Guide: Insects Pencil Drawing
Updated: 24 Apr 2022
Insects have the largest number of species in nature.
The first step in drawing insects, in a realistic style, is planning (choosing a subject), and composition.
If you do not have any experience with realistic drawing, you might want to read my guide for realistic pencil drawing first.
In most cases, try to avoid side views, although they are easier and faster to draw.
Because I am right-handed, I draw from left to right (so I do not smear what I have already drawn):
It is more interesting for the observer to see insects (or anything else) with an angular view.
The housefly is attracted to human food and exposed parts of their body, thereby passing on pathogens that it carries on its body.
Aphid & Ladybug
Front or top views are like side views. Meaning, less interesting.
To learn more about composition, visit my guide on composition drawing.
Basic drawing steps:
To draw any insect, start by drawing its form (structure) accurately.
Draw lines gently, so you can draw over them or erase them. There are no lines in nature, so you do not want lines in your final drawing.
I usually prefer to draw the background layer first (in this case, the plant stem).
Pay attention to brightness values and edges.
While the body of (most) insects has hard edges, the shadows have soft edges.
Aphids are destructive to plants (sap-sucking).
Ladybugs prey on aphids.
If you struggle with accuracy, here is how to draw from photos (from observation).
How to draw a single hair strand?
As mentioned above, there are no lines in nature.
When drawing a single hair strand, press harder when you start your stroke and gently release pressure.
That way, you will have both a transition in brightness values (from dark to light), and your mark will taper (from thick to thin).
For a group of hair, think of it as areas or clusters of brightness values. You can add a few hair strands, but draw them lighter.
Many insects have hair. For example, a bee.
Bees have an important ecological role in pollinating plants, but their number is getting smaller, and the cause is unclear.
Planting flowers rich in nectar, and avoiding the use of spraying materials in planters, or in the garden.
How to draw a shiny surface?
There are two things to look for.
First, pay attention to edges. Edges are how each area ends, and how two areas are connected to each other.
Some edge types are: hard (1), soft (2), less defined (3), and reflection (4), meaning how an edge looks on a reflective surface, like water or glass.
Next, pay attention to contrast.
A shiny surface usually has bright highlights, and a strong contrast.
For a strong contrast, you can draw the dark area darker, the light area lighter, or both.
Now you can draw insects with shiny or reflective surface, like ants, beetles, wasps, etc.
Ants follow chemical traces left by a scouting-ant, when it finds a food stock.
Keeping a house clean of breadcrumbs, dirt, and scraps of food.
The female mosquito, when it needs proteins for its eggs, is looking for a live source to suck blood from.
In the case of an occasional mosquito, it is recommended to use an electric bat.
How to draw transparency?
Some insects' body parts, especially wings, can have different levels of transparency.
To draw that, look at the brightness value of anything behind the transparent part.
In the example below, the cockroach wing is semi-transparent. The area behind it is quite light, except for the leg, which has a darker value.
In addition, pay attention to edges located below the transparent surface.
In the example above (and below), the edges (of the leg part that located under the wing) are both soft AND distorted (less defined).
For insects with fully transparent wings, there may be no distortion to edges.
Cockroaches can live without food for several days to a month, thus even if you do not see them at home, that does not mean they are not there!
Ensure the house is clean and, if necessary, spray pesticides in the area in which they are located.
There are too many insects!
Spiders (which are not insects) eat many insects.
Most spiders are harmless to humans, so it is best to let them do what they do best.
For the drawing equipment I use, check out my beginners guide to pencil drawing materials.
What is the importance of insects?
- Insects are of primary importance in the pollination of flowering plants. Insects pollinate a significant percentage of human food supply.
- Insects have a significant importance in the food chain. For quite a few animals such as amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals, insects are the only source of food.
- In addition, they dismantle organic waste, such as dead animals and plants, thereby enriching the soil.
- Insects produce useful products, which are traded among people.
- Among the beneficial substances created by insects are honey, silk, lacquer, and wax.
Beeswax is used for making candles.
Insects as food:
- In some cultures, insects are used as food.
- Insects as food are rich in proteins, vitamins and minerals.
- Forensic entomology (the study of insects) is used to determine the time of death at a crime scene.
Flies and mosquitoes have great ecological importance, and are the second most important pollinators after the bees.
Mosquitoes are the most lethal family of animals, because they transmit parasites and viruses.
The cockroach has a high resistance to radiation, but has no exceptional resistance compared to other insects such as the fruit fly.
Where to go next?
To understand how to use depth when drawing, visit my 15 Proven Ways to Create the Illusion of Depth.
For learning to draw online, check my list of the best YouTube drawing tutorials.