View Full Version : How to do fur in pastels?

07-09-2015, 06:46 AM
Hi there,

Newbie here! I have dabbled in drawing in the past, but only started 'for real' this year in February when I started following evening classes in drawing. I do find it interesting as you learn to draw subject you wouldn't immediately think of or be interested in and you get to know different media. For example charcoal, I love charcoal! Been dabbling in it a bit now and I do like it. But we have also tried our hand at soft pastels.

My first drawing in soft pastels was ok. It was a dragon, drawn in example of a toy figure. But afterwards I tried my hand at a cat and that was pure drama. So I was wondering if anybody knows a good online (free) tutorial (images and/or video's) on how to draw a cat or fur with pastels.

Oh 1 more question, but in our evening school we have not been warned about the dust of pastels, but here I do see people taking precautions against the dust. Is it that dangerous?

Blacky / Evy

07-09-2015, 08:50 AM
Welcome to the pastel forum!

The dust of pastels is can cause respiratory problems - just like breathing in any type of dust particles. While some folks use pastels for years without any problems, I think it is definitely a good idea to wear a dust mask.

At the risk of sounding annoying, painting fur is no different than painting anything else. Don't think of it as fur, but concentrate on the shapes of color/value that you see. I did a small demo on how I would paint fur a while back and here it is!


1) I like to block in the basic dark color of the object (whether it is fur or anything else). This is certainly not the only approach, but I find it easiest when I know I am layering from back to front. 2) Now I look for and put in the next lightest shapes. Since I am painting fur, I try to use strokes that indicate the direction of the fur and use more linear strokes indicating hairs. 3) But I don't want the individual hairs to be that noticeable, so I blend them into a more cohesive shape. 4) Repeating the same idea for the next lightest "clumps" of fur. Since light hits the most outer layers of fur, I am working from dark to light. For the finish, I blend as much as desired (5) below:


Hope this helps, and again, it is certainly not the only approach!


07-09-2015, 09:35 AM
Thanks, I think this already helps me a lot.
I started with just putting the colors I needed iso working from back to front.
Definately going to try it out!

More tips are always welcome, you can never learn too much ;)

Barbara WC
07-09-2015, 06:44 PM
Don's demo is really good, he is a great teacher!!

I don't paint animal fur, but do paint people's hair. I really wasn't "getting" it until someone told me to look at the dark and light "triangles" in the head of hair. Then I got it.

I now usually use about 3-4 colors in a head of hair- dark, dark-middle value, middle value and light, and this seems to work. First I "map" out the dark shapes, much like Don did in his demo, then go on to middle tones and lights. Sometimes the dark is warm, sometimes cool, it just depends on the color of hair, so that's something to pay attention to also.

Black fur (and hair) is tricky- not really black, but often you will see blues, purples and sometimes green tones in black fur. White is not white- you will see many grays in white fur...

07-10-2015, 01:31 AM
Great tutorial, Don! Looks like the curve of a cat's back right above the tail, looking at my cat curled up I can actually see that section in his current position (tail forward and out of picture. Tail in another position might move some of the hair). Wow.

One tip to add. Look close at the hues. Black or white animal fur often pick up the blue of the sky strongly outdoors or in sunlight. Shadows on a white cat's fur will be quite deep blues. Highlights on a black cat will be quite light blue. Other strong background colors do reflect as well as the color of the light.

The more of these reflected colors you bring in, the richre the fur is renered. One of the cats in my sig line is a white one with a sky cool blue cast window light from one side and a pinkish orange warm incandescent from a lamp on the other side, very colorful and no white used at all on the mostly white kitty!

Cool you're doing a cat! I love them and can't wait to see what you do. Watch for areas where bulges like a curve of knee or a shoulder bone make the fur puff out. Look at the direction of the fur. Get an impression more than detail and leave loose edges to hint at hairs. Whiskers are fine clean lines and it may help to do those with a pastel pencil or the sharp edge of a broken stick.

07-10-2015, 03:02 AM
Thanks a lot for the tips, the colors will indeed still be a challenge. It helps to hear which colors can appear in different colors of fur. In the past I Always thought, white cat is white and black cat is black. But that way you don't get depth of fur and such.

I am afraid though that my small pack of 12 pastel pencils and 12 pastel sticks won't be enough. I bought that because we had to buy it for evening school. But now I look at some examples and such, I don't think I'll have enough shades of colors. Eg. I only have beige and brown. While it would be better to have (I think) at least 5 shades of brown. But first things first, going to try a drawing with the colors I have and if it works out (I mean the structure and how it generaly looks), I can still think about purchasing more colors.

Thanks again y'all!

07-10-2015, 04:59 AM
Hi Evy, you have a few great suggestions here, I do my fur a little differently to above and actually work on building up layers of pencil strokes ... I think it really depends on the breed you're trying to depict ... for human hair I use the same kind of method Barbra describes but I am yet to use that for fur ... it also depends on what sort of "look" you are after at the end ... I draw peoples pets so im chasing as realistic as possible (within my own skill sets LOL plenty of artists here who capture realism much much better than me!) ... like I said ... for me I look at the shape of the coat and then build up depth stroke by stroke :)

I think you probably need to expand your mind past the two "brown" tones you have as I am guessing you probably have orange, yellow, black and white in your small collection as well ... blended you will get some excellent "fur" tones ... pastels blend nicely when layered over each other so don't be scared to play with them ... I am completely self taught and have had an absolute ball experimenting with pastels/pastel pencils!

07-10-2015, 05:26 AM
As for the how to draw fur, got some tips here already and found something more on the internet. So will soon try my hand at it. And if it doesn't work out, I'll have to find someone who can show me in real life. First have to finish this charcoal drawing of a kitten in a basket which I've been working on to raise money for a cat shelter. But maybe I can take along the tips here for the kitten. The basket I'm very satisfied about, the kitten is still a blank space :p.

I indeed have yellow, orange, black and white in my little set of 12 colors. I was already writing down some more colors to buy, came to another 12 I'd like to buy. But first things first, I am first going to try and draw a bit with the colors I do have. See if I can get something resembling fur. Imagine me buying those extra colors and suddenly finding out pastels aren't for me after all!

I have now the same with charcoal. Bought a set of charcoal sticks and 2 charcoal pencils. Then I saw tinted charcoal pencils. Of course I soooo wanted those. But I have promised myself to try an draw some more with charcoal first and then by November when it is my birthday I'm going to see if I will keep drawing with charcoal and if the tinted ones would be a valuable asset or unnecessary. And I'm going to try to do so with the pastels too. First dabble a bit with it and only after a while see if additional colors would be an asset or not.

Thanks again, glad I can discuss things here :).

Barbara WC
07-10-2015, 12:12 PM

Even more important than color, is value in a drawing or painting. That's why when you sometimes see a painting with crazy colors, if the values are right, the object will "work". I love to practice drawing eyes, and sometimes I challenge myself by just using 3 colors- a light, a medium and dark tone- one of my favorite eye studies (sorry I don't have a photo) I used a white, a medium violet and a black pastel stick- and the eye looks really realistic, just kind of creepy because of the purple skin tone!

I suggest you try mixing your pastels on paper- you'll be surprised at what you can come up with- depending on what fur you are painting, if it is brown, try doing a few strokes of say brown and yellow and white- or brown and red and white. You can add in black too to make darker tones. Black, purple, blue and white can make some nice black fur tones... you'd be surprised at what you can do with just 12 sticks of pastel, especially if you start mixing the colors... and if you arrange the sticks by value, try practicing working by value- and you will get far with your 12 sticks...

Good luck!