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In this guide, we will show you how to draw a horse head with pastels – explaining exactly each step to draw a horse sketch portrait, i.e. a horse’s head. This complete horse drawing guide will also include a look into the best materials needed, as well as plenty of useful tips and tricks. This is a fun theme to draw for all kinds of artists, so we hope you enjoy the process.
Table of Contents
- 1 Materials Needed for Drawing a Horse Head
- 2 My Horse Head Drawing Approach
- 3 How to Draw a Horse Portrait – Step by Step Instructions
- 4 Do You Draw All Horses the Same?
Materials Needed for Drawing a Horse Head
You don’t need much for getting started with pastel drawings. Originally, I started with just a piece of paper, various pastel pieces, and pastel crayons. This is all you need for making horse drawing easy. However, you can include a wider range of art supplies for excellent results with horse drawings (or any other drawings). Some of my favorite products that I always use include:
- Natural white, acid-free, and age-resistant paper
- Colored pencils from KOH-I-NOOR
Important for me, as I can use these to prime large areas
- Pastel set from KOH-I-NOOR
Important for me, because with this I draw in more layers and use them to later create the coat structure
- White artist marker
Important for me, because I can draw small accents like tactile hair and small reflections on the horse
- Blending stump
Important for me, because I blend transitions, create coat structure, and soften areas
- Kneading eraser
This is important for me because I can shape it in such a way that I can both erase large areas and set small accents. Note: Dark colors cannot be erased!
- Pencil eraser
Important for me, because this eraser is much harder. I can use it to create very hard lines, make small repairs, or lighten small areas. Note: Dark colors cannot be erased here either!
Details such as small reflections and tactile hairs can be best represented with a white gel pencil. This is very important for the horse drawing, and gives it a certain liveliness and also makes the drawing much more interesting. Also check out our separate tutorial on how to draw a horse.
My Horse Head Drawing Approach
When doing a horse drawing, there are a few considerations to make before getting started. Before getting too deep into each step to draw a horse, you will need to prepare the following.
Choosing the Horse Drawing Template
Keep it as simple as possible with the horse drawing template. If you can determine the horse’s gaze, the direction of growth in the coat, or the reflections in the eyes, then you have a good quality drawing template to work from.
I used to make the mistake of using blurred or photographs of horses to work from. This caused frustration, and I lost the desire to draw these images. Very often I had to improvise many details. This lead to searching for additional photos online to try to supplement the details that were missing in the template. So, always try to work off a complete image with all parts easily visible.
Here is a good tip for the image selection: The sharper and more details the photo of the horse has, the easier it is to draw the horse!
Focus on Surfaces and Colors
I suggest you think in terms of surfaces when making horse portrait drawings. For example, I do not see the eyes of a horse in front of me, but rather the shape of the eyes as a border filled with different shades of brown. Here and there, a light brown or a white dot is placed between these brown tones. This approach helps me a lot when drawing dogs too.
The Right Workplace
Draw in a place where you like to be. A drawing on A3 paper usually takes between 20 to 30 hours. If you draw in a place where you feel comfortable, you can draw for much longer. Listen to your favorite music or watch a movie in the background while you draw to keep you happy.
How to Draw a Horse Portrait – Step by Step Instructions
Now that we have covered the basics, it’s time to start your own drawing of a horse. In the following guide, I will show you how I drew Caprillia – a Rhineland mare. When I start with a drawing, I first draw the outlines with a pencil and roughly mark where each gradient and color strokes are.
Step 1 – Blue Flycap
I started this drawing of a horse by working my way up and down. This has the advantage that you do not wipe your drawing while working. So first, I started to draw her blue fly cap. In a medium blue, I primed the surface and worked it in with my fingers. I drew the fabric with light blue tones, white pastels, and black.
Step 2 – Priming the Coat
Once I have finished the upper area, including the glittering browband, it’s time to roughly prime the first coat. For this purpose, I use different shades of brown which range from very light to quite dark. The exact color doesn’t have to match the original, because we will later vary the colors a little bit by lightening and darkening them.
Step 3 – Soften Surface and Blend Transitions
With the now primed surface, I use a grey pastel pencil to soften the surface and to blend the first transitions. This helps to make everything look more uniform. Please make sure to draw in the direction of the coat growth with short, fast strokes.
Step 4 – Set Accents and Shades
Once I have blended everything, I start to set new accents with darker and lighter areas. Now you should see that the colors you use now match the original coat color well. From now on we have a working area that matches up to the template. If you notice that you still have small gaps through which the paper shines, you can simply use your finger and work in the color a little bit. If the area is too small, just use the blending stump.
Step 5 – Drawing the Bridle
This is how we proceed step by step for drawing horses bridles. Since the Caprillia carries a bridle, we have small areas here that we must work on. When drawing the bridle, we are lucky that we can simply proceed in a two-dimensional way. This means that you don’t have to hatch each hair individually, but simply start priming everything in a medium brown tone. After that, you can reach for lighter and darker colors to set the accents. The bridle has tiny white seams and such light accents that I used a soft white piece of pastel and a white marker for the small seams.
Step 6 – Cheeks and Neck Area
Since we have now arrived at the cheek and neck area, we are lucky. This depends on the template – but in this case, there are no longer individual hairs to be drawn as in the face. In the area of the front part of the head, we went ahead with fast short strokes to represent single hair. In the remaining area, the hair becomes coarser on the one side, and on the other side, the image is blurred.
First of all, roughly precoat everything with a medium brown. To make it easier for myself, I still prime everything in the direction of coat growth. This is because you can already see this when you add veneer. The other shades are also drawn in the direction of coat growth. For these rough surfaces, I use mainly pastel pieces and work with pencils.
Steps 7 + 8 – Work Out the Neck Area and Set Reflections
At the end of this, I reach for the white pastel and emphasize the shine and the bright reflections. Now I work these with my fingers, also in the direction of the coat growth. If I used the blending stump here, I would remove too much of the paint and the shiny coat surface would show bumps and lines.
It is essential to note: practice, practice, and more practice! It is important to pay attention to even the smallest details because these can ultimately create the correct expression of the horse. When I draw, my eyes are constantly moving from the template to the drawing. The great thing about pastels is that they are forgiving. So if you have made a small mistake, you can simply remove the pastel carefully with the help of a plasticine rubber or by drawing another color over it.
Do You Draw All Horses the Same?
To answer this in one sentence: No, of course not. There are many different horse breeds. What is different from drawing dogs is that the coat length remains almost always relatively the same. Only the size of the horse, the proportions, length of mane, tail, and fetlock vary. As always, there is one exception: a winter coat. Here, however, sport horses differ from leisure horses. With most sport horses, the length and texture of the coat is almost always the same. In leisure horses, ponies, cold-blooded horses, etc., the coat can become dense and fluffy, depending on how the horse is kept.
So, to make horse drawing easy, look for a template with summer or shorn fur. Another relief for starting out would be a horse portrait, i.e. only the head of the horse, or a standing horse. If the animal is in motion, the hair flies, such as the mane, and the tail and area above all the muscles change. Here you have to shade and lighten a lot to make the drawing as realistic as possible. With a standing horse, you can of course also see the muscles, but they are not as tense and working as is the case with a trotting or galloping horse.
I wish you lots of fun in drawing, and discovering if you want to create a horse sketch with pastels. Don’t be disappointed if you don’t get the desired result in the beginning. With time, you will grow and develop your own techniques. learning how to draw horses is all about patience and practice.