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Fantasy dragon art and how I painted my own

Updated on March 12, 2013

See how I painted my own Dragon art

Fantasy dragon art has always been a passion of mine and after 20 years of collecting fantasy art books, I have plenty of inspiration. I dabble in digital fantasy art myself and the step-by-step below shows you briefly how I work. I am not an artist that sticks to a set path but just takes the painting as it comes. Fantasy art is a fascinating subject and watching the dragon art come to life will always be a great feeling.

There be a dragon here, beware and enjoy!

My new fantasy art blog

Scribbles, doodles and fantasy illustration

If you like my dragon art then take a look at my new blog filling up with strange scribbles and illustration over atThe Art of Jonathan Grimes.

Adesso drawing tablet used for my fantasy dragon art
Adesso drawing tablet used for my fantasy dragon art

The tools I used for my very own dragon art

Adesso drawing tablet and Photoshop

Like most digital artists today, painting on the computer requires more than just a mouse. Graphics tablets (link to drawing tablets) are an absolute must when it comes to today digital art and illustration.

Drawing tablets come in many shapes and sizes, and varying prices. Like many things today, there is some truth in the saying 'you get what you pay for', but not all Drawing tablets need to be expensive.

At the moment I am using the Adesso drawing tablet which has a great specification, and in the grand scheme of things, is well priced. It's specification is on par with many graphics tablets that are considerably more in price.

Adesso drawing tablet

The Adesso drawing tablet offers a high specification drawing tablet at a price much lower than other tablets of the same specification. For a more indepth review of the Adesso drawing tablet take a look at this Adesso Drawing Tablet Review

Photoshop used to create my fantasy dragon art
Photoshop used to create my fantasy dragon art

Photoshop, the software of choice

Photoshop is very versatile and easy to master, the possibilities are endless

There are many digital art software packages on the market, but at the moment I am using Photoshop for most of my digital art. The scope of the functionality within Photoshop is superb for the fantasy art I produce.

Like many digital art software packages, the freedom of working digitally is fantastic. There are to many advantages to list, but the ability to have multiple layers on your artwork is great. Layers that you can turn off and on, as you need them. The ability to blend layers, overlay images and multiple undos, is second to none.

Photoshop brushes can be customised and used changed with the click of a button, helping to achieve textures and a more painterly style. Photoshop functionality is vast and is a whole other lens, but needless to say that using it for digital art is superb.

What digital art software do you use?

See results

Sketchbook roughs, the stating point for any of my fantasy dragon art - The sketchbook is the starting point for most of my fantasy dragon art

The fantasy art dragon pencil sketch can be seen 17 seconds into the video. Everything starts from a small pencil sketch or as a digital sketch on the ipad2.

Step 1 - Scan pencil image - Everything starts of in a very basic way

Nearly all the paintings I start, begin life as a scibble with the pages of a sketchbook. These are then scanned into the computer via a simple but effective scanner. The initial line drawing has a thin layer of tone added to it, which removes that white background starring back at you.

I don't have a set way of working but seem to let the image grow. Working on the background, I like to create some kind of setting in which to place the main character. I will always return to the background throughout the life of the painting and there are times when I have to stop myself from tweaking the.

At this stage, it's just a matter of getting something on the surface to start the ball rolling. With digital painting tools you can do this initial work on a separate layer to that of the main pencil scan. This allows you to restart and change as many times as you like, due to the freedom you have with digital art.

step 2 - Start to add layers of colour

Another layer of tone is added to the image. This is to start the ball rolling and start to get something down on the initial pencil scan. Photoshop allows you to have as many layers as you want. You can blend them in many ways, turn them off when required and manipulate them in many different ways. Photoshops versatility is second to none, but for this image, I lay down another light brown colour across te whole image.

