If you’ve ever been interested in painting an animal before, but don’t know how to tackle all that fur, then today’s tutorial is just for you! I’ll show you 3 easy ways to do this, so let’s get started, shall we?

1. Hints, Here and There

First things first – pick an animal to paint. It can be your pet, someone else’s pet, or something you find on the internet. It just needs to be any animal with fur. 

Next, study your subject. I like to squint here, as it gives me a clearer idea of where the lights and shadows are. Think of your subject as a whole, and focus on the shapes and tones instead of the details.

This will help simplify your lines when sketching and block in your subject's main shapes and tones. 

Once you’re done, it may be tempting to draw every single strand of fur. I don’t recommend doing this unless you’re going for a photorealistic drawing or painting!

However, I can recommend looking at fur as a tone first, a directional contour second, and a texture last. 

For example, for this bunny’s tones, the fur under the nose, ears, and around the legs and eyes are in shadow, while the fur facing the light source is in highlight. 

For directional contours, I’ve drawn lines indicating the general direction of each section of fur. This covers overlaps and gives you a better idea of how the movement of fur works (and how it grows).

Finally, for texture, I’ve added just a few lines to detail some of the fur, especially in areas of shadow or where there are dark spots. It’s kind of like combining the previous two techniques! 

For this method, just hinting at the fur is already enough information for the eye to know that it’s a furry creature, so you don’t have to draw or paint every single hair strand.

Tip: Ideally, once you have enough practice under your belt, you’ll be able to do the breakdown in your head rather than having to sketch it out every time. But take it at your own pace! It’s always good to brush up on the basics anyway.

2. Negative Painting

The next method kind of builds on the previous one, where you can indicate fur by painting negatively in certain areas – mainly around the outside of your subject. 

For example, I painted some foliage using watercolour behind this bunny, but instead of painting a hard curve around the bunny’s body, I outlined the fur instead to give it a fluffier look.

You can use just this method to make a subject have a furry silhouette, but when coupled with the previous method, it really sells the whole look! 

You can also use the same method within the subject itself too, such as blocking in shadows but painting negatively around the mid-tones and/or highlights. This method works best if your animal has white or very light-coloured fur.

3. Positive Painting (w/ Whites)

The last method involves positive painting and works well with animals that have mostly darker fur.

When using this method, focus on the animal’s outlines and keep them fur-like, even around the ears, tail, and legs. Even patches or spots of a different colour can have the same furry texture around the outside to keep the effect consistent.

Once your paint is dry, you then come back in with a white gel pen or white gouache paint to add whiskers or strands of highlighted fur that hint at the fuzzy texture. Again, you can combine the first method here, but using white instead of other colours. 

Mix and Match

Ultimately, there’s really no “one way” to do things. Sometimes it’s a question of style, and other times it’s more about what kind of look you’re going for. If you prefer to draw animals instead of paint them, you can check out this blog on how to draw animals

Do you want to keep it simple and cartoon-like? Or make it realistic in memory of a beloved pet? You can also mix up the different methods and even create your own! 

In fact, you can even apply the same techniques to hair as well! But that can be a topic for another time. Regardless, I hope you learned something from this quick tutorial and feel equipped to paint or draw any animal you wish to in the near future. 

Do you have a pet, and if so, have you tried to draw/paint it? What do you think is the most challenging part of trying to draw or paint an animal? Let us know in the comments below!

Additionally, if you’re interested in getting more tips, tricks, and general advice about creating art, feel free to subscribe to our email newsletter. You’ll be kept up to date with our latest product releases and flash sales, too!

Nicola Tsoi is a practicing graphic designer and illustrator based in Hong Kong. During her downtime, she likes to watch birds do funny things, search for stories, and bake up a storm. She keeps a pet sourdough starter named Doughy. 

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