How to Draw a Cartoon Cow
In this article, I’m going to show you how to draw a cartoon cow. There’s not much reason for me to go into an in-depth explanation about cows because, well, everyone knows cows… Okay okay, I’ll quickly give you some scientific facts: Cows have four legs, and skin with awesome patchy patterns… umm… they eat grass and often say things like “moo” and “MOOOOOO!”. Okay I’m done. Let’s moooove on. (I’m so sorry).
So how do you draw a cartoon cow? First you need to break it down into basic shapes – a big rectangle for her body, little triangles for her legs, an oval for her mouth and a trapezium for her head. From there you will have a solid foundation to build a pretty sweet lookin’ cow! But ultimately it’s all about the rectangles – just look at the image below – she is 85% rectangle!
This tutorial is broken up into three parts:
- the Pencil Sketch – laying down the foundation of our cow using basic shapes
- the Inking Stage – using the foundation as our guide, we should now able to confidently draw in the cow’s main features with a black pen
- the Coloring Stage – once the inking is done, we will then bring our cow to life with some color – most of her will be white, but we’ll be using a light brown for her patches, a pink for her mouth and udders and a purple pencil for her shading
Before we begin, let’s just quickly go over the important traits of our cow design.
Body: The main feature of the cow is her rectangular body – now obviously cows aren’t rectangles, but if you look at a real cow and squint your eyes, you may notice that their backs are very straight and their hind legs are very straight. Aaand if you look at the angle between their back and hind legs, it’s a pretty solid right angle! Oh and udders, a cartoon cow should always have udders.
Head: Cows have long heads with their eyes quite far apart. At the end of their long face is usually a very impressive nose and upper lip – this is the feature we’ll be exaggerating the most in this tutorial.
Feet: Cows are ungulates, which is a fancy way of saying they’ve got hooves! Despite their very impressive, large bodies, by comparison, their legs are very thin. In the character we’ll be drawing in this tutorial, I decided to exclude the hooves and instead converge her legs into points. This was done to exaggerate how thin cows’ legs are.
The cow in this tutorial was created in Adobe Photoshop, but you can use pens, pencils, paint – whatever you prefer. If I’m drawing cartoons on paper, I often like to use pens for the outline and colored pencils. You can use whatever medium you like, but the materials I use when drawing cartoons are as follows:
- Paper (Sketchbook or printer paper)
- Pencil (HB or #2)
- Thick Black Pen (I used a Posca PC-3M)
- Thin Black Pen (I used a UNI Pin Fine Line 04mm)
- Colored Pencils. You can use simple Crayola pencils, or you can go crazy and splash out on some Faber Castell Albrecht Duhrer Watercolor pencils or Prismacolors. For this cow, all you need is light brown, pink and purple (for the shadows). Of course cows come in many colors, so feel free to branch out!
Okay, let’s get started with our sketch!
How to Draw a Cartoon Cow Part 1: The Pencil Sketch
Step 1: Let’s start with the nose! Draw an oval – and then put in two dots for her nostrils and a long curve underneath the dots for her upper lip (at this point, our cow looks like a smiley face. Great!)
Step 2: For her long head, put a shape popping out from behind her nose! (I call it a shape because it’s somewhere between a rectangle and a trapezium… A rectezium? Traptangle? Let’s kick on…)
Step 3: Now let’s put in a couple of circles for her eyes, some ears on the side and two little blunt friendly horns on top!
Step 4: Okay it’s time for this shape that makes a cow a cow! Draw in a rectangle, with its top side on the same level as the bottom of the cow’s eye.
Step 5: Now draw in her udders – just a semi circle popping out of her tummy with four little teats sticking out (man I think that’s the first time I’ve ever written ‘teat’)
Step 6: Draw in two triangles for her legs. Also, let’s make her body look a bit more organic by cutting out a small area from each of the rectangle’s bottom corners
Step 7: In this step we are adding in a bit of depth to our cow by drawing in her background legs
Step 8: Now add in her tail and a little cowbell floating underneath her mouth
Step 9: For our final step in the sketch stage, let’s add in some cool lookin’ cow patches!
Okay that’s our sketch done – we now have a good foundation to work on!
How to Draw a Cartoon Cow Part 2: The Inking Stage
For the main shapes of our cow, we’ll be using a thick pen (steps 10 – 15). For Step 16, use your thick pen for the black shadows on the legs, but for the small details in the teeth, horns and ears, I recommend you change over to a thin pen.
Step 10: The nose and mouth is the part of the cow that is closest to the viewer, so let’s start our inking here
Step 11: This cow loves to stare so draw in her eyes with some little dots right in the middle, looking right back at ya! Now add in the rest of the head – I want this cow to have a good balance of sharp angles and soft angles, so for the top of the head I’ve softened the angles to make it look a bit more natural
Step 12: finish off the head by inking in the ears and horns
Step 13: Draw in the body and legs. To add a bit more interest to our cow I added in some slight angles on her back. I chose to do this in order to avoid making her look too stiff – this is now a more natural looking body and if you squint your eyes, you should still see a big rectangle
Step 14: Here let’s add in the tail, the udders and her floaty cowbell. Notice how two of her teats are in the foreground and two are in the background – this is to make her look more three-dimensional
Step 15: Now ink the patches on her body – I’ve also added three little patches to her head. The great thing about these patches is you can use this exact cow design again and again, giving different patches and colors to each cow that you draw!
Step 16: Let’s finish off the inking with shadows and small details. With your thick pen, block in some shadows on her background legs. Now get out your thin pen and add in some small details – some eyelashes, teeth, and lines in her ears and on her horns
Okay that’s inking done, let’s now move onto the coloring!
How to Draw a Cartoon Cow Part 3: The Coloring Stage
Step 17: Color in using brown for her patches and horns. Then add pink for her nose and her udders and some yellow on her cute lil cowbell!
Step 18: Congratulations! You have reached the final step in learning how to draw a cartoon cow! Now that we have the main colors blocked in, let’s give her some shadows. If you’re using pencils, get out your purple and shad in the areas that you would like to be in shadow – feel free to copy my shadow or make up your own. If you’re drawing this in Photoshop, create a new layer above your cow and draw in the shadow with a dark purple – then lower the layer opacity until you’re happy with the color.
I created this cartoon by looking at reference photos of cows – starting by breaking down what I saw in each photo into basic shapes – I then kept simplifying my design more and more until I came up with this character.
Remember when designing characters to always start with big foundation shapes. Because if your foundation doesn’t look good, then your detailed character probably won’t look good. Therefore, make sure you’re happy with your foundation before you commit to the ink!
Once you’ve copied my design, feel free to come up with some of your own cows. Maybe use the above method to design a tall cow with a big head, or a fat cow with a small head. Use your imagination and see where it takes you!
I hope you have enjoyed this tutorial! If you’ve had fun learning how to draw a cartoon cow and are ready to get started with cartooning, feel free to check out some of my online courses here: https://www.discovercartooning.com/courses/
Thank you so much for visiting my website, I hope it is helped you on your cartooning journey! Feel free to stop by any time!