Step 3 - Start to add layers of texture - Texture can be added with a brush or an image overlay


In step three I start to add more layers of colour and texture. This is the part of the digital painting process I don't like, as I am eager to see the finished painting, and at this stage things start to look messy. I also jump from one area to the next, which seems a little random, but this is the way I work. Some areas will get more attention and be taken to a stage where I can start to build up detail, while other areas are no more than the pencil sketch. I work like this on a lot of my paintings and it comes form being impatiant and wanting to add detail,

The aim for this digital painting was to have the dragons head popping out of a sandy wall and this is the initial start to try and achieve this effect. With digital art you can also overlay photographic textures, and then blend them into your chosen colour scheme. This can be very effective and help to mask the digital feel of some computer art. You would be surprised at the digital tricks that can be applied to reduce the stale digital feel some digital art can have,

Photoshop allows you to have many brushes at your finger tips, and the press of a button means you can change the brush at any time. You also have contol on the width and pressure of the brush stroke. Many combinations are available and you can even make you own custom brushes. For this particular dragon art, the brush was oddly shaped with a texture, which would help with the painterly rough feel I was after.

Step 4 - Start to add shape

In this step I start to add some shape to the main dragon head and the textured brush is used to add faint areas to the background. As I have mentioned, my style of working is very hap-hazzard, and I jump around from back to front, from dragon head to texture. Doing this gives me a sence of finishing the painting. Maybe I should have a more focusd approach, but at the moment, the style of painting seems to work for me. I advise that whatever the style of work and process that works for you, is fine. There is no set and correct way of working, only what is best for you and that you are happy with the end result.

Step 5 - Adding stronger areas of colour - The dragon art starts to take shape

Stronger areas start to appear and at this stage I am looking to start getting to grips with fleshing out areas and adding detail.

Step 6 - Adding more texture

In this step I have added a layer which is a texture image of sand stone. This layer is added and blended over the layers below giving a texture to the whole painting. I didn't want this particular texture to cover the whole area, so certain areas are then taken out with the rubber tool, simple but very effective.

Step 7 - Light direction - Make your fantasy dragon art more vibrant by ensuring a strong directional light source

A strong directional light source casts shadows and in my paintings I like the effect strange looking shadows can have on a painting. Here I start to highlight certain areas and have a good idea as to where and how the shadows will be placed. Large surface areas can be brought to life with strange shadowy shapes dancing across the surface, idal for fantasy art.

Step 8 - Adding shadow - Combat the highlights with shadow, but shadows don't have to be dark!

In this step, we see the start of the shadow areas beginning to creep in. I like the contrast in light and dark and always try to use colour in my shadows. Shadows do not have to be dark, and using black as a shadow will just reduce the impact of the painting. I will go a little overboard with the shadow areas and make it as interesting as the highlights. It's at this stage I also start to pick out various details, which I will then build upon and add to.

Step 9 - Adding detail and colour, the fun part - The dragon art starts to really come to life

In these later stages, the detail starts to be applied and the shadow areas are focused on. Even at this stage I am still jumping from one area to another. I might work on the background one minute, then jump to adding detail to the main head area. It's a case of going with the flow of the painting and what works. The details start to grow and the painting is now at a stage where I am happy working on it. I continue to add detail and colour to multiple various areas, and the final step shows you the result.

Step 10 - concentrate on the focal areas - Focus the detail on the main area of interest

In this step we see the additional detail added throughout the dragon art. It also shows that the final detailing is in the areas I what the viewer to focus on, and this is the head. Looking at the image now, I would add more detail to the dragon head and less to the surrounding areas, just enough to sharpen and make the dragon head pop out of the image. In real life, when looking at every day objects, the actual object is in focus but everything else is very much visuble, but just out of focus.

This is the part of painting fantasy dragon art that I like the most. Hours, days and sometimes weeks of hard toil, result in an image I am happy with, sort of. The detail and lighting make the piece come to life and it's time to sit back and see what you have created. I am one of those people that are never totally satisfied with their work and beleive there is always room for more detail.

dragon art book
dragon art book

My published dragon artwork

If you like my dragon art you might like to take a look at my other fantasy art. This time it has been published within the pages of Dragon World, a fantasy art book by Impact books.

Other fantasy art lenses you might be interested in

As someone who like fantasy art, collects fantasy art books, there are a few other Squidoo lenses you might be interested in, and see the links below.

Dragon World, dragon art book from Impact book Dragon World brings together many different artists from the on-line art gallery, Deviant Art. There be lots of dragons here and some great art to.

