How to Draw a Dog In 7 Easy Steps

Written by Gail Baker Nelson
Updated: September 16, 2022
© A-Z-Animals.com
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I love the various expressions that dogs show. They can go from silly to laser-focused in no time flat. You can also tell when they’re looking to cause some trouble. It’s almost like they’re daring you to catch them in the act.

Supply List

This doggo exists in Photoshop, and I created it using my favorite drawing tablet, the Huion HS611. However, the same techniques work for other media like pencil, watercolor, and paint. Here’s the supply list for paper media:

SuppliesReason for Preference
Drawing paperBristol smooth is hands-down my favorite paper. However, watercolor or heavy-weight sketchbooks would also work well.
Drawing pencilsIt doesn’t really matter what kind. Find some you enjoy working with. I’ve fallen in love with wood-less graphite, but a standard mechanical pencil is also great.
Watercolor pencilsFortunately, it doesn’t cost much to buy a decent set of watercolor pencils. They’re so much fun to work with and take the stress out of working with watercolors.
ErasersYou’ll need two kinds. There’s the standard rubber eraser you’re used to seeing, then there’s the moldable putty-type eraser.
Blending stumps or blending pencilsYou’ve got to blend your shadows and highlights. These are way more precise than your finger.
White gel penAdd highlights using a white gel pen.
Watercolor paint brushesI usually use round watercolor brushes for precision, but for larger pieces, wider brushes would also be necessary.

1 – Begin Your Dog Drawing With Structure

Drawing a dog, step 1
I find it easier to draw an animal if I start by creating structure. The circle shapes are probably the easiest.

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Always start with the structure. The circles represent the head, body, and rump. The diamond shape is its nose. Draw lightly. There’s nothing worse than having structural circles that you can’t get rid of when you no longer need them. If you wanted to be a little more precise than this, you can make the middle circle more egg-shaped and have it tough the rump circle on the right. However, that isn’t necessary.

Add Its Ears, Legs, and Tail

drawing a dog step 2
Add its legs, ears, and tail.

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Draw straight lines that connect via little circles. The lines represent the large bones in the legs. Dogs and other four-legged critters have wrists, elbows, knees, and hips, just like you and I do. They’re just modified (or we are, who knows for sure?) to fit a different lifestyle.

Take your time to get the legs right.

The little circles on your dog drawing’s legs will help you place its joints properly.

The beginning of the drawing process is foundation-building. I tend to take more time with these steps to be sure the ratios are correct because it makes the rest of the drawing go more smoothly.

Add a tail swoosh and ears while you’re here.

2 – Sketch an Outline for Your Dog Drawing

how to draw a dog step 3
Add an outline. You should include its nose and eye placement, and be aware of where its joints are placed.

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Now that your dog drawing has its body and bones ready to go, it’s time to add the outline. Just like before, sketch lightly. You’re going to have to erase a lot of this as you go, so never press down hard enough to leave indentations on the paper.

Use little strokes so that you can control your pencil (or stylus) more easily.

Connect the head and nose shapes, and give it a brow-line. Around each of the legs and tail, draw enough space that they look like they have flesh and muscle, not just bone. Connect the torso and rump circles and create the silhouette of a dog.

3 – Clean Up the Outline

how to draw a dog step 4
Cleaning up the outline, remove all the structural stuff that you no longer need.

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Cleaning up the outline isn’t very difficult, but it is important to do it carefully. Remove all the circles, squares, and leg lines from the first steps. I generally draw a cleaner pencil line over my rough sketch before removing it.

If you notice that on the back sides of the legs, I’ve deliberately left the line softer, you could even say it’s messier. Dogs often have fur sticking out from those areas, so having a hard outline wouldn’t be appropriate.

4 – Add Color to Your Dog Drawing

draw a dog step 5
Add color. It doesn’t have to be in the final form yet, and if you change your mind about anything it’s still fixable.

