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How to Draw (A Giraffe) in Microsoft Paint

A reader requested a tutorial on drawing in Microsoft Paint. I'm going to confess that I am far, far from a talented artist. Like seriously far. I took drawing as an art elective in high school and it was so awful. I am still traumatized by trying to draw still portraits in perspective. And it was a bottle tableau, not anything with crazy lines. So I do not even bother trying to draw with paper or pencil because it is incredibly frustrating to me.

BUT it turns out that I may be semi-decent at illustration in the simplest of software programs: Microsoft Paint. I like Paint because every PC has it. And I am extremely overwhelmed by PhotoShop. So Paint it is! No worries, because it has all the function I need for clip-art type projects.

I start all my drawings by having something to copy. That's right! When it comes to artwork, I am a straight-up plagarist. I cannot draw anything from memory. So I'll pull up a Google Image* search on penguins (or whatever) and study the shapes. I try to reduce it to the simplest shapes of circles, rectangles, triangles, etc. This will give a cartoonish effect rather than a more realistic one, but since I'm creating stuff for kids that's fine.

I'm going to let you in on a little secret to drawing animals: they look cuter with ginormous eyes. And one of the reasons I love Mo Willems' artwork, is because the technique is (deceptively) simple. Look at the shapes that make up his Pigeon character: circles, lines, and triangles. You can draw that easily! I am not saying that Mr. Willems doesn't deserve his Caldecott Honors and I think it's a crime the man hasn't won an outright Medal yet. But his genius is in tweaking the simple shapes to make the Pigeon so expressive.

If you've never used Paint before, here's what the screen looks like when you open it:

Mainly I use these functions:

So, here's how to draw a giraffe in Microsoft Paint. 
1) Find an image of a giraffe. Here's a really cute one from Open Clip Art, except that I don't think they've made the neck long enough to exaggerate the giraffe's most famous feature! But we can fix that if we're drawing our own version.
2) Take note of the shapes in the image. I just eyeball them normally, but I marked up a copy so you can see. The pink is for the two straight lines, and almost everything else in the image is circles!
3) Time to put mouse to screen to try our own version. Open Paint. I do almost everything with the auto-shapes. So first, let's draw the body. I draw one big circle and then save the file as "giraffe1.png" Every element that I add will be saved as a different file. That way if I get on the wrong path and want to start fresh, I will just go back a few versions.

Next I draw a smaller circle for the head.

The neck is just two straight lines. I accidentally drew mine too long, but I'll fix it later.

The feet can be made with two ovals. To get them the same, I create one with the circle shape and then copy and paste it for the other side.
The rectangular selection tool inadvertently erases some of the body so I go back and draw it in, using the zoom function. While I'm zoomed in, I shorten the neck line where I drew it too long.

Time for the ears, again they can be drawn as ovals.

The horns can either be circles on top of short rectangles or just circles. Time to add some color to our giraffe before we add the finishing details. I use the bucket function to paint all the areas we've drawn already yellow.

More circles for the eyes and spots! I also use the pencil tool to draw some spots so they are not all circular. Use the bucket tool again to fill in the eye balls and spots. 
Even more circles for the giraffe's pupils and nostrils. 

Use the paint bucket again to fill in the pupils and I like to add a single fleck of white for where the light would hit the pupils. 

So that's it! You can stop there or you can try and erase the black lines with the paint bucket tool. You will be left with some gaps between the spots and where the black outlines were, so I filled them in with the brush tool. You can also draw a tail, if you'd like. Or more spots on the face. 

Here are the final versions: 

Verdict: I love him. I shall name him Gadget. And he shall be my giraffe.

*I used an open source image for this example so I didn't have to feel guilty about showing you how to copy a piece of art. 


  1. Thank you for doing this! I shall attempt something soon.

  2. Thanks for this post. It reminded me to revisit Paint. I too am overwhelmed by PhotoShop, but use it anyway, spending WAY too much time trying to figure things out and often give up! I realise I've not even opened Paint since I upgraded my version of MS Office 2 years ago! Yikes - time to put that right!

  3. Scranton Children's Room5/20/2013 1:46 PM

    Thank you for your tips! This is great!


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