How to Draw Short Cat Fur

Today I want to show you how to draw short cat fur. Or at least one way to draw cat fur.

Although the subject for this tutorial is cat fur, the process applies to pretty much any type of animal fur that’s short.

And any color. All you need to do is substitute the colors I list here for other colors of similar value to draw other colors of fur.

Also remember that you don’t need to use the same paper or pencils that I used for this demo. You can successfully draw short cat fur—or any kind of fur—with your favorite pencils and paper.

How to Draw Short Cat Fur

So what am I using?

The paper is Canson Mi-Teintes Steel Grey, which is a medium gray. If you use Canson Mi-Teintes, remember to use the back side, which is smoother than the front.

I used Faber-Castell Polychromos for most of the work, then added a few Prismacolors to finish. I’ll share color names with each step.

Shall we begin?

How to Draw Short Cat Fur

This demo is a follow-up to How to Draw Cat Eyes with Colored Pencils.

Step 1: Lay Down the Base Color

The portion of fur we’ll draw is brightly lighted by the sun. There is a strong cast shadow above that lighted portion, so the first thing to do is carefully sketch in the line between sunlight and shadow with Warm Grey I if you’re using Polychromos, or the lightest warm, gray in your brand.

Then lightly shade the sunny part with the same color. Work around the darker markings.

Use a sharp pencil, light to medium-light pressure, and a stroke that follows the direction of hair growth. Make the color layer smooth without filling in every bit of paper tooth. Some of the paper color should show.

How to draw short cat fur successfully begins with the very first layers of color.

Step 2: Add a Layer of Ivory

Next, add a light yellowish earth tone. In the Polychromos line, that’s Ivory, which is a light mix of Cream and White. If you’re using Prismacolor pencils, Putty Beige or French Grey 10% are equivalent. Use very light pressure for both layers very.

Work around the darker areas as shown below.

Continue using light pressure, a sharp pencil, and short strokes that follow the direction of fur growth. Don’t worry about drawing every hair. All you need right now is the look of cat fur.

You should also be able to see some gray from the previous layer showing through this layer of color, as well as some paper showing through both layers. This gives the fur a feeling of depth.

Step 3: Layer Cream over the Ivory

Next, layer Cream over the same areas. Use the same types of strokes (back-and-forth or directional strokes following hair growth patterns.)

Work around the lightest areas near the eye and around each stripe.

Step 4: Add Layers of Light Brown

Begin adding browns with Nougat (Polychromos) or French Grey 70% (Prismacolor.) Be a little more careful in working around the lighter colors and values, since there’s very little brown in some of them.

Use the same types of strokes with a sharp pencil. If you’ve been using medium pressure, go back to light pressure. It’s better to do a couple of light layers, than one layer with heavier pressure with the darker colors.

Work around the light areas around the eye and on the side of the cheek, but be careful not to draw sharp edges. These edges are where the fur texture is the most obvious, so stroke in the direction of hair growth.

Add more layers in the slightly darker values around the stripes and eye.

How to draw short cat fur - add layers of color in fur-like strokes to create depth.

Step 5: Blend Lightly, Then Add Darker Values

Next, lightly layer Warm Grey II (Polychromos) or French Grey 20% (Prismacolor) over all of the sunny area except the brightest highlights. This is a blending layer, so use light pressure. Draw even color using either circular strokes or back-and-forth strokes.

Follow up with a layer of Walnut Brown (Polychromos) or Dark Umber (Prismacolor) applied with very short, directional strokes in the stripes and darker values. Add Black over the same areas with even shorter strokes.

Step 6: Glaze Color to Smooth out Rough Strokes

If your drawing starts to look too rough or if the strokesstart to look too bold, glaze a warm, medium value gray over those areas to smooth them out. I used Warm Grey VI. The medium value Prismacolor colors are also good for this blending area. Use a color that’s lighter than the area you want to blend.

The lightest highlights also need to be the warmest (most yellow,) so work around them.

Step 7: Darken the Dark Values

To finish, I switched to Prismacolor pencils. They’re softer, so they layer over existing color more easily.

I darkened the strips and darker middle values with a mix of Prismacolor Black and Chocolat. Use sharp pencils and medium pressure.

In the stripes, alternate layers of Chocolat, then Black, then more Chocolat if the stripe is a warm black. If it’s a cool Black, add another layer of Black. Keep your strokes short, and stroke in the direction of hair growth.

