How to Paint a Giraffe using Pen and Ink Washes in Watercolour

Skill Level : 1 Beginner

Medium : Pen and Ink Drawing, Watercolour Painting

Subject : Animals

Tutor : Dennis Clark

Class Length : 2 hours 02 minutes

Avg Rating :

Silver Level or Higher Class

Class Description

Although the giraffe has such a long neck he has the same amount of neck bones as any other animal. He also has an unusual face yet has such appealing eyes. You will paint a portrait of  a giraffe in pen and in and watercolour wash.

In the  lesson you will learn:

1.  How to decide which photograph will be suitable for pen and ink drawing
2.  How to start the pen and Ink drawing
3.  A few basic pen and ink strokes and techniques to start off with
4.  How to add the watercolour wash
5.  We will draw and paint a practical example.

Latest Reviews

Dennis is an excellent teacher! Learned new technique of glazing. A fun lesson. Thank you!


A very informative class to introduce ink to beginners. I live the choice of a giraffe as subject, sush a nice animal.

Thank you, I much enjoyed the lesson.


Class Tutorial

Techniques for working with pen and ink

Rather than dip the pen into the ink bottle, use an eye dropper to transfer some ink into a clear container (preferably cone shaped) so that the ink level will always be clearly visible.  Then insert that container into a larger round container to prevent the ink from spilling onto your work surface.

These are the different types of pens and illustrates their uses.  Through testing, he has concluded that using India ink is best for permanent works as the ink in commercially-available pens fades out over time, especially with exposure to sunlight.

To clear a clog in a nib, dip it in ink, then place a kitchen towel around the nib and pull down gently a few times to dislodge the clog.


Refer to the reference material included with the lesson for directions in transferring the template to the watercolor paper.

Drawing the giraffe

Use an ink pen to draw over the tracing lines to give the giraffe its shape, then fill in all the markings on its body.

Background wash

Mix the blue sky colour.  Carefully paint the sky around the giraffe.  Move from side to side, always leaving a bead of paint to blend into the next row of paint.  A flat brush will work well for this.  Use the corner of the brush to paint between the leaves.  Soak up any remaining beads of paint with a dry brush.  Dry the background.

Giraffe - head

Start by making a very light wash of yellow ochre.  Lightly wash that colour over the appropriate areas on the giraffe, making it darker in some areas.  Refer to your reference photo to get the tonal ranges correct.

Enjoying This Tutorial?

Watch the Class Video

Next make a wash of burnt sienna and lay that on the darker areas.  Note that the colours will merge as the paper is still wet.

Use a wet brush with hardly any colour and wash over most of the white paper.

Now mix a browish-gray wash of burnt sienna and ultramarine blue. Use that to indicate the shadowy areas.

Giraffe - neck

Use the same technique for the neck as you did on the head.


Make a wash of cadmium yellow and ultramarine blue with a touch of burnt sienna. Lay that onto the darker areas of leaves, then add more yellow to the wash to highlight the sunlit areas.

Final painting

About Dennis Clark

Read more about Dennis Clark

You May Also Like

Follow Us on :