Wednesday, January 18, 2017

How to Paint Cat Fur

5" x 7" watercolor painting of my cousin's cat
Karen A. Cooke

Different types of animal fur require different types of techniques and different brushes.  What method used depends on the animal and the final result you desire.    The following are some things to remember about fur:

  1. Most animals will have different types of fur in their coat - short smooth, long wispy  and thick/clumpy fur.
  2. Animal fur is thick and will require layers of color and or detail.
  3. When working with watercolor it is important to paint the lightest color fur first and build up the darker layers.   The light base color is painted first with brush stokes placed on top. 
  4. Vary your brush stoke to keep the fur from looking uniform.  Animal fur is usually a little bit "scruffy" and unkempt looking. 
  5. Also, be certain to leave some white unpainted areas for highlights. 

Now. let's paint!

The watercolor above was painted on Arches 140 lb. cold press paper.

Supplies Needed:
Watercolor paper (size of your choice)
Masking Tape
Watercolor board
Brushes: round, liner and flat or fan
Spray Bottle of water
  • Ultramarine Blue
  • Sepia
  • Black
  • Payne's Gray
  • Crimson
  • Burnt Sienna
  • Burnt Umber
  • Yellow Ocher
  • Hooker Green
Note:  The colors above are the ones I used to paint the fur on the cat above.  Your paint colors will vary based on the color of the animal you are painting. 

Painting Instructions:
Sketch the basic shape of the cat with the most detail and attention given to the eyes.  The detail of the cat's head will be shaped by the color of the fur to define and shape.  

Basic head shape:
Use the lightest wash of yellow ocher and a round brush to define the outline of the cat head and fur.  Remember to leave some areas white for highlights.  While this paint is still wet, pick up some of the deeper colors (burnt sienna, etc.) and place in various locations to indicate the changes in color of the fur.  Leave the area around the nose and mouth as well as around the eyes white.  This will be shaded in later. 

The ears are painted using a pale wash of crimson.  This paint will blend with the color of the fur surrounding the ear.  Vary the intensity of the paint leaving some areas white.  Refer to photo above.

Paint the eyes.  In this case the cat's eyes are a gold green.  Use a wash and paint the outer section of the eye with this color and allow to dry.  Paint the pupil last leaving a small white triangle of white paper unpainted.  Allow to dry.  Using a liner brush or a watercolor pencil (see tip below) outline the eye.  Allow to dry. 

TIP:  Watercolor pencils can be used to help outline and define the eyes.  This is especially helpful if you feel uncomfortable or unsteady using a fine liner brush for details.  Steady hands come with practice and becoming comfortable with painting.  However, remember - it is only paper!

Nose, mouth and muzzle area:
Using a pale wash of Crimson, paint in the nose and mouth leaving some areas lighter fading into white unpainted paper.  Allow to dry.  Using a pale wash of Payne's Gray to add shading and color in in the nose and lower muzzle.  Refer to photo above.  Add dots of color using the tip of a round brush for the part of the muzzle where the whiskers are growing.  Allow to dry.

Using the liner brush and black, brunt umber and burnt sienna, paint in a few individual pieces of the fur.  Don't let this become too involved, just the illusion is all that you will need. 

The whiskers of the cat can be done in two different ways:

  1. Using a utility knife, scratch in the whisker, or
  2. Using a liner brush and white paint, paint in the whiskers. 
This is your preference.  In the photo above, I used a liner brush and white paint since this would show up better on this color fur.  Darker fur would make the scratch method more useful in that the scratch would be more easier seen.

Now, track down a pet or pull up a photo on line and get started painting!

Happy Painting!

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