Learning how to draw a caterpillar is such a fun activity because caterpillars are very abstract looking. Caterpillar drawings are quite easy to turn into realistic drawings because of their strange aesthetic. The basic structure of a caterpillar is bizarre and once we understand the eruciform-like structure we can play around with how we add details to the insect. Caterpillars are such beautiful creatures and make for great artwork. These little insects are a very versatile subject and can be a beautiful addition to various artworks. Learning how to draw a caterpillar is also a great way to develop your pattern drawing skills as well as symmetry and consistency within a drawing.
Table of Contents
- 1 An Easy Guide to Drawing a Caterpillar
- 2 Step-by-Step Instructions on How to Draw a Caterpillar
- 3 Tips to Remember
- 4 Frequently Asked Questions
An Easy Guide to Drawing a Caterpillar
In this tutorial, we will learn how to draw a realistic caterpillar, using the black swallowtail caterpillar as an inspiration. Learning how to draw a caterpillar is easy and fun, and allows for playfulness in patterns and design within the caterpillar drawing process.
In this easy caterpillar drawing tutorial, we will learn how to transform a simple caterpillar sketch into a more realistic caterpillar drawing.
We will play around with color and dimension to create a unique and interesting-looking caterpillar. The abstract quality of the black swallowtail caterpillar provides a good framework to create a realistic caterpillar drawing, which we will tweak and personalize with our details.
Creating a caterpillar drawing requires a few simple materials, starting with an HB pencil to create the early stages of the caterpillar sketch. We will want to have an eraser and sharpener to rectify any little mistakes in this early stage of sketching out the caterpillar. We will also be working with colored pencils and ballpoint pens to create a vividly colorful caterpillar drawing. Lastly, we will want to have a marker or brush pen to add black to some of the shapes for the caterpillar. All the materials can be found through the links below:
- HB pencil
- Ballpoint pen
- Derwent coloring pencils
- Black marker brush pen
- Good paper (200 g/m – 250 g/m recommended)
Step-by-Step Instructions on How to Draw a Caterpillar
In this tutorial on how to draw a caterpillar, we will start by sketching out the caterpillar, where we focus on creating the different segments. These segments in the caterpillar make up the abdomen, thorax, and head of the caterpillar. From there, we will work with adding in some shapes to indicate where the colors will be placed within each segment of the caterpillar.
After, we will proceed to add color to our caterpillar drawing, using the color scheme of the black swallowtail caterpillar.
Then, lastly, we will add some pen work to give the caterpillar a little more contrast and shading to emphasize the form and dimensions of the caterpillar. Now that we know what to expect, let us get into this tutorial on how to draw a caterpillar.
Step 1: Sketching the Caterpillar
We start by drawing a curved line on our page with our HB pencils to determine the length and scale of our caterpillar drawing.
We want to give our line a wave-like motion with two arches in it, which will guide the flow of the caterpillar drawing.
We want to start from the anal prolegs of the caterpillar, whereby we will slowly work our way through each segment of the abdomen until we reach the head. From the back of the caterpillar, the segments will start quite small in scale and slowly get larger as they move through the abdomen of the caterpillar.
As you go through the abdomen of the caterpillar, you want to steadily draw in each segment. Each of the segments is similar in size and shape, which can be considered as a rectangular shape or an oval shape stacked next to one another.
We want to continue adding these shapes together one after the others as we follow the flow of the line. We want to also add in the legs of the caterpillar.
These are half-moon shapes that fall under the fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, and eighth segments in the abdomen.
As we start to come to the thorax area, we will continue with adding in these shapes, however, they will now be slightly raised and form a more triangular shape. The legs that attach to the thorax area of the caterpillar are called true legs and move out laterally in a horn-like shape.
The thorax area will have two of these triangular segments that form an arch shape from the abdomen to the head area. There will be two lateral legs that stick out from each segment of the thorax area.
As we come to draw the head, we will draw a third segment that is a part of the head area and is slightly smaller than the last two segments in the thorax.
The head will poke out slightly like a half-moon shape as if it were curled up in the last segment and you could only slightly see it.