The best fantasy art books

As a collector of fantasy art books, I have highlighted a few here that I think are great books. More to follow, put the fantasy artwork is well worth a look.

My other artwork!

My art work, both digital and traditional
My art work, both digital and traditional

Being a budding artist I have produced a few other pieces which can be seen via my gallery website, and feedback is always welcome.

Do you like dragon art and fantasy art in general?

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    • bloggerjon profile image

      bloggerjon 5 years ago

      @shewins: Thanks for the feedback on my digital painting process. Plenty more to follow and I am putting together a similar lens now.

    • shewins profile image

      shewins 5 years ago

      It's so wonderful to see your step by step process and how the painting grows. I use Photoshop and Gimp to enhance photos or scanned art, but I haven't made a full on digital painting.

    • adragast24 profile image

      adragast24 5 years ago

      Of course I like dragons, what a question! Otherwise, nice dragon drawings and nice page in general. Thanks for sharing. I wish I was as talentful as you to draw (but believe me, I cannot draw).

    • profile image

      belinhafernandes 5 years ago

      Wonderful painting! I love dragons! We have a football team that's called "The dragons" - It's Futebol Clube do Porto! Dragons are wonderful creatures. I try to watch every movie with it! Silly, I know, but they are just wonderful fantasy creations! I also have a small Wacom tablet. It's much better than using the mouse.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      wow. this is amazing. really amazing

    • GeekGirl1 profile image

      GeekGirl1 5 years ago

      greta tutorial, nice presentation, cool work of art.

    • rob-hemphill profile image

      Rob Hemphill 5 years ago from Ireland

      Excellent lens and well presented, you are a talented artist.

    • dwindhaus lm profile image

      dwindhaus lm 5 years ago

      great lens, liked seeing how that came together.

    • Actiongames LM profile image

      Actiongames LM 5 years ago

      Interesting way to do color work with the pencil.

    • zafsot profile image

      zafsot 5 years ago

      great lens and tutotial..thanks :)

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago


    • PinkstonePictures profile image

      PinkstonePictures 5 years ago from Miami Beach, FL

      Wonderful. Good job

    • bloggerjon profile image

      bloggerjon 5 years ago

      @Keith J Winter: Wow. . .thanks for the feedback on this and i am going to put a few more together based on other artwork.

    • bloggerjon profile image

      bloggerjon 5 years ago

      @Gypzeerose: Hi and thanks for the feedback, with plenty more to follow from me.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      I really liked this article on -fantasy-dragon-artâ¦..its great information..contents are understandable and worth to be noticedâ¦it is going to help people find their next insight into it....

    • sbaiju profile image

      sbaiju 5 years ago

      great tutorial, I whish i had those tablets to work with. Imo it is much better than mouse.

    • profile image

      miller83 5 years ago

      Superb lens. Loved seeing the transition from sketch to final artwork. Really impressive.

    • profile image

      NewUsedCarsSacramento 5 years ago

      I love the dragon art idea and the art work you shared is extremely beautiful. These creatures are fascinating me for so many years. Thanks for the lens.

    • bloggerjon profile image

      bloggerjon 5 years ago

      @CherylsArt: Plenty more to follow and for me its just practice practice practice. . . thanks for the feedback!

    • bloggerjon profile image

      bloggerjon 5 years ago

      @editionh: Thanks for the feedback and have always worked in layers as it just seems natural.

    • bloggerjon profile image

      bloggerjon 5 years ago

      @jnstewart: Thanks for the feedback, especially from another artist.

    • bloggerjon profile image

      bloggerjon 5 years ago

      @anonymous: Hi and thanks for the feedback. . . I to have taken a screen grab of the len as 'Lens of the day' and at position one. It's great to see and plenty more to follow. . .

    • graphite75 profile image

      Tom 5 years ago

      Wow, you are a great artist. That dragon is really cool!

    • profile image

      wiyadase 5 years ago

      great job...

    • profile image

      vgopal 5 years ago

      Awesome Lens

    • NausetViews profile image

      Kristen 5 years ago from Boston

      I really enjoyed seeing how you develop your art work from start to finish. It's a rare glimpse into the creative process of an artist. Beautiful!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Congratulations on being ranked #1 overall, I know what a great feeling that must be. I've only reached #9 overall and I took a screen shot and sent it to my mom, I think you should do the same.

