How to Draw Wings in 4 Steps With Photoshop

For birds and any flying animal, learning how to draw wings is essential. One key element to know is that wings have different ways to be drawn depending if the audience is looking from above or below. This bird wings drawing will show the difference.

I like to group wings into four main categories based on texture from these common animals: wings from a bird, a bat, a butterfly, and a dragonfly. The wings from bird are the most popular as these give a very heavenly feel to it.

On the flip side, bat wings have an entire different feel that is used more for dragons or demonic creatures. Then, there are butterfly wings which are very beautiful to draw while dragonfly wings offer a challenge in creating transparency.

Out of all these categories, insect ones are easy in that both sides will look identical when looking from above or below. However, bird wings and bat wings will look different in each view due to the curved nature of the wings. This guide aims at showing this curvature through drawing a bird's wing.

How to draw wings: sketch lines

 Aside from the arm bend, the wing can be divided into three main sections. The drawing will have the wing drawn from above as well as below. While the differences are minimal, do take note on the feathers overlapping.

The primary feathers are the most visually noticeable. On the underside, there is a sudden flare in width in the middle of the primary feathers. On the overhead view, this is not shown due to the overlapping feathers. For smaller feathers, draw lines from the bend point.

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In terms of numbers, try to draw about 10 or more. It's best to think of these as 'fingers' with two or three feathers attached to each protrusion point. This is the same for the secondary feathers that will follow right after the bend.

The idea here is to sketch feather lines that originate mostly from the bend for the first half of the wing. For the second half of the wing containing secondary feathers, draw lines that are parallel so it joins up with the main body of the bird.

How to draw wings: feather smudges

All those lines from the previous step can be messy to organize. Luckily, this can be easily fixed with the smudge brush. The idea is to use 100% maximum pressure to pull colors to form individual feathers. It is a very simple step to do.

For instance, a chalk brush head can pull a square area. Pulling it in a direction will create a streak of value depending on what it can pick up. I use this to pull the primary and secondary feathers out from the sketch. It can get a bit difficult when pulling smaller feathers, though.

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Similarly, I can use the smudge tool to pull empty pixels into the drawing. Doing so will 'erase' into the drawing without actually switching to the eraser tool. This is a very quick way to generate the outline of the entire wing with just a few careful controlled strokes of one tool.

Smaller feathers are not pulled in a straight line. Instead, I use a smaller version of the chalk head to create curves that are aligned to the sketch lines. The smaller chalk brush head is also used to pull division lines between each feather.

How to draw wings: detailing anatomy

Learning how to draw wings will require filling in the anatomy. Instead of knowing every little bit, there are important regions to detail. The first layer that contains the smaller feather on the arm part of the wing is the marginal coverts. The flaring out part is called the alula.

On the middle section, the feathers on the arm are called secondary coverts while the feathers protruding from the bend is called the primary coverts. Of course, the final layer is what I have drawn initially: the primary and secondary feathers.

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The under wing is shaped almost identical to the top. Again, be careful of the overlapping primary feathers as the shape is slightly different. Beyond that, I continue to work on isolating each individual feather. A good idea is to lock the layer down so any drawing lines don't spill out and ruin the outline.

Another trick I like to use is using a warp tool. From the square selection, I use this tool to 'move' entire sections of the concaved area slightly up. This will allow me to quickly alter the shape slightly without redrawing the details.

How to draw wings: patterns and realism

With most of the feathers done, the last few parts will be deciding on how to finish off the drawing. Ideally, a light source is a great way to bring it to life. This can be done with a round soft brush. The best way is to lock the layer down and glaze over it with this brush type.

Remember the wing's curvature. If I am drawing the wing from above, I would lighten the central section of the wing to elevate that particular section. On other other side, I would darken the same section to create a recessed look.

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Finally, I would glaze out the outline to make the wing fit with the background color. An alternative non-destructive method would be to use a clipping mask to draw in the lighting. In fact, this tool is used for adding patterns on the wing.

On another layer, I draw in random bands on the wing. Then, I change that layer into a clipping mask that conforms to the wing layer underneath. Since it's a clipping mask, I have full control to adjust opacity and to test patterns on the fly.

The final step would be to make the feathers stick out a little bit more. The best way would be to use the smudge tool once more. This time, set it to the smallest brush and start pulling edges of the feathers to give it a bit more detail.

Some sharpening tools can further bring out the feathers. Aside from that, I continue to work on any fine details. That pretty much covers my demonstration on how to draw wings. I hope the tips here will help everyone out with drawing this amazing subject as it did for me.