How to Draw a Coral Reef

Coral reef
coral reef image by Christian Schoettler from

A coral reef is an ecosystem within the ocean that consists of diverse species of coral, algae, fish, crustaceans, mollusks and sponges. They possess a variety of symbiotic relationships, in which one or more organisms live in close contact with one another, and benefit each other. For example, the corals of the coral reef often provide shelter and protection for the algae, which in turn provide nutrients for the coral. Coral reefs are composed of bright colors, as well as differences in texture and structure. In order to draw a coral reef, you should first make a sketch of the coral and associated organisms with pencil, and then color the drawing with water colors. In your drawing, you should include the diverse organisms and portray the symbiotic relationships.

Things You'll Need

  • Paper
  • Eraser
  • Water Colors
  • Pencil

Look at pictures of coral reefs. In order to draw a coral reef, you should look at photographs of them in order to become more familiar with their appearance. By observing the different photographs, you will see that the coral reefs all possess species diversity.

Make a list of the different elements that you desire to put in your drawing of the coral reef. Coral reefs vary widely in appearance, as a result of the species that inhabit the different areas. Nevertheless, you should make decisions about what you want to put in your coral reef drawing. For example, you can put coral, fish, crustaceans, mollusks and sponges.

Decide which type of coral, fish, crustaceans, mollusks and sponges you want to draw. These organisms consist of many different species. Nevertheless, in order to draw a coral reef, you have to know which type of organism you want to represent. For example, you can draw coral polyps, clown triggerfish, banded coral shrimp, giant clams and tube sponges.

Sketch the coral polyps in pencil. In order to draw a coral reef, you must sketch the coral polyps. Coral polyps are sessile organisms. They resemble vases, with a slender stalk, and tentacles that surround the mouth. The tentacles have the appearance of the petals of a flower. The coral polyps live in colonies. It is best to draw them first because they will occupy the majority of your depiction.

Sketch the tube sponges. The tube sponges are very prominent organisms of the coral reef. They resemble a group of narrow tubes, and nevertheless live in colonies. You can situate them adjacent to the colony of coral polyps.

Sketch the clams. One type of clam that is found within the coral reef is the giant clam. Like the coral polyp, it possesses a symbiotic relationship with the algae. Nevertheless, the algae reside on the shells of the giant clams and provide them with bright colors, such as blue and green. The giant clams have a wavy, curvy shape. You can draw them on the floor of the coral reef, perhaps adjacent to each of the tube sponges.

Sketch the banded coral shrimp and the clown triggerfish. The banded coral shrimp have two long claws at the anterior end, and four long, narrow legs on either side of the body. It relies on the coral reef for food. The clown triggerfish feeds on the crustaceans. It is black, yellow and white. When you sketch it, be sure to make outlines of irregular circles for the spots. You can place the banded coral shrimp at the bottom of the drawing, in front of the coral polyps, and you can place the clown triggerfish above the coral polyps.

Paint the drawing of the coral reef with water colors. Water colors are soft, yet captivate the vivacity of the coral reef. The coral polyps are often bright yellow, with an orange spot at the mouth. The tube sponges are light purple. Paint the giant clams shades of blue and green. Color the stripes of the banded coral shrimp blue and white. The body of the clown triggerfish is black, the spots are white, and the region near the mouth and at the top of the eyes are yellow. The clown triggerfish also has a narrow blue band that surrounds the mouth, and a deep blue spot at both fins at the posterior section of the body. The background of the drawing should be light blue.