the bigger the feathers or scales and vice versa.

If the artist is just drawing skin wings, then the guidelines can be used as the cartilage ridges for under the skin.

wings 3Drawing Scales or Feathers

Once the frame and the guidelines drawn, then the artist can move on to the fun part: the scales or feathers.

Each scale or feather is an oval shape that overlaps and becomes increasingly bigger. Each oval is centered over a guideline. The oval below it is centered over the same guideline.

So, starting at the top of the wing, the artist wings 4draws two scales or feathers. These are centered on the two center guidelines. The next line of three scales or feathers is larger because the wing gets larger, but they are still centered on three guidelines. The next line contains four scales or feathers and so on and so forth.

See How to Draw Feathers for more information.

Drawing Details

Now that the wing coverings are sketched out and properly placed, the artist can add detail to the wings.

Wing DetailThe M frame should be drawn to look more like bone or cartilage. To do this, the artist can add joints or simple ridges under the wing’s skin.

Here, the artist created joints by drawing half circles onto the frame and making the simple line of the M into a tube-like structure by drawing another M-shape below the first. Then, shading was added to add a three-dimensional feel.

Using this simple strategy, an artist can create wings for anime, fantasy, manga, sci-fi and cartoon art.

Since there are many ways to draw wings, here are several other ways to draw wings:

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