Step 2: Adding Black Swallowtail Patterns to Our Caterpillar Sketch
We will now proceed to add some stripes and shapes into the different segments of the caterpillar drawing, which establish the unique look of the black swallowtail caterpillar.
Beginning from the head we want to add blob-like shapes to the different sections of the caterpillar.
These shapes will be quite similar in each segment throughout the entire caterpillar. They will generally be scattered blobs where each segment will have two large ones and one or two little blobs in between. Looking at a black swallowtail caterpillar on the internet for reference will assist you in your drawing process.
We want to add these shapes and patterns in each segment of the caterpillar, from head to anal prolegs. We want to also make sure we take our time adding these patterns to the caterpillar.
This is so that the patterns flow and form within each segment as naturally as possible.
Step 3: Adding Color to the Caterpillar
We want to spend a good portion of time adding color to our caterpillar drawing. Let us take a yellow pencil and proceed to add yellow to the bottom of each segment within the caterpillar.
We want to add yellow along the bottom of the caterpillar so that when we add in greens, we can blend it over the yellow. We can also lightly add in some blue near the bottom areas.
This will give the caterpillar slight transparency near the bottom of its abdomen area.
Using a light green pencil, we want to work our way through each segment and shade green along the top areas. We want to work green from the top down of each segment within the caterpillar.
Make sure you take your time slowly blending the green into the yellow within each of the segments of the caterpillar. You want to go from the top of each segment and slowly shade downward.
This allows the green to blend into the yellow.
The intention should be to create a beautiful and seamless gradient between green and yellow. Make sure that you work around the patterns within the segments.
We now want to take a darker green pencil and again go from the top of each segment and blend it into the light colors.
The coloring process is additive, which means we added in the light colors first and are now going over them with darker colors.
Slowly work on each segment as you go through the whole body of the caterpillar. Use the darker green to add in some creases and shading around the leg areas as well to create some underlayers for shading.
Step 4: Adding Shading and Color to the Caterpillar’s Patterns
Starting from the head area, we want to work our way through the caterpillar, slowly adding black to the patterns in each segment.
We want to use a marker or brush pen to do so and should approach each section with caution.
As we add black to the patterns in each segment of the caterpillar, we also want to work with our pens to add some shading simultaneously. Go through each segment one at a time as we add black to the patterns, with little blobs of orange as well as some shading to give the caterpillar more dimension.
Make sure you go through each segment with attention to detail. The orange blobs can be placed quite simultaneously in each segment.
However, when shading with a pen, we want to add some shadow along each divisional line between each segment.
As we add shading to the caterpillar, we want to use our pen to also outline the different segments. We can also use our ballpoint pens to add some line work to establish some character lines to suggest movement and creases.
We want to go through each segment slowly, making sure we add shadowing with our ballpoint pens and black and orange to the patterns within each segment. When adding black to the different patterns within the segments of the caterpillar, make sure that you make them imperfect.
The patterns look similar but are all subtly different within the black swallowtail caterpillar.
Carry on this process slowly working your way through each segment of the caterpillar. Remember, the orange coloration can be drawn as random blobs within each segment.
Make sure that as you come to the segments with legs, you shade in the overlapping sections where the legs poke out like half-moons.
Some of the segments will layer over the legs and we want to define this quality with our shading.
We also want to make sure we add a black strip that falls in the connecting areas between each segment. This is also an iconic and distinct feature of the black swallowtail caterpillar.
As we continue this process of shading and adding color to the segments of the caterpillar, make sure you take a break. Taking a break is important for the drawing process.
This way, you can come back feeling a little more refreshed.
The pattern shape is more spearhead-shaped on the backside of the caterpillar, near the anus. We also want to make sure we add shading along the creases within the overlapping sections at the back of the caterpillar.
Once we have completed the shading and coloring process, we want to take our ballpoint pens and give the legs little hair.
By doing this, we give the caterpillar a little more of a realistic aesthetic.
Step 5: Contextualizing the Caterpillar by Drawing a Branch
Now we want to give the caterpillar a little more context so that it does not exist within a void. We can do this by drawing a branch.
Using your HB pencil, let us proceed to draw a branch shape that falls underneath the caterpillar.
We want to take our HB pencils and add some light shading to the branch. Make sure the shading is quite scattered, to give the impression of wood.