In the darker middle values between the stripes, mingle Black and Chocolat. Again, keep your pencils very sharp and your strokes very short. Work around the lighter values.

Step 8: Punch up the Highlights

Add Cream accents throughout the lighter areas. Use heavy pressure and short, directional strokes. Mingle strokes of Cream with the strokes of Black and Chocolat in the darker middle values.

In the shadows, layer Cream more evenly, but still only in the middle values. You want to tint the color in those areas, rather than add a lot of detail, so a sharp pencil and medium pressure is best.

How to Draw Short Cat Fur finished

Continue layering color until the fur looks the way you want it to look.

Here’s the finished portrait.

How to Draw Short Cat Fur

And that’s how I draw short cat fur.

To draw longer fur, lengthen the fur-like strokes. I also use the same basic method but with very short strokes to draw horse hair and other types of short fur.

In other words, this method is very versatile. Once you master it, you can draw any type of hair or fur.

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Why Use the Umber Under Drawing Method

Today, I want to talk about using the umber under drawing method. This method of drawing is just one of many, and works for any type of subject. I use it most often for landscape drawing, but I hope you’ll find useful information here even if you’ve never drawn a landscape, or don’t want to!

Why Use the Umber Under Drawing Method

Why You Should Use any Under Drawing Method

The first question most people ask (about art or any other subject) is why.

Why that subject instead or another?

Why did you choose those colors?

Why do an under drawing when you draw over it anyway?

You get the idea!

With most aspects of art, the answers are personal. That applies to drawing methods, too. You can use any drawing method you prefer. You can even use a different method for every drawing or based on you mood when you draw.

But no matter what method you use, you begin with an under drawing of some kind. Why? Because in reality, an under drawing is simply the first layers of color you put on the paper.

So the real question becomes, why use a special kind of under drawing?

Most artists start with under drawings to achieve a certain effect. Most colored pencils are translucent, so every color you put on paper influences every other color. (That’s also why it’s so difficult to cover up mistakes.)

The type of under drawing (umber, complementary, monochromatic) affects the look of the finished artwork.

Subject can also be a determining factor. Landscapes benefit from complementary colors and earth tones, if only to tone down the greens.

Atmospheric drawings benefit from monochromatic under drawings that help create the mood or atmosphere the artist wants to create.

There are other reasons, too. For more in-depth answers to this question, read Why Do Every Layer if You Draw Over Them Anyway?.

Why Use the Umber Under Drawing Method?

Answers to this question vary from artist to artist, but here are the biggest reasons I prefer umber under drawings.

1—I do a lot of landscape drawings. For many years, I struggled with greens that were unnaturally bright. The only way to tone down those greens is by adding their compliments. Usually reds, oranges, and earth tones.

You can, of course, add those colors at any time in the process—and I often do. But an umber under drawing has rescued many a drawing. So many that this drawing method has become my favorite.

Why Use the Umber Under Drawing Method - Late Spring in the Flint Hills

2—An umber under drawing is ideal for drawing animals of almost every stripe. It also works for many other subjects.

3—It’s a lot easier for me to work out shapes, values, and details if I’m not also making decisions about colors. When I begin with local colors or with a complementary under drawing, I have to make color choices from the start.

With an umber under drawing, the choice is already made. One light brown, and one dark brown. Sometimes, I even limit myself to one or the other.

4–Quite simply, I like earth tones. There is so much variation in earth tones that I’ve often considered doing sepia studies in nothing but earth tones.

Or those lovely French greys in the Prismacolor line.

So when it comes to choosing under drawing colors, it’s natural to reach for a brown of some kind!

That’s Why I Use the Umber Under Drawing Method

The umber under drawing method isn’t the only method I use, but it is my favorite method.

Want to see how it works in practice? Read my umber under drawing tutorial featuring a dark horse on this blog. For a landscape tutorial, read my first ever series on EmptyEasel.com. Both contain step-by-step illustrations and instructions.

Then give it a try if you’ve never used it before. It may become your new favorite drawing method!

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More Basic Colored Pencil Terms for Beginners

Last week, I defined some of the basic terms relating to colored pencils and drawing paper. This week, I want to continue that discussion with more basic colored pencil terms, but this time, lets talk about method and technique terms.

More Basic Colored Pencil Terms for Beginners

Before we go any further, let me assure you there is no “right way” to draw. The methods and techniques I’m about to describe are just a few of those that are available to artists.

Some of the technique terms apply to colored pencils no matter what methods you use. Some of them are applicable only to specific methods or techniques.

