How to Draw a Japanese Dragon

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STEP 1. Ok, let's start with some basic guide lines. The main things here are the head, the lower jaw, the snake-like body, and the legs. Because of the serpentine look of this dragon, I want a flowing shape to the body. Having the neck curve sharply behind the head is pretty dramatic... I think.   STEP 2. I like to start with the eyebrows and eyes whenever I'm drawing a creature like this. The Chinese dragon will have flowing, hairy eyebrows. I mainly draw teardrop shapes for each little clump of hair. Give him a round eye and go heavy with the black around the eye. Emo dragon. Draw in the lower eyelid so the eye isn't just floating there, and give him some wrinkles between the eyebrows.   STEP 3. Close in the forehead flesh. For the snout, draw a row of scales down the nose and end it with a pig-like nose. Draw in a small, bushy moustache to cover the lip, and then add the long, streaming moustache on each side of the nose. It's good to think of these strands of hair like a ribbon, so you can twist and turn it around.   STEP 4. The Chinese dragon has antlers that grow back, from behind the eyebrows. I've seen these illustrated like wood, somewhere, so I kind of made these antlers look like gnarled tree branches. First draw the long, pointy part. Then add a blunt offshoot on the top of each horn. Draw in a large tuft of hair on the top of the head.   STEP 5. Time to draw in the cheekbones and the flesh on the sides of the snout/face. Next draw in some bushy sideburns behind the cheekbones. The front of the hair is made up of smaller shapes, and the strands get longer toward the back, with a few very long strands. I took a moment to fill out the lines on the moustache and eyebrow here.   STEP 6. This step is mainly about the upper teeth and tongue. Instead of all sharp teeth, I wanted to give him a few normal teeth in the front, like what we have -- four incisors between the canines. For the tongue, it's good to thing of that ribbon shape again, twisting the tongue around, showing both the top and bottom. Then go in and add more hair to the head, like a lion's mane.   STEP 7. Now draw in the lower teeth. It's important to try to match the shape of the lower jaw to the upper jaw. This really just takes practice. In fact, these jaws may be a little off. It can be tricky. For this guy, just try to draw them as if they're bordering a rectangle. Draw in the gums, and add a little beard on the chin. For the inside of the mouth, let's just keep it black for now.   STEP 8. While the head of the Chinese dragon is almost lion-like, the body is obviously like a snake. You need to split it between the back and the underbelly. The belly usually has larger, horizontal scale shapes, while the back is covered in smaller scales. Here I've drawn the belly scales in a sort of V-shape, adding a few nicks and ridges to give them dimension. The center of each scale bulges out almost like a spine. That's the center line you see. Draw in a wrinkle along the edge of the underbelly. Oh. Try to have the scale flow with the shape of the body. It's not just a flat curve. Try to picture it like a tube or hose.   STEP 9. Ok, now the body and front legs. Use small scales to outline the body, rather than just drawing a smooth line. This breaks up the shape and gives it some more dimension. continue the wrinkle along the side of the body, separating the underbelly from the back. The legs are fairly small and just kind of stick out of the sides of the body. It's good to think of the feet like eagle talons. Definitely bird-like. Add some hair to the backs of the lower legs.   STEP 10. Ok, there's a row of spikes going down the spine of the dragon. At first I was just going to have hard, shark-fin shapes, but I decided to break them up and turn them into tufts of hair, just to get some more detail in to the drawing. The hair is very stylized. Try to think of each spike as a little fire, almost. This repeating shape is a really strong design element that will catch the viewer's eye. Repeating shapes are usually pretty interesting, but here they also serve to create an interesting silhouette for the overall shape of the creature.   STEP 11. Continue the shape of the body, and taper it toward the end of the tail. We'll end the tail with a large poof of fur and hair. The overall shape is like a leaf, actually, so think of it as being fairly flat. A leaf blowing in the wind... or something like that.   STEP 12. Draw in the next section of the underbelly. The body is getting a bit skinnier here. Try to shape the hind legs like a dog's legs, or something similar. I have them a bit thinner than the front legs. Really exaggerate the pose on that back leg to give him a wide, imposing stance. I felt the overall shape needed a little more punch, so I added two long ribbons of hair to the end of the tail. These shapes continue the back and forth flow of the body. Curving the end of the hair back toward the body kind of closes the shape. With the two hair ribbons and the two antlers, there's a sort of front-back symmetry going on.   STEP 13. ...and that's it! Here's how it looks in black. I packed a lot of drawing in to each step, but I hope everyone was able to follow along. As always, try to take some of the ideas from this tutorial and use them to create creatures of your own. If you have any specific questions about "how did you draw this body part" or whatever, don't hesitate to ask. I hope everyone enjoyed this. Thanks, and take care.   Step 1. Step 2. Step 3. Step 4. Step 5. Step 6. Step 7. Step 8. Step 9. Step 10. Step 11. Step 12. Step 13.