Problem: Drawing Antlers is Hard
I love drawing antlers in my bullet journal. They’re perfect for framing quotes or words. But let’s be completely honest: antlers are really hard to draw freehand.
In this post, you’ll learn my 4 step method for learning to consistently draw perfect deer, moose, and elk antlers.
I’ve been trying to practice sketching deer antlers lately. Mostly, because I love how they look and some of my previous attempts on bullet journal pages I (otherwise) loved turned out not-great. Good deer antler drawings are definitely a tough thing to master.
My previous method for drawing these nature-inspired sketches involved a lot of pencil sketching, inking, and then erasing. If I tried to skip penciling, my antlers usually looked pretty rough.
Solution: Figuring out How to Draw Deer Antlers
A staple of 2022 paper design, I wanted to get better at drawing antlers. I found that if I used a pencil, they turn out okay, but if I freestyled them with my favorite pen from my bullet journal supplies, sometimes they turned out a hot mess!
How to fix this problem?
I’m still using pencils for this work right now. However, I’m hoping that after a few dozen more practice pages I’ll get better at drawing deer antler sketches in ink on the 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: Start by Drawing 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.
Begin 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 the 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!
Drawing Doodled Antlers vs Sketching
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 (learn more about using grey art markers tan depth and shading in my how to article).
There’s something about drawing antlers that just feels so satisfying. Maybe it’s the way they visually frame a quote or concept. Whatever the reason, I love drawing antlers in my sketch notes. Of course, antlers are really hard to draw freehand. So, I often use a stencil or template to get the basic shape down. Then, I go in and add the details with a pen or marker. It’s definitely a bit of a time-consuming process, but it’s so worth it when I see the finished product.
Once you have black and white antlers down, you can begin using copic markers to add depth through sading, color, and highlights. If you want to draw more than just the antlers, drawing a dear head below your antler sketch is simple enough. As you can see from my practice illustrations, you don’t have to be a hyper-realistic artist to enjoy sketching. I love my cute cartoon deer that showed up attached to a set of antlers in my journal!