View Full Version : Black fur - looking for help -FINISHED

09-26-2011, 09:47 PM
Hi, its me again!

Im doing this cat as a gift for my mother in law's friend, his name is Bono.
I went to her house and took the pictures myself, but this seems to be the best one as I refused to use flash and it was getting too dark. Also the cat was afraid of strangers, so he didnt help in the process.

Here is the shot Im working from. And its quite dark...


Here is my croped version + photoshoped version + eyes from another picture


And here is where I am at.



This is my first black fur cat (well, second one to be honest).

Fine, here is what happened with the first!


I did an underpainting on greys with alcohol, then added black fur and purple fur, then it was not looking good and I smudged it all, added some light grey fur to see if it would look bettter, and it looked so flat I wanted to cry.

The face, white parts and the silly background was just for experience purposes, and I decided to not paint this pose anymore. I didnt even get to finish the upper part of his back.


Anyway, moving on.
I researched everywhere I could on how to do black fur, and usually there are some kind of light that makes the black shine. I dont see it on my reference picture and Im very afraid of smudging it again.

Im looking for help on how to do those parts of the fur, as I just see it as plain solid black.

Paper is Fisher 400, 35cm x 25cm and I dont have soft pastels (Rembrandt and Nupastels only).

Thank you and looking forward on your advices!:crossfingers:

09-26-2011, 11:17 PM
I can see it on your photo reference. Also I can see that you blocked it in on the top of his head. There are enough distinct highlights that you can get a good fur texture. One thing you can do to liven up the black is to use various deep colors, purple, red, green, overlaying each other for optical mixing. Then use values of slate blue for the highlights.

The important thing is getting the shapes of those shadows and highlights right to give the cat a well rounded three dimensional look. It's okay if the fur texture in the deepest darks stops being visible. Block it in dark and then concentrate on showing fur texture where it shows most - on the head, at the edges of highlight areas, at the edges of the body.

Even when doing broad strokes, paint in the direction of the fur. That always helps.

Hope this helps!

09-26-2011, 11:26 PM
So, by doing only the edges in highlights I can do the center solid and it will look like fur all over the face/head/body?

09-27-2011, 02:37 AM
There is nothing wrong with having areas of pure black. You don't have to draw in every hair for your work to be effective. As you can see in my attachment there is a lot of pure black with just a bit of colour to indicate sheen on fur. You may want more definition than what I've done but you can get away with very little. http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/27-Sep-2011/117869-dogpa.gif

09-27-2011, 03:07 AM

Thank you for posting this lovely dog's painting.
I can see dark purple in most of the places, maybe thats why yours dont look flat.

I did smudge some parts of the face again and Im now working on the light hairs. I think its working!


09-27-2011, 07:02 AM
Working the middle of the nose fur right now.
And I just saw the left ear's fur looks squared.

Merethe T
09-27-2011, 06:22 PM
It is working, for sure - it looks good! I use blue in pure black areas to avoid flatness - purple will work as well. Then add grays as you're doing now and it'll come together. You could consider warming up the highlights between the eyes and the nose area with cream and yellows, and add a light blue on the shadowed side - that would help shape the body. Also mixing a cool color (like blue) in the black fur in the shadowed area, and a warm color (like a violet or red) where the sun hit the black fur will help you get a realistic result. Using stray hairs between the different colors is a great way to make it look realistic, and helps break up flat, black areas.

You're doing great though, you'll nail this! :)

09-28-2011, 01:04 AM
That's looking good Erica. Merethe has given good advice re colour and using stray hairs. Don't be afraid to use colours that might seem unusual for effect - often it is those very colours that bring a subject to life!

09-28-2011, 04:43 AM
Thank you so much, that was very helpful!

One question, do I add the colors on the black fur and then re-add more black on top of the one I just added?

Like, right now its black. I will add red. And then add black again and it will look like a warm black?

And doing with blue will make it a cool black?

The paper still has a lot of tooth, and I added a red on top of the black fur and it stayed there. I was able to cover it with black but it was just one small stroke of red. Won't I get muddy doing all this?

09-28-2011, 06:56 AM
Hi Erica,

Don't be afraid of color, especially with black. I lay in the black with a light touch, then go in with colors like blue, violet, and red. Both warm and cools, depending on where. I'll even use a really dark brown mixed with the black to warm it up. When I put the color in I might go back and stroke some black, but I don't cover all the color. I leave more than one might think. It's sort of a dance until it starts to look right. Step away and view the work from a slight distance without a light on it, then you'll know you're on the right track. Sometimes a light left on the artwork is too much info!

09-28-2011, 11:33 AM
I will try that tonight and let you know how it went, thank you all!

John Palmer Fine Art
09-29-2011, 06:14 AM
This is coming along really well Erica, and you have lots of good advice to help you as you progress with it.

09-29-2011, 08:43 AM
There are good tips here for technique, and only you know the final result that will make you happy. Sometimes an area of solid color is a welcome relief from too much detail.

09-29-2011, 10:25 AM
Sounds like good advice to me, looking forward to an update :thumbsup:

09-29-2011, 03:49 PM
:) Black is hard to deal with. And it seems you want a huge amount of realisum in your work, right? Good advise here, tho----and detail so much bettter when limited. Not every hair is needed. Perhaps study other paintings by great srtists that you adimire and see just how much detail, ( as in every hair) is actually painted. Cats are wonderful for painting learning tools!!! I love to do them, and I like realism, but not photo-realism. Merthe has great advise, and her works are wonderul. There are many here on WC---- Blues, purples, siennaa's are all great useful colors, and green, in black. Good luck!

09-29-2011, 08:57 PM
At any rate, I love the intensity in the cat's eyes.

09-30-2011, 08:54 PM

11-09-2011, 09:47 PM
Final art:


And delivered. She was surprised with the result. As about me, not as happy but I will settle for that.