photoshop creative

Paint fur with the Brush tool in 10 steps!

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Tips & Tutorials, by Mark White
January 14, 2015

Feel the softness between your fingers as you learn to paint realistic fur

1. Sketch a sketch

Grab your favourite sketching tool and draw your furry subject. Alternately, grab a sketch from the internet, or turn a photo into a sketch with our useful tutorial! If you’re drawing, make sure you show body parts through the fur, but that the fur is fairly thick.

2. Prime the canvas

Set the sketch layer to Multiply, a blend mode that enables enables you to paint under the sketch. Select the Background and hit G (Paint Bucket tool). Flood fill with a deep, rich green for the grass. This is akin to toning canvas for oils.

3. Block in the underpainting

Create a new layer under the sketch. With the large Hard Round Pressure Size brush, lay down a saturated ginger colour. Make use of the various joints, as they act as markers, and study your references to see where the light falls. Paint light gold ginger with broad strokes.

4. Think negative

Push darks and pulls lights from the underpainting. Use the tapered nature of the brush and draw rounded dark brown V’s to create fur recesses (the negative shapes). Use the Eyedropper back over the brown as positive spaces while using the Brush tool.

5. Illuminate

Use small opaque brush sizes to draw short fur on the head. Reduce the sketch layer’s Opacity setting and toggle it on and off as needed. Select yellow white for the bright sunlight. Notice the saturated rim of orange pink on the edge between light and shadow.

6. Take shape

Continue to draw the shadows. Notice how foreshortened fur clumps into rounded boxes over the shoulder and how the belly fur breaks into soft wavy V’s. Once the fur clumps are established, paint into and slightly over them ginger or pale cream brown for the belly.

7. Untangle the texture

Finish drawing fur crevasses. Make sure shapes follow the anatomy and don’t look uniform. See how fluffy he looks without worrying about special fur brushes or fancy techniques? Just observe your reference and draw what you see, not what you think you see!

8. Highlight hairs

The belly fur swirls and sticks up, catching the light. Treat this area like an impressionist, with dabs of sunlight colours. This is one of the few place to paint individual hairs. Lightly draw around each dab with colour to further push the fur toward the viewer.

9. Paint the bright side

The sunlit side of the cat is so bright it’s hard to make out the fur clumps. Also, light is passing through the fur and illuminates these pockets. Use peach siennas and deep golds to hint at subtle texture V’s within the fur.

10. Add finishing touches

Set the brush to 30% Opacity and make it very small. Use short soft strokes, as if you can feel the texture, to paint individual hairs along the sunlit edge of the cat. Keep it looking soft translucent. Lastly, draw long distinguished whiskers with a steady hand.