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This post is part of a series called Learn How to Draw.
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This post is part of a series called How to Draw Animals.
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How to Draw Feathers
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What You'll Be Creating

Drawing fur from imagination can be very frustrating. You've seen it, you know what it is, but when you try drawing it, you end up with a bunch of straw. 

If this is your problem, in this tutorial I will show you how to solve it. First hint? You need to draw what you see, not what you know!

What You Will Need

  • Sheets of paper
  • HB pencil
  • 2B pencil
  • 4B pencil
  • Mechanical HB pencil
  • Blending stump (or cotton swab)
  • Kneaded eraser (or normal eraser)
Tools youll needTools youll needTools youll need

1. What Is Fur?

With start with some theory. You'll be able to draw pencil fur much better just by learning these few simple facts!

First, fur is made of hairs that lie one upon another, creating a smooth surface. However, when the surface they lie on bends, they start to clump—the individual hairs are grouped.

how fur bendshow fur bendshow fur bends
The lighter the hairs, the easier they get clumped

This "clumping" can occur in all dimensions, creating either "waves" of hair or small separate clumps.

clumps of furclumps of furclumps of fur

We can see everything because of contrast between light and shadow. The bigger the clumps, the bigger the shadow between them.

how fur is shadedhow fur is shadedhow fur is shaded

When you draw fur by drawing individual hairs, what you're really drawing is skin illuminated from below, with hairs blocking the light. That's why it looks so odd!

why is drawing fur so hardwhy is drawing fur so hardwhy is drawing fur so hard

So the big secret is: to draw convincing fur with a pencil, you need to draw not the hairs/clumps, but the shadows between them. 

In fact, that's how you should always approach drawing. We draw light and shadow, and nothing more. A single hair can be similar to a simple pencil stroke, but you can't draw fur by drawing a lot of simple strokes!

how to draw fur secrethow to draw fur secrethow to draw fur secret
drawing fur techniquedrawing fur techniquedrawing fur technique

2. How to Draw Long Fur

Step 1

Let's draw a fluffy tail as an example. Imagine its top is slightly bent away from you. Use the HB pencil to draw the basic shape of the tail. Don't press too hard—we don't want to see it later.

tail basetail basetail base

Step 2

Tilt your pencil and fill the shape with gray. Don't press too hard to achieve a uniform effect. You can simulate the flow of hair with your strokes, but it's not necessary.

how to hold a pencilhow to hold a pencilhow to hold a pencil
pencil fillpencil fillpencil fill

Step 3

Take the 2B pencil and use the same technique to shade the side of the tail. We need to give it a 3D form.

one side shadingone side shadingone side shading

Step 4

Press harder near the edge to make the shadow gradually darker.

how to shade a tailhow to shade a tailhow to shade a tail

Step 5

Take the HB pencil again and draw "side hair". These curves will define the direction of the fur all over the tail. Remember about that bending on top!

direction of the hairdirection of the hairdirection of the hair

Step 6

Tilt your pencil and turn every hair into a sharp clump. Be gentle!

hair clumps on the sideshair clumps on the sideshair clumps on the sides

Step 7

Now the difficult part—we need to draw the shadows between clumps. There are certain "signs" you can use as a base, but you need to try it yourself to understand how it works. Practice on the side for a moment if you're not sure how to do it.

how to draw hairhow to draw hairhow to draw hair

Use the hair on the side as a guide for direction. The greater the angle, the shorter and wider the shadows should be. Use the 2B pencil for this, and hold it tilted for a more natural flow. If you drew any sharp, thin lines, your eye would mistake them for some stray hair, which would break the effect.

first phase of shadingfirst phase of shadingfirst phase of shading

Step 8

Continue by going to the right. The closer to the edge, the narrower and tighter the shadows should be.

second phase of shadingsecond phase of shadingsecond phase of shading

Step 9

Keep using the same pencil, but for the other side press harder for a darker shade.

simple shading fursimple shading fursimple shading fur

Step 10

Clumps are easy to achieve, and they look quite appealing, but it's not normal for a smooth surface to be so clumped. Draw some bigger, wider shadows in the lower area to create "waves" (smooth groups of clumps).

how to make fur look smoothhow to make fur look smoothhow to make fur look smooth

