How to Draw a Snake in 4 Steps With Photoshop

In these simple steps, you will learn how to draw a snake using texturing techniques to break down and simplify the process of creating scale textures to form a realistic snake drawing. Like most complicated drawings, in order to draw a snake properly, start with a gesture sketch to outline its form.

We will be using a lot of new and existing digital art tools to help us out. These tools will serve as optional methods of getting the same thing done. So don't worry if you don't have certain tools in your specific drawing software because you can always do it manually.

As an artist, the ability to use simple tools is an excellent skill to develop because you are developing a critical thinking ability that allows you to adapt to any drawing requirements. The goal is to become a very flexible to meet future artistic challenges that lies ahead of you.

It's all about taking your core drawing techniques, combining with your digital art tools to create your realistic snake drawing. Just follow along and you will see just how easy it is.

How to draw a snake: the gesture sketch

The first step in creating a realistic snake drawing is to work on a gesture sketch. The anatomy of a snake is simple enough that you can quickly sketch one out. Starting with the head, create a 'backbone' of how you want the main body to curl around.

From there, create a series of circles around this backbone. This will serve the purpose of making sure that the round body of the snake is in perfect perspective as it bends all over the place.

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You will also discover that the circles will form almost a skeletal system because it looks like it has ribs. The only consideration would be the head. Since the head is more pointed, you may have to lighten the gesture lines a bit to show off some of the facial features.

So long as you pay attention to how the body width differs and how the scale of the circles changes perspective over each section of the snake drawing, you will get a good representation of the animal. The next step would be to use this backbone to create the rest of the animal.

How to draw a snake: filling in the form

The second step is to turn your simple gesture snake drawing into a solid object that you can work with. This will give you a neutral color value, as well as a solid object, for you to apply details like the scales as well as applying on simple shading.

Create a new layer underneath your gesture drawing and fill it in the shape of the snake. Then, preserve the transparency of that layer (so you don't accidentally paint outside of the layer boundaries) to work on light and shadows.

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From there, switch to a smaller brush and draw diagonal crisscross patterns on the entire drawing. This will be your marker for the scales. On that solid layer, carefully shade in the underbelly while lightening the top of the animal to give it some weight.

Once you are done with that, go ahead and merge the layers together. At this point, you should have a nice solid snake object. Clean up any 'holes' that you may have in your snake object and we will move onto the next step.

How to draw a snake: adding details

Before we add details, you may also notice that there are edges of the body that don't go very well together when the snake overlaps itself during a curled position. To get these edges out, use your lasso tool to confine an edge and repaint the body of the snake with a lighter color to give it a nice smooth look.

As for the scales, the process outlined in this section of how to draw a snake is going to take some time. You can do it manually or you can use a scatter brush. Set it to scatter on light pressure and scatter it along the diagonals that you did in the previous step.

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If necessary, redraw some of the diagonal lines or the shadows if the scattering settings are too strong. Of course, preserve the transparency of the snake object so you don't accidentally paint outside the boundaries of your snake drawing.

Now that you have the scales and the proper shadows in place, this last step in learning how to draw a snake is to create skin patterns. While this can be done in a variety of ways, the main idea is to blend in patches of dark and light spots within the scaly mesh.

How to draw a snake: skin patterns

If you want to do it manually, just paint a random pattern on a separate layer, cut it into the shape of the snake, and then merge it to your snake drawing. If you are using Photoshop or any equivalent program that has filters, you can create some nice skin textures.

From the filters on a new layer, go to Render > Clouds. Then, Pixelate > Crystallize. From there, sharpen the entire layer. You will make a nice scaly skin textures. Once you are done that, change layer's blend mode to 'multiply' and convert it to a clipping mask.

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You will see how your snake textures will magically come to life. You may want to work on additional light and shadows. Just make sure to toggle the 'preserve transparency' option on and off whenever needed to paint inside or outside the confines of the snake drawing.

Finally, finish it off by creating random vertical patterns, while drawing in lights and shadows, to make it look more real. Sometimes, sharpening the textures on a global level can make the scales stand out even more than doing it manually.

Remember, you are a problem solver. This technique is very handy when you need to draw anything that requires textures. All you have to do is integrate the textures and then draw in the right shadows/lighting effects to bring it out.

What other solutions can you discover? There are more than one way to do things. Stay flexible/critically think through your composition and you will go far in the road of becoming a great artist. I hope you enjoyed this lesson on how to draw a snake and I hope you will find solutions that work for you.