How to Draw a Feather Tattoo Design

Feathers are a common theme in tattooing. You’ll see them the most as quills, as part of headdresses, or as their own design. 

Being able to draw feathers will make it easier for you to take on these tattoo designs. 

In this article, we’ll explain how to use Procreate to draw a feather tattoo design in the traditional style, including:

  • Step-by-step instructions for creating a feather tattoo
  • Helpful tricks for using Procreate for tattoo designs
  • How to use different layers for each step in your desig

Traditional Feather Tattoo Design Tutorial

Just like any other design, you’ll want to build it up in layers:

Sketch the Basic Shape

The first step in drawing a feather tattoo is to create a very basic outline. For our sketch layer, we use the red sketching pencil for our brush. In the shape of our feather, we included:

  • A long oval for the body of the feather
  • A line through the middle for the quill
  • Circles and S-shapes for beads and strings

This layer does not need to be perfect– it will not appear in your final design. It’s just a guideline to work with as you build your layers. The sketch layer will help you stay true to the shape of your design as you begin to add details.

Add Details

Once you have your sketch done, create a new layer in Procreate. You’ll now begin adding the details of the feather. With this layer, we recommend using a blue color for your brush, but continue to use the sketching pencil. 

Turn down the opacity of your sketch layer so that it is faded but still visible. Following the shape of your first layer, begin to add darker, more defined lines to separate the different pieces of your feather. Now, instead of looking like vague shapes and lines, your feather should have distinct pieces, a quill, and any design elements you’d like to include.

Tips for Your Second Layer

In this blue layer, you’ll want to:

  • Focus on creating more precise lines and circles during this step.
  • Apply slightly more pressure to the point of your pencil to create thicker, darker lines.
  • Avoid going overboard with details. American Traditional is 2D and only uses one line weight, so adding too many details will make the design hard to read.

Once again, this layer is not your final design. Feel free to continue to use a lighter hand and build up each element of the feather through sketching until you feel confident with your design.

Create the Final Outline

When you feel ready to create the outline that will ultimately become your stencil, create another layer on Procreate. Hide your first sketch layer and turn down the opacity on your details layer until you can barely see it. Using a good outlining brush, begin to go over your design with precision.

Tips for Your Final Design:

This is the layer you’ll be using to make your stencil, so you’ll want to make sure it’s as perfect as possible:

  • Clean up any errant lines or wobbly shapes during this step.
  • Hold down your pencil after drawing a circle and Procreate will automatically make it perfectly round.
  • Eliminate any overlapping lines (like in our design, where the string crosses over the quill of the feather). 

Shade and Color

When you feel happy with the outline of your feather, it’s time to begin shading and coloring. Create one more layer on Procreate and hide your details layer, so only the final outline is showing. Switch to a good brush for shading (we like Murder Weapons by Dave Tevenal).

Tips for Shading Your Feather

When adding shading and color to your designs, here’s a few things to keep in mind:

  • Use the highlighting tool to work on one section at a time.
  • Give the middle of the feather a darker shade than the outer tips by starting at the inside and working outward.
  • Choose bright, deep colors for your design elements (the color palette for American Traditional is red, gold, green, and black).
  • Add color before putting black or gray shading on top (only on Procreate– not when actually tattooing).

Take plenty of time on this step. When you are satisfied with your design, you can print it and use it as a stencil. 

Procreate works great for flash tattoos, or for letting a customer see exactly what a design will look like. You can easily change colors of different elements using the eraser or layers.

Procreate Tips and Tricks

Procreate can be an incredibly helpful tool for artists, but the app has a lot of features and may feel overwhelming. Here’s a few tips to help you get started fast:

How to Use the Highlight Tool for Precise Shading

The highlight tool is helpful for working on small sections of a design at a time. When you tap on sections of your design, the highlighter will automatically select only that section. This allows you to shade only that section, without any bleeding into other areas.

How to Use the Highlighter Tool

  • In the top right corner, hold down on your outline layer and select “Reference”
  • On the main screen, tap “Selection” to bring up the selection toolbar
  • Tap “Automatic”
  • Tap the section of your design you want to shade

Now, while you shade on your topmost layer, the highlight tool will use your outline layer to automatically isolate each section for you to work on.

Make Sure Your Lines Are Closed

When using the highlighter tool, it’s important to make sure all the lines surrounding each section are closed. Open shapes will cause the selection tool to select the entire page, rather than one small piece of the design (as seen above).

To close your lines, go back to your reference layer and add outlines to any open shapes. If you don’t want your lines closed in your final design, you can simply erase the extra lines when you are done shading.

How to Use Multiple Colors and Layers for Each Step

Layers are one of the most important tools on Procreate. By putting different steps of your design on different layers, you can work on one element at a time without accidentally erasing or ruining other elements.

Tips for Using the Layers Tool:

  • Select the overlapping squares in the top right corner.
  • Tap the plus sign to add another layer.
  • Layers higher on the list will appear in front of other layers on your design.
  • To hide layers, uncheck them in the list.
  • To change the opacity of a layer, tap the “N” on that layer and use the sliding bar.

Using a different color for each layer of your design will help you keep track of your steps and remember which layer each element is on. (For example, in a flower, all the green leaves and stems would be on the same layer, all the pink petals would be on a different layer, etc.) 

If you use the same color for each layer, you may struggle to find an element you’d like to change or erase later.

Prepare for a Tattooing Career with the Artist Accelerator Program

student work from the Artist Accelerator tattoo artist training programs

Learning how to draw tattoo designs is an important step in your journey, but it can also be pretty eye-opening to how difficult tattooing can be. Without the right knowledge, it’s impossible to level up your skills and become a professional tattoo artist. 

However, finding the straight-forward information you need to progress is difficult. And with so much out there online, it’s hard to avoid picking up bad habits from incorrect and outdated resources.

This is one of the biggest struggles new tattooers face, and too many talented artists have given up their goal of getting into tattooing because of the years it would take to unlearn their bad habits. 

That’s why aspiring artists are learning to tattoo with the Artist Accelerator Program’s structured course. As a student, you learn every step of the tattooing process from professional artists with the experience and advice you need to build your skills and create incredible tattoos. 

With the Artist Accelerator, you can stop wasting time searching through incorrect information. You just get the clear, easy-to-understand lessons you need to start improving fast… along with support and personalized feedback from professional artists in our online Mastermind group.

Over 2500 students have already gone through the course, with many of them opening up their own studios. If you want to join them and learn the skills you need to start tattooing full time faster…

Click here to learn more about the Artist Accelerator Program.

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Nathan Molenaar

Nathan is a licensed professional tattoo artist with over 8 years’ experience working at studios across the globe, including Celebrity Ink, the world's largest tattoo studio chain.

When he's not tattooing, he spends his free time sharing his experience and knowledge with aspiring artists who dream of pursuing a career in the tattooing industry.

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