Magnificent Fantasy Creatures and How to Draw Them

Magnificent Fantasy Creatures and How to Draw Them

by Kev Walker


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Discover how to draw 30 fantastical beasts from folklore, literature and the farthest reaches of your imagination in this how-to-draw guide. As you explore each magnificent creature you'll not only discover a detailed finished illustration along with exciting ideas, hints and practical lessons for how to recreate it. Blank practice pages built into the book ensure you have plenty of space for practicing techniques like adding movement and texture to your beasts of lore.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781440354601
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 10/09/2018
Pages: 160
Sales rank: 243,934
Product dimensions: 6.60(w) x 8.80(h) x 0.50(d)

Read an Excerpt



Where do the ideas come from? This is a question most artists are asked from time to time, especially if their specialty is fantasy art, and the only real answer is "everywhere and nowhere." Ideas can't be summoned up to order, and often come to you when you least expect them, sometimes triggered by random visual effects such as a pattern of light on a wall. So keep your mind open, and don't rule anything out.

Starting point

Most fantasy art has a starting point in reality, and this is especially true of fantasy beasts — you can't create a realistic-looking creature without considering those that actually are real. Your beasts must look as though they can move, eat, hunt, and do all the things that living creatures do, however strange their structure, habits, and environment. So try to understand how a skeleton and layers of muscle can form the outward shape of a creature and how movement affects this shape. Zoos can be a useful place for gathering ideas, as can illustrated books and the Internet. Look at photographs and films of animals and insects to discover how they are constructed — you will often find that fact really is stranger than fiction.

Past and present

It's always worth looking at the work of other artists, too. Fantasy beasts have featured in art throughout history, from prehistoric cave paintings through the gargoyles of medieval times to the graphic novels and computer games of today. If you have a particular type of creature in mind, look at how other artists have approached the concept, in this book and through the ages. Don't waste time wondering how they have made the drawing, painting, or sculpture; what matters is the shapes created and the reasoning behind the creation. Folklore and myth are other good sources of inspiration, and here you have a wide choice of material — all cultures have their own ideas of strange creatures, often with magical abilities.

Bending reality

Even if your creature is based on a real one, or a combination of several, you can give it a more fantastical appearance by changing the scale or setting it in a different environment. Creatures that are microscopic in real life can become gargantuan in your creation, or something that exists only in the sea can be transposed to another setting, becoming modified along the way. For example, a jellyfish wouldn't last long in a desert, but by taking its basic shape and giving it a rigid skeleton and a different skin surface you can create a whole new creature. And, of course, you can "mix and mismatch," using the eyes of one creature and the ears of another. Imagine a horse with the hair of a dog and the ears and tail of a pig, for example.

Collecting visual information

When you have an idea, don't waste it; act immediately to record it. Notebooks and sketchbooks are vital, and a scrapbook is also a good idea because it provides a way of keeping interesting images you may find in magazines, newspapers, or printed from the Internet, as well as scraps of material and anything else that might come in handy for the colors and textures of your creatures. Taking photos on a smartphone will help you to make visual notes of anything you may see when out and about, helping you to remember things you don't have time to sketch.

Pencils, pastels, and pens

To recreate the creatures shown in this book, or produce your personal versions of them, you can use a selection of tools. Some suggestions are provided over the following pages, but you can of course use your own favorites, or whatever is handy. The techniques associated with each medium are shown on pages 12-17.

Pencils and erasers

Pencils are made in different grades, H denoting soft and B standing for black. There are several different types of erasers, but avoid very hard ones because they leave greasy smears and can damage the surface of the paper.

Colored pencils

Colored pencils are popular with illustrators, especially for detailed work, but the softer ones can also be blended for broader effects. They are made in a huge range of colors, but can also be bought in boxed sets of 12 or more.

Pastels and pastel pencils

Soft pastels, which crumble and smudge easily, are not well suited to detailed illustration work, and they also make a great deal of mess, requiring a dedicated work space — or a large dust sheet. Hard pastels and pastel pencils are more manageable and good for drawing to define detail and create areas of texture.

