Art History Lab

Mastering the Art: Drawing a Realistic Deer Skull – A Step-by-Step Tutorial

Deer Skull Drawing Tutorial:

Tips and Techniques for Beginners

Whether you are a beginner or an experienced artist, drawing a deer skull can be a challenge. Mastering the elusive details of a deer’s skull can be challenging, but with the right tools, techniques, and patience, you can create a beautiful piece of artwork that will stand out from the rest.

In this article, we will be discussing some key tips and techniques for drawing a deer skull that will help you get started with the process.

Tools and Medium

Before you begin drawing a deer skull, you need to make sure you have the right tools and medium for the job. The tools you use will depend on your preferred medium for drawing.

Here are some common tools that can be used for drawing a deer skull:

Drawing Supplies

One of the main tools you will need is a set of drawing supplies, which can include different types of pencils, charcoal, erasers, and paper. When it comes to pencils, a light pencil is preferred as it allows you to make faint lines that can be easily erased or adjusted.

Charcoal can be used to create dark and bold lines and is great for adding texture to your drawing. Erasers are also an essential tool to clean up your lines and create definition or detail.

Physical Painting Medium

If you prefer traditional painting, there are different paints and surfaces that can be used. Acrylic and oil paint are popular mediums for painting a deer skull.

Using a smooth surface such as canvas can be useful to create fine details and smooth strokes.

Digital Drawing

If you prefer digital drawing, a digital tablet can be an effective option. A digital tablet allows you to draw with the precision of a pencil or paintbrush and enables you to make quick adjustments to your drawing.

Photoshop is a software thats commonly used to draw in digital media.

Tips and Techniques

Now that we have covered some of the tools and media that can be used for drawing a deer skull, let’s discuss some tips and techniques to bring your drawing to the next level. – Start with a basic shape: Start by sketching out a basic shape of a skull.

By doing this, you will have a framework for your drawing, and it’ll help you to create proportional features. You can start by drawing two circles for the forehead and a rectangular shape for the nose.

– Use reference material: Working from a reference photo will help to improve the accuracy of your drawing. You can take a photo or borrow photos from the internet for inspiration.

With reference images, you are able to have different angles of the deer skull, for instance, a side-view, frontal view, 3/4 view, and more. – Light and Shadow: Lighting is critical for any drawing; it creates depth, texture and makes the drawing look more realistic.

Observe the source of light and ensure to incorporate that in your drawing with the right lighting effects. Mimicking light and shadow on the deer’s skull bone can be challenging, but it is essential to make your drawing stand out.

– Add detail: Once you have the basic shape in place, it’s time to add more details. For instance, the antlers, nasal cavity, teeth, and the texture of the bone.

It is crucial to pay attention to the small features and ensure that it matches the deer skull in the reference image. – Blend: A critical part of the process of drawing a deer skull is to create fine texture and tonal variation using a blending technique.

Use charcoal to create dark areas and blend it with a cotton swab or finger. This technique helps the artist to create an illusion of fine grit, build texture where necessary, and portray a life-like finish.


In conclusion, if you aspire to draw a deer skull, there are several tools, techniques, and tips that you can implement to achieve impressive results. Starting with a simple shape, using reference material, light and shadow, adding detail, and blending can all enhance your drawing.

Remember, it may take some time and patience to master these techniques, but practice makes perfect, and with time and dedication, you can create beautiful artwork that will leave a lasting impression.

3) Step-by-Step Tutorial

Once you have all the necessary tools and techniques at your disposal, it’s time to start drawing your deer skull. This tutorial will take you through a step-by-step process that makes the whole drawing process seamless and achievable.

Basic Outline, Constructing Antlers, Creating Detail, and Coloring

Step 1: Basic Outline

Start by sketching out your basic outline of the deer skull. Draw a symmetrical circle for the skull and two smaller circles for the eye sockets.

Sketch a long rectangle with two smaller rectangles (near the eye sockets) for the nose and nasal cavities. Draw a horizontal line across the skull to help in positioning the antlers.

