A Step-By-Step Guide to Drawing a Pet Portrait

If you have some creative impulses, you may have wondered what your next subject should be. Have you ever tried to draw your pet or the pet of a friend or family member? Creating such a portrait is a great way to immortalize a beloved member of the family. We have designed a step-by-step guide for you to create a beautiful pet portrait.

Decide on Your Style

The first step for you is to decide what type of art style you will be going for. Some common styles of art include the following:

  • Realism
  • Cartoon
  • Abstract
  • Impressionism

Our guide will be focusing on the realism art style.

Next, you will need to choose a medium to work with. Will you be using a black pencil for the whole drawing? You can switch it up and use things such as charcoal, chalk, or colored pencils if that is what you prefer.

Purchase Materials

A mistake that some artists make is that they will get excited about an idea and jump right into it. Then, later on, they notice that they are missing some supplies and have to pause to go get them. Having your supplies nearby will ensure a good flow as you complete your pet drawing.

You will need the following supplies:

  • Graphite or colored pencils
  • Canvas
  • Sharpeners
  • Erasers/putty erasers
  • Fixative (for preventing smudging)
  • Easel or drawing board

Take a Photo of the Pet

It will be too difficult to draw the pet as they move around, so you will be working with a reference photo. You do not need to use a high-quality camera, even a picture from your cell phone will work fine. Be sure that the pet’s face is easy to see and the picture is not blurry. It is easiest if you print the photo out and place it where you can easily refer to it as you draw.

Create Basic Shapes

Before your custom dog art comes to life, if that is the pet you are working on, you will need reference lines to create a general shape. These lines will indicate where the center of the dog’s face is and where the ears, nose, mouth, and chin are. You should curve the lines going through each feature for realism. Try to keep the lines generally the same distance apart as the actual features.

Create an Outline of the Head

Now, you will begin filling in more lines showing the outline of the pet. Press lightly, as you may wish to make adjustments later on in the process. Carefully connect the pieces of the dog’s face, and add in lines for the muzzle. The back of the head will connect to the ears, which you can fill in the outline for as well.

At this point, you are ready to draw in the nose and eyes. Use your reference lines to line them up properly, which can be difficult when drawing eyes and pupils.

Read more: Why Paint the Memories of Dogs on Portrait?

Add Basic Details

The face has its general face and outline, so now it is time to add a bit more detail. This could include adding tufts of fur near the neck and shoulders or folded skin on the face. This is when you pay careful attention to the dog’s photograph, so you can incorporate unique features about their appearance.

Shading and Shadows

Adding shading and shadows can be a difficult part of any drawing. These are the aspects that turn the 2D image into a 3D portrait. If the light is coming from a certain corner of the photograph, show this in your portrait. You can make one ear lighter than the other, depending on where the light is coming from.

For shading, you will start by carefully erasing the reference lines that you made before. Build up the texture of the dog’s fur by using soft or hard strokes of the pencil, depending on the length of the fur. If the fur is white or a lighter color, you can use the eraser to brighten it up again.

Add Fine Details

This is the step where you will add minute details to finish the portrait. Sharpen your pencil for this part, as this will give you a better result. This is when you can add a twinkle to the dog’s eyes or draw hatching to bring the fur on the dog’s face into greater detail.


Once the portrait is complete, you can frame it and put it on display for people to admire. A minimalistic frame with a small border should do the trick, as you do not want to take away from the pet’s likeness or your hard work.

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