How to Paint a Deer Head

by Rod Kuster

Painting a deer head can be an imposing work of art that can change the entire feel of a room. It is always best to practice sketching the deer before embarking on a large painting. The heads of hoofed animals are all somewhat similar. The eyes are on the sides of the head to enable them spot predators. Large male deer have impressive racks of horns used for defense and jousting with other males during mating season. The horns are perfectly balanced and can be quite large, making a great subject matter for a powerful animal painting.

Items you will need

  • Pencil
  • Eraser
  • Canvas
  • Acrylic Paint (various colors)
  • Brushes (large and small)
  • Reference image
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Step 1

Gather some detailed reference images of deer that will serve as a guideline for your painting. Select one with a frontal head-shot of a deer with a large rack of horns if choosing to paint a buck. Examine the colors, the shadows and the highlights on the image. Use a ruler to get a rough idea of the proportions, such as the width of the head versus the horns, and so on.

Step 2

Sketch the deer head face-on to make the antlers stand out. Draw a circle on the canvas for the upper portion of the deer head and a smaller circle about half the size below for the lower portion. Draw two parallel guidelines horizontally through the center of the large circle to establish the position of the eyes on either side of the head.

Step 3

Draw the outline of the ears extending at the ten-and two o'clock position from the large circle. Complete the outline by connecting the circles. Detail the nose, nostrils, and a horizontal line for the mouth underneath.

Step 4

Draw two lines to indicate the horns coming from the head on either side. Draw these lines along the top of the ears and up. These two lines should be symmetrical and will be the guideline as you start detailing the horns. Plot the points on the horns and then outline each horn. Draw them coming from the main trunk of the racks like upward growing branches. Note how they curve slightly inward at the top.

Step 5

Paint the horns of the deer with a small brush and acrylic paint. Find the right shade of brown for the horns, as well as the rest of the deer head, by holding your color close to the reference image. Use a darker and lighter shade to detail the horns by determining the direction of the light source. Paint the side facing the light almost white and the other side a dark brown, for example.

Step 6

Paint the inner ears with a lighter shades brown. Apply the brush in the direction of the natural fur-growth as you paint the head itself. Keep the areas around the eyes and snout light. The eyes should be near-black in color with a small white highlight spot. Paint a few highlights on the dark nose and use a darker shade for the nostril openings.

Step 7

Paint a clear outline along the sketch lines and fill in all areas of the head with paint, including any visible portions of the neck. Create fine layers using different shades to create a realistic looking deer hide. Keep adding subtle layers until you are satisfied with the painting.

About the Author

Rod Kuster has been a writer and editor since 1995. His work has been published in "Computer Magazine," "Boom Magazine" and Shock Media. Kuster holds a B.A. in international development studies from the University of Dalhousie.

Photo Credits

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