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Old 04-16-2014, 12:24 AM   #1 
myexplodingcat
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How to Draw a Betta (tons of pictures)

A few notes before I start:

There are 9 posts to this guide; please don't post until all mine are up! It will make things confusing to read.

This isn't a hard-and-fast guide, nor am I the best at drawing bettas. It's just a guide to the basics, and once you've learned the basics, you should definitely allow your own style to develop. Maybe you like bright pink lineart on a somber-colored fish and you can make that look cool! Try out weird stuff and see if it works. It's a good idea to learn how to make it look mostly realistic before you try crazy stuff, though--it often makes your crazy stuff look better. *speaking from experience*

I'll also take this opportunity to apologize to anyone on dialup. XD

I'm going to use male pronouns for the Bettas, but obviously you can draw females like this too.

Sabina88 kindly offered to let me use her betta Adamantium for this demonstration.

That said, let's dive in! (pardon the fish pun)

Tips:
- If you're using pencil and paper, draw lightly.
- If you're using Photoshop, never draw on the background layer. EVER. It makes everything insanely complicated.
- If you're drawing digitally (PS, Paint, GIMP, etc), use Ctrl+Z or Command+Z to undo, and Ctrl+Y or Command+Y to redo. There are probably also buttons for this at the top of whatever program you're using if you don't like keyboard shortcuts.
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Old 04-16-2014, 12:25 AM   #2 
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Step 1. Look hard at the betta you're drawing.

What's his body shape? Is he actually a perfect football? Where's the arch in his back--is it right behind his face, or in the middle? Are his fins smoothly finished, or more crowntail-like? How much does his beard stick out? How long are his fins compared to his body? If he's dual-colored, how far does his body color spread into his fins? The answers to these questions might surprise you!

Some bettas have anal fins as large as their body! Some have almost rectangular bodies, or their eyes are placed a little lower on their face than usual. Getting these details into your drawing goes a long way to making your drawing look recognizably like the Betta in question.

This is Adamantium, below:
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Old 04-16-2014, 12:27 AM   #3 
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Step 2. Pick and draw your basic skeleton.

If you're a beginning artist, pick the clearest picture provided to you and use that pose exactly. Once you get used to the proportions of Bettas and watch how they look when they twist around and turn, you can try drawing in more creative poses. Until then, stick with the basics--you're less likely to get frustrated that way.

Also, for your first few drawings, try to pick a betta photographed at a simple side view.

IMPORTANT PHOTOSHOP NOTE: Never draw on the background layer! It makes everything needlessly complicated and will waste your time. Make a new layer to get started and make sure you're drawing on that one! Name it "sketch layer" or something similar. I've found that my eyes catch when I'm on the wrong layer more easily if I name them rather than leaving them as "Layer 1," "Layer 2" and so on. It also helps to keep track of the layers better.

LESS IMPORTANT PHOTOSHOP NOTE: I recommend using at least one bright color for the sketch layer. It won't show up in the final drawing, I promise! I've used a ton of colors in my example sketches so it's easier to see. I apologize to the colorblind folks :/

Look carefully again at the betta's face shape and draw a triangle-ish shape for the head. What you're going to count as the "head" is from the tip of his face to just past his gills. Next, mentally "measure" the head and look at your picture. How many "heads" long is his body? What you're counting as the "body" is from just past his gills to where his tail starts. Mark where the body should stop, and draw a line from there to the tip of the face.

Adamantium has kind of a rounder face, and his body is the length of two "faces."
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Old 04-16-2014, 12:28 AM   #4 
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Step 3. Draw his two body arcs to outline his body.

Usually, the widest part of a betta's body is one of two places: the end of his face (by his gills), or at the arc of his back. Keep that in mind as you outline his body.

Top arc first: note where his hunch is. Nearly all bettas have a little bit of a bend upwards and back down to the tail, but few are the same. Try to capture the curve in your drawing.

Then the bottom. Normally the bottom arc tapers up more than you'd think past the gills. Most of the betta's organs are right behind the gills, so I guess it makes sense that that's usually the widest part.

Adamantium's widest part is right in the middle of his body, where his back arch peaks. The end of his body, by his tail, doesn't come to a point; it has a blunter shape.
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Old 04-16-2014, 12:30 AM   #5 
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Step 4. Mark where his fins end, and outline them.

Use the head as a unit of measurement again. From the end of the body, how many heads tall is the dorsal (top) fin? How long is his tail? How tall is his anal fin (the big bottom one)? How long are his ventrals (the narrow ones below his face)?