    • LiliLove profile image

      LiliLove 5 years ago

      Awesome lens, well done!

    • bloggerjon profile image

      bloggerjon 5 years ago

      @mj11769: Hi and thanks for the feedback, could you direct me to the forum post?


    • mj11769 profile image

      mj11769 5 years ago

      Beautiful lens.....I saw you being mentioned on the forum and I took a look too.....congratulations on being number 1......very impressive:)))

    • jnstewart profile image

      John Norman Stewart 5 years ago from Cottonwood, CA

      As a pro artist myself, I can appreciate the work that you put into this lens. Excellent job! :)

    • profile image

      kcallarman 5 years ago

      Way cool! I love seeing the step-by-step images. Thanks for posting this tutorial!

    • chas65 profile image

      chas65 5 years ago

      Enjoyes sharing i your different steps from concept to completion.

    • Gypzeerose profile image

      Rose Jones 5 years ago

      Beautiful art work indeed. Pinned to my board "art I love" and blessed. Inspirational, I want to take up drawing and painting more, although I don't think I have your native ability.

    • AllThingsPotter profile image

      AllThingsPotter 5 years ago

      My goodness that's a beautiful dragon!

    • evelynsaenz1 profile image

      Evelyn Saenz 5 years ago from Royalton

      Congratulations on LOTD and making it to number 1 on Squidoo.

    • profile image

      djroll 5 years ago

      I can draw stick people! I have always admired people who have the true gift of being an artist. Beautiful work you have shared with us - Thanks. Even though I have I'm unable to draw or paint, I love watching others who can.

    • karMALZEKE profile image

      karMALZEKE 5 years ago

      Crazy in love with it. Cool STUFF. I like your style.

    • profile image

      Balltongue 5 years ago

      Wow! Truly amazing art, I wish I had your talent.

    • FlynntheCat1 profile image

      FlynntheCat1 5 years ago

      @bloggerjon: A heartfelt second recommendation for ArtRage here :D

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      like dragon art much more...wonderful:-)

    • profile image

      editionh 5 years ago

      Hi Jonathan,

      not bad dabbling indeed :). I don't know much about digital art and the use of those tools. Your tutorial is an eye opener . The way you did this dragon seems quite similar to old master oil painting methods working in layers step by step. Very cool.

    • Keith J Winter profile image

      Keith Winter 5 years ago from Spain

      Lenses like these are what makes Squidoo special. I wish I had the patience and skill to paint like you. Wonderful pictures, thanks for sharing.

    • kmhrsn profile image

      kmhrsn 5 years ago

      I love how you start with a traditional pencil/paper image that is scanned. That makes a lot of sense. And your work is beautiful!

    • sukkran trichy profile image

      sukkran trichy 5 years ago from Trichy/Tamil Nadu

      wow. grand art tutorial lens. love the way you have presented it. a masterpiece.

    • bloggerjon profile image

      bloggerjon 5 years ago

      @MBurgess: Thanks for the feedback RiaB. . .

    • MBurgess profile image

      Maria Burgess 5 years ago from Las Vegas, Nevada

      I love dragons! I draw them when I am not doing my holiday artsy stuff! Thank you for sharing this step by step technique! It has been very helpful! Congrats on your LotD and Purple Star selection - Well deserved! =)

    • taylorday profile image

      taylorday 5 years ago

      loved your lens, interested in the photoshop as I used it when I worked in the print industry pre press

    • FancyThatUSA profile image

      FancyThatUSA 5 years ago

      Wow! that is so impressive, it looks amazing. I just don't have that type of artistic skill to start with, so I shall leave it to the professionals. Great step by step guide though

    • bloggerjon profile image

      bloggerjon 5 years ago

      @candy47: Thanks and it was great to see it on the page when i logged in. I am planning to do a few more Squidoo lenses on my fantasy art soon.

    • bloggerjon profile image

      bloggerjon 5 years ago

      @irminia: Thanks 'irminia' and I love looking at how artists produce their work, so thought I would give it a go myself. Plenty more step-by-steps of my fantasy artwork to follow soon.

