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.

How to Draw EXACTLY What You See

Dan Duhrkoop, founder of EmptyEasel and author of How to Draw Exactly What You See, asked if I would provide a review of his book if he sent me a copy.

I love books, reading, and art, so I said, “Sure!” (Who doesn’t like free, if it’s something they can use?)

Ordinarily, I don’t accept freebies because it almost always leads to unwanted obligations. But I’ve been freelance writing for EmptyEasel since 2012 and have a good working relationship with the author of this book, who is also the founder of EmptyEasel.

Even so, my review is unbiased. I’d say the same things if I’d purchased the book on my own, and didn’t know Dan!

So let’s get to it, shall we?

How to Draw EXACTLY What You See - Book Cover

How to Draw EXACTLY What You See – My Review

From the Introduction:

Whether you’re a brand-new artist with zero training, or a more experienced artist looking to improve your drawing skills, this guide will teach you everything you need to know to look at a still life scene and draw it EXACTLY as it appears.

I’m not a still life artist. I love looking at well done still life artwork, and I can look at the produce section in the grocery store and see sorts of possible subject. But that’s as far as it usually goes. I have next to no interest in drawing my own. So I wasn’t sure what this book could offer me or how it could help me improve my drawing skills.

One look at the cover, and you may be thinking the same thing. Don’t let that put you off. If you do, you’ll be missing a great opportunity.

And if you do enjoy still life drawing of any kind—in studio or plein air—then you’ll want this book. It covers every step of the process from basic composition and setting up your own still life to sketching what you see and rendering it realistically in graphite.

If you’re just getting started drawing, the book also contains over a dozen high-quality still life images from very easy to quite complex. You’ll start out ahead of the game!

Putting the Draw EXACTLY What You See Method to the Test

As I mentioned, I’m not a still life artist, but I did intend to do some still life drawings just to see how they turned out. A number of things derailed that plan, so my first trial with the author’s drawing method concerned a dog portrait I’d been having fits trying to get right.

That difficult portrait line drawing turned out so well using Dan’s drawing method that I decided to try another one for this review. I am so glad I did!

My Demo Subject

This is the reference photo I chose for this demo. I chose it for two reasons.

The first and most important is that the cat is our oldest cat, Thomas. We’ve had him since mid-2003, when we saw him and a litter mate playing in the gutter while we were out walking. They were our first rescues. Thomas recently died and I wanted to do his portrait.

Second, I have always loved the golden light of late evening and liked this photo of Thomas, taken when he was at his prime. Now that he’s gone, that westward gaze into the sunset seems somehow appropriate.

How to Draw Exactly What You See - The Reference Photo
Thomas, Photo by Carrie L. Lewis

Second, the drawing method described in How to Draw EXACTLY What You See starts with marking off each of the places where the subject leaves the composition. This photo of Thomas focuses so closely on his face and eye that one ear leaves the composition as well as the back of his neck and his upper chest. That made it perfect for this demo.

Preparing the Image

Since I wasn’t working from life, I had to make a few adjustments. But I prepared the reference photo as much according to the steps in the book as possible.

I used GIMP (a free photo editor download) to add a wide white border around the reference photo and then mark with a red line each place where an edge leaves the composition. Edges included Thomas’ markings.

Marked up reference, showing each of the places where an edge goes off the picture.

Then I printed the reference photo above, and the picture plane (below) on a blank sheet to draw on. I was able to do that because I put the border and marks on a separate layer added to the photo in GIMP. All I had to do was hide the image and print the new layer. (If you’d like to see a tutorial on that, let me know.)

Picture plane with edge marks. I don’t have to worry about measuring because the black border and red marks are the same ones I put over the reference photo!

How to Draw EXACTLY What You See

Step 1: Start with negative spaces

The first step is to make a contour drawing of the negative space using the edge markings as a guide. However, I was so focused on drawing Thomas that I totally forgot that step.

Had I remembered, these blue shapes are the shapes I would have drawn. All of the light blue is negative space. Just two large, fairly simple shapes. (That’s another reason I chose this reference photo.

Draw the negative spaces as accurately as you can. According to the author, this is a good way to “trick” your brain into accurately drawing shapes instead of drawing what it thinks it sees.

Don’t be frustrated if it’s difficult at first. Just choose a mark and draw the shape as best you can. Measure and erase if it needs correction.

The negative space in any composition is the space around the subject.

Step 2: Rough in the subject

Next, block in the subject with light pressure and loose lines. I didn’t draw very many interior details and instead focused on the big shapes. The eye, the ear, and the nose and mouth.

I roughed in the dark patches of hair, too, but only because they’re such a big part of the drawing.

Step 3: Start drawing details

When the rough sketch was as accurate as I could make it, I went back over the entire drawing again. I corrected and adjusted lines by measuring the distance between edges on the reference photo, and then on the line drawing.

This step involves a lot of erasing. You can see faint smudges and even a few eraser crumbs around that off-side ear. That’s why I used an ordinary number 2 pencil. I can make light lines to begin with, then draw steadily darker lines, and I can also easily erase mistakes.

Besides, I have a drawer full of ordinary number 2 pencils; why not use them!

Step 4: Fine-tune the drawing

After that round of work was done, I went over the drawing again and fine-tuned it still more. I added interior details like whisker lines, creases in the fur, and other things. The outside lines are darker, but those interior details will help me when I get started with colored pencil work.

How to Draw Exactly What You See--The Finished Line Drawing

It took three days to develop this drawing of Thomas and I confess that when I stepped back and looked at what I’d done, I cried. It looked so much like Thomas.

That’s How to Draw Exactly What You See…

…even if it isn’t a still life!

As I said before, the book focuses on drawing still life subjects, but as you can see here, it can easily be adapted to other subjects. Even portrait work!

Whether you’re new to drawing or just looking for a better way to create line drawings, I recommend this book. You can get the first three chapters of How to Draw Exactly What You See – A Drawing Guide free!

You can also see my first trial with this drawing method.