In this fur tutorial for Photoshop, we'll create a small set of custom brushes from scratch and learn how to render animal fur with them. We'll focus on rendering a fox tail in grayscale, using custom brushes and the Smudge Tool to create both soft and coarse fur, and using Blending Modes to add color and warmth to the rendered piece.
But what if you're a graphic designer with many projects and little time to create brushes from scratch? I'll tell you where to find fur brush Photoshop add-ons ready to use.
Scroll down after this fur tutorial for Photoshop to find a selection of Photoshop texture brushes from Envato Elements.
What You'll Learn in This Fur Tutorial for Photoshop
- How to make a brush in Photoshop
- How to create simple custom brushes
- How to save and use simple custom brushes
- How to render a fox tail: building values
- How to render a fox tail: softening the fur
- How to color the fox tail
1. How to Create Simple Custom Brushes
Let's begin with the first step to make a realistic fur brush set for Photoshop. Open Adobe Photoshop, create a New Document, and create a New Layer. Using the Brush Tool (B), choose the default Hard Round brush from the Brush Presets panel.
- Draw a series of dots in different sizes. The size of your brush will determine how large your custom brush will be.
- Keep the dots spaced out slightly, but don't bother to keep the formation uniform.
- Either keep the dots within a circular or oblong formation.
We'll call this brush style the "dot brush".
Create a New Layer or move to a free space within your document. The next brush style starts with the default Hard Round brush with Noise selected in the Brushes panel. Lower the Opacity and Flow to 60% or so (you can also experiment with both settings). Make sure Pen Pressure has been selected in Brushes > Shape Dynamics > Size Jitter so the ends of the default brush taper.
- Consider this brush to be like a tuft of fur.
- Draw overlapping lines that curve inward on either side.
- Layer them up on each other so the length and opacity varies.
We'll call this brush style the "fur tuft brush".
This is one of the main brushes that we'll use to create and render the fur. Using the default Soft Round brush, draw spaced-out dots of varying sizes in a circular formation. Do this with Noise on and off (so do it twice) to create a soft fur brush and a coarse fur brush.
We'll call these brushes the "soft fur brush" and the "coarse fur brush".
Finally, use the default Hard Round brush again, with Build-Up and Smoothing selected in the Brush panel, to create short fur or grass-like sections that will become brushes to be used later in the tutorial. Vary the size of the Hard Round brush in order to create variations in thickness of each piece of fur.
We'll call these brush styles the "short fur brushes".
2. How to Save and Use Simple Custom Brushes
Using one of the Selection Tools, select around one of the custom brush shapes that we created earlier in this tutorial. Go to Edit > Define Brush Preset and give your new brush a unique name (or don't if you're experimenting with brush shapes and styles). You'll find your newly saved brush in the Brush Preset panel or in the Options bar when you have the Brush Tool selected.
Try out each of your brushes with the Brush Tool. Play with variations in Flow, Opacity, and the settings within the Brush panel. Try sweeping each brush across your document, as well as using stippling techniques in order to see how each brush works for painting and adding texture to an area.
3. How to Render a Fox Tail: Building Values
Create a New Document and a New Layer within that document. Starting with the default Hard Round brush, we're going to build up the values of our fox tail or swatch of fur. Consider the rest of this tutorial an exercise in becoming acquainted with your newly made custom brushes.
- Build up values of light grays. Note the white at the end of the tail.
- Concentrate darker grays at the top of the tail.
- I'm ending this step with medium gray at the top of the tail. This gives you a good idea of what the tail's base should be.
Switch from your current brush to the Coarse or Soft Fur Brush, both of which we created earlier. Note that I've set the Spacing all the way to the left at 4% and selected Build-Up and Smoothing. I've also enabled Pen-Pressure for the Size Jitter under Shape Dynamics, as I'm using a graphic tablet during the entirety of this tutorial. Digital painting can be quite difficult without a pressure-sensitive tablet of some sort.
Let's continue adding texture and value to our swatch of fur.
- Starting at the top, build up medium and light values of gray with the Soft or Coarse Fur Brush.
- Note how the size of the brush will determine the look of the fur of the tail. Size your brush accordingly. You may need to experiment a bit to get what's right for you.
