Jun 24, 2009
How to paint fur
Well who hasn’t wanted to paint their pet? I am sure you have if you are an artist with a pet. Painting fur has always been one of those things I didn’t think I could do but found out that I was wrong. Now don’t get me wrong here it does take practice, but with the right brush (the Shining Feather Soft Stroke Brush) and the knowledge of how the fur grows and the colors of fur, you can do it too!
Two crucial things for painting realistic fur are to paint the hairs in the direction in which they grow and for the fur to be lying in the correct direction on every part of the animal’s body.
I have found that I can easily figure this out by slipping my reference photo into a plastic sleeve and with a magic marker I draw arrows on the plastic in the direction of fur growth. This reminds me how the fur is growing as I paint, when painting fur it is so much fun that it is easy to get so into the painting that I forget the direction of growth so this helps me stay on track.
I would recommend that you start looking at animals, and photos of animals and see if you can identify the growth pattern. Once you learn how to see this you are on your way.
We sometimes think that animals are all alike but they are unique in the sense that no two are identical just like humans! A black cat is rarely pure black and a tabby will have many colors of fur. The texture is different with some being short and thick while others have long and soft fur. The highlights, shadows and reflections all add a to the dissimilarity in color.
Now for me the hardest color was white and that was because I didn’t understand that it would not be pure white. The best way I can explain it is that you have to have a dark undercoat to make the white appear “white”. Your white can be a “cool’ white or a “warm” white, sometimes it will have a touch of purple in it or grey. As you build up the layers for dark to light you can add pure white as the final color if you have used color under it. I like to use a base of Violet Haze, then Light Buttermilk and then as my final highlight I use a mixture of Titanium White + Taffy Cream 4:1 (DecoAmericana Acrylics)
Brown fur will have a very dark undercolor like brown-black and then you can build up the colors with Brunt Umber, Milk Chocolate, and Raw Sienna and then as the final highlight add Fawn.
If you are painting a fox with red fur you would start with Burnt Umber, then apply Traditional Burnt Sienna, Terracotta and then as a final highlight add a little white to the Terra Cotta. If you need it more “red” you can add a touch of Napthol Red to the Terracotta.
For gold tones start with Brunt Umber, over this apply Honey Brown, then Camel and finally Camel with a touch of White.
Then we come to black. Like the white fur it is never pure black. The black can be cool by using Prussian blue with a touch of Cad. Yellow or it can be a warm black by using a black with Alizarin Crimson added. The highlights on black are easy and my favorite color is a mixture of Soft Lilac + Ultramarine Blue + Lavender 2:1:1.
It is nice to have these formulas but remember that every animal will be different, study the colors and make adjustments where needed. Make a color scale of each animal you are going to paint from dark to light!