How to Paint Animals – Painting Realistic Wildlife Fur

by Neadeen Masters on May 31, 2012

How to paint animals with fur is the question?Painting realistic animals with fur might appear to be the most difficult of all painting techniques to master. However this process is made so much easier to understand when it is broken down into bite size pieces. Painting fur textures, colors and patterns takes a little time to master, but when the artist discovers how to approach the subject with confidence, it makes the challenge much less daunting. Every aspiring wildlife artist has asked this question. How to paint animals?

How to paint Animal Fur - Neadeen Masters - Art Apprentice Online ‘Out Of The Shadows’ by Neadeen Masters

How to paint animals – Realistic or Impressionistic? 

The first decision to be made is the amount of realism and detail you want to portray. Do you want the painting to be photo realistic with lots of fine details, or would you rather paint with a little more  impressionistic style?  Either way, you will need to decide this before beginning, as the brushes and the painting method will be quite different from each other. The first approach will require a layering method and the more impressionistic style will be approached with a wet in wet method.

Layering and Glazing

Many professional wildlife artists use a layering approach when painting realistic animal fur. Details, depth and dimension are created by slowly building up one layer upon another after it has dried. This approach does take more time, but the results are amazing and worth learning.

  • A layering method begins with a good outline of the animal.
  • Next, a tonal under-painting of some type is usually laid down. The first few layers are sometimes roughly painted or blocked-in with monotone pigments or earth tones. This tonal under-painting helps the artist build up the dimensional form of the animal. See the images below.
  • Fur details are created with good detail brushes that have finer points to render the different types and lengths of fur.
  • Transparent glazes are used to establish both the overall values and colors of the fur. These glazes also build depth and dimension helping the fur to conform to the contours of the animal’s body.
How to paint fur - Art Apprentice Online - Neadeen Masters Using A Layering Painting Method – Creating Realistic Animal Fur

As each layer is established, it is allowed to dry, ready to receive the next, and the next. The artist will adjust values, shift colors, add more fur details and create the growth patterns and directions of the animal’s fur with carefully places brush strokes. The artist will see the roughly blocked-in animal as it evolves into a realistic rendering of the subject.

How to Paint Animal & Wildlife Fur - Neadeen Masters - Art Apprentice Online How to Paint Animals & Wildlife Fur – Neadeen Masters – Art Apprentice Online

How to Paint Animals using a layering painting method

The benefits of using a layering method such as this one, are countless. As you learn more about how to paint animals, adjustments can be made slowly and they are more forgiving. Especially for the beginner student who is still learning the mechanics of brush work, and the color palette. The layering method also establishes greater details for painting realism. With these skills, the artist is able to move forward and paint any style or type of animal subject with new confidence.

If you are interested in learning to paint wildlife subjects, artist and instructor Neadeen Masters from the Art Apprentice Online  (that’s me) offers an indepth and comprehensive study course that covers techniques as well as painting methods for mastering this subject. I’ll be happy to share my painting experience and techniques with you.

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