How to Draw a Monkey
If you've been keeping an eye on the Vectornator blog, you'll know that we're big fans of animals here.
So far, we've made tutorials for How to Draw a Dog, How to Draw a Polar Bear, and How to Draw a Fish. We simply can't get enough of rendering all creatures big and small in Vectornator, so this week, we made this another tutorial that we hope you'll go bananas for. That's right—a monkey!
So, stop monkeying around. Let's get to work.
• Apple Pencil
• The latest version of Vectornator
The first step is to decide which type of monkey you want to draw.
There are nearly 200 species of these clever primates, and they come in many shapes, sizes, and colors.
No matter which type of monkey you chose, we will follow the same set of rules when drawing it. Depending on your chosen species, you'll just need to make small adjustments to the face shape and limb length.
In this example, we chose to illustrate the macaque. With his cunning expression, this cheeky monkey always seems like he's up to something.
After deciding on which primate you want to draw, gather some interesting reference images that catch your eye.
Try to find a clear reference, where the monkey has a dynamic-yet-simple pose. We suggest finding an image of a monkey sitting on a branch or hanging out of a tree. This way, the monkey's whole body would be visible, and capturing movement is always more visually interesting.
Draw the Head and Body Using the Pencil Tool
For this tutorial, there's no need to create an initial sketch. We can begin by drawing directly in Vectornator using the Pencil Tool.
The monkey has a pretty clear center of gravity with a big oval body, a small head, and barely any neck—just like your uncle! All jokes aside, monkeys are also very lively creatures, so try to keep a dynamic shape that isn't too stiff.
With your Fill turned on and your color selected, draw the oval shape for the head and the body outline using the Pencil Tool.
Don't worry if you struggle to draw the perfect monkey shape at first. We're working in vectors, so you can tweak and edits the nodes at any time to refine the shapes.
Add the Tail
The tail is the most important body part of the monkey!
Primates use their tail to keep balance when they're climbing in trees and as a fifth limb when they want to grab something.
The swooping tail is also a significant part of the composition, as it adds dynamism and balance. It will also create a sense of movement in your monkey character. Look at your reference photo and create a gentle, curved shape for the tail using the Pencil Tool.
Draw the Ears and Face Shape
Now it's time to add the focal point of the illustration—the monkey's face and ears!
First, let's talk about the color palette. If we wanted to depict a realistic monkey, we would choose an accurate color scheme of different brown and beige hues. However, opting for realism can actually hinder creativity, as you might become too focused on drawing too many details.
In this case, we're creating a cartoon monkey illustration, so we selected surreal purple hues to give us more creative freedom. Now, we know monkeys aren't purple in real life, but opting for fantastical colors removes the pressure to create a realistic render and allows us to have more fun!
Back to our drawing. When we looked at our reference photo, we noticed the monkey's face is almost like a mask shape. When simplified, the face is basically two smaller circles for the eyes, and a bottom larger circle for the nose and the mouth.
Draw the mask shape for the face using the Pencil Tool. Then, use the same technique to draw both ears on either side of the monkey's head. In this case, they are slightly pointed at the top.
Add the Limbs, Feet, and Fingers
After drawing the base of the monkey, it's time to add the limbs.
Just like a cat or a dog, the monkey's hind legs are rounded and angular since they include the hip and knee, while the front legs are more elongated and straight.
Try drawing the monkey's legs and feet and color them (and also the tail) with a light linear gradient that starts with the body color and finishes with a lighter color. This gives the drawing some depth and helps the viewer to differentiate the limbs from the body. Don't forget that you can always adjust the nodes to define your shapes.
Our cute monkey friend is starting to look pretty good, but this guy needs some fingers, right?
After drawing the front limb, zoom in and create three long ovals for the fingers.
Draw the first at the end of the leg on the right hand-side and color it with a gradient using the same colors as before (with the darkest color to the bottom). Copy the finger and drag it a few millimeters to the left, then repeat it one more time.
Draw Some Facial Details
To further refine your monkey and really bring him to life, it's time to add more details.
From looking at our reference photo, you'll see the monkey has tufts of fur that go out from his cheeks (like sideburns). Adjust the nodes of the head shape to add these and apply the same gradient effect as in the last step. This is a small detail that makes a big difference. Look how charming he's becoming!
Now for the eyes and nostrils. Pick the facial color and create a hue that's 40% darker than the original. This color will be used for the eye sockets and the nostrils.
Remember how we created the face shape from three circles? On the top of the bottom circle, draw the monkey's nose. It's s flat nose, so it just needs two narrow, triangular-shaped nostrils.
Next, each almond-shaped eye socket should be placed in the middle of each top circle.
Then, choose a bright color for the eyeball itself. In this tutorial, notice how each eye comprises three circles. Use the Shape Tool to draw the biggest circle using your bright color (the iris), then a smaller black one for the pupil, and a tiny white one for the reflective glint in the monkey's eye. Group all three circles and copy them for the second eye.
Then, use the Masking Tool to make the eyes look like they're inside the eye socket.
We decided not to include a mouth, but if you think your monkey should have one, feel free to add it.
Draw Fur Details With the Brush Tool
Now it's time to draw your monkey's fur!
Select the Brush Tool and choose a natural-looking brush that's thicker in the middle and thinner at the edges. In the smooth settings, set your brush to 80%. Then, sample the body color and darken it by 40%.
Draw short lines on along the outline of the body. Remember: the direction is important here. Make sure your fur is drawn downwards, in line with the body. Otherwise, your monkey would look pretty scruffy!
On one side of the body use the darker color, and on the other side use a brighter color to create the illusion of a light source.
After outlining the body, you can draw fur lines along the outline of the face shape and the ears. Again, remember to go from up to down to mimic the direction of real fur. Next, add some more lines at the joint areas and few other places around the body and forehead to create even more fluffy texture.
Add a Branch and Background
To finish your drawing of a monkey, it's time to render his natural jungle habitat.
Of course, you can also find monkeys on a circus stage for a more vintage atmosphere, but in 2022, a circus monkey hitting the clash cymbals just doesn't look cute anymore.
Back to our drawing! To give your monkey more stability on the page, let's draw a branch for him to perch on. Draw a long shape using the Pen Tool and create one or two small branches that go out to the side. Using the Layer Tab, drag the branch above the tail layer and under the limbs layer to give more depths to the image.
Now we'll add background and additional illustrative plants around the monkey.
Use a darker color for branches that would be in the front, and lighter color from branches that would appear in the back, to strengthen the illusion of depth. Chose a soft color for the background and that's it! Your monkey is alive and kicking, and ready for export!
You're a Vectornator chimpion! Now it's time to share your monkey illustration with the world. Make sure to tag us on socials so we can see it!
If you need to cover more drawing basics, visit the tutorial "How to Draw Eyes", and if you feel you ready to draw other type of primates, we recommend you to check our "How to Design a Character" tutorial!