    • bloggerjon profile image

      bloggerjon 5 years ago

      @tobydavis: Thanks for the feedback and plenty more step-by-steps of my fantay artwork to come soon.

    • bloggerjon profile image

      bloggerjon 5 years ago

      Thanks everyone for the feedback, if you can't see your comment as yet it will soon be added. I am just going through them all and down to the last 80 comments.

    • bloggerjon profile image

      bloggerjon 5 years ago

      @PaulForcey: For me it just take practice, practice, practice.

    • LindseyKrelle profile image

      LindseyKrelle 5 years ago

      Wonderful Lens - and such a helpful lesson in Art and photoshop. Really enjoyable

    • bloggerjon profile image

      bloggerjon 5 years ago

      @GuyNadeau LM: Thanks for the feedback and plenty more step-by-steps to follow.

    • bloggerjon profile image

      bloggerjon 5 years ago

      @MissKeenReviewer: Thanks for the feedback and good old pen and paper is, and will always the best. No matter what gadets I use, its ALWAYS started with a pencil drawing and you can't beat it.

    • bloggerjon profile image

      bloggerjon 5 years ago

      @Wakerra LM: Thanks for the reply. with regards Photoshop, I did use it for this painting but Photoshop elements (cut down version) would have done the job just as well. I use it because I am familiar with it, nothing more really. Photoshop is a little over kill but has a lot of features you can use if needed. Artrage is a fraction of the cost and very good with a number of illustrators using it. Gimp is also dam good but all are just tools, and its good old practice and drawing that are the foundation. Thanks again and plaenty more to follow from me. . .

    • bloggerjon profile image

      bloggerjon 5 years ago

      @Spletni Delavec: Hi, it was a really nice surprise to see this lens in 7th place overall and I have a few more lined up.

    • profile image

      khatha0808 5 years ago

      Congratulation for LOTD.

    • Bill Armstrong profile image

      Bill Armstrong 5 years ago from Valencia, California

      Nice drawings, I also got myself a drawing tablet, still learning but hopefully it will show some improvements in my lenses, thanks for sharing

    • Spletni Delavec profile image

      Spletni Delavec 5 years ago

      Woow, this is great. Congratulation on LOTD title. I mentioned you in "Top ranked lenses on Squidoo" lens for your 7th place overall.

    • profile image

      PaulForcey 5 years ago

      Ok i am jealous as I have absolutely no art skills at all!

    • HalloweenRecipes profile image

      HalloweenRecipes 5 years ago

      Very cool lens! Congrats on the LoTD!

    • TheLittleCardShop profile image

      Malu Couttolenc 5 years ago

      Awesome tutorial on how to draw and paint a dragon. Bookmarked it :) Congrats for your LOTD!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Pretty cool art.

    • profile image

      DebMartin 5 years ago

      Incredible art work. Amazing process.

    • bloggerjon profile image

      bloggerjon 5 years ago

      @Fiorenza: Thanks Pererduck, plenty more to follow and with the success of this Squidoo lens I will be doing a few more based around my work.

    • JerryWojo profile image

      JerryWojo 5 years ago

      Great lens, Fabulous work. I've been to a few fantasy art shows in my area and enjoyed them. Amazed at the wide variety of styles. Thank you.

    • weakbond profile image

      Nnadi bonaventure Chima 5 years ago from Johanesburg

      Fascinating lens ,thanks for sharing

    • bloggerjon profile image

      bloggerjon 5 years ago

      @healthusa: Thanks for the feedback. Using layers in Photoshop is great, with each one being able to be different in opacity if need be. You can also turn on and off depending on the effect / colour you are looking for. It gives you some amazing freedom. With regards colour, I have a basic idea on what I hope to use in the painting but many times the painting just evolves and the colours with it.

    • poldepc lm profile image

      poldepc lm 5 years ago

      congrats on LOTD

    • profile image

      Astiti 5 years ago


    • profile image

      healthusa 5 years ago

      WOW. So much layering, I'd have no idea where to begin (figuring out colors alone!), you're an incredible artist!

    • profile image

      ZachG LM 5 years ago

      Fascinating lens. Keep up the great work!

