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ear tutorial by twosilverstars ear tutorial by twosilverstars
I have been meaning to write up an ear tutorial for a while now...not sure why though. I guess i just find ear anatomy fascinating, although a bit strange when you think about it.

Um, anyway, and as you can see this is also going to show how to do elf ears as well, although there are many ways to approach that topic - oh, i'll get to that eventually...lets stay on track here!

All you need for this tutorial is a good ear reference - try looking in the mirror, photos, the guy sitting next to you on the subway with hair growing out of his ears, whatever you like.

You wont need a specific art program since this isn't a program exclusive tutorial. Just in case anyone is curious, i use photoshop CS, plain default brush (opacity at about 20%, size varies, hardness anywhere from 50-100%), and a graphics tablet.

This is by no means the only way to draw an ear. It's just how i like to do it :)

Ok, on with the show.


frame 1 - This is my sketch. I usually sketch at a much lighter opacity but for the sake of this tutorial i made it a bit darker. I always sketch on a separate layer so that i can put my colours on new layers below it. Makes things much simpler in the long run.

If you have been looking at enough ear references, you will notice that there is a common shape to all ears. They may differ slightly from each other, but for the most part they all look the same. For the sketch you should try to break down the ear into shapes and lines. You will get rid of the lines eventually, but for now it is good to just deconstruct the ear into the basics. This method works well for all facial features.

frame 2 - Now i reduce the opacity of the sketch so it isn't so dark, and cleaned up the sketchy lines. I also blocked in the hair and skin colours. Pretty simple.

frame 3 - This is where i choose my pallet, and i have arrows pointing to the highlights, midtones, and shadows. It is generally good to use a warm highlight and a cool shadow colour. At least i think that's what the experts suggest, but i am not so good at following directions...and purple isn't the coolest colour out there, but it'll do. I never end up using the red i stuck on there. Just ignore it.

I also started blocking in the lighter and darker areas. Just keep checking your reference. And keep your light source in mind. Mine appears to be coming from the top right.

frame 4 - Now you can see i have added some of the midtone blue. I think it adds depth to the image to have more than three colours on the skin. Don't add too many colours though, or things will start to get muddy and confusing to the viewer.

frame 5 - At this point i merge my sketch layer, though that could be done sooner if you like. Make sure to blend the lines of the sketch into the painting. I finished up by adding some brighter highlights, and darker shadows. That's about it for a regular human ear.

frame 6 - To make an elf ear i just sketch a bit more, making sure to follow the general flow of the human ear up to a rounded point. You can still see where the human ear is under the new sketch.

frame 7 - Then i go in with the same colours and finish it up. I personally like to leave a bit of a ridge around the edge, like human ears have. I think it helps to give elven ears a bit of a realistic look.

various elf ears - (see intro frame) These are just some of the ear shapes i have chosen over the years. I have been using the first one a lot lately. Of course you can do any shape you like, even giving fin like attributes to a mermaid's ear. Fantasy art is all about creativity.

Top - Winter Fairy | Monarch
Bottom - Summer Fairy | Luna Moth


common mistakes:
- Using black and white or burn/dodge to shade and highlight -- Please do not do this. It will make the painting look flat and drab. If your image is in colour, then it's always a good idea to paint with colour! Burn/dodge can probably be used sparingly, but avoid ';painting' your whole image that way.

- Smudging to get a pointy elf ear -- I see this a lot. It does not look realistic. If you don't care for realism, then smudge away. But if you do want realism, try painting the whole thing with the brush tool, and avoid giving it a point that cartilage (the flexible stuff that shapes our ears) would never form into naturally.

- Not using reference -- It is always good to use reference, even if you are going to vary greatly from the typical anatomy of something. It is always good to have a firm understanding of what something looks like before you go and try to alter it. This is advice that i got years ago, and it has helped me greatly in the areas that i applied it to.


