Painting animals is an exploration in texture. Whether it’s fur, horns, scales, or hooves, there are a number of ways to convey that texture to the viewer. We will focus on fur texture.
This means that you don’t paint the strands of fur first- they are actually last. You need to paint the shape of the body, and typically, a darker color underneath. Think of the whole animal’s body and how the light hits it. Don’t even think of details or strands of fur yet. Then you add subsequent layers of color, lightening each one. Brush the paint strokes in the same way the fur lies, but don’t worry about it looking like fur yet. It’s almost like the painting is out of focus.
Once the body is formed with light, look at your darker areas and fill it in. Start with a large brush and work your way to a smaller one. Think of the fur in big chunks. Still no small strands yet, just big tufts of fur. Look carefully at your photo resource and see what direction the fur is going in. Sometimes we take for granted where is it going. Zoom in if you have to. Also lighten up (or darken) the color. Often it is dark underneath and lighter at the top, but not always. Try an differentiate the top layer from the base layer. It’s helpful to think in “layers”.
This may be tedious or therapeutic, it depends on how you look at it. You can do this with thin paintbrushes- size 1 or smaller if you are painting traditionally. Or you can make your life easier by using a fan brush or a texture brush. Lately many stores have come out with brushes that make painting textures easier.
If you want to save some money, simply use an old, worn out brush or if you’ve been painting a while you probably have an old flat #3 or 4 brush laying around. Often these old brushes that are beat up make great irregular makes to enhance your painting. The brushes below are good examples.
In summary, painting fur requires many layers- starting with the basic form of the animal then moving on to the actual strands of fur. How do you paint make fur? Let me know in the comments below.