Since Mermay is coming up, I thought I could teach you how to draw a mermaid swimming.
Most tutorials cover how to draw a mermaid sitting or a mermaid stationery.
But learning how to draw a mermaid swimming is an excellent idea because now you’re learning gestures and movement.
Conveying movement in a drawing is slightly for intermediate artists, but I will simplify things by breaking down each step in this drawing tutorial.
I will teach you how to draw the mermaid swimming in cartoon style.
Please note that I use an iPad Pro and an Apple Pencil to create all my illustrations. But you can use any tool – a pen and paper, Copic markers, or Photoshop because the drawing method remains the same.
Let’s begin drawing this beautiful mermaid!
How to draw a mermaid swimming in water – Step by Step
One thing to keep in mind when drawing a mermaid is that you need to have a good understanding of female anatomy as well as fish.
Because a mermaid is a half woman and half fish, we have to study the tail anatomy of a fish or a dolphin.
I try to look at various references for dolphins to understand how their tails move.
This will help us draw better mermaids.
So, spend some time looking at references and understanding how the human body, as well as the fish’s body, works in order to improve your mermaid drawings.
Getting back to our mermaid…
Step 1: Drawing the head of the mermaid
I’m not going to delve into drawing cartoon heads because that is a very long topic. However, if you want to learn how to pick up drawing heads and faces, get this book.
First, I will draw a simple circle and then draw two lines across it to use as my guide for drawing the head.
Now, using the circle as a guide, let’s draw the head.
Drawing side profiles can take some time, but it will become second nature to you once you practice daily.
Remember that the nose and the lower portion of the face jut out a little bit.
Next, I’ll draw the eye and ear of the mermaid.
Okay, we’re done with drawing the head!
And now, we need to move on to the body.
Step 2: Drawing the toro and the tail of the mermaid
To draw the torso, it’s best to draw rough lines first indicating the torso. So, I’m going to do that right now:
These lines will help us draw the outline of the body easily.
Because we are learning how to draw a mermaid swimming, we are drawing her side profile.
Next, I will draw the joints and outline of her arm and her tail.
This makes it very easy to draw the outline of the mermaid.
Now, I’m going to slowly flesh out the lines of the torso.
Next, I’ll draw the arm and the hand. I’m not going to elaborate on drawing the hands because I have a whole post here that explains how to draw hands.
Additionally, if you are looking to learn how to draw human anatomy, I suggest picking up these books:
Now, I’ll draw the tail of the mermaid. I have a detailed post on drawing mermaid tails here.
And now, I’ll draw the tail fins of her tail.
When drawing the fins, I like to keep the lines long and flowy – this indicates fluidity.
While drawing mermaids (especially swimming), you need to make your drawings less rigid and more fluid to indicate that graceful swimming movement.
I want to make it look like she’s headed somewhere and her tail fins are doing all the work.
Now, I’m going to move to drawing my favorite part – the hair!
I’m going to erase all the rough lines now and draw the hair.
Step 3: Drawing the mermaid’s hair
When learning how to draw a mermaid swimming, you need to think about the direction of her hair.
Now, since she’s swimming left, her hair will be pushed towards the right – in the opposite direction.
Think of the hair as 1 object when drawing it.
In this case, I’m going to look at the movements of a flag to understand how the hair moves in the water. This will help us maintain that fluid movement.
Okay, let’s get started.
Because of the force with which she is swimming, the hair will have a long bump first, followed by smaller bumps.
See the arrows to understand how I draw this.
Now, I will draw the underneath part of her hair.
Additionally, here are some books that will help you to draw hair:
I’m going to keep things very simple and not draw any strands in her hair this time. I have a whole post on drawing mermaid hair in different poses here.
I’ll end the drawing by adding the sea-shell bra to her chest.
And with that, we have officially learned how to draw a mermaid swimming in water.
I’m just going to clean up all the overlapping lines and remove all the guidelines to get this:
We’ve finished learning how to draw a mermaid swimming.
Now, you can either leave it like this, or you can color it!
Coloring this mermaid is tons of fun.
I’m going to show you how!
Step 4: How to color the mermaid swimming
Please note that I am drawing this illustration and coloring it via Procreate on an Apple iPad while using an Apple Pencil.
I first group all the layers in Procreate and then duplicate them.
I merge the group copy into 1 layer (by flattening the layers) and make it my reference layer. This will help me color the illustration more easily because I can simply drag and drop the color to the part I want to color.