- I've started using the Coarse Fur Brush at the top and the Soft Fur Brush at the bottom just to create variations within the look of the fur.
- Play with other brush textures. You'll notice there's more variation in the color of my fox tail now. The little spots around the tail were created by using one of the dot-like brushes around the top and sides of the tail.
- Start to bring lighter gray back into the bottom of the tail. Consider how the fur may have highlights within sections of the tail itself.
- I've decided the upper right contains the darkest shadows and strands of fur.
- I've also decided to repeat the dark gray on some parts of the sides of the tail. Keep layering colors and use photo references if you need to see what animal fur can look like in terms of value.
4. How to Render a Fox Tail: Softening the Fur
The realistic fur brush set for Photoshop is taking form. Let's set up our Smudge Tool.
- Select the Smudge Tool from the Toolbar.
- Set the Strength to 77%. You can, of course, vary your Strength settings as you go. You may find more or less will be better for your design.
- Within the Brush panel, choose a more densely created Fur Brush. Make sure Shape Dynamics aren't checked and Smoothing is.
- Finally, set the Spacing to 10%.
Let's get to softening the tail.
- Using the Smudge Tool, start at the top of the fox tail. Carefully begin to smudge strands of fur in a downward motion.
- Vary between stroke lengths.
- Also make sure you're mainly going in one direction. At this point I've gotten to the center of the tail.
- Continue moving your way down the tail, smudging various sections of the tail. Note how the top half has softened up.
Continue smudging sections of the tail.
- Move as though you're sketching in small chunks of fur, rather than working through the entire length of the tail at once. Also allow your computer to catch up with the tool. Sometimes it may lag and you'll have to wait it out.
- Start pushing strands outward at their ends. This allows the fur to look a bit shaggier and less contained.
- Note how the end here is quite soft-looking and the ends taper. Any sketchy lines drawn previously should taper down to sections of fur.
- Soften darker sections of fur so they move together in the same direction.
Let's Zoom (Z) in further on our design (to be frank, I usually zoom in and out quite a bit on my work, but for the sake of this tutorial have shown each step as a whole).
- Note how the fur kicks out at the sides. This is entirely due to downward and diagonal strokes from the Smudge Tool.
- Create a New Layer. Using a small, hard brush, Tuft of Fur Brush, or Short Fur Brush (the latter two of which were created earlier in this tutorial), draw or stipple on darker, defined strands of fur within the design.
- Note how these darkened strands help define the spaces between larger sections of soft fur. Experiment with their size, placement, and value.
5. How to Color the Fox Tail
This animal fur brush for Photoshop is ready. Now, at this point we're no longer using the custom brushes (aside from final touch-ups later). We're focusing solely on adding layers of color to the fox tail.
Create a New Layer and use a default Soft Round brush with its Opacity set to 75% or so. Set the Foreground color to dark ruddy brown and brush over most of the tail.
In the Layers panel, set the Blending Mode to Overlay and the Opacity to 32%.
Create a New Layer and use a default Soft Round brush with its Mode set to Multiply, Opacity set to 28%, and Flow set to 75%. Set the Foreground color to a ruddy brown and brush layers over most of the tail.
In the Layers panel, set the Blending Mode to Color Dodge and Opacity to 67%.
This next step is one I find quite fun. Once again, create a New Layer in the Layers panel.
- Using a tapered soft brush, brush layers of dark brown, yellow, orange, and ruddy brown along your tail. Feel free to Blur the layer slightly (Filter > Blur > Blur).
- Set the layer's Opacity to 55%.
- Set the layer's Blending Mode to Overlay.
- Create a New Layer once again and use a soft round brush to brush over yellow-orange, orange, yellow ochre, and brown tones. Then go to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur with a Radius of anywhere from 10 to 50 pixels or so.
- Set the layer's Blending Mode to Soft Light. This should add a soft glow of color to your tail.
I've zoomed in again to show you the details of this final layer of the animal fur brush in Photoshop. Note how textured the fur looks. I've changed the spacing on the Coarse Fur Brush to a higher percentage in order to add more texture into some of the design.
