Drawing Turtles - How to Draw Turtles For the Beginner

It is better if you are familiar with the basic parts of a turtle if you are going to draw one. The shell of a turtle is divided into two major parts; the carapace, which is the dorsal/upper side, and the plastron, which is underside/ventral. 

A certain pattern of reference line marks can be used to easily establish the scutes of a turtle’s shell. Just simply curve this lines with the dimension of the shell no matter what kind of shape it can be compared to or degree of convexity it has.

The shapes of the turtles' carapaces vary in different forms and size. Aside from the basic shape structure, some turtle shells contain unique features like spikes or knobs with a certain number and position depending on the turtle species.

There are turtles that are noted for their really unique carapaces. Most of them are marine types and few on land turtle species; like the softshell turtle, having a shell that is relatively flat (like a pancake covering its body), or the leatherback sea turtle that has an elongated tear-shaped leathery carapace.

If you are new to drawing, learning these things and applying them on your work might be a bit troublesome. In this case, an easy to follow steps of how to draw turtles might come in handy. here's one example. Let's draw a leatherback see turtle.

  • Draw a base. Establish the primary shape of the turtle by drawing a base. Use a shape of a teardrop or an outline silhouette of a corn. Establish the size of the head using an oblong.

  • Modify the outline. The front flippers should be significantly longer and relatively wider than the flippers at the back. The nape should be covered by the shell.

  •  Draw the facial features and define the ridges of the carapace. These linings should bend or curve with the contour shape of the tear/corn- shaped carapace to properly establish dimensions. The linings are somehow toothed in a vaguely observable manner.

  • Draw the spots on its body.  a leatherback sea turtle is covered with white irregular spot marks from top to bottom.  


  • Shade the carapace with fairly strong hand strokes, creating a dark tone. Lighten the strokes as you get to the middle areas of each row (defined by the protruding outlines of the shell) to establish its convex plane.


  • Convey the dimensional curves of the body by darkening the farther portions (the last row of the carapace) and the lower portions right below each protrusions. Leave a highlight on the ridges to show how it protrudes from the base.



  • Apply the dark skin tone of the turtle. The dark value of the skin is just the same as the carapace. Add more spots on the head.

If ever you accidentally overlapped the markings, it can be retrieved with a shaved eraser or a kneaded eraser.


  • Finalize the drawing be re-darkening the darkest areas. Strengthen the dark value of the farther portions.

More examples and easy to follow step by step instructions are available in "Drawing Turtles - How to Draw Turtles For the Beginner".





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