How to Draw an Ostrich in 4 Steps With Photoshop

This is my documentation on how to draw an ostrich in a way that is both simple and doable. The importance of this bird has its roots in many cultures. Thus, an ostrich drawing to way to showcase its popularity to an audience interested in this bird.

From many cultures old or new, ostriches were farmed for its feathers, its eggs for water containers or jewelry, its skin for leather, and its meat for sustenance. In Africa, ostriches are even used for racing. Being the largest bird also helps with its popularity.

As for learning how to draw an ostrich, there are many textures that needs to be considered. The feathers alone are different from that of any other birds in that it's almost fur like in detail. There is also the bare skin exposed on the long neck and thighs.

It takes a bit of studying and effort to learn the body structure of an ostrich. How can all these different textures be drawn properly? Luckily, there are ways to break it down so that drawing an ostrich is manageable. Here is how I did it.

How to draw an ostrich: measuring it

I always start off my drawing with a simple gesture sketch. When learning how to draw an ostrich, it is important that this sketch is done first to check for proportions. For ostriches, the neck is the major measuring focus.

The length of the neck, more or less, has the same ratio to the body and the legs. The wings are almost as long as the rest of the body. I drew an oval for that. Besides that, I quickly sketch in a bushy tail to finish off the overall form.

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I did the initial drawing in two layers. The first layer contains the rough sketch, where the second layer is filled in with a neutral color to create a solid object. Once that is done, I merge the layers together to get it ready for shading.

As for the shading, nothing too complicated just yet. With a chalk brush and the entire layer locked down, I block in some shaded areas focusing on separating the wings and legs from the rest of the body. Again, it's very rough as the goal here is to give it some weight.

How to draw an ostrich: smudging it

So far, the drawing looks like a mess. This is where I will clean up the sketch lines where one of the best method is to smudge it around. I use a chalk brush head for this step as it will allow me to make more textures based on how hard I smudge.

Immediately, the gesture lines can become feathers or muscle mass depending on the size of the smudge brush heads being used. Any further textures can be blocked in to further create muscle tone or feathery patches.

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In tandem with smudging, I also begin to erase parts of the object to slim down and capture the bird better. It's hard to predict just how accurate the outline can be at the end if it's not done as I go along. Once satisfied with the result, however, the next step would be to give the ostrich more details.

I usually lock down the layer's shape so I don't accidentally spill strokes outside of the object. Things to look for: a sharp beak with a saggy chin, suggesting only two toes in proper perspective, ball joints and muscle tone in the legs, and general large patches of feathers.

How to draw an ostrich: the feathers

I finish off the muscle details on the neck with a chalk brush before starting out on the feathers.. Ideally, I have to imagine feathers on the body as a series of layers. Ironically, the best method to drawing the feathers would be to hard smudge it in with a small brush head.

All hard smudging means is that I am using 100% pressure on the small smudge brush to pull colors around. Doing it in small circular motions will create a lot of small feathers easily. While this step is tedious, it is necessary.

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The feathers found on the wings and tail are a bit different. There are large primary feathers that will need to be defined. I still use the smudge tool for this part. The only difference is that the brush head is just a bit larger to create flat surfaces in the shape of large feathers.

At the same time, I am locking and unlocking the layer as I go. That means the outline is further refined as colors are pushed and pulled in. This method is also very helpful for detailing the toes without using the eraser tool.

How to draw an ostrich: black patterns

A female ostrich can be done in the previous step as there are no black and white patterns. However, a male ostrich will require a bit more effort. On a new layer that I changed into a clipping mask, I start drawing in the large black area covering the body.

This time, though, I will use a splatter brush head to create fine lines of feathers with one stroke. While it is tempting to go over the entire drawing at once, I still take time to draw the feathers properly in that I follow the direction of the feathers through circular strokes.

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The tips of the wings and the tail are done similarly. The challenge here would be to transition between the black and white feathers. This is made easier with the clipping mask. Since the clipping mask is a layer in itself on top of the original drawing, I do not have to worry about damaging it.

Basically, all I am doing is carefully pull some white and black lines from the feathers sparingly to 'crisscross' the patterns. After that, I create a new layer and start to dab in the extra fuzzy feathers found on the neck.

Once all of these are done, I draw in light and shadows is to do it on a different layer (preferably with another clipping mask) using a large round brush. That way, I can edit and adjust the angle to which the light source in showing on the ostrich.

An alternative method I could use for shading are the dodge and burn tools. These tools should bring out or darken colors without warping the actual textures. Other than this, the rest involves adjusting the contrast to show the white and black values better.