Learn how to draw the transparent wings of a dragonfly in this step-by-step demonstration.
Drawing glossy transparent wings is challenging. By using this bag of tricks you will be able to suggest transparency in your drawings. Here are points to consider.
Which of these two diagrams does the best job of suggesting transparency? Why?
Lines should be lighter when seen through the transparent membrane.
Use less detail on parts seen through the membrane.
Colors behind the membrane will be less vivid and values will be lighter.
Reflections on the surface of the wing should cross over features that are seen below so that it is clear that the reflections are on the membrane, not the surface below.
Consider a little highlight along the edge of the membrane surface.
A membrane may block or partially block reflections from the surface below
Click on the first image below to start a step-by-step slide show. Let’s draw a dragonfly!
Start your dragonfly with the polygon of the thorax. There is a flat platform where the wings attach and a slope down to the head. The legs will attach on the slope below the head.
The front wings are narrower and angled upward. The hind wings lay straight across the back and are wider. Don’t worry about the angles of the wing shape yet. First block in the location and size of the wings.
Once the wings are blocked in, carve in the angles and refine the shapes. Note that the angles of foreshortened objects are more extreme than those on objects observed squarely.
Add details with a graphite pencil over your non-photo blue pencil lines. It is easier to focus on detail one you have the overall shape blocked in. Draw the body parts that are behind the wing more lightly and with less detail. This was drawn from a photograph, I can not get this much detail in a field sketch.
Paint shadows with a gray-purple mixture (this is mostly Daniel Smith Shadow Violet). Dilute the mixture to paint the body parts below the wing.
Once the shadow is dry, add flat washes of body color. Again diluting the mixture to paint the body below the wings.
The bases of the wings are red-amber. Paint the wing color and blend the outer edge with water to create a soft fade.
Use a red colored pencil to add the major veins of the wings and a suggestion of the smaller veins. Do not try to draw in every vein or you will go nuts.
Crisp up the edge details with a colored pencil (tuscan red).
Add highlights with a white colored pencil and a white jell pen (on the wings). This part is fun so be careful not to overdo it.
You can leave the drawing with a white background. If you decide to add a colored background, paint around the edges of the dragonfly, leaving the wings untouched.
Once the background is dry, paint a pale wash of the same background color that has been diluted onto the wing tips. Blend the edges with water to make a gradual transition.
Use more white jell pen or permanent white gouache onto some of the facets in the wing to give it a glossy sheen.