More Basic Colored Pencil Terms for Beginners

Method

Let’s begin with the broader subject of drawing methods. The following definitions are very basic. For more information on any of them, read Comparing Colored Pencil Drawing Methods.

Direct Drawing Method

When you use what I call the direct drawing method, you begin with the same colors you end with. There is no clear difference between the first layers of color and the final layers except perhaps in the vibrancy of the colors, and the level of detail.

More Basic Colored Pencil Terms for Beginners - Direct Drawing Method

This is the most common drawing method.

It’s also the most intuitive. It’s natural to begin drawing a tree with greens and browns, after all. That’s the way I started drawings (and paintings) when I first started doing art.

Complementary Under Drawing Method

With the complementary under drawing method, you start drawing with colors that are on the opposite side of the color wheel from the final colors. The complementary under drawing for an orange is going to be blue.

More Basic Colored Pencil Terms - Color Wheel

The complementary method is excellent for landscape drawings because the complementary under drawing automatically keeps the greens from getting to bright.

Umber Under Drawing Method

The umber under drawing method begins with an under drawing that’s brown, like those old-fashioned sepia-tone photographs. Values and details are developed in brown no matter what color the subject is.

The shade of brown can vary from subject to subject. You can choose a warm brown such as Prismacolor Light Umber (my preference) or a cooler brown such as Dark Umber or Sepia.

You can also mix browns, using a combination of light and dark browns or warm and cool browns to create more interest and contrast in the under drawing.

But with this method of drawing, the under drawing is always only shades of brown.

More Basic Colored Pencil Terms - Umber Under Drawing

Monochromatic Under Drawing Method

One method I haven’t mentioned here, but that I have talked about elsewhere is the monochromatic method. With this method, you create an under drawing in a single color or, sometimes, with a single color family. For example, you might choose to draw an Indigo Blue under drawing.

The reason I’ve not described this method further is that I haven’t used it in years. Why? Because the colors I most often choose for a monochromatic under drawing are either earth tones  or complementary colors.

I tried Indigo Blue once and didn’t care for the result. Most other colors don’t result in the look I want for my work, so this method has fallen out of favor.

More Basic Colored Pencil Terms for Beginners - Monochromatic Method

But that’s no reason for you not to try it. The fact is, it may suit your choice of subject and your drawing style beautifully!

Combining Methods

There are other methods of drawing, and you can combine elements of these methods in a single drawing. For example, I’ve used an umber under drawing for the trees in a landscape, but drawn everything else using the direct method.

As mentioned previously, there is no right way to draw. Every artist needs to find the method or methods that work best for them.

But understanding the basic differences and characteristics of each method helps you make better decisions.

Technique

Under Drawing/Under Painting

The first layers of color you put on a drawing are called the under drawing or under painting. No matter what method you use, these layers are the foundation of the artwork.

The colors you use for the under drawing are determined by the method you use, as described above.

More Basic Colored Pencil Terms for Beginners - Under and Over Drawings

This sample shows a complementary under drawing.

Over Drawing/Over Painting

The over drawing or over painting refers to all the layers of color you put over the under drawing. Some of the methods I use have very distinct beginnings and endings. Others do not.

Layering

Layering is the process of layering one color over another, or adding multiple layers of the same color. You can use light, medium, or heavy pressure to add color. You can also use sharp or blunted pencils, and hold them vertically, horizontally, or somewhere in between.

Glazing

Glazing is the same as layering, except that the layers are thinner, so that the colors that are under the new layer are still clearly visible. The term comes from oil painting, a medium in which you can thin paint so it’s very transparent, almost like laying a piece of colored plastic over a painting to tint the colors.

Most colored pencils are translucent by nature, so almost every layer you put on a drawing is technically a glaze. But when you glaze a color onto a drawing or painting, you use very light pressure, and barely add any color at all. I usually glaze with the side of a pencil held horizontal to the paper.

More Basic Colored Pencil Terms - Glazing

Pressure

Pressure is the amount of force you put on the paper with the pencil. It’s often measured on a scale of 1 to 10, with one being the lightest pressure and ten the heaviest. Burnishing is the heaviest pressure you can use. It’s most used at the end of the process.

When you glaze a color, you’ll most likely be using a pressure of one or two.

Blending

When an artist uses a wet medium such as oils, acrylics or watercolors, they mix two or more colors together to get a new color.

Colored pencils are a dry medium, so they can’t be mixed the same way. Instead, colored pencil artists create new colors by layering one color over another color on the paper. Since colored pencils are not opaque, every color influences every other color in some way.