Pen and ink

Drawing with a pen allows you to build up very fine detail and has the added advantage of not smudging. Pens and inks are made in a wide range of colors, so you can complete a whole drawing with inks.

Drawing techniques

One of the best things about drawing is that you never stop learning. Some artists specialize in only one medium, pushing it to its limits; others find the huge variety available as exciting as the vision they are attempting to recreate. There is always something new to try, and don't forget that most of the media can be used on their own or combined with others, as can the range of techniques. So carry out your own experiments until you find a way of working that you are comfortable with, allowing you to get down on paper the image you have in your head.

Graphite pencils

The ordinary "lead" pencil may seem a mundane implement, but the invention of the graphite pencil in the sixteenth century revolutionized drawing as artists quickly recognized its superiority over earlier drawing tools. Graphite pencils are probably the most versatile drawing instruments you will ever possess, so never underestimate them. They can provide almost endless variations of line and tonal quality, and are made in a range of grades from very hard to very soft. Standard drawing pencils are encased in wood, but you can also buy just the graphite in the form of a thick stick, ideal for creating large areas of tone by using the side of the stick rather than the point.

Colored pencils

Several different types of colored pencil are available, some waxy and others chalky (and thus easier to blend). If possible, try them out before using to discover which best suit your purpose — they are available individually as well as in sets.

Drawing with ink

Drawing with ink is the oldest of all drawing methods. A wide variety of drawing pens are available, from dip pens with interchangeable nibs to many different types of reservoir pens, which contain their own inks. As with all drawing, experimentation is the key, since all pens act and feel differently in your hand. Fiber-tip pens deliver a constant flow of ink; traditional metal-nibbed pens give more variation in line. Ink drawings can't be corrected later, so experiment with a variety of implements to discover the marks they make before using inks for a finished drawing.


Many known and unknown beasts use the cover of darkness to hide activities. Nocturnal creatures can be quiet and meek or predatory and dangerous, and there are plenty of sources of inspiration you could

Finding inspiration

Some creatures, although fairly harmless in reality, conjure up fear by virtue of their nocturnal activities. Most bats are gentle, passive creatures, but their reputation is just the opposite.

Night beasts can be inspired by darkness in general, not just at nighttime. Stormy weather conjures up thoughts of dark and powerful forces at work.

Sketch skeletons in order to build up your physique-drawing skills. Your local museum will have some for you to look at.

Creatures that shed their skins, or undergo a complete metamorphosis, can really stir the imagination, offering two fantasy beasts in one.


Night elemental

The night elemental is a magical creature drawn from the dark matter of night. It can manifest itself in many forms, but favors characteristics taken from creatures associated with the night. This incarnation displays elements of cats, bats, and owls.

The night elemental can become a creature as big as 15 feet (4.5 meters) long. Its appearance varies as it takes on the characteristics of the animal form it adopts, but it can always be recognized by the starlight sparkling in its depths. It is found in the darkest of night shadows, and its appearance often coincides with the moon entering its transition phase, from waning to waxing.


Night dragon

The dragon is one of the oldest mythological creatures. It has a widespread history, appearing in the traditions of virtually all countries and continents back to the beginning of time.

The form of the dragon is defined by its limbs, which can allude to the environment in which it lives — a water dragon, for example, may not need limbs at all. Other attributes, such as the neck length and whether it has wings or fire-breathing abilities, and so on, are the artist's personal choice.



Vampire stories date back thousands of years and exist in most cultures around the world. Vampire myths arrived in the West, through Eastern Europe, with traveling merchants selling their wares and telling tales of distant lands. Today, vampire stories still hold true to those old Eastern European tales of blood-drinking nocturnal beings who have returned from the dead, but many of the familiar ideas the wearing of capes, having no reflection, and morphing into bats-are modern inventions.

