Sea turtles are fascinating creatures that glide and soar through water. This makes them a true marvel for artists to observe. In this simple tutorial, you will learn how to draw a sea turtle step by step. Artists from all levels are invited to follow this guide to both improve their drawing skills and create a strikingly realistic drawing of a sea turtle.
Table of Contents
- 1 Reptiles of the Ocean
- 2 What You Need to Create a Sea Turtle Sketch
- 3 Step-by-Step Instructions on Creating a Realistic Sea Turtle Drawing
- 3.1 Step 1: Prepare Your Materials and Observe Your Sea Turtle
- 3.2 Step 2: Find the Center of the Page and Draw a Point or Dot
- 3.3 Step 3: Draw an Accurate Shape of the Shell with a Pencil
- 3.4 Step 4: Draw an Accurate Shape of the Head and Its Four Flippers
- 3.5 Step 5: Outline Your Planning with a Darker Pencil
- 3.6 Step 6: Add a Lateral Line in the Middle to Define the Shape of the Shell
- 3.7 Step 7: Sketch the Details of the Sea Turtle’s Flippers and Facial Features
- 3.8 Step 8: Begin Outlining Your Planning with a Pen
- 3.9 Step 9: Erase All Pencil Lines and Planning
- 3.10 Step 10: Add More Details to the Facial Features with a Pencil
- 3.11 Step 11: Fill the Eye and Leave a White Space for a Highlight
- 3.12 Step 12: Add Shading and Texture to the Body below the Shell Casing
- 3.13 Step 13: Sketch the Patterns Formed on the Frontal Flipper
- 3.14 Step 14: Sketch the Pattern Formed on the Shell
- 3.15 Step 15: Add Shading and Texture to the Shell and Flippers
- 3.16 Step 16: Fill Your Shadow Areas Using Liquid Ink, Drawing Ink, or a Pen
- 3.17 Step 17: Finalize Your Drawing by Adding the Last Details with a Pen
- 3.18 Step 18: Allow to Dry
- 4 Frequently Asked Questions
Reptiles of the Ocean
Sea turtles are among the few, oldest reptiles in the ocean. They roam all regions of the earth, besides the polar regions. Some of the very first proto-turtles are believed to have existed over 220 million years ago, and it is no wonder they have survived so much with some turtles being able to live up to 100 years!
When closely observing a sea turtle, you will notice that they have very distinctive natural patterns and textures that run across the whole body, which makes them great subjects in art.
What You Need to Create a Sea Turtle Sketch
Before you start, there are a few materials and tools you will need to gather. This tutorial uses basic media to create a black and white sea turtle illustration. If you do not have all the materials, you are encouraged to simply use what you have available to create your sea turtle drawing.
List of Tools and Materials
In this tutorial, you will learn how to draw a sea turtle with just a few basic tools and materials. Not all materials below are needed to create a drawing of a sea turtle and you are also encouraged to add color to your sea turtle illustration, especially if you want to add your own personal touch.
- Your choice of paper
- Pencils (HB – 3B)
- Pens or fine liners of your choice
- Liquid ink or drawing ink
- Masking tape
Step-by-Step Instructions on Creating a Realistic Sea Turtle Drawing
This tutorial will help guide you toward creating a realistic sea turtle drawing. Whether you are a beginner or professional, these easy steps will show you how to observe your sea turtle just through simple shapes and forms.
We will also closely study the scales, wrinkles, and shell, focusing on capturing these natural patterns and textures through drawing techniques.
Step 1: Prepare Your Materials and Observe Your Sea Turtle
It is important to have all your materials ready before you begin observing the sea turtle closely. This could be either from life or using a reference image to help you capture the way the animal glides through the water.
If you have the chance to visit an aquarium, it is encouraged to do so, otherwise, find an image of a sea turtle that you think will work well as a drawing.
Step 2: Find the Center of the Page and Draw a Point or Dot
Find the center of your page using a ruler and draw a point in the middle of the paper with a pencil. This is the point from which you will plan the basic foundations of your sea turtle sketch.
Step 3: Draw an Accurate Shape of the Shell with a Pencil
Using a pencil, draw an accurate shape of the sea turtle’s shell. This outline of the shell should be egg-shaped and tilted slightly on its side, with the left side being slightly wider than the right.
Step 4: Draw an Accurate Shape of the Head and Its Four Flippers
To start, sketch the general shape of the head first as an oval which is slightly smaller on the right side. The frontal flippers (the two flippers in the front) should be triangular-shaped. These lines can be sketched as straight lines initially.
The back two flippers can now be sketched in as more oval or circular-shaped, and they are also slightly hidden behind the shell.
Step 5: Outline Your Planning with a Darker Pencil
Begin outlining your initial planning for your sea turtle sketch with a darker pencil. Return to your reference image of the turtle and notice the details of its characteristics and features. Observe that the head has grooves and a beak.
The shell also has grooves and mounds. The flippers are paddle-shaped and rounded at the tips.
Step 6: Add a Lateral Line in the Middle to Define the Shape of the Shell
Add a lateral line that runs from the neck to the third flipper to the right. This will feature as the bottom base of the sea turtle’s shell casing. This is also where the sea turtle’s body will show below the shell.
Step 7: Sketch the Details of the Sea Turtle’s Flippers and Facial Features
First, sketch the details of the sea turtle’s facial features. This should include a line depicting the mouth, which curves downwards on the right, two small oval nostrils, and its eye (if only one is visible). You can add more dimension around the eye by adding extra lines above and below the eye.
The neck is shaped like a cylinder and fades or disappears below the shell casing.
