Realistic Turkey Drawing in 4 Steps With Photoshop

I will have to admit: a realistic turkey drawing is perhaps one of the hardest technical drawings that I have done. In teaching myself how to draw a turkey, I am exercising a lot of patience as the body of the common domesticated turkey is very different from most birds. This is the result of my attempt.

I love turkeys. With the right stuffings, they are very delicious! Aside from the food aspect, turkeys are typically used as the symbolic bird for Thanksgiving holiday. When children learn about this holiday, it is most often that they are required to draw this bird.

I have drawn a simple turkey, along with other traditional Thanksgiving motifs, often in classroom settings when I was younger. At that time, I thought the shape of a turkey was odd as it did not really cater to a typical bird. I had issues understanding what I was drawing.

It wasn't later that I found out that I was only drawing the typical domesticated turkey while normal turkeys do resemble regular birds. Still, this would be a good opportunity to revisit what I had missed in my younger years as an artist.

Sketching a realistic turkey drawing

In my opinion, the biggest difference of a domesticated turkey to regular birds is that it looks like the entire animal is stretching its back like the letter 'U' rather than hunching over. This is more to do with the motif of the turkey flaring up its tail.

Another point of interest is that the wings aren't typically sharp and narrow down into one end. Instead, we see this broad round wing. To complicate it even more, the typical anatomy of feathers are positioned in ways that do not stack well on the wing.

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My challenge is to draw all these intricacies before I can start detailing out turkey. In my sketch, I have an sets of round shapes to indicate the round body as well as wings. Then, I fill it with simple lines in a way to convey the feathers.

The main concept to be aware of here is the arching back. I make sure that the long slender neck gradually takes the shape of the letter 'S' as it transitions to the main body of the animal. Other than that, I finish off my sketch with a flared up tail.

Smudging the realistic turkey drawing

The sketch lines only serve as a guiding post on where I will put in the feathers. With the smudge tool, I gentle smudge the sketch lines in a natural direction. That means I smudge in a circular manner around the body but smudge is a straight line near the primary feathers and tail sections.

At all times, I will still have the initial sketch of my turkey so I don't lose its basic shape. Anyway, after smudging in the sketch lines, I dab in large sections of feather with a chalk brush. The different dark and light hues will be useful later to create individual feathers.

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Still using the smudge tool, I change the pressure sensitivity to 100% while reducing the size. From here, I hard smudge out the head using color hues already present. The small and short bursts of smudges will give the head some texture.

The toes are done in the same manner. Through smudging with high pressure and a small brush in a controlled direction, and entire feet can simply be 'drawn' in. I will continue to use this technique in the next step when working on the feathers itself.

Detailing the realistic turkey drawing

Here is the tedious part of my realistic turkey drawing. Basically, I will be spending a lot of time here singling out individual feathers. My tool of choice is still the smudge brush at 100% pressure. The difference is that I will be using a large a small brush head.

With a smaller brush head, I target my smudge brush on the small feathers first. Just like how I drew in the head, I smudge in the feathers near the chest and the back. The key here is to do semi-circular motions that adhere to the contour of the body.

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On the other hand, as I move towards the larger feathers, I switch to a larger chalk brush and fan out the individual feathers. The separation of each primary feather can be easily done by switching back to the smaller chalk brush and smudging out th division lines between each large feather.

What's good about the smudge tool at max pressure is that you can smudge inwards to 'erase' the outline to further refine and shape the entire body. As always, I will reference my original sketch somewhere on the drawing so I don't get lost in all the overlapping feathers.

Shading the realistic turkey drawing

Shading can be done in a million different ways. Personally, I like to take advance of clipping masks in Photoshop as it allows me to paint shadows on a different layer that still confines itself to the the shape of the turkey.

Otherwise, I would use the dodge and burn tools. These tools are useful for highlighting and darkening hues without too much impact on details so long as there is a clear separation between light and dark colors. In my realistic turkey drawing, used the burn tool around the back region.

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For the head, I used the dodge tool to bring out the natural curvature and separate it from the rest of the darkened body. I also used this tool to create some bands in the primary feathers. Once more, this is a very controlled step because of the small details that needs to be drawn in.

Generally speaking, even after the details are drawn in, I still need to work on an overall light source. This is where clipping masks come in. With a large round brush, I paint in large areas of light around the back and the tail. I do the same thing to the underside with a darker color.

The round brushes can be used in conjunction with the dodge and burn tools if I didn't have the luxury of using clipping masks. It just means I have to be certain that these changes are what I want without any further consideration and changes.

After that, I sharpen the entire drawing by using the sharpen filter. This brings out more of the intricate feathered details. On the whole, it does take some time to complete, but I am happy with how it turned out and am satisfied on correctly knowing how to draw a turkey when compared to my younger days.