How to Draw the Direction of Fur for Dogs

Updated April 17, 2017

Drawing realistic dog fur is the most important aspect of creating a dog portrait. The fur depicts the dog's breed and the dog's personality. You can create lifelike fur by studying the reference photo with regard to shapes rather than the overall body of the dog. The shapes help you focus on each area of the drawing and the direction of the dog's fur within each shape. Approaching the direction of drawing dog fur by using shapes will give your final drawing the qualities of real dog fur.

Sketch an outline of the dog's body using the reference photo as a guide. This only needs to be a rough sketch because the dog's fur adds the details, highlights and shadows.

Study the dog reference photo to determine the dark shapes, light shapes and mid-tone shapes that appear on the dog's body.

Lightly draw the shapes onto your rough sketch. The shapes will be your guide to drawing the fur direction.

Begin drawing the fur around the eyes of the dog following the shapes. Use tiny, overlapping pencil strokes for the fur around the eyes and nose where the shortest fur appears.

Layer the fur exactly as it grows on the dog. Use a magnifying glass to help see the details of the fur direction. Meticulously study the shapes drawn from the reference photo for changes in fur direction.

Use light and dark pencil strokes to create depth in your drawing, adding multiple layers of fur. Use longer strokes where the dog's fur grows longer.

Move outward from the nose and eyes, following the predetermined shapes, filling each one with layered fur. The more layers you add to each shape, the more realistic the dog will be.

Study the bone structure of the dog using the reference photo. Light and dark areas in the photo will show you where the dog's hips, ribs, muscles, shoulders and any other details of the dog's shape are.

Darken the areas where the bone structure curves inward by adding more layers of dark fur. This gives shape and fullness to the dog's body.

Lighten areas where highlights appear by using a kneaded eraser to remove dark layers of fur. Highlights appear where the bone structure juts out, for instance at the hips and shoulders or at the top of the dog's skull.


Add a few wispy, stray hairs sticking out from the dog's head and body to add realism. Fur is not perfectly smooth or flat. Keep your pencil sharpened to a fine point for accurate rendering of strands of fur.


It is easy to draw fur in the wrong direction as you progress with the drawing. Use light arrows sketched on the drawing indicating the fur direction before you begin drawing. This helps prevent you from going off track while you add layers of fur.

Things You'll Need

  • Dog reference photo
  • Sketchpad
  • Drawing pencil
  • Magnifying glass
  • Kneaded eraser
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About the Author

Karen Curley has more than 18 years experience in health and nutrition, specializing in healthy food choices for families. She received USDA certification in food components, nutrient sources, food groups and infant/child nutrition, and holds a B.A. in English from the University of Massachusetts. Curley is also an avid gardener, home renovator, Collie breeder, dog groomer and dog trainer.