How to Draw a Grim Reaper

Grim Reapers are a popular tattoo design. Being able to draw grim reaper designs from scratch will allow you to make custom designs for your clients. 

If you’re not sure where to start, keep reading. In this article, we’ll be breaking down how to draw a grim reaper step by step, including: 

  • How to map out your basic design
  • What details to think about when creating a grim reaper design
  • When to use Procreate’s Streamline tool (and when to avoid it)

The Easiest Way to Draw a Grim Reaper

If you have a few designs made, the best way to make your flash sheet look more professional is to add a border around your designs. 

Step 1: General Shapes

Just like any other tattoo design, you’ll want to start by drawing your base shapes. We recommend using a red sketcher brush. 

The main elements you’ll want to map out for a grim reaper design are:

  • The skull
  • Skull’s hood
  • Scythe

Pro Tip:

If you’re working on an iPad and you’re running out of room on your canvas, you don’t need to erase your whole design. Instead, just scale down what you have so far to make more room.

Facial Details

The facial features of a skull “cave in,” so you’ll want to make sure to draw circles for the eye sockets. Since there’s no nose in the profile, you’ll also draw circles in that area.

At this stage of mapping out your design, you can place line work that shows indentations in the skull. This is still a sketching layer, and you don’t need too much detail yet

Scythe Details

The scythe’s blade is meant to be in the shape of a crescent moon. Feel free to turn your canvas to make sure you can draw a smooth curve more easily.

Visually, you’ll need something that connects the scythe’s blade and its handle. In the video, Brandon uses rope to show that the blade and handle are one connected piece. You can also add extra details, like a spike at the end of the blade.

Step 2: Sketch Out Your Design

Once the basics of the design are mapped out in red, turn down the opacity. From there, you’ll want to use those guidelines to sketch out your design.

In this second layer, you can still make dramatic changes to your design. For example, in the video, Brandon changes the shape of the scythe. By the time you finish this layer, though, you want to make decisions on where things will go. That way, you can use the final layer as your tattoo stencil.


In this layer, it’s important to make sure your design is going to flow well on the body.

Pro Tip:

Once you get used to drawing skulls, you can pretty much incorporate them with any design, and it’s easy to translate into any tattoo style that you like. 

Step 3: Drawing Your Final Line Work

When you’re getting ready to go in with your final line work, you can get rid of your red sketching layer completely. Then, we recommend turning down the opacity on your blue layer. 

Because you mapped out your design in the blue layer, all you have to do in your final layer is to go through with a black pen brush and follow your blue layer.

Add Shading Lines and Details

In your final layer, you can add in lines to point out where your shading is, as well as last-minute details, like wood grain in the scythe handle, cracks in the skull, etc. 

Using the Streamline Tool in Procreate

The Streamline tool in Procreate will perfect any lines you draw. You might choose not to use the streamline tool for pieces of the design that you want to look more “beat up,” like the handle of the scythe. 

On the other hand, you’ll want that perfect line work for pieces like the curve of the scythe blade.

Make Sure Your Line Work connects

Become a Tattoo Artist With the Artist Accelerator Program

student work from the Artist Accelerator tattoo artist training programs

Having a career in tattooing is not only fulfilling, but it’s also the most stable way to make a living as an artist. However, for decades, the process to become a tattoo artist has been notoriously difficult. 

The apprenticeship process requires aspiring tattoo artists to work 50-60 hours a week without pay for 2-4 years. That, combined with the toxic culture of abusing apprentices, makes getting into the industry almost impossible for newcomers. 

That’s why we created the Artist Accelerator Program. Our online course provides a simple, structured way of learning to tattoo that has been proven to work by over 2500 successful students, with many of them having gone on to open their own shops all around the world. 

Inside the program, we’ll take you through every step of the tattooing process in 9 clear, easy-to-follow modules and support you along the way within the Tattooing 101 Mastermind online community.

In the Mastermind group, you’ll collaborate with other students, get answers to your questions, and receive personalized video feedback on your artwork and tattoos from professional tattoo artists. With this friendly community of both new and experienced tattoo artists, you’ll never be stuck again. 

When you join the Artist Accelerator Program, you’ll have instant access to the full course and the Mastermind community, as well as our 30-Day Flash Challenge and recorded interviews with tattoo artists from all over the world. 

Click here to learn more about the Artist Accelerator Program.

Looking for a tattoo apprenticeship?

Tattooing 101's Artist Accelerator 90 day program is the closest thing to a real apprenticeship

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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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