Well, i hope you enjoyed this tutorial. Let me know if you have any questions and i will try to answer them to the best of my ability :)
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:iconchineseboy19930809:
Chineseboy19930809 Featured By Owner Mar 29, 2013
I admire your thoughts.. So novel
Reply
:iconchineseboy19930809:
Chineseboy19930809 Featured By Owner Mar 29, 2013
Where are you from? The United States of America?
Reply
:iconjocelynpatrick:
JocelynPatrick Featured By Owner Feb 7, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Much thanks!
Reply
:iconmarinaawin:
marinaawin Featured By Owner Sep 22, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
Hi, I used your tutorial here [link]

Thank you.
Reply
:iconcarouselclover:
carouselclover Featured By Owner Jul 20, 2012  Student General Artist
You are fantastic. I look at this tutorial every time I paint an ear.
Reply
:iconsipper-paws:
Sipper-Paws Featured By Owner Jul 2, 2012
Thanks for the help!
Reply
:iconartabstraction:
ARTabstraction Featured By Owner Jun 26, 2012  Student Digital Artist
Awesome! Thanks so much! I don't smudge or use black and white, but I am very guilty of using incorrect anatomy. Could've used this today when I was painting my Frost Spirit picture LMAO.
^_^"
Oh well. Thanks again for posting this!
Reply
:iconclumsydemonwithfire:
clumsydemonwithfire Featured By Owner Mar 12, 2012   General Artist
this is great! thank you so much for sharing! :D
Reply
:icondesignbykatt:
DesignbyKatt Featured By Owner Jan 15, 2012
[link] I have tried your tutorial here...feed back would be great since you are so talented! Ears are so very hard!
Reply
:iconalinesobie:
alinesobie Featured By Owner Jan 14, 2012
Thank you a lot.
Reply
:iconspatsypatty:
spatsypatty Featured By Owner Oct 3, 2011
This is super useful tutorial. Thanks!!
Reply
:iconlil-saph-fox:
lil-saph-fox Featured By Owner Sep 27, 2011  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
this tutorial is great, it helped me

but one question: how do u manage to upload one preview pic if you have another one for downloading?
Reply
:icontwosilverstars:
twosilverstars Featured By Owner Oct 4, 2011  Professional Digital Artist
Good question! It's a feature dA used to have and apparently got rid of sometime after I posted this. I wish they hadn't :(
Reply
:iconturweithiel:
Turweithiel Featured By Owner Sep 18, 2011
this is an awesome tutorial but i have a quick question for you how do you get smooth edges on your drawing whenever i try to paint in along the edge of a face its never smooth its bumpy and cant figure out what im doing wrong
Reply
:icontwosilverstars:
twosilverstars Featured By Owner Oct 4, 2011  Professional Digital Artist
Thanks! I think maybe the issue you are having is that you need to work with a much higher dpi (dots per inch). The larger the image the more detail you can get, and it will probably make getting softer edges much easier. At a minimum I work at 300dpi, and usually a canvas size of 11x14 - 20x30 inches. It also might be an issue with your brush settings. Try playing around with them - maybe adjust the "jitter" level, or something - and see if that helps. Good luck!
Reply
:iconturweithiel:
Turweithiel Featured By Owner Oct 4, 2011
thank you and you were right i looked at the settings and the spacing was at 25% so i set it to 1 and it made a huge difference thank you :)
Reply
:icondarkmotoko:
DarkMotoko Featured By Owner Dec 17, 2010  Hobbyist Artist
this is a gorgeous tutorial
Reply
:iconmaybe-its-crazy:
Maybe-Its-Crazy Featured By Owner Dec 15, 2010
this was extremelhalpful! thanks for posting it ^^
Reply
:iconseikjo:
Seikjo Featured By Owner Dec 12, 2010  Hobbyist General Artist
I do not know how to express my gratitude for posting this!
Reply
:icondwiprazetyo:
dwiprazetyo Featured By Owner Nov 19, 2010
thnk u for sharing...
:D
Reply
:iconkimcar166:
Kimcar166 Featured By Owner Oct 3, 2010   Photographer
Extremely useful! Thank you so much :]
Reply
:icontopaz-star:
topaz-star Featured By Owner Jul 14, 2010  Hobbyist General Artist
this is going to come in soo useful, cheers muchly X
Reply
:iconratcabob:
ratcabob Featured By Owner Jul 1, 2010  Professional General Artist
Fantastic tutorial and in a very rare subject too! Ears are great little (or big) things and so many artists tend to not give much credit to them.

I very much like the tips that you gave about digital painting. Thanks a ton. ^_^
Reply
:iconnoyouhaha:
NoYouHaha Featured By Owner Jul 1, 2010
Most excellent, I downloaded it and was simply amazed at the hard work!
superb work my fellow tutorial loving person!
Reply
:iconhixdei-love:
hixdei-love Featured By Owner Feb 11, 2010  Student Digital Artist
used*
Reply
:iconhixdei-love:
hixdei-love Featured By Owner Feb 11, 2010  Student Digital Artist
thanks for the tutorial i used it to pratice

i also uded your lines i hope you dont mind
Reply
:iconmegachix:
Megachix Featured By Owner Sep 27, 2009
Hi!!!

