Draw and Paint a Barn Owl

This tutorial is brought to you by request. 🙂 I love interacting with you, so please keep them coming!

This is a super easy tutorial. This project took me about an hour to complete from start to finish, with interruptions from the kid of the house. You can also check out my bird tutorial here!

I’d like to apologise again for the lighting in these photos. I don’t know what it is that moves me to work on tutorials for the blog when it’s raining outside, but it happens. 🙂

Okay, let’s do this.

First, a circle.


Second, an oval. Draw it at a slight diagonal angle, long enough that about three circles of the same size as the circle you drew for the first step will fit into it.


Third, add connecting lines from the circle’s outer edges to the oval’s outer edges. Erase the inner lines, but keep the circle intact, we’re going to use that again later.

Fourth, draw the wing shape. You’re going to have to eyeball the position, but it should start roughly around a quarter from the top of your oval, end at around a quarter from the bottom of the oval, and be about as wide as a third of the oval’s width. Don’t worry if it isn’t at exactly those marks, I didn’t take a ruler to mine either. 😛 But when we add the feathers, we can alter this to look more realistic.

The shape should be a combination of an oval and a rectangle.


Fifth, but on the same picture as the wing, add a curved line about a third from the bottom of the oval. This will be the owl’s belly.

I felt my owl didn’t have enough padding, so added a little to the side. 🙂


Sixth, add some feather detail. The top parts of the wing will have smaller feathers, where the ones at the bottom will be long and regularly shaped.


Seventh, the legs. Owls have slightly thicker legs than small birds, and their legs are covered in downy feathers.


When drawing the feathers, I realised my owl’s belly was a little too round, so I changed it and erased the unneeded lines.

Eighth, the talons and perch. Three are visible on the one foot and only the claws are visible on the other.


Ninth, the eyes and beak. As with the small birds, draw horizontal and vertical lines that cross in the centre of the circle you drew in the first step (excuse my ugly, split vertical line). Draw two small circles on the horizontal line, with roughly enough space between them to fit a third circle. Then, draw a ‘v’ that connects the two circles. The bottom of this v should be at the bottom edge of yet another imaginary circle, underneath the eyes. 🙂


Tenth, the heart-shaped marking around the owl’s face. Add another v at the top of the owl’s head, using the vertical line as a guide. Then, connect the v to the circle from step 1 with curved lines.


Erase all the unnecessary lines.

Eleven, add the top of the beak by adding an upside down v just above the bottom of the beak, to create a diamond.


And that’s it, you’ve drawn an owl!


Please let me know if you’d like a tutorial on taking this line art to the next step with graphite pencils. I could try to show you how I achieve photorealism.

For this tutorial, though, we’re going to watercolour the owl, using my Albrecht Dürer watercolour pencils.

I like to place all the colours in the first layer, simply because they flow into each other so nicely, and will give the final product a softer look. It also makes it possible to complete the painting in two layers.

First, I added burnt ochre around the eyes, the face marking, and the wing- and tailfeathers.


Then, I added cream to the chest, neck, belly and legs. I added warm grey to the shadowy areas where I’d just placed the cream, and also to the shadows in the face.

Next, I added walnut brown to the shadowy areas in the wings and tailfeathers. Don’t forget the talons!


I added black to the eyes, leaving a glint in one eye, and coloured the beak with middle flesh.


Lastly, I added some raw ochre to the perch, leaving some areas blank. This will allow the pigment to flow, leaving organic highlights.


I painted the first layer with a fine brush and water.


Once the first layer was dry, I picked out some details, using the same colours. Every painting will be different, so it’s difficult to say where yours might need some refining. Go with your gut! 🙂

I added a glint to the eye with white acrylic paint, since I accidentally painted over the one I’d planned. Oops.

Here’s the final product.


And that’s it from me for today! Happy art-making.




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