This creature is completely nocturnal, exhibiting an extreme photosensitivity. It feeds principally on the blood of other warm-blooded mammals in order to alleviate a natural anemia. This diet makes the vampire very skinny. The vampiric condition can be passed to humans via its bite, giving rise to similar feeding habits among sufferers.

Garlic contains an enzyme that causes an extreme reaction in both purebred vampires and contaminated humans, similar to that caused by poison ivy or nettles.



The werewolf has been used as a symbol of humankind's inner struggle with their own animalistic tendencies for centuries. This duality is what you are attempting to depict — human and beast in the same form.

A werewolf should be able to stand upright on two legs and have opposable thumbs; otherwise, it will be too animalistic and less of a monster. However, running on all fours is faster, so the arms and legs should be of similar lengths to facilitate an easy transition between being on two legs and on all four, like a primate.



Demons have taken many forms over the centuries, but are traditionally seen as evil spirits or devils, though they can sometimes be good.

Evil demons flourish in densely populated but poor areas, and can usually be found infesting waste and landfill sites or amid derelict human habitation. They feed in a unique manner, draining bioelectric energy from whatever life-form happens to cross their path. Although their feeding is not fatal in itself, it often leaves their victims weak and open to attack from disease, causing psychological changes such as mood swings, torpor, and (in extreme cases) manic depression. The demon has a skeleton that grows throughout its life, developing random extrusions and bony spurs.


The ocean is full of curious creatures. A trip to an aquarium or natural history museum could be all it takes to give you an idea for a sea-based beast. Or you could try reading old stories about sea serpents.

Finding inspiration

The plant life of the ocean is often as colorful and lively as the animal life.

Sharks are one of the longest surviving predators on the planet, with evidence of their existence dating back 430 million years. Their sleek, streamlined bodies help them swim without using a lot of energy. This is important because they never really sleep, and most of them never stop swimming.

Look for common characteristics in real ocean dwellers and try to use some of them in your fantasy creatures.

Squid and octopi are among nature's strangest looking creatures. They could even be straight out of the realm of fantasy.


Sea elemental

Like the mighty ocean in which it lives, the sea elemental is powerful, fast, and easily provoked. The elemental's webbed hands and massive tail allow it to swim with amazing speed; its blue-green coloring and plantlike hair make it difficult to spot when it wishes to go undetected.

While sometimes willing to help humans lost at sea, the sea elemental is just as likely to capsize an unfortunate boat on a whim. Its wrath can be great when confronting human-made objects it considers harmful to its realm, such as commercial whalers or leaking oil tankers. By thrashing its mighty tail, the sea elemental can usually generate waves large enough to scuttle any vessel, and its sharp claws and amazing strength enable it to punch a hole in most ships.

This sea elemental has been given a mysterious and alien look by incorporating elements from both sea plants and sea creatures. However, by adding humanlike arms and a vaguely human head, you can make sure the viewer knows it is intelligent and probably able to communicate.


Sea dragon

This dragon is the classic sea serpent much dreaded by sailors. Fear of these creatures was at its height in the fifteenth century when Western explorers were trying to reach the East. At the time, many people believed the world was flat and that ships would sail until they fell off the end of the Earth. Maps with uncharted waters were marked "Here be dragons."

The sea dragon is related to the swamp dragon but can survive in both fresh and saltwater environments, and to greater depths. Like its most famous relative, the Loch Ness Monster, it is rarely seen above water.

The sea dragon is a fiercely territorial creature and has been known to attack submarines at depth. It has a voracious appetite and feeds on large aquatic creatures.



The kraken is a fearsome sea monster, originating in stories from Norway in the twelfth century. According to legend, this creature, often described as being the size of a small island, could wrap its arms around the hull of a ship and capsize it.

The kraken of these stories could have been what we now know as the giant squid. Giant squid have not been seen that often, and little is known of their habits, but their existence is accepted. They are not the size of a small island, but they are large enough to wrestle with a sperm whale and have even been known to attack ships.

