How to Draw a Deer

Deer are elegant, agile animals that are terrific additions to landscape drawings or paintings. They are also popular characters in cartoons, especially if your audience includes hunters. Here’s how to draw both realistic deer and cartoon deer.

In our mind’s eye deer look a bit like a combination of a cow and a goat. They are almost always depicted with light flowing strokes of the pen or pencil to try to convey to the viewer how they move. Deer are exceptionally agile, and while they have a bit of a body structure like a cow, there can be no mistake about the difference between how a cow moves and how a deer moves. Cows lumber; deer leap. In this sense deer are much closer to goats in how agile they are — they can do the same kind of impossibly athletic moves that goats can. But even goat movements appear jerkier than deer, and goat bodies are not as sleek or as muscular as deer. These are all things you want to convey in your drawings, even if you are doing quick cartoon sketches.

For beginners the best way to draw a deer is with an oval for their belly. Then draw two circles on either side of the oval; one to represent their chest and another to represent their back haunches. Their legs can be tapering strokes; they are really too thin to work as balls and tubes, like other animals, and because of how graceful deer are, adding their legs as strokes gives a nice suggestion of how light on their feet they are. Their necks should be about as long as their chest is deep (from top to bottom).

Deer heads can be cones for beginners. Add their ears as if they were leaves — two eye-shaped ears that can flop around. If you want to show that your deer are mule deer, you can make the ears larger and the legs a bit shorter. Of course, if you want to depict the classic regal buck (a male deer), you will add antlers. Do keep in mind that eight-point antlers on deer are very rare, and bucks only have antlers before and during breeding season. The rest of the year they have no antlers. Bucks one and a half years old will have antlers with three to four points on either side. Bucks two and a half years old will have antlers with three to five points and bucks three and a half years or older will have up to six points, except in rare occasions. So those eight point antlers in most drawings are more cartoonish than you’d think.

The best way to draw deer, even just for cartoons, is to go out and see them in real life. Pictures are helpful, and televisions and documentary movies can be acceptable substitutes, but there is nothing like seeing a deer in real life if you truly want to capture their image and their energy on paper. That said, even a television program can show you common deer poses, and these are very helpful to make your drawings look realistic.