You can either paint over the tail with yellows, oranges, and browns, or paint under the color layers with light grays. Play with other highlight and shadow details now that you're at this nearly completed stage of rendering.
Finally, here's an optional step to add a bit more texture to the tail. This step requires the layers to be Merged (Control-E), so if you'd like to maintain your layers, Group (Control-G) them together and create a Duplicate of the Group before Merging together.
Go to Filter > Sharpen > Unsharp Mask and enter the following values for a result like the one seen below:
- Amount: 180%
- Radius: 8.0 pixels
- Threshold: 19 levels
Great Job, You've Made a Realistic Fur Brush Set for Photoshop!
Now you know how to make a brush in Photoshop from scratch. Take the techniques you learned above (brush creation, rendering, smudging, and coloring) and push them further by rendering an animal head or the entire creature! Below, I've done just that with a cute fox spirit mask. Like the tail we worked on together, the fox mask was worked up in the same series of steps, but I kept the fox head's shape and planes in mind when rendering.
Share your results from this tutorial or with similar creations using the brushes you've made to render animal fur in the comment section below!
4 Top Hair and Fur Brush Photoshop Add-Ons
Are you a freelance or graphic designer with multiple projects? Do you use Photoshop every day? The best source of Photoshop texture brushes and other add-ons is Envato Elements. The subscription-based marketplace offers you unlimited downloads of fur brush Photoshop sets. And that's not all. You'll also find thousands of graphic templates, premium fonts, add-ons, and more.
Here's a selection of some of the best Photoshop texture brushes you can find on Envato Elements.
1. Smooth Hair Flow Photoshop Brushes (ABR, PNG)
Looking for a more detailed and realistic look? This Photoshop texture brushes pack could be a great option.
The hair and fur brush Photoshop kit comes with ten high-resolution brushes. These fur texture Photoshop brushes are suitable for high-quality realistic textures. And you can use them on tablets as well.
2. Digital Smooth Flow of Hairs Photoshop Brushes (ABR, PNG)
This is another modern approach to draw Photoshop fur. The download includes ten high-resolution Photoshop texture brushes that imitate flowing hairs.
Play with this realistic fur brush set for Photoshop and create amazing designs.
3. Electric Particle Fields Brushes Photoshop Brushes (ABR, PNG)
You can find hundreds of Photoshop texture brushes in Envato Elements. And this is a unique example.
The fur texture Photoshop brush pack contains ten different high-resolution brushes in a futuristic style. These will add a distinctive and realistic touch to your Photoshop fur.
4. Ink Photoshop Brushes (ABR)
Now, if you prefer a more traditional look, consider these ink Photoshop texture brushes. You can use these for calligraphy, painting, line art and, why not, Photoshop fur. The Photoshop fur brush download includes:
- 44 Different pressure-sensitive brushes
- 15 Bonus textures (3000x3000 px, 300 dpi)
Discover More Photoshop Texture Brushes and Resources
You've learned how to make a realistic fur brush set for Photoshop. Now you have a realistic fur brush set for Photoshop ready and you know where to find top Photoshop texture brushes. If you need more Photoshop brush inspiration, we've got these resources for you:
- How to Make a Grass Brush in PhotoshopDaisy Ein27 Jan 2021
- How to Make a Brush in Photoshop From an ImageDaisy Ein31 Jan 2021
- How to Make a Bokeh Brush in PhotoshopMarko Kožokar02 Mar 2021
- How to Create a Bubble Brush in PhotoshopMarko Kožokar02 Feb 2021
- How to Create a Dust Brush in PhotoshopMarko Kožokar04 Jan 2021
- How to Make an Eyelash Brush in PhotoshopAbbey Esparza05 Feb 2021
- How to Make a Cloud Brush in PhotoshopMonika Zagrobelna08 Dec 2020
- How to Create Custom Water Drop Brushes in Adobe PhotoshopKirk Nelson09 Feb 2021
- How to Create Realistic Watercolor Photoshop Brushes From ScratchIvan Gromov11 May 2021
- 50+ Free Photoshop Brushes to Download Now!Melody Nieves22 Jan 2021
This post was originally published on 30 March 2015. It’s been updated with contributions from Maria Villanueva. Maria is a staff writer with Envato Tuts+.