How to Draw a Majestic Wolf

Sketched drawing of a wolf

Michael Hames 

Learn how to create this stunning wolf drawing by following the step-by-step lesson from renowned artist Michael Hames.

While the final drawing is very sophisticated, Hames makes it achievable by breaking the process down into intuitive steps. He begins by showing you how to construct the geometry of the wolf's face, then gradually builds the tone and detail to create a full-tone graphite pencil drawing.

In the process, Hames uses a textured paint surface and keeps the construction and sketch marks to give the drawing a great deal of life. Follow his lead and your wolf drawing will spring off the surface instead of being stiff and lifeless.

While we all want to dive into drawing the contours and fur, your drawing will be much better if you take your time with the less romantic construction stage in the initial steps. This gives you a solid and accurate framework to build on and is critical to the success of the final drawing. Remember, don't rush just to get into the detail.

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Supplies Needed

Hand holding graphite pencil setting on paper


Flavio Coelho/Getty Images

You can use Hames’ example as a reference or find your own wolf photo online.

As far as supplies go, you will need a set of graphite pencils, an eraser, and a drawing surface. It's also helpful to have a small piece of 80 grit sandpaper and a paper towel available.

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Preparation and Initial Construction

Establishing the structure of the wolf drawing. Click picture to see the full-sized image

M. Hames

Before you begin, you'll need the right ground on paper, board, or canvas. The "ground" is another name for the support or surface for the drawing.

A mat board, which is also called illustration board, was used for the sample. Hot pressed is the best illustration board available for drawing in graphite pencil.

Another good ground option is a thin plywood panel with two coats of latex paint applied with a brush or roller. Sand this lightly before you start. Otherwise, a good quality drawing paper or hot-pressed watercolor paper will do.

Begin With Geometric Shapes

To begin drawing the wolf, we need to establish the geometry of the form. Study the wolf's face and break down the form into its most basic shapes.

Use lines to center and properly space all of the major elements, including the eyes, nose, ears, head, and neck. Draw lightly and erase nothing.

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Refining the Face's Geometry

Developing the geometry of the wolf's face. Click picture to see the full-sized image

M Hames

At this stage, we continue to refine the geometry of the wolf's face. Look for important changes of plane and areas of tone, outlining them with simple, light marks.

Also, add definition and shape to further outline the wolf's ears, eyes, and nose.

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Shading With Powdered Graphite

wolf drawing, shading

M Hames

The next step is to apply tone using powdered graphite. You can make your own powdered graphite using an 8B graphite stick and 80 grit sandpaper.

The powdered graphite is applied with a paper towel. Two tones are applied right on top of the sketch: black on the nose and markings and a mid-tone over much of the rest.

This mid-tone accents the shadows and carries the textures and highlights which will be applied later with selective erasing. When placing the mid-tone, take care to leave some white from the paper. This will represent the broad strokes of highlights and white fur.

You should still be able to see much of the original sketch.

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Begin Drawing the Wolf's Fur

drawing the wolf's fur

M Hames

The next step is to draw the wolf's fur. Using a soft pencil (6B or softer), lay in the dark details for the eyes and nose.

With lighter strokes, indicate the direction in which the fur lays around the wolf's face. Using a kneaded rubber eraser, pick out some of the highlights around the face in the same direction as your pencil strokes.

If your initial background seems a little dark, pull some of that out with an eraser as well. You can also remove a few of the original sketch lines.

Using the paper towel and graphite, continue to darken some the shadow areas on the right side of the wolf's muzzle and face. This is also a good stage to darken his facial markings.

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Adding Details to Your Wolf

developing detail in the wolf's fur

M Hames

It is now time to develop some of the details. Do so by darkening the facial markings and the dark fur around the wolf's eyes and ears. Use an 8b pencil with short strokes in the direction of the fur growth. For example, on the wolf's ears, you can see short outward strokes.

The fur texture along the right side of the face is developed at the same time. Notice the way the direction of the fur changes from the face to the ruff.

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The Finished Wolf Drawing

draw a wolf - competed wolf drawing

M Hames

To complete the wolf drawing, add some highlights and whiskers. Using an eraser stick refill (I like a product called Tuff Stuff, manufactured by Sanford in the U.S.), pick out the highlights in the wolf's fur, again working directionally.

Finally, with light strokes, and the whiskers. There we have it, a finished, full-tone graphite drawing of a majestic wolf.