Step 2: Constructing Antlers

Next, draw the left and right antlers. Use the horizontal line as a guide with each antler starting at the point where the horizontal line intersects the smaller circle.

Construct the antlers by sketching the main branch with a flat line, then adding smaller branches to form an increasing number of points. The process may be challenging, but take it slow and break it down into smaller segments.

Reference an image to ensure that the antlers are proportional. Step 3: Creating Detail

After drawing the antlers, it’s time to incorporate more detail to your skull.

Use the reference photo to make sure that you include the necessary details such as the sockets of the eyes, nasal cavities, and the ridges that run across the top of the skull. Pay attention to the elements at the base of the antlers and the position of the ears.

Step 4: Coloring

Its now time to fill in the color of your drawing. Start by coloring the bone, starting with a light brown and blending towards the darker hues by using a blending tool or your finger.

Using a brown pencil to add some texture and depth to the bone is also a great idea. After coloring the bone, add some color to the antlers for a natural, organic finish.

Symmetrical, Left and Right Antler Drawing, Top Skull Line

Step 1: Symmetrical Drawing

To draw the skull symmetrical, start by sketching a vertical line down the middle of the circle, separating the left and right sides. Draw the eye sockets, nose, and nasal cavities evenly on each side.

When adding texture or elements such as the eyes or ridges on top of the skull, ensure they also appear symmetrical. Step 2: Left Antler Drawing

To draw the left antler, begin by sketching a line at the intersection between the horizontal and vertical line.

Use the reference photo to capture the direction and shape of the antler, then add the smaller branches. Remember to keep the left antler pointing towards the right-hand side of the skull.

Step 3: Right Antler Drawing

The right antler is a mirror image of the left antler, so start by drawing a line at the intersection of the horizontal and vertical lines. Use the reference image to copy the shape and direction of the antler.

Also, ensure that the right antler points towards the left side of the skull. Step 4: Top Skull Line

The top of the skull represents one of the most challenging parts to get right when drawing a deer skull.

Start by creating a line between the two eye sockets, run it up to the center of the skull, then sweep down to the base of the antlers. This line should represent the highest point on the skull.

4) Coloring the Antlers

Step 1: Base color

Start by adding a base color to the antlers, likely a light brown color. Layer the paint slowly and evenly until you reach your desired depth.

For a smooth finish, spread the paint uniformly with a paintbrush or your fingertips, masking any individual brush strokes. The goal is to get an even coating of the paint over the antlers.

Step 2: Brown Paint

Once the base coat is dry, start to add additional brown shades to the antlers by using a darker brown color. Mix the color with water to create a wash that is more transparent, making it easier to achieve a gradual color transition on the antlers.

Step 3: Apply Even Coat

Using a brush, apply an even layer of the wash over the antlers, covering all the previous layers. Be careful not to overwhelm the painting with color, as this can change your proportion.

Layer different colors, providing more depth and making it more realistic. Finally, pay attention to the texture of the antlers by adding more depth and definition to the painting.

Add highlights and shadows to create a visual interest and showcase the organic patterns of the antlers. Do not be afraid to experiment and try out new things.

With practice, you will be able to achieve an amazingly detailed and stunning deer skull artwork that will impress everyone.

5) Creating the Base Coat

After sketching out the basic outline of your deer skull and adding the required details, it’s time to fill it in with a base coat. A base coat is the foundation for the painting and can enhance the overall quality of your artwork.

Below are steps on how to create the perfect base coat for your deer skull drawing. Step 1: Light Yellow

Start by mixing a light yellow color with a beige shade and apply on the area you want to become the skull.

This light yellow color adds a warm and subtle glow to the skull. Step 2: Filling Deer Skull

Once you have your light yellow paint ready, use a clean brush to fill the skull, focusing on the larger areas and leaving out any smaller details.

Use the brush to create even coverage across the entire skull, making sure that the paint is evenly distributed with no clumps or lumps.

Step 3: Beige Shade

Add a little beige shade to your light yellow color to create a slightly darker hue.

