How to

How to Draw a Sea Turtle Step by Step

Reptiles have always fascinated artists and aspiring drawers. If you’ve ever wanted to learn how to draw turtles, specifically sea turtles, then you’re in luck! Sea turtles are not only unique creatures but also provide a great opportunity to practice your drawing skills.

As someone who adores turtles, my childhood pet turtle left a lasting impression. I marveled at its slow movements and loved watching it retreat into its shell. Hence, I decided to create this tutorial, combining both my fondness for turtles and my fascination with sea creatures.

By learning how to draw a sea turtle, with its intricate scales, wrinkles, and challenging shell, you’ll gain confidence in drawing other reptiles as well. So, let’s dive right in and discover how to draw a swimming sea turtle step by step!

Use a Reference Photo of a Sea Turtle

To ensure accuracy in your drawing, it’s helpful to have a reference photo of a sea turtle. For this tutorial, I chose a picture of a green sea turtle. You can refer to the step-by-step images and occasionally glance at the reference photo for guidance.

Materials Used for This Drawing

Before we start, let’s gather the materials you’ll need for this drawing. This is the list of materials I personally used, but don’t worry if you don’t have them all. A regular pencil and eraser will do just fine for a start. However, if you’re interested in purchasing these materials, you can find them at your local art store or use the provided links below.

  • 2B and 6B graphite pencils
  • Drawing paper
  • Sheet of folded paper to prevent smudging
  • Kneaded eraser
  • Plastic eraser
  • Dusting brush

Affiliate Disclaimer: The links above are affiliate links. If you make a purchase through one of these links, I will receive a small commission. Learn more here.

How to Draw a Sea Turtle: Video Tutorial

If you prefer a visual guide, you can watch the time-lapse video tutorial below. Watch it once to get an overview of the process, and then watch it again, pausing as needed, to draw along with me.

[Insert Video]

If you’d like a more comprehensive version of this tutorial with detailed explanations, you can access it through the links below the video. Already a member of the Let’s Draw Today Club? Head straight to your courses.

Outline the Sea Turtle’s Head and Shell

To start, we will sketch the initial outline of the sea turtle using basic shapes. Grab a 2B pencil and follow these steps:

  1. Draw an oval shape tilted on its side to represent the head. Make the left side slightly wider than the right, as the turtle’s beak will be on the right side.
  2. Extend two lines from the head to create the turtle’s neck. Keep the lines parallel and connect them with a curved line that follows the curvature of the head.
  3. Now, draw a wavy line for the front part of the shell. Begin by curving it just above the top of the neck and then bending it downward. This longer curve represents the section above the turtle’s flipper.
  4. Continue extending this line towards the left side, curving slightly downwards and then back up to form the lower edge of the turtle’s shell.
  5. Use a temporary horizontal guideline to position the top edge of the shell slightly above the head. Then draw a curved line from the back of the shell to the top and back down towards the neck.
  6. Complete the basic shape of the turtle’s shell and body by drawing another curved line from the bottom of the shell to the base of the turtle’s neck. You now have the foundation of the turtle’s body structure.

Next, we will add the flippers to bring our sea turtle to life.

Outline the Sea Turtle’s Flippers

The flippers of a sea turtle play a significant role in its movement. Follow these steps to outline the flippers of your drawing:

  1. Draw a long, curved shape with a slight bend for the front flipper in the foreground. Angle it towards the back, aligning the tip of the flipper with the rear of the turtle’s shell.
  2. Now, draw the front flipper on the other side of the sea turtle. This flipper should be shorter and wider than the first flipper. Draw a line just below the head to indicate where the flipper is bending.
  3. Sketch the outline of the hind flipper, making sure to include a pointy claw along the lower edge. The hind flipper should be short and resemble the shape of a foot. Finally, erase any unnecessary guidelines.

Draw the Head and Neck of the Sea Turtle

It’s time to add the finer details to the sea turtle’s head and neck. Follow these steps:

  1. Start by drawing a sharp curved line to define the separation between the head and neck. Then, draw a line in the front to represent the mouth. Shape the beak above the line and add an upper eye on the opposite side.
  2. Draw an almond-shaped eye with an overlapping upper eyelid. Add two tiny nostrils, a line between the eyes, and continue the side of the beak around the eye.
  3. Create a series of scales on the turtle’s face, starting around the eye area. These scales can have shapes resembling triangles, squares, pentagons, or hexagons. Cover the upper face with scales of similar size. Don’t forget to draw the lower beak and add lighter marks for subtle scales and wrinkles on the lower jaw.
  4. Indicate wrinkles on the top of the sea turtle’s neck, ensuring they follow the neck’s curvature. Add a couple of long wrinkles between the base of the neck and the shell. Extend these lines further down the neck to depict more wrinkles. Finally, sketch the visible part of the underside of the shell and add nearby wrinkles and loose scales.

Draw Scales on the Sea Turtle’s Flippers

The flippers of a sea turtle are covered in scales. Follow these steps to draw scales on the flippers:

  1. Begin by drawing scales on the front edge of the far flipper. These scales should be similar in size and shape to the ones on the face. On the flipper’s underside, the scales may appear more pointed and triangular in shape. Ensure the scales wrap around the flipper’s front edge.
  2. Continue drawing scales down the length of the flipper. As you approach the bottom, draw a sharp claw protruding from the edge. Add a few more oval or rectangular scales on the flipper’s underside near the tip. Finally, lightly sketch similar shapes on the rest of the flipper’s underside.