    • fbcivcoming profile image

      fbcivcoming 5 years ago

      That is just Awesome!

    • HankKlinger1 profile image

      HankKlinger1 5 years ago

      Thats just plain badass. Much respect my friend.

    • mj11769 profile image

      mj11769 5 years ago

      very detailed lens......nice job!

    • MGarciaP profile image

      MGarciaP 5 years ago

      excellent work of art!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Very cool stuff. Terrific art and a terrific lens. Congratulations on getting LotD!

    • Northerntrials profile image

      Northerntrials 5 years ago

      You make it look so easy... that's talent. Awesome!

    • profile image

      tinyant 5 years ago

      so cool! you are such a genius

    • pcgamehardware profile image

      pcgamehardware 5 years ago

      Wow, what a fantastic tutorial on Fantasy Dragon Art, Thanks for sharing this. :)

      Liked and Blessed. :)

    • Wakerra LM profile image

      Wakerra LM 5 years ago

      Woo Gimp made it in the poll! Unfortunately thats all I can manage with right now. I started learning how to digitally draw with Photoshop in college, then I had to drop out for various reasons. My poor computer won't be able to handle Photoshop (and neither can my budget D: )

      I see you keep the original pencil lineart as well, so detailed sketches would be beneficial. my sketches tend to be vague, and when I color them I'll only use the sketch as a reference, eventually removing it completely and detailing everything digitally. I figured lines in a picture were nothing more than 1: A difference of Light and shadow; 2: an overlap of two objects; and 3: A difference of colors.

      Granted I'm no professional by far, but I am improving and learning at my own pace, its so much fun to see how far you've come . Nice lens and congrats on the LotD!

    • makorip lm profile image

      makorip lm 5 years ago

      Love dragon art. If your ever in Vancouver BC there's a specialty shop on Granville Island that's Dragon. You'd love it. Congratulations on LOTD!

    • wyzeguru profile image

      wyzeguru 5 years ago

      Nice work, now I must call my mother in law and tell her something.....

    • profile image

      Torrs13 5 years ago

      This is a great lens! I am not a good artist at all so I admire anyone that is able to make good artwork. Congratulations on making lens of the day!

    • SandraWilson LM profile image

      SandraWilson LM 5 years ago

      You've just shown that art is even more involved than I had previously thought. Congratulations on your LOTD! Well deserved.

    • profile image

      soaringsis 5 years ago

      Wow! this is amazing. Congratulations on your LotD. Thanks for sharing, blessed:)

    • Fiorenza profile image

      Fiorenza 5 years ago from UK

      Love dragons and fantasy so this was great! Really interesting how you build up the work. Had a look at your site and deviant art gallery as well and love the colours and textures in the cave dragon's yawn too. Also your landscapes which have a mysterious quality.

    • profile image

      grannysage 5 years ago

      Amazing. In my next life I want to come back as an artist.

    • linhah lm profile image

      Linda Hahn 5 years ago from California

      Lovely page.

    • MrAusAdventure profile image

      Bill 5 years ago from Gold Coast, Australia

      Congrats on LOTD. You are very talented. I would never have the patience to create something do detailed. Well done.

    • profile image

      Hurlserv 5 years ago

      Beautiful work. And I'm not particularly a dragon lover. Your step-by-step progression is excellent. It's seldom do we get to look over one's shoulder while they create art.

    • profile image

      Ruthi 5 years ago

      Your so-called dabble in digital art shows amazing talent! I thoroughly enjoyed watching your fantasy dragon turn into a piece of fine artwork.

    • profile image

      hideki7771 5 years ago

      Excellent work. I am impressed.

    • Judith Nazarewicz profile image

      Judith Nazarewicz 5 years ago from Victoria, British Columbia, Canada

      I love fantasy art and your work is amazing. Thanks so much for sharing! Congratulations on LOTD! :-)

    • MissKeenReviewer profile image

      MissKeenReviewer 5 years ago

      Dragon art is very cool. Love the idea you shared- great lens. I have sketches in pencils of my own and never tried to perfect it digitally. I guess for now I will still do it the old school way-pen and paper.

    • Carpenter76 profile image

      Carpenter76 5 years ago

      Speechless :O very nice!!


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