How to get better at drawing canine faces

Since I’ve been writing a book series about winged humanoid canines, I’ve been trying to get better at drawing so I can illustrate the book. It may be hard to learn how to draw, but I am still persistent about it.

Right now, one of the things I’m trying to learn is getting better at drawing canine faces, especially from the front. I am not good at that, but is something I’m trying to get better at. I’ve tried looking at references from real life and animation, but I am not sure if tracing or using references in drawing is better.

It would help to know what’s especially giving you grief - perspective, construction, detail, expression? And what style you are looking for - realistic, stylized, cartoony? And maybe some example of your current work to give you redlines?

The universal way to get better at anything is to practice.

Draw a grid of 1 inch squares on a piece of paper and draw a face in each of them. don’t worry too much about them being ‘good’ just practice what it feels like to draw a face. I was doing some botanical illustration, and I made a point to draw 100 leaves before I worked on my actual project. references are always helpful, tracing can be a useful tool to understand particular aspects of the shape, but generally I would recommend sticking to references.

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My style is stylized and cartoony, sort of like in animation.

I’ve been in touch with Luca Fattore, an animator who worked on the film Balto in the 1990’s. He’s been helpful for me to improve my drawings, especially by showing me his revisions of the face of a canine character I drew.

These are front and profile drawings of a character of mine…

And here are Luca’s revisions of them…

I’ve learned quite a bit from his revisions, though I still struggle drawing canine faces from the front and maintaining consistency between drawings.

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You know someone who worked on Balto? Now I’m officially jealous :wink:

It’s best to start investigating the simplified shapes, planes, and masses that come with a head. Study the real thing and compare with your favorite stylized drawings to recognize where the defining lines should go. Have an eye on what the spatial relation between features is. Having an actual simple 3D model is helpful, especially when it comes to the perspective distortion of e.g. the eyes.


Then you can go with outlining the shape and add defining features. Here the only way to go is to study good examples in the preferred style and draw them over and over again, until you “get it”. Don’t trace, but understand why the lines are there and what they do. Once you got the basic construction, you can add expressions.

Sorry for the bad examples, I am not very good. There are tons of better artists (also with tutorials) on the web but I think I shouldn’t repost them. If you’re interested, I can give you some URLs.


Your drawings look much better than mine!

I’ll take a picture of what I’ve done lately…