Realistic Dove Drawing in 4 Steps With Photoshop

This section details my realistic dove drawing experiences. The bird seems deceptively easy at first but really makes me think very carefully about the light colors needed for this animal. In a way, it makes learning how to draw a dove that much harder.

In essence, doves are smaller versions of pigeons. These birds have a wide variety of colors ranging from the most vivid to the most plain. One of the most popular types is the albino dove. It has been depicted in many times in Western and European culture.

As history goes, the dove and the olive branch were a symbol of peace that was made popular after World War II. However, the concept itself goes back even further to early Christians who used the dove and olive branch to symbolize baptism.

Having roots in peace and religion means there will be a lot of opportunity to draw this type of bird to be used some time in the future. Rather than a simple cartoon, though, I want to go beyond just a simple sketch, I am challenging myself to learn how to draw a dove as realistic as possible.

Sketching the realistic dove drawing

A realistic dove drawing perched on a branch doesn't have the same impact as one that is in flight. In my sketch, I opted to draw a dove in motion. This seems to be the most popular way to depict this bird and distinguish it from other symbolic motifs.

The wings must be spread out and in a way that I can keep track of how the feathers overlap one another. To do this, I sketch out a circular grid that intersects the each overlapping sections of the wing with a pivot point where all the feathers fan out. This gets extended to the other wing.

realistic dove drawing step 1 from

The tail is done with the same method. Again, this is to help me keep track of how I will draw in the feathers at a later step. Other than that, I finish off the sketch by adding the feet in a foreshortened manner and a sharp beak.

Once the sketch has been completed, I would still need to fill out the sketch. Using another layer, I fill in the shape of the dove underneath with simple suggestions of light and dark colors to give the bird some weight like the wing arms and the body region.

Smudging the realistic dove drawing

This is where I turn the sketch lines into something meaningful. Using the smudge tool, I gentle smudge the sketch lines to blend it in. I smudge in a relatively straight manner to capture the primary feathers around the wings and and tail sections.

The body is smudged our roughly in a circular path. After this, I change the brush shape to a much smaller head and increase the pressure sensitivity of my smudge tool to its maximum. The reason is I will be using hard smudging to detail out the head and the toes.

realistic dove drawing step 2 from

Using existing color textures, I begin hard smudging out the intricate details found in the head. Any division lines like the area between the body and the wings are also smudged out in this fashion. The feet are 'drawn' out in this step.

If there are areas that require drawing back some of the details or if the smudged areas are too detailed, then I would switch back to using a large the chalk brush to block in that area once more. Over the course of a few minutes, the form of the dove is slowly beginning to take shape.

Detailing the realistic dove drawing

Now that I have the general shape drawn out, it's time to refine the outline. Since the wings are a bit blurred out, I want to define each individual feather. Still using the smudge tool on max pressure, I begin smudging inwards towards the drawing to clear some of the blurriness around the edges.

If I find that I smudge too much, I would then switch to a smaller brush head and begin smudging the colors back out. In short, I repeat this step over and over again until I have the entire silhouette done. This finalized shape will then be used to add in more details.

realistic dove drawing step 3 from

But first, to prevent any more accidents due to detailing, I lock the entire layer down so I can't accidentally smudge outside its boundaries. With that said, I continue to use whatever tools are available and chisel out the necessary details ever so carefully.

The key details on the beak is a slight overgrowth of skin that signifies the nostrils. It can be simple but easy to miss. For the feet, there are slight scales that will need to be addressed by smudging in small lines that contour around the toes. It's these little suggestions that add up.

Shading the realistic dove drawing

As suggested earlier, sometimes, showing all the details of a white bird can be difficult. Just a slight color change can either hide too much of the detail or bring it out in a way that doesn't reflect the color of the subject being drawn.

For my dove, I would use primarily the dodge tool. This tool is excellent for brightening up the entire drawing but in a way in which I can control the light. Between the three settings of highlights, mid tones, and shadow, I chose shadow to brighten up the darker hues.

realistic dove drawing step 4 from

The brush head that I use is still the chalk brush. In conjunction with the dodge tool, I can quickly go over the wings a final time to get more fine detail of the feathers that look natural without having to do extra work. If I need to match the white color to the background, I would use a round brush head instead.

To add more contrast, I switched over to the burn tool to work on the beak, eyes, and toes. For me, I will have to critically think about the slight color differences so it blends into the rest of the bird without it being completely overpowering.

On the whole, this realistic dove drawing is a way to practice very fine light to dark gradients. Unfortunately, I did get a little lazy and quickly sketch in a olive branch on a different layer. Notice there is very little detail and light associated with the branch as a result.

This is fine as well because I don't want the details of the olive branch to over shadow the details on the bird itself. Overall, I am quite pleased in my take on how to draw a dove and how the drawing came out. The colors are subtle and yet, the details remain.