Step 11

Take the 4B pencil and draw some tight, dark shadows on the shadowed side. Don't make them too big!

drawing fur with pencilsdrawing fur with pencilsdrawing fur with pencils

Step 12

Use it to add some darker shadows to the middle part as well, but do it very subtly. This part doesn't need a lot of shadows, and the clearer they are, the wetter the tail will look.

how to shade fur naturallyhow to shade fur naturallyhow to shade fur naturally

Step 13

Take the blending stump or a cotton swab if you don't have it. Gently blend the clumps, "drawing" over the fur according to its flow.

how to blend furhow to blend furhow to blend fur

Step 14

Take the eraser to add some highlights to the illuminated side. If you have a kneader eraser, you can actually draw some hair with it—if not, a normal eraser will do.

how to blend fur using eraserhow to blend fur using eraserhow to blend fur using eraser

Step 15

Time for the mechanical pencil. Use it to add tiny shadows within the clumps (the big clumps are made of smaller clumps, after all). Be very, very careful—too much of it may destroy the effect. Feel free to copy the shapes of the shadows you see in my drawing.

how to use machanical pencil for drawing furhow to use machanical pencil for drawing furhow to use machanical pencil for drawing fur

Step 16

Use the same pencil if you want to add details to the lower part, but avoid any bigger shadows here. This part should be smooth and soft!

how to draw soft furhow to draw soft furhow to draw soft fur

Step 17

Go back to the top and add the splitting at the ends of the clumps. Remember to draw them using shadows only!

how to draw split clumps of hairhow to draw split clumps of hairhow to draw split clumps of hair

Step 18

Draw single loose hairs on the sides for a fluffier effect. Don't press too hard!

how to draw fluffy tailhow to draw fluffy tailhow to draw fluffy tail

Step 19

Take a break and then look at your drawing once again from a distance. Turn it upside down, see it in a mirror, and maybe take a photo to get a different perspective. 

If you notice something you'd like to change, this is the time to do it! However, don't be tempted to add more contrast—the darker the shadows, the harder the clumps will look. Soft fur doesn't have so many clear shadows, because light easily gets through it.

how to draw realistic long hair with pencilshow to draw realistic long hair with pencilshow to draw realistic long hair with pencils

3. How to Draw Short Fur

Step 1

Short fur is based on the same rules as long fur. After all, it doesn't matter how long the fur is, but how long it is in relation to the surface it lies on. The smaller the surface, the more bending and the more clumps there are. The bigger it is, the more uniform the hair.

Let's draw the base of a lion's tail as an example. Again, imagine it bends on top. Draw it with the HB pencil.

how to draw lion tailhow to draw lion tailhow to draw lion tail

Step 2

Tilt the pencil slightly and draw short hair in the middle. Don't draw in rows, but rather go across and back again for a less artificial effect.

short hair in the middleshort hair in the middleshort hair in the middle

Step 3

Continue on the side, this time drawing them tighter and with a wider angle.

hair in perspectivehair in perspectivehair in perspective

Step 4

Do the same on top, keeping in mind there's bending here—the fur will look shorter in this area.

short fur bendingshort fur bendingshort fur bending

Step 5

Do the same on the other side, using a 2B pencil.

short fur shadingshort fur shadingshort fur shading

Step 6

Time for the shadows! This time they need to be really tiny. First in the middle...

detailed fur shadingdetailed fur shadingdetailed fur shading

... then on the side. Here they may look more like simple lines.

how to shade short furhow to shade short furhow to shade short fur

Step 7

Press harder on the other side to achieve greater contrast.

fur contrastfur contrastfur contrast

Step 8

Take the 4B pencil and add some darker hairs right on the side.

how to draw short fur with pencilshow to draw short fur with pencilshow to draw short fur with pencils

Step 9

Take the mechanical pencil and use it to complete the shadows.

how to draw shadows on furhow to draw shadows on furhow to draw shadows on fur

Step 10

Use the same pencil to accentuate the little hairs on the side.

how to draw realistic short furhow to draw realistic short furhow to draw realistic short fur

Good Job!

As you can see, fur isn't so hard to draw once you know the rules. You can use this knowledge to draw all kinds of fur now!

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how to draw realistic fur with pencilshow to draw realistic fur with pencilshow to draw realistic fur with pencils
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