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How to Draw a Tropical Bird

Updated on August 30, 2013

Drawing is NOT Complicated

I just love birds. I grew up in a house that was literally surrounded by trees and there were lots of birds in those trees. As a boy, every morning as I began to wake up, I could hear the cacophony of birds chirping and singing loudly. It is a pleasant memory that I still carry with me to this day.

I think birds are interesting creatures because they are so different than anything else in the animal kingdom. Many scientists believe that birds are one of the creatures of our modern day earth most closely related to the dinosaurs. I'm not too sure about that. What I am sure of is that birds make great subjects for drawing.

For this tutorial I decided to use a Toucan as our example for a tropical bird. I have a rather interesting history with Toucans. We had a large aviary in the town where I grew up and we visited there frequently. In this particular aviary, there was just a low partition about 4 feet high separating human visitors from hundreds of birds from many different parts of the world.

On one visit, a Toucan landed on the partition right in front of me. We stared at one another for a second and then that little devil took the middle button right off my shirt and was gone before I even realized what he had done. I remember seeing that Toucan on every subsequent visit to that aviary. I also made certain I had no buttons to tempt him.

SO, on to the business at hand...

I have said it for many years to many art students - drawing is really not that hard IF you practice a bit every day. When I was just a wee tot, my mother encouraged me to be creative. My very first drawing was at the young age of 1 when I spread the contents of my diaper all across the very white walls of my childhood home.

My mother encouraged me to be creative, even though it cost her a lot of time and trouble in cleaning up that terrible mess.

I tell you this story because I want to be a person who encourages you to draw. Now I know your first attempts of drawing will not look as bad - or smell worse - than my first artistic attempts. So as you proceed through this drawing tutorial, remember that there is a reason pencils have erasers - because people make mistakes and need to start again. The same applies to you as you learn to draw.

If you have your pencil and paper ready. let's get started...



Step 1: The Basic Shapes

You know that I always begin my drawings with basic shapes. The reason I do this - and encourage you to do the same - is that these simple shapes lay the basic foundation for the rest of our drawing. Get these right and the rest of the drawing will fall into place.

So, let's begin by drawing a shape that looks like a large tooth - this will serve as the head and beak of the Toucan.

Next, draw a rather large oval shape for the main body.

Finally, draw a rectangle where the tail will be.

You can also add the basic shapes of a branch as I have done in my drawing.


Step 2: Refine the Basic Shapes

In this step you're going to add some lines that connect all those separate shapes you drew in the first step.

Draw a line on the lower edge of the tooth shape. This will serve as the dividing line between his lower and upper beak. Also, draw a thicker vertical line to shoe the separation between the beak and the head.

Next, draw two curving lines to connect the head shape to the body shape.

You also need to define the edge of his wing by adding a small triangular cut to the lower right side of the body shape. While you're in that general area, add some breaks in the end of his tail feathers as well.

Finally, add the feet. These are simply a set of three small, curving "hot dog" shapes. Study my drawing and then duplicate the same lines and shapes on your drawing. Connect the feet to the body by adding the legs. These are simple lines. Just study what I have drawn and do the same on your drawing.


Step 2: The Head

For this step, just concentrate on his head.

First draw a large circle right in the middle area of his head. Inside that circle, draw another, smaller circle. Fill that inner circle in with dark shading by pressing down hard on your pencil.

Leave a tiny white circle within that dark circle to serve as a reflection of light in his eye.

Next, draw the line that extends from the top of his head and proceeds down over his shoulders and then curves around his chest.


Step 3: Add Details to the Beak

The beak on a Toucan is the single most identifiable feature of this bird species.

For this step, you're going to add some detail to his beak.

Start by adding some dark shading on the end. Gradually lighten the shading as you work toward the head.

Next, add the shading on the lower side of the upper beak.

Finally, add the small marks that repeat over the entire length of the beak.

If you are having difficulty, you may want to look at a reference picture of the Toucan or simply do your best to copy what I have drawn.


Step 4: Add Shading to the Body

This is a simple step but may take you some time.

What you want to do here is shade in the main body of the Toucan as indicated. This bird i mostly black so you'll have to do a lot of shading.

Use the edge of your pencil to get a larger area that will make shading a bit easier.


Final Step: Complete the Shading on His Body

For this step, just continue shading in the entire body of the Toucan as shown in my drawing to the right.

You'll find that working the pencil in the direction of the bird's feathers will make for a better overall look when you're doing this dark shading.

When you're done, erase any stray or still remaining guide lines that you drew in Step 1.


So, how did you do? What does your Toucan look like? Are you satisfied with your work?

If you are unsure or if you do not like the drawing you have just done, don't be too down on yourself. That is what every artist - including myself - goes through after completing any work of art. To this day, I still look at my completed work and see places where I should have done something different or better.

The main thing to remember is to keep practicing. After more than 50 years as an artist, I still make time to sketch something every day. That's because I know every sketch, drawing, painting or illustration is a teacher that will help me improve and do better next time.

If you enjoyed this tutorial, please take a moment and try a few of the many tutorials I have created on Hub Pages.

Best of luck with your drawing!


Take the "How to Draw a Tropical Bird" Poll

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Royal & Langnickel RSET-SKET2000 Wooden Box Sketching Art Set, Multicolor
Royal & Langnickel RSET-SKET2000 Wooden Box Sketching Art Set, Multicolor
This drawing kit is an exceptional tool - especially of you're just starting out with your drawing or you know a child who aspires to be an artist. This kit has everything an aspiring artist needs - I have bought several of these as gifts to my students over the years. Great price!

© 2013 MKayo


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