Next, let’s move on to drawing scales on the long flipper in the foreground.

Draw the Line Pattern on the Shell

The shell of a sea turtle is adorned with a pattern of scutes, which are small scale-like shapes. We’ll begin by drawing the smaller scutes around the turtle’s neck and then move on to the larger ones. Follow these steps:

  1. Draw small scutes around the neck, making the outer edge parallel to the curve around the neck. Use shorter lines going inward to create these box-like shapes. Continue these scutes along the edge of the turtle’s shell, around the flipper.
  2. Now, let’s focus on the larger scutes on the turtle’s shell. The lateral scutes, located on the right and left sides, and the central scutes on top and along the turtle’s spine. Start by drawing a line from the bottom of the shell and another just above the flipper. Connect these lines with the shell’s outer edge to complete one large lateral scute and two smaller central scutes.
  3. Repeat the process, starting from the bottom edge of the shell, to draw the next lateral scute. Ensure you follow the natural curvature of the shell’s surface. Form the triangular spaces between the top of the lateral scutes and the corresponding central scutes, using curved guidelines as needed.
  4. Erase any guidelines and admire your detailed line drawing of a sea turtle!

Shade the Hind Flipper and the Shell

Let’s add shading to our drawing to give it depth and dimension. Follow these steps to shade the hind flipper and the shell:

  1. Start by shading each individual scale on the hind flipper. Add a touch of darker shading to the claws along the front edge. Leave slight white spaces between the scales to create contrast.
  2. Moving on to the shell, outline each scute on the rear section. Leave narrow gaps between each scute, which you can make lighter by using a kneaded eraser. Apply a light base layer of shading over the area, followed by a darker layer. Leave some unevenly shaded areas to create an irregular spotty design on the turtle’s shell.
  3. Continue shading the rest of the turtle’s shell in the same manner. Alternate between outlining the scutes, applying a light base layer, and layering with darker tones. Remember to keep the gaps between the scutes lighter in value. Add streaks of darker shading along the scute borders to give them a slightly raised appearance. Focus the heaviest shadows under the shell on the side, between the flipper and the neck, and over the neck.

Shade the Front Flipper of the Sea Turtle

With the hind flipper and shell shaded, let’s move on to shading the front flipper. Follow these steps:

  1. Shade near the top area where the flipper joins the turtle’s body. Outline each individual scale, just as we did for the hind flipper scales and shell scutes.
  2. Shade each scale on the flipper, leaving the gaps between the scales a lighter value. Use a kneaded eraser to lift graphite from the gaps if necessary. Apply darker shading to the front edge of the flipper to distinguish it from the side plane.

Shade the Sea Turtle’s Neck and Head

Now, let’s focus on shading the neck and head of the sea turtle. Follow these steps:

  1. Outline the wrinkles at the top of the sea turtle’s neck to emphasize their depth. Repeat this process for other wrinkles on the neck. Draw details and add light shading to the lower part of the shell. Lightly outline some scales on the neck and shade the entire neck area.
  2. To shade the turtle’s head, follow the same process as before. Outline each scale on the head and shade the turtle’s eye in a dark black, leaving a tiny highlight. Shade the nostrils as well.
  3. Shade each scale on the turtle’s head, leaving thin, lighter gaps between them. Shade the beak, adding a lighter layer of shading to the lower part of the mouth. Keep this value similar to what was used for the neck.

Draw the Finishing Touches on the Sea Turtle

Now, let’s complete the drawing by adding finishing touches. Follow these steps:

  1. Outline the scales along the front edge of the far flipper and the ones near the tip. Lightly shade the scales in the middle of the flipper, but not as dark as the others.
  2. Shade the scales on the far flipper, leaving the gaps between them lighter in value. Keep the middle area of the flipper a lighter value, similar to the neck shading. Add a claw to the foreground flipper, similar to the one on the far flipper.
  3. Use a 6B pencil to darken the shadows on the sea turtle. Erase any smudging around the drawing and remove any residual graphite with a dusting brush.

And voila! You have successfully learned how to draw a sea turtle step by step!

Tutorial Recap

To recap this tutorial visually, refer to the image below. It provides a summary progression of each step involved in drawing a sea turtle.

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Tips for Your Next Sea Turtle Drawing

If you’re inspired to create more sea turtle drawings in the future, here are a few tips to keep in mind:

  • Always use a reference photo of a sea turtle to ensure accuracy and capture its realistic traits.
  • Start by sketching basic shapes to establish proportions and positions. Don’t worry about perfection; you can refine and adjust as you go.
  • Consider using both color and black-and-white reference photos to understand light and dark values, as well as subtle color variations.
  • Challenge yourself by drawing sea turtles in different positions, such as a distant overhead view or from under the turtle looking at the bottom of its shell.
  • Once you feel more comfortable drawing sea turtles, try drawing other reptiles like regular turtles or tortoises. The skills you’ve acquired will make it easier.

Try the Full Sea Turtle Drawing Tutorial

I hope you had as much fun drawing this sea turtle as I did! If you’re looking for more guidance, the full video version of this tutorial provides in-depth explanations and additional tips. It also includes color and black-and-white reference photos, as well as a downloadable PDF version of this article.

To access the full-length tutorial and other exciting drawing tutorials, consider becoming a member of the Let’s Draw Today Club. I look forward to seeing you there!

Remember, with practice and patience, you can master the art of drawing sea turtles and unlock your artistic potential. Happy drawing!

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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