Wednesday, November 2, 2016

How to Paint Fur!

Mrs. Huggles - a Teddy Bear
9" x 12"Arches watercolor paper

The painting above is an example of painting fur.  Fur can be fun to paint, but very easy to overdo.  In this post, I will provide instructions on how to paint fur and the next post will provide instructions to paint the teddy bear shown above.
You will need the following materials:
Watercolor paper
  • Round brush – your choice of size
  • Flat brush – old and scraggly
  • Liner brush or script brush
  • Fan brush
Paint:  colors of your choice.  I used the following on the fur illustrated above:
  • Yellow Ochre
  • Burnt Umber
  • Sepia
  • Paynes Gray
Steps involved in painting fur:
Step 1:  Base coat
Using a round brush, apply a light base coat of the colors in the body of your subject.  Using my example above, notice that deeper colors were used in the shadows around the arms, under the bow, around the feet and hands and areas of the face (ears, etc.)  Look at the subject and paint in a very light wash of these colors, even leaving some of the areas unpainted.  Remember this is the base only and other paint will be applied over this.  The base will show through the fur.  Allow the base to dry. 
Step 2: Painting the fur
Now for the fun part!  You can use several different brushes to paint fur.   I actually use a couple of different brushes depending on the location of the fur and the need to work around certain areas.   Since this is just practice, try all three brushes on a scrap piece of watercolor paper to see which brush will be the best one for you.
Technique for all brush styles:
Prepare several different shades of paint for the fur.  Start with the lightest shade and work into the darker shades.  Remember to work from light to dark.  Once the dark paint is applied it cannot be removed.  So paint with a light hand adding a little at a time until you achieve the desired result. Build layer upon layer, allowing previous, lighter layers to show through. 

Using a fan brush:
I use a dry brush and lightly dip the brush into the paint.  With a light touch, pull the brush in the direction the fur grows.    Fan brushes come in all sizes.   A small fan brush works for me; however, that is simply a personal preference.
Using a flat brush:
A flat brush that is old with scraggy bristles is the perfect brush to use for painting fur.  The bristles should be pulled apart so that each bristle will leave a mark rather than creating a smooth, solid line. 
Using a liner brush or script brush:
This style of brush will require one to paint each piece of fur separately.  If you need control of placement, this is the brush of choice. 
I use a combination of a fan brush and a liner brush.  I paint in the majority of the fur with the fan brush and fill in with the liner brush in locations that are harder to paint or that need more control.
Practice and see which brush works for you!
Fur painting tips:
  • Don’t get carried away with the fur.  I know that painting fur is so much fun that it is easy to overdo.  So, paint a little at a time.
  • Get the right amount of water in the paint.  Too little water and the brush will drag across the paper and leave inconsistent marks.  Too much water and the lines will blur when the water runs.  Again, practice until you achieve the right consistency of paint. 
  • Keep your brush strokes light.  A heavy hand can make the fur look too bulky.
  • Work from light to dark allowing all layers to show through. 
  • Look at the subject and see what kind of fur you are painting and try to match that look.  Is the fur long and silky or short and thick, etc.?
Most important – have fun and practice!
Remember:  Don’t worry about messing up – it’s only paper.
Happy Painting!

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