This is called blending, and there are different ways to do it.

More Basic Colored Pencil Terms - Layering

Dry Blending

Layering is one method of blending and it’s the method most artists use because it requires no additional tools or smelly solvents. I drew the sample above with multiple layers of yellow and blue. The green results from alternating layers of each of the other colors.

Other methods of dry blending include rubbing a drawing with paper towel or tissue, or using a colorless blender.

Burnishing is another form of dry blending in which you use very heavy pressure to “grind” layers of color together. You can use either colored pencils or a colorless blender to burnish.

Solvent Blending

Solvent blending is a method of blending in which you use a solvent or paint thinner such as odorless mineral spirits to break down the binder. Once the binder is dissolved, pigments mix and blend more like paint.

Solvent blending is often faster than dry blending or blending by layering, but it also requires some caution, due to fumes. It also requires drying time.

Conclusion

There are, of course, even more basic colored pencil terms to learn, but they can wait for another post.

It may seem confusing now, but once you understand each of these terms and how they apply to colored pencil art, you have a great foundation. Most other art terms—and colored pencil terms—build on these basic terms.

Comparing Colored Pencil Drawing Methods

Comparing colored pencil drawing methods can be a challenge. For one thing, there are nearly as many methods of drawing with colored pencils as there are artists using colored pencils.

And even though two artists may produce similar styles and types of work, the methods they use may be widely different.

How do you know which method is best for you?

Comparing Colored Pencil Drawing Methods - Pencil & Paper

Why Method Matters

As universal as drawing with colored pencils may seem, the method you use depends largely on three things:

  1. The type of work you want to create
  2. Your favorite papers or supports
  3. The pencils themselves

Believe it or not, some methods work better on smooth paper than on rough. Some methods also work best with high-quality pencils, and sometimes, the method that’s best for you is dependent on your artistic temperament.

Choose the wrong method for your tools and personality, and you may very well give up on colored pencils before finishing your second piece.

But find the right method, and you can draw for years and enjoy almost every minute of it!

Comparing Colored Pencil Drawing Methods - Primary Colors

Understanding Terms

Before we get started, let me briefly explain terms.

Regardless of the way you draw, you’re likely to work in two basic phases.

The first phase is what I call an under drawing. It’s the first layer or two of color you put on the paper no matter what method of drawing you use. The under drawing may consist of just a couple of layers or it may involve as many as six to ten layers.

The second phase is what I call the over drawing. In this phase, you’re developing the colors, values, and details you established in the first phase.

It doesn’t matter what colors you use in the under drawing. It’s still an under drawing.

For the purposes of this article, I’ll be comparing different methods for drawing the under drawing, since the over drawing is fairly consistent no matter which method you prefer.

Comparing Colored Pencil Drawing Methods

There is no easy way to categorize drawing methods because the methods I’m about to describe are not isolated one from the others. You can combine various aspects of them as you like, so they’re more like points on a line.

Comparing Colored Pencil Drawing Methods

To keep the discussion brief and clear, I’m limiting it to the four methods I use most often: Complementary, direct, monochromatic, and umber under drawing method. As mentioned above, these names refer to the way I draw the under drawing. Once I have a complete under drawing, the over drawing is pretty much the same from one method to the next.

Complementary Drawing Method

Complements on a Color Wheel

With this method, the under drawing is drawn in colors that are opposite the the color wheel from the final colors of the drawing.

In the color wheel shown here, orange and blue are complementary colors. If you wanted to draw something blue using this method of drawing, you’d begin by drawing the under drawing in shades of orange.

Green Pastures - Complementary Under Drawing

The drawing, Green Pastures, was drawn with a complementary under drawing. This is the finished under drawing. The under drawing looks almost like a finished drawing, but in complementary colors.

Green Pastures Finished Drawing

This is the finished drawing. Local color (the finished colors) were glazed over the under drawing. I needed to draw very little detail because it had already been established in the under drawing.

Tips for Using the Complementary Drawing Method

Take careful note of the local colors of your subject. An object that is blue-green in color will require a different complement (red-orange) than an object that’s yellow-green (red-blue). The more precisely you can identify the local colors and their complements, the better this method works.

For environmental greens, consider using earth tones as the complements, rather than direct complements. A grassy field on a sunny day will benefit from an under drawing in cool browns, for example.

