Problem: Drawing Antlers is Hard
I love drawing antlers in my sketch notes to frame a quote or concept but, let’s be real, antlers are really hard to draw freehand. I’ve been trying to intentionally practice sketchnote elements I don’t use often because of previous not-great results- and antlers definitely qualify for that category. You may have noticed antlers in previous sketchnotes, but without penciling and erasing a few times, they’ve usually ended up pretty rough:
above: my antlers have been hit or miss, and boring at best, so I decided to practice, which led to the method below.
Solution: Learning to Draw Deer Antlers
A staple of hipster design, I wanted to get better at drawing antlers. If I used a pencil they turn out okay, but if I freestyled them with my sharpie pen (how I take notes in class- no pencils allowed!) sometimes they turned out a hot mess! How to fix? Practice. I’m still using pencils for this work right now, but I’m hoping after a few dozen more penciled versions and I’ll be more proficient at drawing antlers with ink on a first try.
As I was practicing drawing antlers, I realized I was working out a pretty consistent method that might work for other amateur artists as well.
My step by step method for drawing antlers:
This method works equally well for antlers attached to a sketched or doodled deer or deer trophy, or in laurel form as a frame for a quote or words. For moose or elk antlers, follow the same method but in step three use more generous curves.
Step 1: Draw an Oval
For antlers in a laurel wreath shape, start by lightly drawing an oblong circle with a pencil- I’m using a purple felt tip marker to make my instructions stand out. Make the oval slightly taller than it is wide.
Step 2: Draw Offshoots
Still working in pencil, next draw short and widely spaced lines off-shooting the main circle. Add 2 sideways “V’s” at the top to mark the tips of the antlers and add two marks at the bottom to mark the bottom of each antler.
For best results, repeat placements of offshoots on each side. This will create a more symmetrical looking antler rack.
Step 3: Outline the Antlers
3. Next, add an outline. I advise doing the first few in pencil till you get the hang of it, then this step should be done in pen/ink.
Bbegin adding a line around the lines you penciled in step one and two. Follow the contours but make sure your lines are smooth and curved, never sharp angles. To me it’s like my original line was a long uninflated balloon artist’s balloon and I’m drawing the shape of the long balloon slightly inflated. Try to maintain a uniform antler width, with tapering ends.
Step 4: Erase Pencil
If you did step 3 in pencil, go over the outer pencil line with ink and allow ink to dry before erasing all pencil marks. Once erased, you should be left with a clean outline.
Step 5: Practice!
Repeat, repeat, repeat, and play! The older I get, the more I believe the adage “practice makes perfect” applies to art and creative pursuits. The more you practice doodling them in your spare time, on scrap paper, or when you’re loosely paying retention to something else, the better you’ll be at sketching out a beautiful pair of doodled antlers on demand!
Doodles vs Sketches
I consider myself a doodler and above I demonstrated a method for creating cartoonish antlers, but the method works equally well for sketching out the framework for more realistically finished drawings. The image below shows the same method, start to finish, using graphite.
Once you are comfortable with this method, try new things, such as drawing antlers only halfway up the circle to create the rack of a young buck, drawing your oval as a loop, so antlers cross at the bottom, or attaching them to a deer or doodled deer trophy.
You can use multiple shades of grey art markers to add depth and shading to your antlers, as shown below.