Many artists consider animal fur to be a difficult texture to portray with paint. Unlike the uniformly smooth, flat surface of human skin, the textures, colours and lengths of fur can vary greatly, even on different areas of the same animal. Therefore, it is important to thoroughly study the fur of the animal before you begin painting. This will enable you to paint the fur as you see it, rather than as you imagine it. After a bit of practice, you should be able to develop more confidence in your painting, and your painted animal fur will begin to appear more realistic.
Draw a rough sketch of the animal you are painting onto your canvas, using your pencil. The drawing should only be detailed enough to allow you to use your drawing as a guideline when you begin painting.
Mix a touch of black paint with some water. Use the watered-down colour to paint the darkest values of the picture onto your canvas. This will provide a base for your painting, to use as a detailed guideline for the rest of your painting.
Paint your background colours of the painting onto the canvas before you begin painting the details of the animal's fur. This way, the fur texture, which is in the foreground, can be realistically painted over the background. A simple wash of colour will work nicely for your background.
Mix a watered-down brown, red, white or tan, whichever is the predominant colour of the animal's fur. Paint this wash over the entire area of the fur.
Add a small amount of another paint colour to the paint you mixed in Step 4, in order to create another colour variation for the painted fur. For example, add yellow or brown to create different tones. Paint this wash over the appropriate areas of your painting.
Continue to mix watered-down colours and add them to the canvas, until you are left with a base that represents the true base colours of the animal's fur. Allow the painting to dry completely before continuing.
Mix some watered-down white and coloured paint to create a lighter version of the colours used in Steps 5 and 6. Paint this colour over the lightest areas of the painting.
Mix some watered-down black and coloured paint to create a darker version of the colours used in Steps 5 and 6. Paint this colour over the darkest areas of the painting.
Paint the dark colours of the animal's eyes and mouth. Allow the paint to dry before continuing to paint in this area.
Study your picture used for reference carefully, and observe the direction of the growth of the animal's fur. Mix together some more pigment-dense versions of the colours used in Steps 5 and 6. To these colours, add a small amount of black to create darker hues.
Dip a flat or fan-shaped paintbrush into the paint you mixed in Step 10. Starting at the base of the hair growth, pull the paintbrush up and out to create the dark areas in the animal's fur. Continue until the entire area of the fur has been painted.
Add a small amount of white paint to the pigment-dense colours mixed in Step 10. Dip your flat or fan-shaped paintbrush into the paint. As in Step 11, pull the paintbrush up and out from the base of the hair growth, to create the light areas of the animal's fur. Continue across the entire area of the animal's fur.
Paint pure black pigment onto the darkest areas of the animal's fur, starting at the base of the fur and moving the paintbrush up and out. Then, paint pure white pigment onto the lightest areas of the animal's fur, moving the paintbrush up and out from the base of the fur.
When painting animal fur, it is important to paint what you see, rather than what you think the fur should look like. This will help you to create a more accurate representation of your subject's fur. Brown colours, which are commonly used when painting animal fur, can be created using colours opposite each other on the colour wheel. Green and red, for example, create a brown colour when mixed. Each combination of contrasting colours produces a unique shade of brown. It may be easier for a beginning artist to use an assortment of premixed browns, however, rather than mixing them by hand. Both oil-based and acrylic paints can be used to paint animal fur. Start with what you are used to, and then experiment later.
Never let paint dry on your paintbrushes, as this will ruin them. Clean acrylic paint from paintbrushes by rinsing them with clean water immediately after each use. Clean oil paint from paintbrushes with white spirit.