Short and Long Fur

  • Software:Photoshop CS6  ·
  • Difficulty:Beginner

Rules of the Exercise

  • 1
    Download and open the practice worksheet for this exercise.
  • 2
    Observe and analyze the subject matter. Follow the guides of the instructor notes.
  • 3
    Submit your work for this exercise under the "Submissions" tab for grading!


  Drawing and painting fur has been one of the most requested exercise tutorials, and it's about time we scratch that itch! There are many types of fur: some smooth and others rough, there is short fur and long. It's good to practice a variety of different furs, and in this exercise we are going to specifically focus on two: short and long fur. I realize the long fur is not incredibly long but the same approach applies. There is a HUGE difference when handling short and long fur. I encourage that for this exercise you do NOT use a fur brush, but rather learn how to do it with a basic brush, and really analyze where the shadows are placed or how the fur overlaps. If drawing creatures or animals is of interest to you, I recommend taking the time to study and understand how to paint fur accurately and as efficiently as possible. There are a lot of custom brushes that can make this easier and I do think you should use them when creating concept art for a client or need to create a quick sample of the final product. However, I think it's important to use the basic brushes at first so that you are forced to create the fur on a more meticulous level, which requires you to observe and really see how fur lays and looks. Take your time with this one. It can be a pain but it's worth seeing the finished final product! Below is the practice worksheet that you can download. You can find this on the “Downloads” tab under the header image near the top of this exercise. Exercise45_FurHandout


  SHORT: Don't focus on each individual strand, instead create a solid foundation of color and value first and then work the texture and details up. But don't over detail; focus on the subtle shifts in values. Then you can add more isolated details where you want the viewer to be looking. LONG: Long hair is a bit different and can be time consuming. BE PATIENT. I would recommend doing a quick sketch of the major edges, but keep it quick as this won't be the final linear; this is just for indication. From there, lay down your initial values, most likely having cast shadows underneath your different fur segments. Keep the brush size larger and keep refining it at a natural pace. Do NOT paint individual strands of hair at this point. Save that till last! Painting shapes can help, and don't lay down heavily contrasted values. You may notice how unnatural that can look - and it's the subtle contrasts that will make sure it looks realistic. Once you have the edges cleaned up enough, then you can add those smaller details and individual strands as the finishing touch!

  • Use references! Pinterest is filled with great references to use as examples.
  • Study the overall flow of the hair and keep your brushstrokes in the same direction to create a better look to the fur.
  • Creating a soft edge yet solid foundation first is crucial to helping be more efficient with your time so that you're not wasting details when you don't have to.

When you finish the exercise, remember to submit the result to the “Submissions” tab near the top of this exercise. You can see other submissions alongside your own!


  Fur can be tough, so be patient and don't rush the details. If you really analyze the movement and shaping of fur, you can see how intricate and fluid it can be. So instead of creating individual brushstrokes to represent fur or drawing triangles, instead work with layering the shapes and keeping the flow moving in a general direction. I recommend starting with a solid foundational value along with a slightly darker one. This allows an easy buildup of lighter values to create the illusion of fur. From there, I lay down the initial sketch and general direction of the fur which is important because it creates a guide to follow along. And remember that you should let the fur to feel messy in areas while still following the general direction. Fur that looks too perfect may not look like fur at all but rather something more synthetic. When putting down the lighter values, avoid going straight for white. Instead, build it up slowly to create a more natural progression of values. I personally avoid pushing highlights at all because this can be a distraction and often strong highlights aren't necessary. Always control your brushstrokes to follow the flow of the hair. From there, it's all about cleaning up the details and pushing edges that feel blurry or muddy. Once I'm satisfied with a solid outcome, I will then pump up the contrasts if necessary, usually with the "Levels" adjustment slider bar which can be found under the "Image" tab on the tab menu, then "Adjustments". And typically you want an area of interest for your viewer to look at. A soft, lighter "gradient" starting where the light source is coming from will do the trick! If you're looking to add Color, then a "Color" Layer Blend mode is a great choice for going from greyscale to color. This can be achieved by creating a new layer on top and changing the mode under the "Layers" menu to "Color", instead of the default "Normal". Then choose your color and paint over the grey to add color! This is only one of many way to paint the illusion of fur, but hopefully it can help you out if you're looking to creating some fur in your own work! Exercise45_Fur