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What color do you want your dog to be? I don’t recommend black for your first drawing, because black animals are notoriously difficult to photograph or draw accurately, but any other color will do. Fill in the outline with your chosen color, and blend it to make everything more even. The bottom edge of the tail, backs of the legs, and belly shouldn’t stay completely inside the lines. Almost all dogs have fur that sticks out beyond those edges, so your drawing should too.

If you do a spotted dog, slightly blend the colors together in the direction that the dog’s fur grows.

Add a little pink to the center of the ear, with a border that matches the dog’s color. Blend gently from the outside of the ear towards the middle, mimicking the direction the fur grows.

Draw in the dog’s dewclaw. In this drawing, the only place it’s visible is the front right leg, but most dogs have functional dewclaws on the front legs. If there are any on the back legs, they’re typically little more than a nail attached to a piece of skin.

Add little spots of a different color on its muzzle, where the whiskers will go.

Paper Artists: If your dog has a multi-colored coat, start with the lighter colors first, or leave space for them. It’s much easier to color over it with darker colors than to remove color. Use a blending stump or pencil to blend the coat colors, and drag them out over the edge of the lines where the fur needs to stick out a little.

Digital Artists: Create a new layer for the color and place it below the outline.

5 – Add Shadows to Shape Your Dog Drawing

how to draw a dog step 6
Shading! Create a three-dimensional shape with a few well-placed shadows.

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Shading. The bane of every artist. Just kidding, but it’s not always easy to get the shadows just right. When I draw something, I think about the colors involved. Here’s what I mean:

  • Is the shadow falling over a blue wing? Draw the shadow in a deeper blue.
  • What if a brown dog’s leg is in shadow? Use a deeper brown.

Obviously, these are just guidelines, and sometimes you really do want a black shadow; however, it works well for me. The key is to keep in mind what effect you’re trying to create. If it’s night, and the only light is from a streetlamp 100 feet away, then your shadows will be an inky black.

However, our dog is outside on a somewhat bright day. The light is coming from the front and just a little above. Maybe it’s somewhat cloudy, so there aren’t too many hard-edged shadows. Whatever the case may be for your dog drawing, always remember the light. Where is it coming from, and what area of your subject is it hitting first? That is how you figure out where to place shadows.

Once you figure this out, you can start adding them. Dogs have muscular bodies, or at least they should. Sometimes, they get a little round because we like giving them treats. However, I did not draw a round dog.

A dog in good physical condition has a strong chest and shoulders. Its belly doesn’t hang down low, it tucks up into the back legs. That dog will also have a muscular waist, which you can see pretty easily in a smooth-coated dog. It’s almost cylinder shaped between the bottom of the rib cage and the top of the thigh.

When you add those shadows to your dog drawing, blend them from the darkest edge towards the light source to feather them out and give your subject shape.

Paper artists: Sometime between the time you add the color and finish the shadows, use a damp paintbrush to dab at the colors. The watercolor pencils you’re using actually need that step or they will look very faded.

Digital Artists: Create a layer for the shadows, set it to “Multiply,” and place it above the color layer.

6 – Highlight the Details in Your Dog Drawing

how do draw a dog step 7
Next, add some highlights wherever light touches.

©A-Z-Animals.com

It might seem as though adding highlights should come before that shadow. After all, don’t you have to know where the light is in order to create the shadows? While it’s true that you have to understand where the light is coming from, adding highlights to an unshaded drawing is almost a distraction from the drawing itself. So, I do the highlights after the shading.

Keep the light source in mind when you add highlights. Add white to the areas closest to the light source. They’ll generally be opposite the shadowed areas, and the closer you are to the light, the brighter the highlight. If it helps, draw very faint lines from the light source diagonally as you see in the previous step.

So, blend the highlights in a way that will help give shape to your dog drawing. Add highlights to the following areas:

  • Front and tips of ears
  • Forehead, top of the muzzle, and nose
  • On the rump and up to about the center of the back
  • Top edge of the tail
  • Front of legs, tops of paws.
  • Front of the chest

Some highlights are very thin and subtle. That’s why I wait until the end to do highlights. They’d be destroyed by the shadows when I blend them into everything else.