Every colored layer will be underneath the main outline layer.
Also, please note that every single coloring is done on a different layer – this makes it easy to change and manipulate layers.
For instance, the skin base tone is on one layer while the blush and makeup are on another layer, and so on!
I use the dry ink brush mostly (comes free with Procreate) for coloring.
Let’s start with the skin of the mermaid.
I really want to draw an Indian mermaid because I am Indian as well. So, let’s begin with a nice toasty brown.
Now, with a pinkish tone (slightly darker in hue than brown), I’m going to add some detail on her shoulders, hand, and cheeks.
I’m using the bonobo brush for this.
Now, I will start coloring my favorite part of the mermaid – her tail.
I won’t be going into too much detail with this mermaid tail because I already have a post on coloring mermaid tails here.
Remember, you can go in with any color – I’m going to go for a nice rosy red today.
Next, I’ll add some scales to the mermaid tail to give it more texture.
Now, I will color the tail fins.
If you are drawing this digitally, remember to keep each tail fin on a separate layer and then change the opacity of both layers to 40%.
This will make the tail fins transparent and the colors will overlap giving it that beautiful tail-like texture.
Now, I’ll add some lines on the tail and the fins around her torso.
Keep this layer over the other layers and the blending mode is normal. It doesn’t need to be special.
Now, it’s time to color the hair. If you’re having trouble with hair, please see this post.
I’m going to shade her hair a dark brown.
Now, to add more definition to the hair, I’m going to go in and separate the hair into fine sections by adding darker brown strokes.
Remember to not keep the lines parallel.
This will give the hair a more organic look!
Now, I’ll go in with some lighter brown strokes just to add some highlights and definition to her hair.
Keep the dark brown strokes and the light brown strokes on different layers. This makes things so much more simple especially if you want to erase or manipulate the layers.
Take your time with this because it can be a little tricky and don’t worry too much if it’s not perfect. Coloring hair comes with a lot of practice.
Now, I’m going to color the sea-shell bra.
Next, it’s time to add highlights.
On a new layer, with a bright blue, I’m going to paint the highlights. Once I’m done, I will change the blending mode to “Add” and decrease the opacity to 17%.
Next, I want to add shadows.
Using the bonobo brush (it’s very diffused and chalky), I will use a medium purple and add the shadows on a new layer.
I will then change the blending mode to “Multiply” and change the opacity to 37%.
That should give me something like this:
We’ve learned how to draw a mermaid swimming!
What to do if you find it challenging to draw mermaids?
Everything gets better with practice!
None of us are born gifted with the ability to draw. We have to get better by drawing consistently. This book inspired me to do that:
Also, there are countless drawings and pictures of mermaids online, and you can even study women’s anatomy because a mermaid is a half woman!
You will have to study a little fish and dolphin anatomy to understand the tail’s movement and draw it in various poses for the tail.
You can also read my post on how to draw a mermaid tail to see a simple pose you can start with.
You can use Google Images for references or just go ahead and check out these fantastic books for studying human anatomy.
I would also suggest getting this course to help you speed up your learning: It will help you improve your visual memory for drawing people
Keep practicing different poses until you get comfortable drawing women and mermaids.
Conclusion + Resources
I hope this in-depth tutorial was helpful to you, and that you were able to learn how to draw a mermaid swimming.
Of course, this tutorial will help you get started. You do have to practice drawing women and mermaids before you get the hang of it.
Learning human anatomy takes some time.
So, don’t be discouraged if you don’t get it right from the start.
Every artist you see online that draws people has practiced drawing faces, arms, legs, and bodies repeatedly in their sketchbooks till they got to a stage where they can draw from memory.
It’s called enhancing your visual memory.
If you keep practicing drawing mermaids in various poses, you’ll soon be able to draw from memory.
You can make things easier by picking up this Character Drawing Toolkit.
If you want to see more tutorials on hair and people, just leave a comment down below. You can check out my other People Tutorials to learn how to draw people and clothes.
I will be adding more drawing tutorials to this blog, so keep a lookout.
If you are looking for books on drawing mermaids, check this out!
If you're looking to improve your drawings faster and want to really draw as a hobby or even pick up drawing professionally, I highly recommend picking up this beautiful online course that teaches you how to draw female cartoon characters.
Use code STRAYCURLS-10 to get a 10% discount!
This class will teach you how to draw a female character from scratch!
If you are just getting started with ProCreate, I highly recommend this course: Procreate for Beginners: Digital Illustration 101