Use a blending brush, apply in regions that require more depth and shadows. Blend the edges using a blending brush, avoiding any hard lines.

6) Shading the Deer Skull

Now that you have created the base coat, it’s time to shade the deer skull to add some definition and depth. Below are the steps required to create a beautiful blend of tones that will bring your drawing to life.

Blending Brush, Black Paint, Dark Brown Paint and Eye Holes

Step 1: Blending Brush

Using a blending brush, create some blends by applying light strokes of black paint and dark brown paint around the eye sockets, nose and the ridges of the skull bone. This helps to create visual depth and texture to the drawing.

Step 2: Black Paint

Add black paint next to the eye holes to provide depth and contour the area making it seem hollow. Using a small brush, carefully apply black paint around the eye hole and blend it outwards with a blending brush.

Step 3: Dark Brown Paint

Next, using a dark brown paint, paint the cracks and edges of the skull. Adding dark brown paint gives the effect of shadows, mixing in a lighter color to create a gradient effect.

Step 4: Eye Holes

To improve the realistic look of the deer skull, add some depth and texture around the eye sockets. Focus on the area around the eye, paint in short strokes in the direction of the nose for a more natural look.

Use the blending brush to smooth out any harsh lines and blend out the paint to create a realistic effect.

Cracks, Nostril Holes, Bottom of Antlers, Contouring

Step 1: Cracks

Add some attention to the cracks of the skull by creating a textured effect.

Using a small brush, fill the cracks with black paint and create a textured effect by dragging the brush from the inside outwards.

Step 2: Nostril Holes

Take your blending brush and add a darker color to the nostril holes to create an illusion of depth.

This makes the holes appear more like openings that penetrate through the bone. Step 3: Bottom of Antlers

Focusing on the bottom of the antlers, you can mix different brown paints to get a gradient that gives an illusion of age.

Darken the grooves and shadows, add a lighter color towards the tips.

Step 4: Contouring

Finally, add contouring to the skull to create more depth and dimension.

Using a small brush, carefully add some black to the ridges and the side of the skull. Use your blending brush to blend the black with the rest of the painting until no obvious lines are visible.


In conclusion, drawing a deer skull can appear daunting, yet with the right techniques and tools, it’s a simple process. Now that you have learned how to create the perfect base coat and shade the skull, feel free to experiment with your artwork options.

Remember, with patience, practice, and perseverance, you can create a unique, stunning and realistic deer skull drawing. Use these skills to develop a new passion for art, improve your technique, and explore new ways to be a professional artist.

7) Adding Realistic Texture

To bring your deer skull drawing to life, it’s important to add realistic texture. Texture adds depth and detail, making your drawing more visually appealing.

Here are some techniques to incorporate realistic texture into your deer skull drawing. Blending Brush, Bright Shade of Brown, Brush Strokes, Shading

Step 1: Blending Brush

Using a blending brush, apply a bright shade of brown paint onto the skull.

Use short, gentle strokes to create a soft blending effect. This will help to mimic the natural texture of the bone.

Step 2: Brush Strokes

To add texture and dimension to the deer skull, vary your brush strokes. Use both horizontal and vertical strokes to create a more organic and natural look.

Experiment with different brush sizes and pressures to achieve the desired effect. Step 3: Shading

Pay attention to the areas that would naturally have more shadows and shading.

Use a slightly darker shade of brown to create depth and definition. Focus on the recessed areas, such as the eye sockets, cracks, and contours of the skull.

This shading will help to create realistic shadows and enhance the overall texture. Fine Detailing Brush, Streaks, Cracks, Contouring

Step 1: Fine Detailing Brush

Switch to a fine detailing brush for more intricate texture work.

This brush will allow you to add smaller details and achieve a higher level of realism. Dip your brush into a very dark brown or black paint to create more defined lines and streaks.

Step 2: Streaks

Create streaks on the bone surface to simulate the natural texture of the skull. Use the fine detailing brush to carefully add thin and irregular lines that follow the contours of the bone.