Now, using your light green pencil we want to color the entire branch. We want to establish a light coloration within the branch with a light green first.
We will then go over this with some darker colored pencils.
Using a dark green pencil, go over the pencil shading marks to give them more coloration ad definition.
From there, take a brown pencil and proceed to lightly go over the pencil marks again to give the branch a little more contrast.
Then lastly, using your ballpoint pen, add in some line work to give the branch a more distinct aesthetic. You can outline the branch and some light shading the branch to give it a little more contrast.
And there you have it, instructions on how to draw a caterpillar in a few simple steps!
Tips to Remember
- Capture the caterpillar sketch in pencil first. It’s always better to capture the caterpillar sketch before moving on to using a pen or colored pencils.
- Use a reference image. This tutorial teaches you how to create a caterpillar drawing without a reference image, but often one can be of great assistance in the drawing process.
- Take your time. We want to make sure we go through each step slowly and patiently.
- Consider light and shadow. We want to make sure that we are consistent with the placement of shadows within the caterpillar drawing.
- Go slowly with the pen. Drawing in pen, it is easy to make a mistake, so take it slow and be cautious when making marks.
Learning how to draw a realistic caterpillar is a great way to practice pattern design and color combinations. Caterpillar drawings provide the artist with the opportunity to explore color palettes and how they can be used effectively. This tutorial breaks down the easy caterpillar drawing process that helps you to establish the form and structure within a simple caterpillar sketch. From there, the process of adding color and working with a ballpoint pen is a matter of patience and correct placement of shading and details.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Do You Color a Caterpillar?
Caterpillars can be colored in various ways due to the range of species being very broad. This provides the artist with a great opportunity to explore color combinations and how to place them within the caterpillar drawing. Caterpillars also have unique patterns on their eruciform bodies, which are often consistent from head to bottom. This is another opportunity to be intentional about how the colors are placed within the caterpillar’s body so that the color sequences remain consistent. This is also a good way to make your caterpillar drawing seem more realistic, as symmetry and consistency are often common features within the body structure of caterpillars.
How Do You Draw the Caterpillar Shape?
The caterpillar, like any other insect, has three main sections: a head, a thorax, and an abdomen. However, these three sections can be considered homogenous within the body of the caterpillar and are not easily identifiable because of their worm-like body. If you look at an image of a caterpillar closely, you will find that the head is quite small and tucked in one of the segments of the thorax, almost as if it were wearing a hoodie. The abdomen’s segments are about nine of them, including the thorax. These segments are generally the same in size near the middle of the caterpillar but get smaller near the back end of the caterpillar. The segments also get slightly larger near the front of the caterpillar near the head, where the head is usually smaller and tucked into the thorax. In addition to this, the caterpillar has little circular-shaped legs that fall in the middle of the abdomen area.
Matthew Matthysen is an educated multidisciplinary artist and illustrator. He successfully completed his art degree at the University of Witwatersrand in South Africa, majoring in art history and contemporary drawing. The focus of his thesis was to explore the philosophical implications of the macro and micro-universe on the human experience. Matthew uses diverse media, such as written and hands-on components, to explore various approaches that are on the border between philosophy and science.
Matthew organized various exhibitions before and during his years as a student and is still passionate about doing so today. He currently works as a freelance artist and writer in various fields. He also has a permanent position at a renowned online gallery (ArtGazette) where he produces various works on commission. As a freelance artist, he creates several series and successfully sells them to galleries and collectors. He loves to use his work and skills in various fields of interest.
Matthew has been creating drawing and painting tutorials since the relaunch in 2020. Through his involvement with artincontext.org, he has been able to deepen his knowledge of various painting mediums. For example, watercolor techniques, calligraphy and lately digital drawing, which is becoming more and more popular.
Cite this Article
Matthew, Matthysen, “How to Draw a Caterpillar – Creating a Fun Caterpillar Sketch.” Art in Context. August 5, 2022. URL: https://artincontext.org/how-to-draw-a-caterpillar/
Matthysen, M. (2022, 5 August). How to Draw a Caterpillar – Creating a Fun Caterpillar Sketch. Art in Context. https://artincontext.org/how-to-draw-a-caterpillar/