How to Draw: Northern Cardinal

Welcome to a tutorial on How to Draw a Northern Cardinal!  Here you can find a complete step-by-step tutorial with the details on how to draw a realistic looking Northern Cardinal.  Once you have finished your drawing, head on over to our Facebook page and post the picture!


  • Paper
  • Colored pencils (red, black, white)

I use Prismacolor Premier Colored Pencils.  I have tried many different brands of colored pencils, and Prismacolor is the best that I have used by far.  Buying a quality set of colored pencils can help take your art to the next level.

  • Ruler (optional)
  • Blending stick (optional)



Step 1:

After you have gathered your materials it’s time to get started!  I usually tape down my paper onto a flat surface so that it won’t move while I’m drawing.

First draw two horizontal lines across your paper a few inches apart.  These will help you draw the basic body of the bird.  For this tutorial we are going to draw the Cardinal on a branch.

Step 1: How to Draw a Northern Cardinal


Step 2:

Now that you have the basic body drawn, you can start working on some of the details.

Draw the the outline of the black patch between the eye and the beak and down about an inch from the beak as shown in the picture below.

Draw the eye in the top right corner of the patch outline.

Also add the different feathers in the tail.

Step 2: How to Draw a Northern Cardinal


Step 3:

Now that we have all the basic features down, we can start coloring.  Grab your red and black.

Tip: When coloring, always have your strokes going the way that the feathers go.

Color the patch between the eyes black.

The tail we will color in layers.  For the first layer do red, second do black, and then do another red on top.

Step 3: How to Draw a Northern Cardinal


Step 4:

Color the main body of the Cardinal red and draw black lines for the wing bars.

Step 4: How to Draw a Northern Cardinal


Step 5:

Color the eye black but make sure you leave a small white circle in the top left.

For the beak, color it a light red.  You can do a layer of white over the red to lighten it up.

Step 5: How to Draw a Northern Cardinal


Step 6:

One of the best ways to make a bird look lifelike is to draw shadows and highlights.  The main shadows in this drawing will be right above the branch between the feet.  Make sure your strokes go the same way as the feathers or it won’t look as good.  Color a white highlight to the left of the wing.

Color the branch brown, making it darker on the bottom part and gradually getting lighter as you go up.

Step 6: How to Draw a Northern Cardinal


There you go!

Feel free to post your Cardinal drawings or any other bird art on our Facebook page!

If you liked this tutorial, then be sure to comment and check out our tutorial on drawing an Eastern Bluebird.


About Sam Brunson
Sam Brunson is one of the two co-founders of Two Birders and Binoculars. He lives in Savannah, Georgia and loves birding in the coastal area where he lives. He will be entering his senior year of high school in the fall of 2013. Besides birding, Sam enjoys many hobbies such as playing tennis and reading.

4 thoughts on “How to Draw: Northern Cardinal

  1. Beth Simmons says:

    Great tutorial!

  2. Cassandra Westlake says:

    thanks for the wonderful art Sam!!!

  3. Cassandra Westlake says:

    IM for sure going to win this Alaska bird calender contest with this wonderful bird in it.

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