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.
Drawing Leaf Laurel Wreaths
Laurel wreaths are (one of) my recent doodling obsessions. Although I’m working my way through Umoto’s Drawing Cute Animal Illustration Book, I keep coming back to laurels in my sketchnotes and on the scrap pages in my notebook that I doodle on when a speaker is reviewing, answering questions, or telling stories.
In my sketchnotes and bullet journal layouts I freehand laurels to fit in the space allotted, but when I’m brainstorming new laurels, like these pages, I generally start by penciling in 6 or 8 evenly spaced, equally sized circles very lightly on my page, then using the lower half of the circle to guide placement and spacing for my laurel wreaths. The pencil marks are easily erased completely after the inked laurels are dry.
Laurels work great in sketchnotes to frame quotes and are also one of my favorite ways to address an envelope.
Laurels can be tough to freehand, but I have a solution, read on for my simple trick.
Easy Trick for Perfect Bullet Journal Laurel Doodles
Laurels are a frequent feature in my sketchnotes, graphic recording, and bullet journal layouts. In my other posts on drawing laurel doodles I outlined ideas for imagining ways to draw this style of frame. In this post I’m going to show you one super-easy trick to generate beautiful laurels time after time, with consistently even and balanced branches. This same method works for drawing antler laurels.
In my pencase I keep this template tucked into a back pocket. If I need to create two identical laurel wreaths or produce a laurel that’s more balanced than chance sometimes creates, I whip this template out and lightly trace around it on my paper before inking in the laurel branches on top of it.
MAKE YOUR OWN by tracing a laurel you like, folding the piece of paper in half down the middle of your design, and cutting the shape out. It tucks neatly into my favorite pen case. The template holds up to use best if you then transfer the shape to a heavier cardstock-type paper.