How to draw a penguin

Learn the basics of how to draw a penguin while adding great digital effects to create depth on a character mostly filled with dark colors. Indeed, adding volume on an illustration as dark as this one can be a little bit tricky. Drawing a black shadow on a dark shape can be hard to read, just like creating highlights on a shape colored in white ... and both of these challenges can be found on our little penguin friend.

How to draw a penguin

You can see above the illustration we are about to create. Penguins are relatively easy to sketch, so this part of the lesson should be achieved in just a few minutes. Before proceeding with this lesson (and the second part featuring tips on how to create depth), let's see how this character was built ...

  1. Eyes and pupils are made from small circular shapes.
  2. You can use two small curved lines above the eyes to create an expression.
  3. The top of the head is round and narrow.
  4. Wings are large and pointed on both ends.
  5. Feet are made from three pointed triangles.
  6. The stomach is white and drawn using the same shape as the body (except for the top part).
  7. The bottom of the body is much larger than the head.
  8. The beak is long and pointed (but can also be short and large).

Excellent! Let's now learn how to draw this cartoon penguin without sketching basic shapes (because this character is quite simple) and then we will proceed with the most challenging aspect of this lesson: how to create depth and volume on a black and white character.

Step 1 - Sketching the head and body

The head and body of the penguin can easily be created using the same shape. In fact, you could draw a simple egg and add some eyes inside this shape to represent this animal and the result would be quite interesting.

In this case, I have decided to use a different approach. The bottom of the body is larger than the head while the waist is quite thinner. Then, you can draw the white patch inside the body using a similar shape. Only the top part is different (it looks like a heart). Cool! This first step on how to draw a penguin is already completed! :)

How to draw a penguin

Step 2 - Drawing some wings and feet

Another simple step! This time, you can draw both wings using curved lines that are pointed on the bottom. The feet are also made from a single line, but this one is broken is three different areas as seen in the illustration below. Believe it or not, we are almost done (Yes! Already!).

How to draw a penguin

Step 3 - Working on the face of the animal

Inside the head, draw two eyes and two pupils using small circular shapes. Then, you can sketch the beak using a long triangle made from one curved line and pointed on the bottom. That's it for the drawing aspect of this lesson on how to draw a penguin! Let's add some colors now!

How to draw a penguin

Step 4 - It's all about being black and white!

Of course, this cartoon animal is mostly filled with black and white colors. The body, the head, the pupils and the wings are black while the patch inside the character is white. Only the beak and the feet are filled with a different color: orange. 

How to draw a penguin

Adding depth on a black and white illustration

How can you add a dark shadow on a black shape? How can you create reflection or draw highlights on a part of the body that is completely white? That's what this second part of this tutorial on how to draw a penguin is all about. You will see that this is not such a big challenge after all. You just need a little bit of creativity and add all the proper elements where needed.

Of course, it's all up to you to decide whether you want to use lots of details and precision or not to create your cartoon penguin. Just remember that the more details and textures you are adding inside the image, the more complex is can be to manage all the information available inside this same illustration.

Just a few shadows will do

You can start by simply drawing small shadows on bright areas like the beak and the white patch inside the character. These elements are easy to add and are perfect for simple images that must have a delicate 3D look as shown in the illustration below.

How to draw a penguin

Black doesn't need to be black

Penguins are black, but you don't necessarily need to use a black color to illustrate this fun animal. If you choose to fill in all black parts with a dark grey color, then you can easily play with these elements and add some gradient fills effect as shown below. This technique is quite simple, but using it alone might not be as convincing as it should! Let's see more example of how to draw a penguin with cool digital effects!

How to draw a penguin

Reflections on dark shapes ...

If you are a little bit familiar with my work, then you probably already know that I love to create highlights on characters using bright white shapes. In the example below, you can see how the body, wings and feet are filled with white shapes that are adding depth and volume to the illustration quite easily.

To make the whole thing easier to understand, the shape added inside the left wing was not altered while the one drawn inside the right wing was partially hidden using the transparent tool from my vector application. This technique is very effective and quite easy to apply.

How to draw a penguin

... and shadows on white ones!

Merging the first example and the previous one, you can see how everything fall into places once dark shapes are filled with reflections and bright ones are covered with shadows. Sure, it's not a 3D character, but all effects used in this lesson on how to draw a penguin are easy to achieved and can bring a simple 2D image to another level ...

How to draw a penguin

Hope you had fun learning how to draw a penguin!

Whether you prefer to add volume to a simple picture filled with bright colors or inside another one featuring several dark areas, the technique you should use to successfully end up with a cool result will always be the same. In fact, your biggest challenge will be to decide the level of details needed to either create a simple 3D effects or a complex one.

Characters and animals like penguins, zebras, pandas and polar bears will be more difficult to achieved simply because these subjects don't offer as much possibilities as a parrot or a butterfly would. Enjoy!

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Drawing Toons > How to Draw Animals From the Wild > How to Draw a Penguin