How to draw a feather
How to draw a feather

How to draw a feather


Here's a step by step guide to drawing a feather.

The one attached here is a flight feather from the wing of an American Blue Jay - 
Cyanocitta cristata. But most feathers have the same basic structure so if you follow these steps then you should be able to draw any sort of feather.

1. The central part of a feather is called the Rachis, all feathers have one so draw this first... remember that feathers are not straight or flat so it's good to give it a slight curve... different feathers will have a different amount of curve depending on where they are and what job they do.

2. Draw the outline of your feather... this main part on a flight feather is what's known as the Vane... do this outline as faintly as possible because on a real feather, the outline wouldn't really be there, it's just a guide for you to get to the next stage of your drawing.

3. Time to start filling in the Vane. The Vane of a feather isn't one solid piece, it's made up of hundreds of little filaments called barbs which hook together to give the feather it's structure. Like the rest of the feather, they're not straight lines either. Imagine them as really stretched out S shapes, one end joining to the Rachis and the other ending on the outline. All combined together, they'll give the feather it's curved shape.

4. Fill in the rest of the barbs all the way to the tip, see how they get shorter and the angle of them gets steeper as they get towards the end of the feather.

5. Here's where you can refine the shape of the feather a bit... perhaps it's been bashed about a bit and has some gaps in it... not all feathers are going to be perfect after all.

6. Colour time. lightly map out where the different colours are going to go... do it as gently as possible. Then put in the main colour for the feather so in this case, a browny grey, then the blues. Start light like I have and then build the colour up!

So now it's time to have a go at drawing and colouring your own. I've started you off but you don't have to use mine, you can do yours completely from scratch if you like, maybe you want to a long tail feather like one from a Pheasant or some soft downy ones?

Things to pay attention to.
- Remember feathers are neither perfectly straight nor totally flat, they curve towards the tip and the barbs are also curved. 
- When it comes to colouring it... remember that none of the colours are just one colour, the e.g. the blue parts are actually a whole range of blues, greens, purples and blacks which is what gives them their iridescent colouring so have a practise mixing those colours on a separate sheet of paper before adding them to your own drawing.
- The colours are going to be darker towards the middle of the feather and lighter towards the edges.
- And lastly, with the colour... start light and then build it up. If you go too dark too early you won't be able to get the shiny effect you're looking for.

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To learn more about this species and hundreds of others, check out my books Hidden Planet and Sensational Butterflies, available from Ladybird books.
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