I've had lots of questions concerning drawing dragon scales lately, and I figured that with my latest contest going on, a tutorial might be able to help!
Have scales ever intimidated you? Have you ever dreaded fully-scaling your dragon?
Now get ready to grease up and PUNCH THOSE SCALES IN THE FACE--
Heh, sorry about that. But seriously, scales are /nothing in the world/ to be afraid of or uncomfortable with. Honestly, I used to be, until I figured out this method, and have been putting it to good use ever since. You'll notice from my gallery that I prefer the sharp scales and chainmaille-like scales, but as you can see here, there's literally no limit with these techniques.
Now note that this tutorial is based on the technique that I figured out and use - I figured this out with a lot of experimentation and practice, and understand that it may not work for everybody. However, I have found that this is the easiest and nicest way to draw nice-looking scales without making your hand cramp into a twig or make your dragon look like a medieval illumination where every single scale /looks the same/ and is the /same shape and size,/ which is not the case in real life or for a realistic, living critter!
Shading is rudimentary and just there to add some shape/focus. Also, I draw a lot of inspiration from snakes and other reptiles, as well as inanimate objects like rocks, sand, ice, bark, etc... This will obviously depend on the dragon you're drawing. For general dragon scales, check out snakes, lizards, and gators. For elemental dragons, check out a glacier for an ice dragon, igneous rock for a fire dragon, and the texture of trees for a forest dragon. Heck, you could ever use bricks for an industrial, earthy look, or a car engine for a space dragon!
And when you get to the point where you're really comfortable doing the scales, you won't even need to really worry about the guidelines. Anymore, I just rough in some basic muscle shapes and scale right over-top of that. And it takes me...a few minutes. Tops. And I have a hella fun with it.
There are, of course, tons of other things that I could have covered, but didn't here for length's and detail's sake. This is meant to simplify scaling as much as possible. Scaling shouldn't be an all-day process or take up the majority of the time it takes for a single piece. The key? Don't over-think it.
If anything isn't clear, or if anybody has any questions about anything at all, feel free to ask me and I'll answer to the best of my ability. Or, if you have a scaled drawing that you'd like me to take a look at, shoot me a note or link it here and I'll check it out.
Gauntlet image from here: [link]
Hope this helps!