Cartoon Swan Drawing in 4 Steps With Photoshop

A cartoon swan drawing is an easy and fun project to try. Although there are many ways and styles to create a swan cartoon, this guide focuses on general tips and ideas a creating a cute version of this beautiful white bird.

The most recognizable pose that a swan has is when it it just floating in the water. In this position, all the artist needs to concentrate is on the upper half of the bird. That means there's no need to draw the feet. The downside is that water will need to be suggested.

A swan is already quite easy to draw own its own. However, for a cuter look, certain proportions will need to be emphasized. A swan will have a dilemma where it's not always possible to have a big head since a noticeable feature is the long neck. Having a large head will make it look off balanced.

Despite that, it is still possible to put in a large head. It just needs to be balanced by a more round and short body. At the same time, the neck needs to be thickened up a bit. When ready to start, open up a new canvas in Photoshop.

Sketching the cartoon swan drawing

There are some simple shapes that needs to be drawn first. The head will need to be round, a curved triangle for the long beak, a circle for the body, and another curved triangle for the tail. Notice that there are a lot of curves instead of hard angles for every shape.

As mentioned, when deforming the swan, thicken up the neck to support the increased head size. For birds like a swan, a ratio of 1:3, where the head is about a third as large as the body is a good rule of thumb.

cartoon swan drawing step 1 from cgattic.ca

Continue adding in the features of the sketch like the eyes and placeholders for the feathers in the wings. Even though the bottom half is not drawn, just a hint of where the hind legs are will help with creating the right proportions.

Aim to do at least some clean up at this stage as well. This will make it easier to complete the line drawing since each contour line is more defined. Hence, spend some time on this step as the tone and pace of the drawing is set here.

Cleaning up the cartoon swan drawing

A cute cartoon drawing may have more than one use. Sometimes, even just a clean outline is used. Logos are good examples of where only the line art is more than enough. Considering that a swan is mostly white anyway, it makes it that much more important that the line art is done properly.

To make use of the line art, aim to have the lines drawn to be thick, connect with other parts of the body in a continuous method, and have a plan to fill it in with textures and colors. Therefore, make sure that the line drawing is drawn and contained in one layer.

cartoon swan drawing step 2 from cgattic.ca

The details can be traced out from the initial sketch with ether the regular brush or the Photoshop pen tool. The latter is harder to use but will give a very clean outline. The majority of the effort should be on the head and the wings.

How much details to include in the wings will be up to the artist. In this example, the swan is flaring the wings a bit, where there is more emphasis on the individual feathers. While water is added, this is done on a different layer as to not disturb the swan line art.

Coloring the cartoon swan drawing

If the line art is not enough for the intended use of the cartoon swan drawing, then adding details will surely help. Having said that, with the amount of white a swan has, coloring it seems redundant. On the contrary, there is still some opportunities to add textures.

On a separate layer, fill in the line drawing with the following colors: white, orange, and grey. The bits of white are actually for the eyes. The orange is obviously for the beak, and the grey is used for the remainder of the body.

cartoon swan drawing step 3 from cgattic.ca

The method I use to fill in the drawing will be to reference the line art layer. With that layer selected, I use the magic wand tool to lasso an isolated area. Then, I go back to the layer with the flat colors and fill it in with the appropriate color for that region of the drawing.

For fun, I added a pink circle where the cheeks are to make the swan blush. This is nothing more than a whimsical approach to spicing up the drawing. Now that the major base colors are established, it's time to add in the details.

Shading the cartoon swan drawing

Before beginning any attempt at coloring, lock the layer down to confine the colors to the swan shape. When ready, use the chalk brush head and start blocking in large areas using white. The purpose is to draw where the light will hit.

The lightest areas will be on the top of the head, the back, the upper part of the wings, and the ends of the tail. If done properly, the shadows will automatically be created since this is colored on top of the flat base color.

cartoon swan drawing step 4 from cgattic.ca

The 'surface blur' filter is excellent to blend in uneven color. This special filter keeps and highlights the differences in color boundaries. Therefore, it most of the details while smoothing out colors all around it to give it an almost watercolor bleed effect.

For the water, there are a few different methods to draw it. I like to use a gradient from blue to white. It's simple but effective to just get the suggestion of a quick pond down. Any ripples are created on another layer with white using a solid brush. The ripples will curve with the black lines.

Enhancements in color contrasts can be added in with Photoshop's adjustment layers. Look for the 'contrast/brightness' option, adjust it, and then move it to the topmost level to affect the entire drawing on a global scale.

Even though this cartoon swan drawing was done in Photoshop, other drawing software will have something similar. Just remember that at the end of the day, these are just tools used to enhance an existing drawing. It still takes knowledge and personal skill to get there!