These streaks can be subtle or more pronounced, depending on the level of detail you want to achieve. Step 3: Cracks

Add cracks to the skull to give it a weathered and aged appearance.

Use the fine detailing brush to draw thin lines that branch out into smaller lines, mimicking the patterns of real cracks. Vary the length and thickness of the cracks to create a more realistic effect.

Step 4: Contouring

Continue contouring the skull with the detailing brush, focusing on areas that would naturally have more texture, such as the ridges and bumps. Use small strokes and dots to create the appearance of a textured surface.

Pay attention to the reference image or real skulls to ensure that the texture matches the natural patterns of a deer skull.

8) Highlighting the Skull

Adding highlights to your deer skull drawing is an important step that adds realism and brings out the three-dimensional aspect of the artwork. By strategically placing highlights, you can make certain areas of the skull stand out, giving it an even more lifelike appearance.

Step 1: Small Blending Brush

Use a small blending brush to apply white paint to the areas you want to highlight. This brush allows for greater control and precision in applying the highlights.

Step 2: White Paint

Using white paint, apply small, controlled strokes to areas that would naturally catch light. These areas typically include the top of the skull, the raised ridges, and the edges of the bone.

The goal is to create a soft, subtle glow that adds depth and realism to the drawing. Step 3: Natural Light

Consider the direction of the light source in your reference image or real-life observation.

Mimic the play of light on the skull by gently blending the white paint with the surrounding colors using the blending brush. This will create a smooth transition from the highlighted areas to the rest of the drawing.

Step 4: Experimentation

Don’t be afraid to experiment with different shades of white or even pale yellow to achieve the desired effect. By playing with different colors and techniques, you can create unique highlights that enhance the overall texture and realism of your deer skull drawing.

Remember, capturing the play of light and texture is essential when aiming for a realistic depiction. Take time to observe your reference image or real-life objects to guide you in accurately placing highlights and creating a strong sense of texture.

With practice, you will develop your own style and techniques for adding realistic texture and highlights to your artwork.

9) Shading the Antlers

To add depth and dimension to your deer skull drawing, it’s important to properly shade the antlers. Shading gives a three-dimensional effect, making the antlers appear realistic.

Here are the steps to effectively shade the antlers:

Step 1: Black Paint

Start by applying a small amount of black paint to a palette or mixing surface. Dip a blending brush into the black paint, then gently dab the brush onto a paper towel or tissue to remove any excess paint.

Step 2: Blending Brush

Using a blending brush, lightly apply the black paint onto the antlers, focusing on the areas that would naturally have more shadows. Start by creating light strokes of the paint, gradually building up the darkness.

Use a gentle touch and blend the black paint into the existing color, creating a smooth transition. Step 3: Base Color Coat

To create a more realistic shading effect, take into consideration the base color coat of the antlers.

If your base color coat is a light brown, the shaded areas should appear slightly darker shades of brown. If the base color coat is a darker brown, the shaded areas can be even darker, approaching black in some areas.

10) Adding Light Tips to the Antlers

To make the antlers appear more lifelike and add visual interest, it’s important to add light tips. This technique adds contrast and illuminates the antlers, making them visually striking.

Here are two methods to achieve this effect:

Small Blending Brush, Beige Shade, Fade

Step 1: Small Blending Brush

Switch to a small blending brush, as it will allow for more precise application of the paint. Step 2: Beige Shade

Mix a beige shade of paint with a touch of white to create a lighter color that mimics the natural tones of the antlers.

Step 3: Fade

Using the small blending brush, gently apply the beige shade to the tips of the antlers. Start with a light touch and gradually increase the intensity of the color.

The goal is to create a soft and gradual fade from the darker base color to the lighter tips. White Paint, Texture, Fine Brush Strokes

Step 1: White Paint

Using a fine brush, apply white paint to the very tips of the antlers.

This will create the illusion of light hitting the antlers and reflecting off the surface. Step 2: Texture

To add texture and make the light tips more realistic, use the fine brush to create fine lines and strokes.

