Realistic Buffalo Drawing in 4 Steps With Photoshop

A realistic buffalo drawing can present its own set of challenges. Since the overall shape of the American bison is different from all the other types of buffalo, this is an opportunity to see how well you can transition from hairy textures to skin textures as only half of the animal has fur.

Once plentiful, the American buffalo has had a troubled history with early human settlement that caused them to become almost extinct. Luckily, attempts to revive this animal have been successful. Nowadays, there have been attempt to domesticate the animal human consumption with limited success.

To me, the buffalo is an animal that represents a series of rich history in cultural conflict that I studied when I was young. It gave a very strong impression that still lingers this day regarding how people behaved poorly not only to each other, but to the environment around them.

At that time, one of my assignments was to draw a buffalo for my study group. However, I had difficulties. I couldn't figure out how to make realistic fur on the front half of the body while retaining the muscle structures of the lower half. Perhaps I can succeed this time now that I am older.

Sketching the realistic buffalo drawing

Like all drawings, I start the realistic buffalo drawing with a gesture sketch that familiarizes the important shapes of the animal. I ask myself a few key questions before I begin. The most important being how many heads or limbs to measure a section of the body

Other questions worth considering are: what is the animal's natural position? What are the basic geometric shapes that make up this section of the body? What are the ranges of motions of the bones and how are the bones positioned inside the body to give it its unique shape?

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As I continue to draw, I considered three types of texture in your initial sketch: the horns, the hair, and the skin of the body. How will I draw these textures out? As long as I keep actively thinking about the overall form, I can reason through the entire drawing.

After the quick sketch is done, I create a new layer and filled in the drawing. Once that is done, I then merge the layers together so you get a solid shape to work with. At this point in time, I start blocking in large pieces of muscles or fur to help see the form better.

Smudging the realistic buffalo drawing

For the details, I use different sized chalk brushes. First, use a large chalk brush to block out any large details like the shape of the head, the limbs, and the belly region. Then, I switch over to your smudge to smudge the sketch lines and rough forms to create muscles and areas of fur.

When done, I switch back to the paint brush and begin to work on the little details of fur and hair. The idea is to draw where light can possibly hit rather than focusing where the shadows are. This is also a good opportunity to try different brush heads to see if certain ones will give me a better fur effect.

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Sometimes, I may have to repaint certain areas more than once as I adjust to show the proper features of the animal. For example, the horns of of the realistic buffalo drawing will have to be repainted as you work on the fur around the face.

As I constantly switch between different digital tools, I always make sure there is a clear distinction on where the furry parts are in comparison to where the bare skins are. Once I am done with this step, it's time to detail in the rest of the animal.

Detailing the realistic buffalo drawing

I don't draw in the details using a drawing brush. Instead, ironically, I continue to use the smudge tool. The trick with this is to have the smudge tool set on maximum pressure. This allows very harsh spreading of existing colors very quickly.

I use this technique to detail out the eyes, nostrils, and mouth. Since I am using a very small brush head, I can detail out these facial features with just a few strokes rather than switching hues all the time to draw and redraw the topography using different color hues.

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This method is also very good for drawing the hooves. In just a few strokes, I can spread the hooves from an existing band of color using a larger chalk brush head. Even some of the body textures can be quickly drawn in with this method.

As for the details, work on the facial features by suggesting areas of light such as the glare in the pupils, the nose reflections, and the the outline of the horns. For larger areas, I continue to use the chalk brush to gently suggestion and refine the muscle tones.

Shading the realistic buffalo drawing

Even with the details in place, the buffalo is still a bit flat. To fix that, you will need to finish it off by painting where the key light source will hit. The great thing about the entire process is that I can decide where the light source is even at this stage of the illustration.

So, to paint the light, I start up a new layer and turn it into a clipping mask as I am using Photoshop. From there, I changed the opacity of the new layer to 50% and start glazing in large areas where the light will hit with a large smooth round brush.

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Assuming that I don't have Photoshop, then all I would do different is to use the dodge and burn tools to glaze in this area of light. Again, this can be done on a separate layer or it can be done directly on the realistic buffalo drawing itself.

A third method would be to duplicate the realistic buffalo drawing onto a new layer, preserve the transparency of the duplicated layer, draw in the needed shadows and light, and then adjust the opacity of this layer to reveal the buffalo underneath.

Anyway, once I have everything is place, I do a quick glance over to see if there are any details that could be improved or missing. Based on the final results, this lesson definitely developed some important skill sets for transitioning different textures on the same object.

At the end of the day though, every artist will have his or own unique way of drawing textures. This method works very well for me work flow as it reduces the amount of tool switching. Regardless, I hope you enjoyed following along as I had fun drawing it.