• Kirsty Partridge

How to Draw Realistic Animals with Pastels

This blog will be a simple, step-by-step walk through of how I drew a red panda with pastels as it received so much love on Instagram!


When I draw animals, I like to start with the background. I like to draw it as simplistic as possible and even out-of-focus – this means the main focus is on the animal itself. Include as little detail as you can to get that really fuzzy look.



My reference photo had a few greens and brown and blue, so I messily applied them with pencils and then blended it out with my fingers. Pastels are really good at this! The key to a soft, out-of-focus background is layers; more layers equals easier blending out as there is more pastel on the paper.


Finish off the background with a few highlights – another reason why pastels are so great, just layer the highlights on top and smudge them in. You can’t do this with other mediums like color pencils so enjoy it!


Moving on to the panda itself, I start by using a kneaded eraser on my sketch outline. You don’t want to see your grey outlines peeping through your pastels. Then I do a base layer of pencil throughout; just block in the main colors for the fur and don’t worry about the details just yet.


Try and create a good contrast in your piece. I’ve got some really light areas but also dark shadows. Being messy is fine because you can blend these all together once you’ve finished your base layer, which I find good fun. Use some lovely pink and red tones for the tongue as well.



Then comes the really fun part – adding detail! This is what makes your piece look realistic. Really focus on what direction the fur is going in and how long it is, as this changes in each section of the panda’s face. Extra tip: keep your pencils sharp to make the fine details easier to draw.


I use all of the colors from the base layer to add detail, so try not to use just one color. I prefer to start with cream and do the highlighted fur first and work from light to dark. If you need to soften anything up, you can just go over it with your finger. Layering on top of the blocked in colors really does help with the realism.


Take care to pay attention to the eyes; are there any highlights in there? Are there any shadows underneath the eyes? If the eyes don’t look right, then the animal won’t look very realistic. Paying attention to all areas of the animal from face to body to tongue really will help with the detail and realism.


One of my favorite things to draw is the whiskers and, as you can see, I simply used a white pastel to go over the black fur and it showed up incredibly well.






Finally, don’t forget the log! Just block it in, blend it out and then build up layers like everything else in the drawing. This is so important in every aspect of pastel work. Don’t feel limited with pastels, light can go over dark and vice versa unlike other mediums, so enjoy!



Here is the final drawing;



If you would like to learn more on how to draw realistic animals, then why don't you check out my online courses!


If you would like to see it drawn in action then have a look at the video.



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