Paper artists: Using a white gel pen is often the easiest way to add highlights. If you’re comfortable with acrylic paint, you could also use white acrylic for highlights. Water it down just a bit, and add it layer by layer.

Digital artists: Create a new layer on top of everything for the highlights. Use white, and gently blend as appropriate.

7 – Finishing Your Dog Drawing

how to draw a dog step 8
Adding details like highlights in the eye and fur along the backs of the legs and tail make all the difference.

©A-Z-Animals.com

As always, I recommend that you set this drawing aside for a while before you add any extra touches. It’s really easy to overdo the shadows, highlights, and anything else if you’ve been staring at the same thing for too long.

After you’ve had a visual and mental break, pick it up again and take a close look at things. Do you want to add some fur to the tail and legs? I did. I didn’t blend in though, I lightly drew in very fine hairs that would represent fur.

What about whiskers? Dogs have whiskers on the sides of their muzzle, but also on their chins. Draw those in as fine hairs also. Not too long; cats have much longer whiskers than dogs.

What about the eye? Does it need a little more highlighting? It might, and an eye without a highlight does not look alive. You would be amazed at how much of a difference that makes, and that there’s a very fine line between just right and too much.

Paper artists: Be gentle, you probably don’t need very much.

Digital artists: Do the whiskers and additional fur in a new layer between the color and the shadow layers.

Best Bristol Paper
Borden & Riley #120P Bristol Smooth Paper Pad, 11" x 14", 270 GSM, 20 White Sheets, 1 Pad Each (12PP111420)
  • 157 lb. paper with neutral pH
  • Sturdy, 2-ply paper with smooth rendering surface
  • Perfect for pencil, pen, dry brush, and other mediums
  • 11" x 14"
  • Made in the USA
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Best Watercolor Pencils
Arteza Watercolor Pencils, Set of 48
  • Includes 48 artist-grade colored pencils
  • Highly pigmented
  • Water-soluble
  • Unique triangular design makes these pre-sharpened watercolor pencils easier to hold and control
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Best Sketching Pencil Set
Amazon Basics Sketch and Drawing Art Pencil Kit
  • Designed for artists of all skill levels
  • 17-piece set includes pencils, charcoal pencils, compressed sketch sticks
  • Also includes a standard eraser, a kneaded eraser, a blender/smudge stick, and a dual-barrel sharpener
  • Allows artists to experiment and combine different techniques
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Best White Gel Pen
Pentel Arts Milky Pop Pastel Gel Pen, White Ink
  • Set of 2
  • Add a pop of milky white color to any artwork
  • Features smooth gel ink
  • Works equally well on light or dark-colored paper
  • Latex-free grip for comfortable drawing
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Best Eraser Pack
June Gold Kneaded Rubber Erasers, 6-Pack
  • Pack of 6
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  • Erases and/or lightens most dry media
  • Also helpful for blending, highlighting, shading, smoothing, correcting, and brightening drawings
  • Easy to clean by kneading between your fingers
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Best Drawing Tablet for Computer
2020 HUION HS611 Graphics Drawing Tablet
  • This is the first graphics tablet equipped with 8 multimedia keys
  • The multimedia keys are intuitive and can be used for a variety of artistic needs
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  • Battery-free stylus doesn't require a battery or charger
  • Sleek and slim design available in 3 colors?
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Best Artist Glove for Drawing Tablet
Huion Artist Glove for Drawing Tablet
  • Wear on either hand
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The Featured Image

how to draw a dog step 8
Adding details like highlights in the eye, and fur along the backs of the legs and tail make all the difference.
© A-Z-Animals.com

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About the Author

Gail’s love for a very misunderstood group of animals, reptiles, led her to write about and draw them. She loves the natural world and it’s endless inspiration for her work. She is a freelance writer and illustrator, and her latest book, “Pebble Skins and Fast Walkers: What’s In a Name?” Is due out in early 2023.

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