Measuring straight from his body to the top of his dorsal, Adamantium is 1 1/2 head lengths or so. His tail is a little longer. His anal fin is almost two head lengths. With the picture I'm using, I can't see how long his ventrals are--they disappear behind his anal fin.

One more fin: the pectoral. These are pretty easy to draw.

IMPORTANT: I'm marking out where I measured in gold. You don't need to draw those lines! Or any of the text on any of these, for that matter. I hope you can read my handwriting.
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Last edited by myexplodingcat; 04-16-2014 at 12:32 AM.
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Old 04-16-2014, 12:33 AM   #6 
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Step 5 FOR PHOTOSHOP

Make a new layer and name it "lineart." Change your color to something more serious--a dark color you can find on the betta works well, as do varying shades of gray. Consider your fish when you pick your color.

In the lineart layer, take your new color and draw neatly over your guides--all you need to draw is the outline of the body and fins (even where the fins meet the body; you can erase this part later if you decide your drawing looks better without it, but keep it for now). If you drew the eye and/or marked the gills, draw over those too, you want to keep them.

Next, either make a completely white layer or right-click your background layer and select "Layer from Background." Name it "whitelayer." Put your sketch layer underneath it, and your lineart above it. Ta-daaaa!

Step 5 FOR PAPER

Clean up your lines. All you need is the outline of the fins and body right now. You can keep the gills and the eye if you drew them, too, but all of our skeleton sketching needs to go. Test out your eraser and make sure it doesn't smear first--I recommend the white plastic/latex erasers. This is why there was a tip on drawing lightly.
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Old 04-16-2014, 12:35 AM   #7 
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Step 6 FOR PHOTOSHOP ONLY

Pen-and-paper people can ignore this part; you guys might want to color after you put in the details.

Tip: If the fish is black, use very dark gray. True black is difficult to work with.
Other tip: It's probably not quite as bright as you think. Double-check.

In Photoshop, this is ridiculously easy. All you need to do is make a layer just under the lineart but above your whitelayer, and you pretty much have a coloring page like out of your childhood.

I recommend making two color layers, actually. The first one (name it basecolor) should be the basic color that occupies most of the fish. The second one (name it color details or something like that) should have details like body color that extends into the fins, ribbing, fin highlights, scale details--and you do need at least some of those details. After you do your details, you can go back to the base color and fill in a little shading, or any variations in the base color.

Adamantium has a pretty neutral palette: pale yellow-gold and a warmish gray, with coral streaks here and there in his fins. He has a gray stripe in his tail and I'll need lots of highlights in his fins to capture their texture.

Here I'll show both his base layer and his full, detailed pic.

Step 6 FOR PENCIL/PAPER ONLY

Add your details first, guys. Take a look at the Photoshop version's details--the difference between the first pic and the second for that step. That's what you're aiming for too.

*Now* you should color if you want to.

If you choose to color, use light strokes and try not to make individual colored pencil lines (or whatever you're using) visible unless you're doing it intentionally, to catch the fin texture or scales or some other detail.

Step 6 FOR PAINTERS

Watercolor people, follow the Pencil/Paper instructions.

Any opaque paint, follow or adapt the Photoshop instructions.

Did I miss anyone?
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Last edited by myexplodingcat; 04-16-2014 at 12:37 AM.
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Old 04-16-2014, 12:38 AM   #8 
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Step 7. Background!

This is optional, but it's kind of nice to throw in a little background, and now's the time to do it. Photoshop people can make a layer; watercolorists might go for a wash; really, just do whatever you like to give your pic that final touch. I just used a solid color that shows off the fish's palette.

You're done! Enjoy your betta, experiment, and have fun!
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Old 04-16-2014, 12:41 AM   #9 
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Finally: a test!

This is another of Sabina's bettas. His name is Owl. Feel free to draw him (he's a plakat) and post your work. If you want helpful critiques on how to improve, say so in your post.

Please don't critique others who haven't asked for it, and make sure all your criticism is constructive!

If this thread turns out to be helpful for lots of people, perhaps it could become a sticky? You decide!
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Last edited by myexplodingcat; 04-16-2014 at 12:44 AM.
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Old 04-16-2014, 03:15 PM   #10 
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It came out amazing,
You did a good job on the tutorial, im deffinitly going to use these steps, im horrible at drawing bettas lol
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