I've always been fascinated by dinosaurs. I can't remember a time where dinosaurs were not a favorite subject. But my love affair with the "raptor" family began in the fifth grade, when I bought the book "Dinosaur Mysteries" by Troll Associates through my elementary school's book fair.

Deinonychus is mentioned many times in this book, saying their anatomy is evidence for dinosaurian warm bloodedness (a theory that was still unheard of in the general populace at the time this book was published). I became hooked on the speedy, wicked taloned dinos. Since then, dromaeosaurs had been a popular subject on many of my school notebooks, and still carries over into my art today.

This tutorial is a compilation of all the latest info I have on my favorite dinosaur family. It is presented in an artist-friendly format, showing images that illustrate what we know about dromaeosaur anatomy, and short explanations on why they are that way. If you want to read more on the technical anatomical stuff, I highly recommend reading Gregory S. Paul's "Dinosaurs of the Air." This tutorial is only basic in the fact that it only covers general raptor anatomy. Examples may not cover particular anatomy from every angle. Finding reference online or in books is recommended.

So what is a dromaeosaurid any way? Well, many people became aware of these guys through the Jurassic Park movies. The JP raptors are very cool as movie monsters, but are not good representations of how a dromaeosaurid would have been like in real life. In fact, it is because of these movies that many people make the anatomical mistakes that they do when drawing these animals.

The Dromaeosaurid family contains the popular species Deinonychus, Velociraptor and Utahraptor, and are thought to be the brainiest of dinosaurs. Dromaeosaurids are theropod dinosaurs (meaning that they are bipedal - they walk on two legs only). Theropods are very bird-like as opposed to mammal or reptile-like. Raptors have long, stiffened tails that act as balancing rods, hinge-like ankles, tightly folding arms, large eyes, and slightly S-curved necks. They can be quite tricky to draw if you are used to only drawing mammals. Dromaeosaurid should be drawn with bristle-like feathered covering, as latest theories suggest the whole family is descended from feathered, flying dinosaur ancestors.

Understanding basic dromaeosaurid anatomy:

This skeletal reconstruction of Deinonychus antirrhopus is a good, basic representation of raptor anatomy. All raptors have the same basic body plan, with only slight variations on proportion (head to body, leg to body, arm to body) and skull features (eye size, snout curvature, skull length/width). Before attempting to draw ANY dinosaur, do research on their skeletons. Just type the specie name into the Google.com image search and you should pull up a few good examples. Many books on dinosaurs supply skeletal reconstructions. Make sure the reconstruction is as up-to-date as possible.

As you look at the above skeleton, notice where things are located. You'll notice there are some big differences between this skeleton and a human skeleton, or a skeleton of a dog. The shoulder blades are nearly horizontal and are extremely narrow. The fingers are very long, ending in curved talons, as are the toes. The pelvis has a long extension, called the "boot." The tail retains flexibility where the vertebras spines are visible, then turning into a stiffened rod-like appendage. Notice the ribs that run along the belly, the dew claws, and how the second toe has upturned into a retractable weapon. These are all basic Raptor features that must be understood in order to draw them accurately.

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All content © 2004 H. Kyoht Luterman unless otherwise noted