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Sugar skulls, called calaveras in Spanish, are edible, handmade representations of human skulls made from sugar or chocolate and decorated with icing, foil, beads, or feathers. The term also refers to similarly adorned decorative clay skulls.
These skulls are typically made in celebration of the Día de los Muertos, the Day of the Dead, a holiday celebrated in Mexico that roughly corresponds to Halloween. The holiday has roots in the Mayan and Aztec cultures, and the skulls are often placed on altars as ofrendas, or offerings. The name of a deceased loved one may be written on the skull.
Sugar skulls are also used for the Roman Catholic holiday called All Souls’ Day.
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If you would like to be able to draw your own sugar skull, follow this easy, step-by-step sugar skull drawing tutorial. You will need a piece of paper, an eraser, and something with which to draw, such as a pencil. You may also want to use crayons, colored pencils, markers, or other materials to decorate your completed sugar skull.
Each step in this drawing guide is accompanied by an illustration. In each picture, new lines drawn in that step are highlighted in blue. All other lines are shown in black. It is advisable to sketch lightly at first, as you will be erasing early lines, called guide lines, as you go along.
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Step-by-Step Instructions for Drawing a Sugar Skull
Begin by drawing a large circle.
From each side of the circle, draw a curved line, extending down.
Connect these lines using a long, curved line.
Erase the guide line formed by the bottom of the circle.
Draw two circles within the figure. These will form the eyes.
In the middle of the figure, draw a shape like and upside down heart. Draw a smaller upside down heart within the first.
Draw a smaller circle within each eye circle. Within the smaller circle, draw a swirling, curved line.
Draw a zigzag pattern in a circle around each eye. Each zigzag pattern will consist of thirty to forty short, straight lines, forming about twenty small triangle shapes around the eye.
Draw a decorative pattern on the top of the sugar skull. To begin, draw a short, straight line. Connect another short, straight line at a right angle, and extend another line from this one. Add a larger, curved line to this point. Repeat the process to form a mirror image on the other side. Connect the two sets of lines with a short, straight line.
Within the shape just formed, draw a smaller version of the same set of lines.
Draw a flower like form within this shape. Draw a small circle and place a spiraling curved line within it. Using a wavy line, outline the circle. This will resemble simple petals.
Draw a curved line above each eye. These lines give the appearance of furrowed brows and define the shape of the skull.
Above each brow line, draw a teardrop shape.
Draw a small heart between the teardrop shapes.
Draw a larger teardrop shape above the end of each brow line.
Draw a curved horizontal line in the bottom portion of the sugar skull. This line will resemble a smiling mouth.
Draw teeth above the mouth line. Use eight curved, upside down “U” shaped lines to form the teeth.
Draw seven “U” shaped lines beneath the mouth line to mirror the teeth above.
Add more detail to the sugar skull. Draw a dot between each of the large teardrop shapes and the design at the top of the skull. Draw a heart shape on each side of the sugar skull, partially hidden by the skull’s edge. Draw a smaller heart within each, and shade the smaller heart. Beneath the mouth, draw two swirling shapes consisting of two curved lines. The shapes will resemble an apostrophe.
Shade the inner heart shape of the nose and the circles around the eyes.
Color the sugar skull. Traditionally, sugar skulls are decorated with an array of bright colors.
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