Adorable Art: Learn How to Draw and Paint a Duckling

Fluffy, soft, sweet and gentle, ducklings are one of nature’s most adorable creations.

Drawing these little animals is a fun way to familiarize yourself with a bird’s features. And after, you will have a nice little piece of art to keep or to share.

Gather your art supplies and some cute pictures of ducklings — unless you are lucky enough to have some live baby ducks you can sketch from life!

Follow along to learn how to draw a duckling and finish it off with paint!

Duckling in moonlight on pond

Sketch your duckling

Use the pose you think you will enjoy working on the most. Trying a few rough or quick sketches of different poses will help you decide which shape you have the best feel for.

Duckling sketch

Use a grid

If you are struggling getting the shape of right, here is a method I have used (many times when I was learning how to draw, and still use sometimes) to get proportions more accurate.

In short, I create a grid over my duckling photo and then apply a grid of the same proportions on my sketch surface and draw my duckling using the grid for reference. Go block by block to compare where the lines of the duckling’s shape should be.

The red line below shows how closely I followed each block.

Using a grid for sketching

Simplify the shapes

Another way to help you sketch your duckling, or any figure for that matter, is to try to look at the object you are sketching as an overall shape.  In the image below, the red outline on the duckling’s feet is basically two vertical lines over wide triangles, the middle duckling’s wings are crescent shaped and so on.

This method helps you simplify the outline of the duckling, keeping the confusing details out of the equation for the time being.

Forming a duckling sketch

Once you are happy with your duckling’s outline you can add your sweet details….

Webbed feet

Webbed duck feet


Duckling face


Sweet duckling sketch

Paint your duckling

Choose your paint colors for your duckling. Your palette will be fairly simple for painting a duckling.

My duckling’s colors are cadmium yellow mixed with Naples yellow to make a pale buttery shade. For shading and deepening the color where needed, I will use burnt sienna.

Start with a wash

Start with a wash by wetting the entire duckling’s body only, the feet, eyes and beak will be painted after the body is complete. Saturate the duckling with an uneven layer of color.

Note that I made light pencil lines in places where I will be painting more defined shading or, as in the case of the duckling in the middle, where it will have some stripes (he will be a wild duckling).

First layer of watercolor on ducklings

Add texture and shading

While the paper is still wet or damp, saturate more color to add texture and shading. If the paper is nearly dry, it is better to wait and re-wet the paper after it has dried.

Continue working your painting by building layers and shading. Look at your reference material frequently to see where you need to add more saturation and where to leave lighter.

For the wild duckling, I added my stripe markings when the paper was damp so it still spread out a little, but not too much. This way, the stripes keep a fuzzy edge, making them look more natural.

Duckling color studies

Paint the details

Using a pale orange shade, paint the ducklings feet, using a deeper shade of the same hue to shade the webbed area between the toes.

For the eyes, I used a mix of sepia and ivory black, leaving a little white spot free of paint. This is called the “catch lights.” You can also go back with a dash of white gouache if you accidentally painted the whole eye.

Adorable watercolor ducklings

Don’t you wish you could just squeeze them? Have you ever tried to sketch ducklings from life?

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