How to Draw a Japanese Dragon

Easy, step by step Japanese Dragon drawing tutorial
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A dragon is a legendary mythological creature. In Japanese mythology, the dragon is an air-spirit or water deity, and one of the deified forces of nature of the Taoist religion. Dragon gods and goddesses may transform into human form. Unlike their western counterparts, the Japanese dragon is usually wingless and serpent-like. The Dragon King is said to live deep in the sea.

Dragons often feature in Japanese art, including paintings and pottery. Dragon lore is also associated with Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines. According to legend, dragons live in the lakes and ponds near these temples. The temples' names often include references to dragons.

This style of dragon has been used in animation as well. He is reminiscent of the diminutive dragon Mushu from Disney's animated film, Mulan. He, too, assumed the role of a protective deity.

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Would you like to draw a cartoon of a Japanese style dragon? This easy, step-by-step cartoon dragon drawing tutorial is here to show you how. All you will need is a pen, pencil, or marker and a sheet of paper. You may also wish to color your completed dragon.

If you liked this tutorial, see also the following drawing guides: Cartoon Dragon, Dragon Head, and Chinese Dragon.

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Step-by-Step Instructions for Drawing a Japanese Dragon

Japanese Dragon drawing - step 1
How to Draw Japanese Dragon: Step 1

1. Begin by drawing the Dragon's nose. Draw a series of upside-down "U" shaped lines. Below this, draw a series of "U" shaped lines to indicate the upper lip. Shade two teardrop shapes to indicate the nostrils, and draw a short line between them.

Japanese Dragon drawing - step 2
How to Draw Japanese Dragon: Step 2

2. Use curved lines to sketch the dragon's face. Use overlapping curved lines to form the bridge of the nose, brows, and forehead. Below each brow, enclose a half-circle shape to form the dragon eyes. Shade a small circle for the pupil within each eye.

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Japanese Dragon drawing - step 3
How to Draw Japanese Dragon: Step 3

3. Extend a pair of curved lines from each side of the nose. Allow them to meet at sharp points, forming the dragon's mustache. Then, use curved lines to form the triangular shapes of the open mouth, fang, and lower jaw.

Japanese Dragon drawing - step 4
How to Draw Japanese Dragon: Step 4

4. Use curved lines to form the triangular shapes of the teeth. Then, use a series of curved lines to form the dragon's beard and lower jaw.

Japanese Dragon drawing - step 5
How to Draw Japanese Dragon: Step 5

5. Use curved shapes to enclose the irregular shape of the dragon's horns. Draw the back of the dragon's head using a wavy line, and a long curved line for the back of the neck.

Japanese Dragon drawing - step 6
How to Draw Japanese Dragon: Step 6

6. Draw a series of curved lines at the back of the neck, indicating the dragon's spikes or mane. Then, use a series of curved lines to sketch the arm and hand. Note the curved triangular shapes of the claws or fingers.

Japanese Dragon drawing - step 7
How to Draw Japanese Dragon: Step 7

7. Draw a pair of long, curved lines that wind around to connect to the shorter line. This is the dragon's body. Draw a series of curved lines down the back to form the spikes.

Japanese Dragon drawing - step 8
How to Draw Japanese Dragon: Step 8

8. Draw a curved line down the dragon's body, roughly parallel to its outline. This indicates the dragon's belly. Use curved lines to outline its remaining hand or paw.

Japanese Dragon drawing - step 9
How to Draw Japanese Dragon: Step 9

9. Band the belly with curved lines. Draw a series of curved lines to enclose the spikes on the lower back. Then, draw the tail using two curved lines that meet at a gentle point. Tip the tail with a series of curved lines that meet at points.

Complete Japanese Dragon drawing
How to Draw Japanese Dragon: Step 10

Color your cartoon dragon. Often, the dragon is depicted in shades of red and crimson, but yours can be any color you would like. Be creative!

Japan and China have exchanged many cultural elements due to their close geographic proximity. In fact, the Japanese style drew much influence from the dragons of China. Learn to draw a Chinese dragon.

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The Complete Japanese Dragon Drawing Tutorial in One Image

How to draw: Japanese Dragon - all drawing steps
How to Draw Japanese Dragon

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  • This is not a "Japanese Dragon". This is a Chinese Lung Dragon. And the anatomy is not correct- a Chinese Lung has at least four legs. This "drawing guide" is showing you how to draw a Lindwurm- a dragon with only two legs. Please either change the title or change the drawing guide itself!

    • I did not write the following text, but I think it should explain this whole "Japanese vs Chinese Dragon" dispute 🙂 : "Japanese dragons are similar to the Chinese in that they are most often depicted as a massive serpent-like creature with no wings. The best way to distinguish between the two is to look at their toes as the Chinese have five, whereas Japanese dragons have three toes. The Japanese dragon vs. Chinese dragon mindset shouldn’t be regarded as a brawl, but rather a choice between different meanings."

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