Welcome Peggy Osborne back for a step-by-step tutorial showing you how to draw black fur.
Peggy’s tutorial comes in response to discussions about the difficulty of accurately and realistically drawing black fur that she’s seen (and participated in) on social media. As an artist specializing in horses for so many years, I know from personal experience how difficult black can be.
So here’s Peggy to explain how she dos it!
How to Draw Black Fur Step-by-Step
by Peggy Osborne
I hear it all the time.
Drawing black fur is hard. How do I keep from just having 2 eyes floating in a black blob?
Black fur does have variations in shading and can also have a number of other colors in it depending on the lighting. The fur in shadow is very dark while the highlighted fur is lighter. Those highlights are where you see different colors.
If the lighting is warm, you will see tones of peach, golden colors, browns. If the lighting is cool, you will see tones of blue, violet, greens.
In this reference photo, I see a lot of cool colors in the highlights.
I will be drawing this with Prismacolors and a few Polychromos colored pencils on light grey Pastelmat paper. The nice thing about Pastelmat is that you can layer light colors on top of dark colors. Although I usually always work from light to dark, this will help to add more details in the end.
Getting started with the eyes and face
My first step is to draw a detailed map/sketch of the reference.
Then I start with the eyes using various brown, orange, and cream tones.
For the black fur, I started out layering White, Light Blue, Greyed Lavender. I gradually add layers of fur-like strokes with darker colors like Cool Grey 20%, Slate Grey, and 50% Cool Grey.
I keep adding darker strokes of Violet and Indigo Blue. In the very darkest areas I use strokes of Black in random areas to give the fur a more realistic texture.
Blocking in and drawing the rest of the head
I start blocking in the rest of the head with initial light layers to show where the darks and lights go. I use a light touch and draw in the direction that the fur grows.
Here I have used White, Light Blue, Greyed Lavender, and Slate Grey.
As you can see these drawings require lots of layers to achieve the realistic look I’m aiming for and the Pastelmat paper is perfect for that as it holds lots and lots of layers.
This ear was completed with many, many layers of Light Blue, Indigo Blue, Greyed Lavender, Violet, Cool Greys, and Black. I repeated the layers, adding the lighter colors in the highlights and darker colors in the deep shadows.
The first layers are applied with a light touch, and I increase pressure as I build up layers, always looking at the reference photo, and following the way the fur grows.
Trying new tools
With this portrait, I tried a new product, to me, to pull out little hair like textures…. The Slice tool. I’d heard many good things about it and decided to try it for myself.
It works very well. You can see where I used it along the top edge of the ear where I was able to create some little hairs for more texture.
Finishing the head and ears
For the next steps I basically follow the same process as before. Layering the colors following the direction of the fur growth. I use the same colors throughout the dog since he is the same color overall.
I’ve completed the left side of the face and started on the other side and ear. This photo shows about 4 or 5 layers.
This photo shows 4 or 5 more layers.
I will probably add another 4 or 5 layers to complete this section, maybe more. The Pastelmat paper has a different finish than regular paper and it takes many, many layers to fill the tooth of the paper. I like to fill the tooth of my paper when I work, not leaving any little dots of the paper showing through.
Drawing the muzzle
Always make sure to follow the reference photo very closely. I’m layering the same colors I have been using throughout, blues, Greyed Lavender, cool greys, Violet, etc. I use White in the lightest areas.
I’m using a sharp point and a light touch going with the direction of the hair growth.
The next steps on the muzzle are just adding more and more layers, alternating colors and adding the lightest colors to the lighter areas and the darker colors to the darker areas. I continued this process up along the right side of the face and ear finishing off that area.
Once I have as many layers as I need, I use the Slice tool to scrape out some teeny tiny hairs along the muzzle to add more texture.
I also scraped out a few more highlights along the ears and where the light hits the face and bone structure. I use Black along with my darkest cool grey and Indigo Blue to really punch up the darkest shadows.
The nose is basically an extension of the muzzle using all the same colors. I use a circular motion with a light touch when drawing the nose, building up the layers as I work.
The nostril is super dark as it is in shadow and the top of the nose is in highlight. In the end, I take my electric eraser and tap the nose erasing tiny dots from the nose to add texture.
Drawing the Black Fur on the Chest
The next two photos show the chest area. There should be less detail here so the focus on this lovely dog’s face is not lost. I use the same colors but use a looser stroke. I laid out the darkest areas with black and the lightest areas with white. The mid layers are created using violets and blues.
Then I continue adding layers with all the other colors I have used throughout this painting. I still follow the direction of the fur but with a looser stroke.
Here is more done on the chest area, once again just building up those layers.
Making Adjustments and Adding Final Details
At this point I use the reference photo to compare values and color to each other. I can see I need to add more violet to the painting and darken the overall picture.
So I add a wash of Black Grape throughout the dog, and Black in the darker areas. Then I use solvent to smoothly blend all this together. This gives the more realistic look to the painting and looks more like the reference photo.
TIP: When doing commissions you want to continue to look at the reference photo to get as close a likeness as possible. You aren’t just drawing a dog, you are drawing the client’s dog.
Finishing off the muzzle and chin area with all my blues and cool greys. I used the Slice tool to add the whiskers .
One last step I do to check values is to turn the original and art into black and white.
I finished tweaking the portrait by zooming in to areas on the original photo and putting in as many details as I can see on the drawing. Little stray hairs along the ears, (scraped out with the Slice tool) , adjusting the nose just a bit and overall highlights and darkening in areas that need it. And a few more whiskers.
And here is the finished piece.
Hope you have enjoyed it as much as I enjoyed working on it.
Now you’re seen how to draw black fur using Peggy’s method.
Use the same process to create your own drawings of animals with black fur.
If you missed it, check out Peggy’s previous tutorial, How to Draw a Long Haired Dog.
About Peggy Osborne
Peggy is an accomplished self-taught artist living in Canada specializing in creating beautiful realistic portraits of pets and family members. She’s had an on going love affair with colored pencils, loving their simplicity, for as long as she can remember.
She started out using graphite pencil so it was an easy transition to carry on with colored pencils. Love of animals and art go hand in hand. Peggy is in awe of what can be accomplished with colored pencils.
See more of Peggy’s work at Pet Portraits by Peggy.