Krakens tend to exist in colder seas; they use the hornlike shell on their heads to break free from the ice that traps them. Their arms are covered in suckers and sharp rotating hooks.



The mer-creature is a hybrid of myths and folklore, combining elements of mermaids and other sea creatures (such as selkies and the sirens of ancient Greek myth).

The mermaid was regarded as a natural creature rather than one of supernatural origins, and was supposed to lure sailors to their deaths on shallow rocks by the power of its singing. Belief in the existence of mermaids continued until relatively recently. Indeed, so powerful has been the belief in mer-creatures that fishing communities in southwest England claimed to have persons of mermaid or merman descent living among them, people with special powers and an affinity with the sea.


Giant viperfish

The viperfish is a large, fast, and powerful predator. This solitary beast usually hunts the depths of the oceans, but sometimes ventures closer to shore if food is short.

The viperfish can grow up to 13 feet (4 meters) long, and weigh some 44 pounds (20 kilos), but despite its size it is rarely seen, striking unexpectedly and leaving no signs of either itself or its victim.


On the surface the desert may seem dry and dull, but dig a little and you'll find a wealth of creatures and stories to inspire you. Think about what could survive and evolve in such a climate.

Finding inspiration

When thinking about your fantasy beasts, use the physiology of real creatures to get you started. For example, camels, known as "ships of the desert," have evolved physiologically to cope with both heat and dehydration.

The Moloch lizard is a real animal, but it looks supernatural. It is covered with thornlike spines, giving rise to the alternative name, "thorny devil."

Scorpions are highly dangerous creatures, but their segmented bodies make them fun to draw.

Visit a natural history museum to practice drawing skulls and bones, and you'll soon get to grips with the basic shapes.


Desert elemental

The desert elemental is made entirely of sand, which it can make harder or softer at will and turn into any shape it wishes. Most often, the desert elemental appears as nothing more than a tract of desert sand, indistinguishable from its surroundings. When angered or disturbed, it will rise up from the desert floor in humanoid form.

The elemental's motion is like a wave on the ocean, sliding from one area to another. This process can be terrifyingly fast, allowing it to travel at more than 60 miles (100 kilometers) per hour. However, because of its sandy makeup, the desert elemental can only exist in the desert.

This elemental's internal temperature is quite hot — 175–195°F (80–90°C). This gives it ominous glowing eyes and means sure death for any living beings it might ingest, either by putting them in its mouth or by simply enveloping them in sand. If any human caravan is unfortunate enough to stumble on this creature, it will be swallowed up in its massive sand swell, never to be seen again. Its sense of touch is especially acute, because each grain of sand that makes up its body acts like a nerve ending.


Excerpted from "Magnificent Fantasy Creatures"
by .
Copyright © 2018 Kev Walker.
Excerpted by permission of F+W Media, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Introduction, 6,
Inspiration, 8,
Pencils, pastels, and pens, 10,
Drawing techniques, 12,
Night beasts, 18,
Night elemental, 22,
Night dragon, 26,
Vampire, 32,
Werewolf, 36,
Demon, 40,
Sea beasts, 44,
Sea elemental, 48,
Sea dragon, 52,
Kraken, 56,
Mer-creature, 60,
Giant viperfish, 64,
Desert beasts, 68,
Desert elemental, 72,
Desert dragon, 76,
Sphinx, 80,
Minotaur, 84,
Sandwalker, 88,
Swamp beasts, 92,
Swamp elemental, 96,
Swamp dragon, 100,
Kropecharon, 104,
Giant worm, 108,
Swamp raptor, 112,
Forest beasts, 116,
Forest elemental, 120,
Forest dragon, 124,
Razorback, 128,
Troll, 132,
Saber-toothed tree cat, 136,
Centaur, 140,
Snow and ice beasts, 144,
Ice elemental, 148,
Ice dragon, 152,
Yeti, 156,
Credits, 160,

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