How to Draw a Grim Reaper




About: I like sewing and crafts,and trying new things. I'm vegetarian and always looking for new recipes. My cat's name is Mirko and likes to be in the centre of things, so you will see him in several of my instr...

I few months ago I decided that I wanted to learn how to draw so I got some books out of the library and started at it.  I have been learning with mostly pen and paper. But when I noticed that this Halloween Draw and Paint contest came up I downloaded the trial version of Sketchbook Pro to give it a try.  I found it difficult to draw with a mouse but I really liked the brushes and textures in the program. So what I ended up doing was sketch my grim reaper with pen and paper, I then imported it into Sketchbook Pro and added colour and a background. 

I still need a lot of practice drawing. I think his head is a bit too small and his robes make him look fat, but I really like the way the ground and sky turned out and it was a lot of fun to play with.  Maybe this will encourage others to pick up pencil and paper or mouse and drawing program and try it out.

Step 1: Pencil Sketch

Being a very new to drawing I am hardly qualified to be giving instructions so I will just try to explain what I've done.  As I've mentioned in the Intro, I sketched my grim reaper first with pen and paper. 
  • With an HB pencil and an eraser nearby I started drawing the head and the drape of the hood.
  • Then I drew the hollow of the hood where his face would be. 
  • I continued by drawing the shape of the robes and sleeve where the right arm (his right) will be.

Step 2: Pencil Sketch

  • Next I drew in the sleeve of the left arm and the more of the robes
  • With a ruler I drew a line for the pole of the scythe.
  • With the pole in place I drew the hands.
  • Next I fixed the sleeves and drew the bottom of the robes.  I added some lines to suggest the draping of the robes.  I didn't bother adding much shading since I will be doing that on the computer.
  • Finally I drew the blade and darkened the inside of the hood and hands with a 2B pencil.

Step 3: Starting Sketchbook Pro

Since I don't have a scanner I took a photo of my sketch.  Unfortunately, the quality wasn't very good.  I still imported the image into Sketchbook Pro but rather then using that image I added a layer over top and traced it.
  • To begin I started with a blank Sketchbook Pro page and from the file menu selected Add Image... 
  • When you import an image you can resize, tilt and move it using the little tool.
  • I then increased the transparency of the image to about 30%
  • I then added a new layer over top

Step 4: Begin Tracing

  • Make sure you are working in the new layer
  • Select the pencil tool and set to HB size1.6
  • Begin tracing the bottom image, use short strokes so that if you make a mistake and click undo, it won't take you back too far.  Also the eraser tool comes in handy.
  • I decided to do the scythe on a different layer.

Step 5: Scythe

  • Add a new layer for the scythe
  • I used the straight edge (ruler) and aligned it with the pole of the image below. With a felt pen and brown colour I drew the pole of the scythe.
  • I used the french curve and a black felt to draw the blade.  You can rotate, move and resize the french curve to get the shape you like.
  • I coloured the rest of the blade black with flood fill.

Step 6: Colour Robes

  • Add a new layer for the robes
  • To colour the robes I used a Copic Medium Broad Nib felt size 13 of a bluey grey colour.
  • With the pen I just coloured inside the lines, the pen looks like a real felt pen in that it gets darker when it is layered.
  • I used the eraser to clean up where I coloured outside the lines.
  • I then used the Smudge Web Brush size 3.2 to smudge the grey colour to look like the folds of the fabric,  I added more colour as needed to darken certain areas (like under the arms).

Step 7: Details

Blending the robes:
  • I went back to the first layer where I traced my sketch.
  • Using the Smudge Web Brush I reduced the size to 1.6 and smudged the black pencil lines around the edge of the grim reaper and in the robes themselves. (I left the hands as they are).
Details on the Scythe:
  • Add a new layer
  • Using a grey felt pen draw along the edge of the blade.
  • Blend in the grey with the Smudge Web Brush.
  • I did this on the same layer as the scythe details
  • Add some grey felt on the hands and blend in with the Smudge Web Brush.

Step 8: Ground

The ground was a lot of fun to draw, but it is hard to describe exactly how I did it.  I started by adding a new layer.  I used the airbrush to layer some black and dark blue paint along the bottom. I then smudged it with the Smudge Web Brush (set to a larger size).  I kept adding paint and smudging it to get a dense layer and then added texture with the Thorny texture tool and smudged it in a bit until I was happy with the overall look.

Step 9: Sky

I added a new layer for the sky and airbrushed with blue and black and smudged it with the Smudge Web Brush.  I didn't make it as dense as the ground and when I was finished I adjusted the transparency of the layer so that it wasn't so prominent.
I didn't like how the sky colour overlapped the colour of the robes so I erased those areas on the sky layer.

Step 10: Finish Up

Crop the image with the crop tool.  After looking at the final result I thought that the robes should be darker so I adjusted the brightness and contrast on that layer, as you can see the robes are now more grey.  I also cropped it again to have less ground.



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    15 Discussions


    3 years ago


    LOVE IT,although try to do it with water colour paint and i bet it will be even better!


    6 years ago on Step 2

    for a beginner-intermediate artist, I think your stuff is pretty impressive! :) Love everything especially the shading and robe details, but I think that the head's a bit too small/stout for the body if you look long enough.

    1 reply

    Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks, I appreciate the feedback. I agree the head is a bit small especially since he is supposed to be an imposing character.


    6 years ago on Introduction

    Looks cool - especially the graduated shading and the bleak background. My only tiff is that the Scythe should have a double-curved handle not a straight one - just a bugger to draw!

    1 reply

    Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks, I agree the scythe could have use a little bit more work.


    6 years ago on Introduction

    That's pretty good! For a beginner you hit some very key areas for image editing of drawings: using layers, the ruler tool, and cropping your work. Great stuff!

    Since you're tracing over the entire image anyway, a photo is usually enough to get the outline and proportions of your image right (and it's the method I still use today because it's quick and effective!)

    3 replies

    Thats really good, just a tip though, if you want it to be creepier, try elongating it. Emaciated figures to tend to be scarier (take slender man for example). Also maybe give the scythe less of an inwards curve. This is just my opinion though. Thanks for posting.


    6 years ago on Introduction

    YEA, I did a lot photo changes with Windows Paint and yes its hard to do with a mouse! Here's an example ,don't LAUGH!! (unless it's funny)