How to Draw and Paint a Fallow Deer

In this tutorial, I'm going to go through my process of drawing and painting a fallow deer.

I used Procreate, my Apple iPad Pro 12.9" and my second-generation Apple Pencil. As I always believe though, the process for digital can be used in traditional painting with some weeks and a bit more thought about your lighter areas - in the case of watercolour and pencil drawings.


For this piece, I did something a little different. I used multiple references to form my fallow deer. Doing this is a great way to open up your creative(right side) brain. It also means I have no problems with copyright as I haven't copied a single picture but rather taken elements and joined them together.

You can use Google search, Pinterest or a free photos site such as Pixabay or Pexels to find a bunch of references.


My approach to this drawing was to start rough and redefine on new layers. For traditional mediums, I recommend having the linework drawn and transferred to the canvas/sheet of paper.

If you want the linework for this piece, join my Patreon to get it as part of your membership.

Wolf head base shapes ready for sketch layer.

For each layer, lower the opacity of the one before so you can confidently draw over it.


On a new layer below the final drawing, create a base of colours that make up the deer without shadow and light.

This is a great opportunity to see the silhouette of your deer to see if the pose looks ok. If you need to make adjustments, now is the time to do it.

I used the Turpentine brush to create the fur texture between the colours on the base layer to make the blend look more realistic.

Create a new layer above the base layer and select the clipping mask option so that your brush strokes will be restricted to the same bounds as the layer below. Turn the opacity down on the lineart layer so that you can see through them. We are about to create the shadows!

wolf head sketch faded behind inked final wolf head illustration.

Set your new layer to multiply, choose a nice soft brush such as the airbrush and paint in your shadows. Keep in mind the direction of your light source throughout this part to maintain a realistic feel.

When you are finished with the shadows, turn down the opacity of the layer and create a new layer above. Set this one to Screen and pick your light colour and repeat the shadow process but this time, focus on the light areas - don't overdo it less is more for light. Turn down the opacity of the light layer as you see fit.

The Final Illustration

The final step is to refine the shadows even further to show the joins and deep shadows of the deer. You can do this by applying more shadow to your shadow layer or by creating a new multiply layer with a clipping mask and remembering to set the opacity lower when done.

Wolf head digitally inked illustration.

I added another layer above my illustration to add the eye and a bit more refining on the ears. I also added some bright white details to the white areas of the deer's fur.

Final Thoughts

In this tutorial, we went through the process of drawing a fallow deer. We started by finding a bunch of reference photos and then drew our sketch using multiple references.

We painted our base layer and created light and shadow on separate layers using the @multiply' and 'screen' layer options respectively.

And finally, we added the eye and final details to a new layer to finish our painting.

Want to see the process in action? Join my Patreon membership today!

What Next?

If you are interested in taking your illustration further, consider joining The Thriving Illustrator for more in-depth tutorials and guides, mindset training for creatives and reference libraries of royalty-free photos and drawing inspiration.

Or join my Patreon for video processes, lineart and other digital goodies.

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A wolf head colour line underdrawing, the sketch and the final wolf head inked illustration.

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