If you’re unsure what colors to use for a complementary under drawing, reverse the colors on your digital photo. You can do this in most photo processing programs. You won’t be able to exactly duplicate the colors, but this “negative” image should give you a good idea where to begin.

Download my free color wheel template and make your own color wheel. Not only will this exercise give you a good feel for how complementary colors relate to one another; you’ll end up with a reference tool you can use for future drawings. Instructions are included.

Direct Color Drawing Method

Direct drawing is probably the most popular method of drawing with colored pencils because it’s where most artists begin. It’s natural. You draw the under drawing with the same colors with which you draw the over drawing. There usually isn’t a moment when you say to yourself, “The under drawing is done.” Instead, you continue to layer color until the drawing is complete.

Fire & Ice Filly Under Drawing

This  illustration shows the under drawing stage of a drawing in which I used the direct method.

With this method, you’re developing detail and creating value—just as you do with the other methods. But you’re also making color choices. The drawing develops at all three levels at the same pace.

The drawing moves without notice from the under drawing phase to the over drawing phase.

Fire & Ice Filly Over Drawing

This illustration shows the finished drawing

The primary differences between the under drawing (above) and the finished drawing is that the colors and values are fully developed. I’ve also added detailing where necessary.

Tips for Using the Direct Drawing Method

Start with light colors and light pressure. You can use lighter values of the local color if you wish, or simply start with very light pressure and increase the amount of pressure you use layer by layer.

Build color and value slowly. It’s easier to increase color saturation and value range than it is to decrease it.

Be prepared to possibly have to mix more colors to get the exact color you want. I didn’t have one color that was an exact match for the palomino color of the horse in this example, so I had to combine several shades of yellow- and red-browns.

Monochromatic Drawing Method

When you use the monochromatic drawing method, you draw an under drawing in a single color (or maybe two), but the color you choose is entirely up to you. You develop the under drawing the same way you do with the complementary method or umber under drawing method.

Morgan in Western Indigo Blue Under Drawing

I have used this method with Indigo Blue, as shown in the under drawing shown at the right. I’ve also used shades of purple and green.

But I don’t use the monochromatic method very often because the colors I choose tend to be either complementary colors or earth tones (browns).

Morgan in Western

The color you use for the under drawing will affect the final look of the drawing.

As you can see with the finished drawing here, the chestnut is quite dark. Some of that darkness is due to the colors I used in the over drawing, but most of it is the result of drawing the under drawing in Indigo Blue.

Tips for Using the Monochromatic Drawing Method

If you like to experiment and want to see how colors influence each other, do a simple drawing with a monochromatic under drawing, but do several versions of the same drawing with different colors as the under drawing.

Chose a color that’s medium value. Use light pressure to draw the lighter values. Increase pressure or number of layers to draw darks.

Consider the local color of the subject when choosing the under drawing color. The horse in this sample was naturally a dark chestnut, so using Indigo Blue helped developed the coat color. Using Indigo Blue for a light gray horse would not have helped at all.

Umber Under Drawing Method

This is my preferred method; the method I use to draw horses, landscapes, and almost anything else I want to draw. That doesn’t make it better than any of the others. It just means it works best for me.

Landscape Umber Under Drawing 2

This method is similar to the monochromatic method in that you use only one color. In this case, however, the color you use is an earth tone—a shade of brown.

The illustration at left was drawn entirely in browns. The landscape elements were developed in detail and value through several layers.

Landscape Study Flint Hills Spring

Once the drawing is complete, color is layered over the drawing.

In this sample, I used several greens to draw the grassy hillsides, and the trees. For the most part, I used the same greens in the foreground as in the background, but used the lighter values from the under drawing to create the illusion of distance.

Tips for Using the Umber Under Drawing Method

Use an earth tone that’s either neutral in color (not too blue or too yellow) or that is the complement of the final color. I use a light umber most of the time, because it’s a light brown that’s still dark enough to draw nice dark values. But it’s a little on the warm side, so if I’m drawing a subject that will feature warm colors in the over drawing, I might switch to a darker shade, which is slightly bluer in color.

General Under Drawing Tips

Begin with light pressure and build value slowly, layer by layer.

Choose middle value colors. The color needs to be dark enough to impact the over drawing, but light enough that it doesn’t overwhelm the over drawing.

Work around the highlights. It’s much easier to preserve the highlights than to restore them.

When drawing landscapes, don’t under draw the sky unless there are clouds. A clear, blue sky should be the purest color in your landscape, so it doesn’t need an under drawing.

Read more about colored pencil drawing methods.