Mimic the patterns and texture found in real antlers. Pay attention to the reference photo or observe real antlers for inspiration.

Step 3: Fine Brush Strokes

Apply the white paint with delicate and precise brush strokes to create a sense of detail and texture. Vary the pressure and direction of the strokes to make the highlights appear more natural.

Be careful not to overdo it – a subtle touch is often more effective. Experiment with different shades of beige and white to achieve the desired effect and make sure it matches the overall color scheme of your drawing.

Practice and observation will help you refine the technique and create more realistic and visually appealing antlers. Remember, shading and adding light tips to the antlers requires patience and attention to detail.

Take your time, observe real antlers or reference images, and practice different techniques to achieve the desired effect. With practice, you’ll be able to master shading and lighting techniques, enhancing the overall realism and beauty of your deer skull drawing.

11) Creating Rough Texture on Antlers

To add a rough texture to the antlers of your deer skull drawing, follow these steps. This technique will create a realistic and intricate appearance, making the antlers stand out.

Black Paint, Fine Structure Lines

Step 1: Black Paint

Using a fine brush, apply black paint to the antlers. This will serve as the base for the rough texture.

Step 2: Fine Structure Lines

With the black paint still wet, use the fine brush to create fine lines along the length of the antlers. These lines will give the impression of a rough and textured surface.

Vary the length and thickness of the lines to add visual interest. Rough Brush, Brown and Black Mixture, Patches of Spots

Step 1: Rough Brush

Switch to a rough brush with stiff bristles.

This type of brush will create a more textured and rough appearance on the antlers. Step 2: Brown and Black Mixture

Mix a dark brown shade with a small amount of black paint to create a mixture that is slightly darker than the base color of the antlers.

Step 3: Patches of Spots

Dip the rough brush into the brown and black mixture and lightly dab it along the antlers. This technique will create patches and spots of darker color that mimic the natural imperfections found on real antlers.

Be careful not to overdo it – the goal is to create a subtle texture that adds depth to the drawing.

12) Finishing the Deer Skull Sketch

To complete your deer skull drawing, follow these steps to remove outlines, trace over important details, and create a seamless and realistic final result. Step 1: Removing Outlines

Using an eraser, gently remove any visible pencil or charcoal lines that are still present.

Be cautious when erasing near shaded areas to avoid smudging or removing the shading. Step 2: Tracing Over

Using a fine brush or pen, trace over important details such as the eye sockets, cracks, and any other intricate features that you want to emphasize.

This step adds crispness and definition to the drawing. Step 3: Seamless and Realistic

To create a seamless and realistic finish, step back and observe your drawing as a whole.

Pay attention to the overall balance and harmony of the composition. Make any necessary adjustments to ensure that all elements work together cohesively.

Step 4: Fine-Tuning

Take your time to fine-tune any areas that require additional blending, shading, or detail work. Use a combination of blending tools, brushes, and pencils to achieve the desired effect.

Continuously reference your source material or observe real deer skulls to ensure accuracy. Step 5: Final Details

Lastly, add any final details and highlights to elevate your drawing.

Consider adding subtle shadows, highlights, and texture where needed. Be mindful of the direction of light and adjust accordingly to create realism.

Remember to have patience and practice. Creating a seamless and realistic deer skull sketch takes time and dedication.

Continuously study real-life references and experiment with various techniques to find what works best for your style. With practice, your drawings will continue to improve and evolve, resulting in stunning and lifelike artwork.

In conclusion, this article provided a comprehensive guide on how to draw a realistic deer skull. We explored various techniques and tips for creating a compelling and lifelike drawing, from selecting the right tools and medium to shading, adding textures, and highlighting the skull and antlers.

By following the step-by-step tutorials and utilizing the suggested tools, artists of all skill levels can create impressive artwork that captures the intricate details of a deer skull. The key takeaway is that practice, observation, and attention to detail are crucial in achieving a seamless and realistic result.

So, pick up your drawing supplies, embrace the process, and let your creativity shine through as you embark on this rewarding artistic endeavor.

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