Step 8: Begin Outlining Your Planning with a Pen
Using a pen or fine liner, begin outlining your pencil planning. Start with the head first and work your way around the sea turtle pencil sketch, filling all lines and initial details of the facial features.
Step 9: Erase All Pencil Lines and Planning
Once your ink has dried, erase all of your pencil lines and any initial planning by working from left to right. Once all lines are erased, you will begin to notice that the sea turtle illustration will start to take defining shape.
Step 10: Add More Details to the Facial Features with a Pencil
Begin adding more details to your sea turtle drawing with a pencil. Study the beak first and how it protrudes slightly above the lower lip. The nostrils are hollow. The scales and wrinkles wrap around the curvature of the head and neck, which are made up of triangles, hexagons, pentagons, and squares.
Attempt to create this pattern with a few loose scales scattered around the face, then blend them towards the wrinkles of the sea turtle’s neck.
Step 11: Fill the Eye and Leave a White Space for a Highlight
Fill in the details of the sea turtle’s eye. The eye should be filled but contain a small white highlight which will depict a slight glisten and shine. This will also give it more dimension and show the animal’s true character.
Step 12: Add Shading and Texture to the Body below the Shell Casing
Using a darker pencil, begin working on the tonal values for your sea turtle illustration by adding shading to the body below the shell. Focus on capturing the lines and shadows created in the creases and wrinkles of the turtle’s body.
Step 13: Sketch the Patterns Formed on the Frontal Flipper
Sketch the patterns and lines formed on the frontal flipper first. These scales are more oval- and rectangular-shaped. They should wrap up the side and over the top of the flipper.
Step 14: Sketch the Pattern Formed on the Shell
Next, focus on the pattern on the shell of your sea turtle. These large mounds and scales are called shutes. The shutes fit together like a puzzle and are made up of hexagons and pentagons. Be sure to leave space between your shutes if possible, to show the groove lines that run across the shell and in between the shutes.
The shutes that run along the lateral line on the shell should be placed next to one another and run along the side of the shell towards the tail.
Step 15: Add Shading and Texture to the Shell and Flippers
Continue by adding shading and texture to your shell and flippers with a pencil. Focus on defining the darkest parts of your sea turtle drawing and fill in any missing patterns, shapes, and details to your sea turtle sketch.
Step 16: Fill Your Shadow Areas Using Liquid Ink, Drawing Ink, or a Pen
Now that you have identified the darkest areas in your sea turtle sketch, begin filling these shadow areas using liquid ink, drawing ink, or a pen. Work from left to right if you are right-handed to avoid smudging and vice versa if you are left-handed.
Step 17: Finalize Your Drawing by Adding the Last Details with a Pen
Start to finalize your sea turtle illustration by adding the finer details with a pen or fine liner. You can work from your shadow areas outwards by softly fading and blending your tones and textures towards highlight areas of your sea turtle.
You can use stippling or cross-hatching techniques to define your values.
Step 18: Allow to Dry
Allow your sea turtle drawing to dry properly for at least one to two hours. This will keep your ink from smudging and fading. You can also add color if you want to make your sea turtle drawing more vibrant and realistic.
Once it is completely dry, erase any existing pencil lines and sign your sea turtle illustration.
Drawing a sea turtle can be an incredibly easy illustration to complete! This reptile of the ocean is made up of some of the most interesting natural patterns, features, and shapes. Learning how to draw a sea turtle could be a fantastic task for your weekend creative session. Sea turtles are also great subjects to observe if you want to improve your animal illustration skills.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is It Difficult to Create a Sea Turtle Drawing?
Although sea turtles may seem like fairly complicated animals to draw, they are actually really easy to sketch! Sea turtles are made up of simple shapes and patterns that run over the whole body. Although it is not completely necessary to capture these patterns exactly as they are, you can sketch the basic foundations that make up these shapes and patterns to create a striking sea turtle illustration. By following the tutorial above, you will learn how to draw a realistic sea turtle step by step.
How Do You Draw a Sea Turtle?
Drawing a sea turtle is a really fun, creative task for anyone who enjoys drawing animals and sea creatures. A sea turtle is made up of ovals, circles, cylinders, squares, pentagons, and hexagons – you name it! Once you have these basic shapes and patterns down, you can create a rather simple sea turtle drawing.
Demi Bucklow is an independent artist and photographer living in Cape Town, South Africa. Since graduating from the University of Cape Town in 2018 from Michaelis School of Fine Art with a degree specializing in fine art photography, she currently works as a freelance artist, content creator and writer. Demi’s particular interests explore a range of multimedia illustration, collage art, photography and videography, darkroom processing and stop-motion animation. Her work is an exploration of nature and its phenomenon – somewhere between art and space.
Artistic practice presents the ability to communicate a vision. It is through techniques of pointillism and realism that form, and substance are explored as a metaphor for matter; super-imposing a thousand marks and points until an image is formed before our eyes. From illustrations to surrealist landscapes, Demi translates corporeality – mixing the obtuse and vacuous with the astute and expressive which leads to a mixture of irrevocable pondering over what is and what could be.
Learn more about the Art in Context Team.
Cite this Article
Demi, Bucklow, “How to Draw a Sea Turtle – Create a Cute Sea Turtle Sketch.” Art in Context. July 16, 2022. URL: https://artincontext.org/how-to-draw-a-sea-turtle/
Bucklow, D. (2022, 16 July). How to Draw a Sea Turtle – Create a Cute Sea Turtle Sketch. Art in Context. https://artincontext.org/how-to-draw-a-sea-turtle/