How to Draw a Turtle

Did you know that turtles belong to one of the oldest reptile groups in the world—beating snakes, crocodiles, and alligators? The first proto-turtles are believed to have existed about 220 million years ago!

How to Draw a Turtle

Drawing a turtle is a great experience for artists of any skill level. Using the example of this animal, we can observe a variety of textures and natural patterns.

How to Draw a Turtle

We’ll sketch a turtle from scratch, both in a side and aerial view, using just a couple of graphite pencils. Let’s have fun!

What You Will Need

  • an HB graphite pencil
  • a 3B graphite pencil
  • an eraser
  • drawing paper

How to Draw a Turtle

1.How to Draw a Turtle in a Side View

Step 1

Let’s start with a rough sketch of the turtle’s figure.

I draw a rounded shape of the shell. Most land-based turtles have a large, heavy, dome-shaped shell that protects the animal’s body from predators.

The shell is actually a part of the skeleton; it consists of over 50 bones. And, contrary to a popular belief, a turtle cannot come out of its shell.

How to Draw a Turtle

Then I add the shape of the head…

How to Draw a Turtle

… and mark the feet—or, more precisely, the places where the limbs meet the ground. We don’t add the fourth shape because it is not visible in this foreshortening.

How to Draw a Turtle

Step 2

I refine the initial shape, outlining the upper shell of the turtle (it is called thecarapace).

A shell is a three-dimensional object, so I round the contour line in the bottom part of the shape.

How to Draw a Turtle

Then I add the plastron—the lower shell that encases the belly.

How to Draw a Turtle

Step 3

I outline the shape of the head.

How to Draw a Turtle

Step 4

I draw the eye. Most terrestrial turtles have their eyes looking down at objects in front of them, so my intention is to convey this feature by lowering the eye’s inner corner.

How to Draw a Turtle

Step 5

I draw the line of the mouth. Turtles have rigid beaks that help them to bite off pieces of food.

I also add the nostrils.

How to Draw a Turtle

Step 6

Using simple shapes, I construct the short, sturdy feet of the turtle.

How to Draw a Turtle

Step 7

I refine the feet, erasing all the unnecessary lines.

How to Draw a Turtle

Step 8

Turtles usually have long claws, so I add four claws to each limb. The feet look much more credible now!

I also refine the shape of the carapace.

How to Draw a Turtle

Step 9

I draw the prominent polygonal plates (they are called the scutes) in the upper part of the carapace.

How to Draw a Turtle

I add the next row of scutes just underneath the first one.

How to Draw a Turtle

Step 10

I add two more rows; the scutes here are smaller.

How to Draw a Turtle

I also mark the relief elements of the plastron with light lines; we don’t need too many details here.

How to Draw a Turtle

Step 11

Let’s add some details to the turtle’s skin. The pattern may vary; you can see a couple of examples in the image below.

How to Draw a Turtle

I add the elements, starting from the head. I also draw the folds of skin in the neck area.

How to Draw a Turtle

Step 12

I complete the pattern in the head and neck area.

Then I add the pattern of the turtle’s limbs; it resembles a set of close-fitting jags of slightly different size.

How to Draw a Turtle

Step 13

I draw the pattern of the scutes. You can see anexample scheme in the image below.

By the way, counting the rings formed by the stack of smaller, older scutes on top of the larger, newer ones can help to estimate theapproximate age of a turtle.

How to Draw a Turtle

Step 14

With the HB pencil, I add some shading to the darkest areas of my drawing, including the drop shadow.

How to Draw a Turtle

Step 15

I also add a layer of light hatching to the sides of the shell and the head of the turtle.

How to Draw a Turtle

Step 16

With the 3B pencil, I emphasize the pattern of the scutes.

How to Draw a Turtle

Step 17

With the 3B pencil, I increase the contrast in the drawing by darkening the skin texture.

How to Draw a Turtle

Step 18

With the 3B pencil, I cover the shell with a layer of hatching, accentuating the sides and the gaps between the scutes.

How to Draw a Turtle

Step 19

To make this drawing harmonious, I apply more 3B graphite strokes to the limbs and head.

This illustration is complete!

How to Draw a Turtle

2.How to Draw a Turtle in an Aerial View

Step 1

I draw a light line with the HB pencil; let’s assume that this line is going through the center of the turtle’s head and shell.

How to Draw a Turtle

I add the shape of the shell and the framework of the limbs.

This reference is not a strict guideline, it’s rather a general outline that helps us to convey the direction of the body.

How to Draw a Turtle

Step 2

I draw the shape of the head with the neck, and then add the feet.

How to Draw a Turtle

Step 3

I refine the shape of the neck. Turtles often have a traverse skinfold that is visible in this foreshortening.

How to Draw a Turtle

I narrow the shape of the head and add the eyes—they are barely visible.

How to Draw a Turtle

Step 4

I construct the limbs.

How to Draw a Turtle

Step 5

To complete the feet, I add the claws.

How to Draw a Turtle

Step 6

I draw a short tail; most species of turtles have it.

How to Draw a Turtle

Step 7

I draw a new rounded shape inside the shell outline, and then divide it into three parts.

How to Draw a Turtle

Step 8

I draw the scutes in the central part of the shell. Allow the elements to be slightly uneven—this makes the drawing more natural.

How to Draw a Turtle

I add the circular row of smaller scutes.

How to Draw a Turtle

Step 9

I create a pattern of scutes. Don’t strive for perfection; let the pattern be slightly irregular and spontaneous.

How to Draw a Turtle

Step 10

I add the jagged pattern of the limbs.

How to Draw a Turtle

Step 11

With the HB pencil, I accentuate the darkest areas of the drawing.

How to Draw a Turtle

Step 12

With the 3B pencil, I increase the contrast, darkening the pattern of the scutes and the gaps between the plates.

How to Draw a Turtle

Step 13

I apply a layer of hatching to the shell, using the 3B pencil. I also work on the textures of the turtle’s limbs, head, and tail.

How to Draw a Turtle

Step 14

With the 3B pencil, I darken the shell, leaving its center relatively light to create an illusion of convexity. I also accentuate the shadows on the limbs and neck.

How to Draw a Turtle

Your Artworks Are Complete

Congratulations—we’ve created two beautiful graphite pencil drawings! I hope you were inspired by the fascinating textures and the world of nature.

Let your creative journey be fruitful and full of joy!

How to Draw a Turtle