Use your tutorial here:

[link]

Thanks!!!

:dance:
Reply
:iconmiarath:
Miarath Featured By Owner Sep 23, 2009   General Artist
Looks great! :love:
Reply
:iconbdunn1342:
bdunn1342 Featured By Owner Aug 1, 2009   General Artist
Thank you for taking the time to make this splendid tutorial! :heart:
Reply
:iconmistressoflead:
MistressofLead Featured By Owner May 28, 2009
Thank you for the fantastic ear tutorial!


[link]
Reply
:iconakahari:
Akahari Featured By Owner May 8, 2009
thanks to you now I finaly can finish my work ^^
Reply
:iconisis-m:
Isis-M Featured By Owner May 6, 2009  Professional Interface Designer
Very nice tutorial, thanks for sharing! ^^
Reply
:iconzeqmont:
Zeqmont Featured By Owner Mar 21, 2009
Great tutorial. This really helped!
Reply
:iconlorelei-coral:
Lorelei-Coral Featured By Owner Feb 6, 2009
Featured here -> [link]
Reply
:iconsirandea:
Sirandea Featured By Owner Feb 4, 2009  Professional Interface Designer
Well, isn't this fortunate for me! I always have such trouble with coloring ears, so thank you very much for making this amazing tutorial! ^-^ Now I can work on improving!
Reply
:iconangel-v259:
angel-v259 Featured By Owner Jan 8, 2009
wow, gr8 tutorial,
tanks sooo much for the tips :)
really appreciated

:floating:
Reply
:iconsherambles:
sherambles Featured By Owner Dec 29, 2008
great tutorial! thanks for sharing. :)
Reply
:iconb4nd170:
B4ND170 Featured By Owner Dec 27, 2008
Thank you very much, this is very helpful ^^
Reply
:icondkaz:
Dkaz Featured By Owner Dec 12, 2008  Hobbyist Digital Artist
I'll try this later :D
Reply
:iconsupersonicsound:
supersonicsound Featured By Owner Nov 22, 2008  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Thank you so much for this! It really helped me a lot, and it made me realize that ears can be fun, and not only troublesome, haha.
Great tutorial<3
Reply
:iconellizjum:
ellizjum Featured By Owner Nov 10, 2008  Professional Digital Artist
this tutorial will definitely be useful, since I completely can't draw ears xD not that I can draw the rest ^^'
thanks for the tut!
Reply
:icongenny-raskin:
Genny-Raskin Featured By Owner Sep 12, 2008  Student General Artist
Thanks a lot for providing such a cool tutorial, I tried it out, you can see the outcome here: [link]

BTW, no worries, I linked to your original tutorial and to your page, I respect artist's rights for his/ her creations.

And thanks again.
Reply
:iconmoonlight-serenity:
Moonlight-Serenity Featured By Owner Jul 31, 2008   Writer
Wow this is cool :D I've been needing an ear tutorial D:
Reply
:iconshassumaru:
Shassumaru Featured By Owner Jul 27, 2008
Thanks a lot, this is a very beautiful tutorial!!!^__^
Reply
:iconbomkosh:
BomKosh Featured By Owner Jul 19, 2008  Student Traditional Artist
I can use that for Link now!
Reply
:iconendholiel:
Endholiel Featured By Owner Apr 21, 2008
I used your ear tutorial for a project I was working on. I love the way it came out. Thank you, so much! I had never done realistic ears before, but this was a great resource. I put a link back to your tutorial in my description.

THANK YOU!
Reply
:iconteefie:
Teefie Featured By Owner Dec 27, 2007  Student General Artist
This is very helpful~ THank you a lot!
Reply
:iconamilee:
Amilee Featured By Owner Dec 12, 2007
This is beautiful! I shall be using this in the future! :+fav: and lots of love! I shall also be watching you...from the shadows...like a scary thing...

I give you my :licking: lick of approval!
Reply
:iconthepix:
ThePix Featured By Owner Sep 24, 2007  Professional General Artist
Great!
Reply
:iconpadisio:
padisio Featured By Owner Sep 5, 2007  Professional Digital Artist
really nice!
Reply
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