How to

SketchBook Original: How to Draw Wings


Angels, demons, dragons, and griffins all possess one common feature – wings that allow them to fly. Drawing wings can be a challenging task, as it requires an understanding of how wings are constructed and how they function. In this tutorial, I will guide you through the process of drawing wings step by step, providing you with the knowledge and techniques needed to create realistic and dynamic winged creatures. So, let’s dive in and explore the fascinating world of winged creatures!

The Anatomy of a Bird Wing

Understanding the anatomy of a bird wing is crucial when drawing wings. A bird’s wing is essentially a specialized arm with feathers attached to it. It shares similarities with a human arm in terms of joints and movement. To simulate the movement of a bird wing, you can even try moving your own arms.

Bird wings require powerful breast muscles, which are attached to a modified version of the sternum called a “keel”. This keel provides support and structure to the wings. Keep this in mind when designing winged creatures.

Feathers on a bird wing may seem complex, but they can be broken down into specific layers. The primary feathers, also known as primaries, are long and stiff. They are attached to the “hand” of the wing and usually comprise about ten feathers. The primary feathers lie one upon each other, creating an overlapping effect.

Secondary feathers, on the other hand, are wider than primaries and do not have slots. They envelop the elbow and turn towards the body at that point. The number of secondary feathers depends on the length of the wing.

Both primaries and secondaries are covered with greater coverts, which are smaller versions of the feathers they cover. Additionally, each side of the wing has its own layer of lesser coverts, resulting in a darker area when the wing is backlit.

Other components of a bird wing include the alula (a cluster of feathers resembling a thumb) and various feathers like scapulars, mantles, and axillaries, which occupy the space between the wing and the body.

How to Draw Bird Wings Step by Step

Now, let’s put theory into practice and learn how to draw bird wings step by step. Below are the key steps to follow:

  1. Start by sketching a line to define the front edge of the wing. Ensure that the hand area is not longer than the level of the primary coverts.

  2. Add the arm and forearm, keeping in mind that they should be roughly equal in length. Remember that a portion of the arm is hidden within the body.

  3. Draw the longest primary feather, typically located in the middle of the wing.

  4. Outline the edge of the primaries, imagining them getting shorter as they approach the tip of the finger.

  5. Sketch the length of the secondaries at the elbow, ensuring that they face the body.

  6. Outline the secondaries, paying attention to the characteristic rounding near the body.

  7. Draw the primary feathers, followed by the secondary feathers. Observe the characteristic rhythm and overlap of the feathers.

  8. Cover the feathers with greater and lesser coverts, and add the alula.

  9. Complete the wing by drawing the actual feathers on top of the base structure. Start from the top and consider the side of the wing you are drawing. Remember that feathers should form neat rows together.

By following these steps, you can successfully draw a bird wing with accuracy and attention to detail.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

When drawing wings, it’s essential to avoid common mistakes that can compromise the realism of your artwork. Here are some common errors to steer clear of:

  • Neglecting the anatomy: Ensure the wing has a proper arm, forearm, and hand structure.
  • Insufficient overlap: Pay attention to the overlapping nature of feathers, especially when they are backlit.
  • Randomly shaped feathers: Feathers should follow a neat row formation, rather than appearing as irregular scales.
  • Inadequate attachment to the body: Ensure that the wings are not simply attached to the body at one point, but rather integrated into the overall structure.
  • Lack of air efficiency: Make sure there are no gaps between the primaries and the body, as this would hinder efficient air movement.

By avoiding these mistakes, you can create wings that are anatomically correct and visually appealing.

How to Animate a Flying Bird and Draw Wings in Motion

Understanding the movement and motion of wings is important when animating flying creatures. To create a realistic animation, it’s essential to comprehend how wings function during flight.

During the downstroke phase, the wings push the air down. This involves straightening the wings and creating a continuous feather surface. As the downstroke continues, the wings move lower, eventually becoming level with the body.

To transition to the upstroke, the wings fold quickly, reducing air resistance. This allows the bird to regain height during the upstroke phase. The folding process occurs sequentially, with the secondaries and then the primaries straightening out as the wings prepare for another downstroke.

Animating wings involves capturing the different positions and movements throughout the flight cycle. By observing and studying these motions, you can create lifelike animations of birds in flight.

The Anatomy of a Bat Wing

In addition to birds, bats are another fascinating flying creature to draw. Bat wings are elongated fingers with a membrane in between. This membrane is also connected to the hind limb, allowing the bat to actively stretch it.

The chest of a bat is similar to a human chest but proportionally larger. Bats flap their wings by moving their whole shoulders, not just their arms. Understanding these unique features of bat wings is crucial when drawing them.

How to Draw Bat Wings Step by Step

Drawing bat wings requires an understanding of their structure and anatomy. Here is a step-by-step guide to drawing bat wings:

  1. Start by outlining the edge of the wing, defining its general position.

  2. Draw a long triangle to represent the arm, which forms the basis of the wing.

  3. Sketch the fingers or elongated phalanges, paying attention to perspective and proportion.

  4. Connect the membrane to the legs, indicating areas of stretching.

  5. Refine the outline of the membrane, including gentle arcs between the fingers.

  6. Add details to the wing, such as texture and fine lines.

By following these steps, you can draw bat wings that accurately portray their unique structure and function.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

When drawing bat wings, be aware of common mistakes that can compromise their realism. Here are some errors to avoid:

  • Lack of membrane between the shoulder and wrist, reducing wing efficiency.
  • Excessive muscle on the arm, hindering air resistance.
  • Deep cuts in the membrane, reducing its surface area.
  • Incorrect placement of fingers, resulting in an unrealistic structure.
  • Thick fingers that make the wing unnecessarily heavy and rigid.

By avoiding these mistakes, you can ensure that your bat wings look anatomically correct and visually compelling.

How to Animate a Flying Bat and Draw Wings in Motion

Animating bat wings involves understanding the unique movements and capabilities of these creatures. While similar to bird wings in some aspects, bat wings offer greater flexibility due to their fingers.

During flight, bat wings flap faster and more continuously compared to birds. Their wings do not go far over the back at the beginning of the downstroke, and the flaps are shallow and quick. This is because bats are not as adept at gliding.

When the wings go down and forward, the fingers rotate down as well, creating more lift. Each phalange moves individually within its limits, allowing for precise control and a dynamic wing movement.

As the wings move up, they fold sequentially, with the upper part of the wing going up while the lower part continues to generate forward thrust. The folding process occurs from the base to the tips of the fingers, allowing the wing to become flat for the next downstroke.

By understanding these movements, you can create convincing animations of bats in flight.


Drawing wings requires a solid understanding of their anatomy and movement. Whether you’re depicting bird wings or bat wings, mastering the techniques outlined in this tutorial will help you create realistic and captivating winged creatures. Remember to practice drawing from real-life references and gradually incorporate your own imaginative designs. With dedication and practice, you’ll be able to draw wings with confidence and skill. So, spread your artistic wings and let your creativity soar!

Alexia Young

Hello and welcome to the world of Alexia. I am a passionate and dedicated artist who loves to create beautiful, mesmerizing art for everyone's walls. I believe in the importance of encouraging people to express their creativity and be happy.

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