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Drawing Scales!

Yet another 'How to Draw Dragons' tutorial by Dee Dreslough. This tutorial and illustrations are public domain. Feel free to use, alter and redistribute as you see fit. But, be sure to mention me, eh? Thankee!

These are two ways to draw scales. The first way is the way I use most often, because it's fastest and I can control scale size. The second is one was recommended to me by an artist at Conjuration, and I'd played with it in the past but it just doesn't work well enough for me... Still, I figured it might be a good starting way to get a nice set of guidelines if you're new to drawing dragon scales.

And now, on to the illustrations. Here's our lovely dragon model, Kreeda. Hi Kreeda!

<<Hello. How's this pose?>>
That's fine. Thanks.

Scale Flow

First, let's go over the direction of flow. Scales flow over a dragon's body in the same way hairs flow over a dog's or cat's. They start at the nose and chest, and flow back toward the tail.

TECHNIQUE 1 - Just Start Scalin'

This is the technique I use. You create your anchor scale at the tip of the nose (and if there's shoulders, along the front of the shoulders, and along the leading edge of the wings). You draw one half-circle loop. From there, you draw two half circles above it, each with a side ending in the center of the anchor scale. (You can see what I mean in those little scale-doodles in the lower left corner.)

From there, you just keep scaling as far as you can go.



Technique 2 - Guidelines.

The idea behind guidelines is to do a crosshatch pattern over the form that creates tiny diamond shapes. These become your scale guides. You round off one side of the diamond to create the appearance of a scale overlap. Now, as you can see from lovely Kreeda here, I'm not too good at drawing guidelines. <<You're telling me. Hurry up and get to the cleanup stage for this techniques. Yech!>> I did okay on the nose, but things get weird along the neck where the arch is.

How it's SUPPOSED to work:

Draw crosshatches. Use them to guide your half-circle shapes. Remove guidelines (Very easy to do with Photoshop, Gimp or PaintshopPro, but hard as blazes to do with pen and pencil.)

Things start out nice on Kreeda here, but then get icky along the shoulder. But, you can see the potential of this technique. I found myself fudging in scales where the hatch lines created a space that was just too large to be believeable as a scale.

Here, the guidelines are removed. There are a few places that need help, but it's a really nice look. If you don't like to just scale-scale-scale, this is a good way to tackle the problem.

Alternate uses for the hatch technique:

You can select the empty spaces created with the hatchmark and then use an Inner Bevel tool or in the second case, I used Photoshop's Emboss tool. I played around to try to make the hatch mark technique not be so time consuming, but no luck.


Obviously, this tutorial needs some work..but the basics are here.

I think it's better that I toss up the info rather than having it sit on my hard drive for a year and a half before I think it's good enough to post. (Like I did with the drawing a dragon in flight tutorial. :) )

- Dee (dee@dreslough.com)

All art and text (c) 1996-2004 Dee Dreslough unless otherwise noted.
Please read and understand my Terms of Use for the artwork.