This tutorial describes the techniques I use to create realistic fur texture in graphite pencil. To make your own drawings you will need paper (personal preference is key, so experiment until you find your favorite) and a full drawing set of art quality graphite pencils. My two favorite brands are Staedtler Mars Lumograph, Derwent Graphic, and Derwent Sketching. I strongly recommend against Faber-Castell’s colored pencils, as I have always found them to be grainy and incapable of laying down graphite smoothly.
In this illustration I predominantly used 3B and 5B pencils, due to the small size of the drawing. The same technique can be used with a larger range of pencils, and on a large piece I will use everything from HB to 6B. Each has a different hardness and tone, allowing the artist to create shading with tremendous depth and detail.
Sketch the basic lines
Whether or not I start with a reference photo, I always draw an outline sketch of the subject and background (if any). I try to give the overall outlines of form, the locations of important details like eyes, nose, ears, feet, etc., and provide an impression of fur contour, direction, and texture. I also try to give myself an idea of where color and shading transitions occur, although I am not altogether precise at this stage. Many of the internal lines will move as I begin to draw the piece.
Begin the First Layer of Shading
When I am working in pencil I always start with the eyes and face of the subject. If a drawing has more than subject, I start with either the dominant or the most central subject on the paper. It is very important for me to plan out the flow of the drawing at this stage so I don’t end up smearing the art with my hand later. I have found that I am unable to keep a steady hand unless it is in direct contact with the drawing surface, so I tend to work in a circular pattern around the paper out from the face. On a small piece like this one (5”x7”), I worked from the head, down the front, and then to the right since I am right-handed.
I drew in the eyes first, with full detail, and the nose, both with a 5B pencil. I then switched to a 3B pencil and lightly drew in the base shading for the face. This layer of shading should be about the same lightness as the lightest tones in any given part of the texture. Look at the highlights of the fur texture, and draw in that shade. If you find that you cannot draw as lightly as the highlights, switch to a harder pencil for your first layer (B or HB). Be sure to draw the pencil strokes in the direction the fur flows. These strokes will usually show through in the final picture, and help to define the overall texture of the fur. Stroke length is not important at this stage unless this layer of shading will be the top layer in the final drawing.
First Detail Layer
After creating the base shading I continued with the 3B pencil. I created the texture in the fur by applying a bit more pressure and using more deliberate strokes. When adding detail, keep the pencil as sharp as possible, and keep your stoke lengths to about equivalent of what is visible in the reference drawing. Since I am still working in the 3B pencil, but with more pressure, these the median shading strokes. More pressure creates darkness, but not depth. The darkest areas and depth will be added over this.
At this stage, some of the shading areas created in the first layer can still be changed. I decided at this point that the ears looked a little bit small, so I extended the shading areas and moved the placement of some of the details.
Second Detail Layer
After filling in the median shading details I switch to a 5B pencil. On larger pieces, I will use other harnesses than just 3B and 5B, but I have found that with small drawings such details are completely lost. When learning, these two pencils on a small drawing should provide enough depth to develop understanding of the technique.
I gently added a small amount of shading to areas that looked a bit flat, but weren’t necessarily supposed to be dark. Each hardness of pencil has a different tone to it, and even a light application can provide a depth that a single pencil cannot. Any two pencils drawn to the same darkness will have a different quality. I did this on the top of the nose and around the eyes and muzzle.
As with the first detail layer, keep your pencil as sharp as possible, and restrict your stroke lengths to what you see in the reference material. Always make your strokes in the direction of the fur growth.
Base Shading in the Next Region
After filling in the shading details on the face, I switched back to a 3B pencil. Many of the areas along the back of the head, around the neck, and the front legs have bright white for the base color, so in those regions I used the 3B pencil as the first detail layer, using the base color of the paper for the base shade. When I saw areas that didn’t need that white brightness but also did not need full shading, I very lightly rubbed the pencil stokes with my finger tip. This slightly blurred the graphite, creating a very gentle, slightly off-white base tone. If you prefer, you can also use a blending stump for this purpose.
As before, I went over the base shading with detail strokes in a 3B pencil, and then the 5B pencil. In this area I switched off between the two, moving around the entire region adding more details. I built up the details, making them darker and darker until they matched the reference drawing.
In the region around the elbow where the fur is strongly foreshortened, I used extremely short contrasting dark strokes to create the impression that the fur is both rather short and pointing toward the viewer. A quick succession of compact, dark ticks were all that was required. In the case of foreshortened fur, I usually draw the darkest shade immediately after the base shade and then fill in any median shades. The shadows are so short that there is a lot of contrast.
I filled in the pads of the feet with a 6B pencil so they would be as dark as possible.
Continuing with the same techniques, I move on to the details of the torso region, and add base shading to the rear legs and tail.
This image shows median shading details on the rear legs and tail, with some of the darker shading details to the very right of the drawing. By repeated the techniques shown in each area of your drawing, you can create a realistically textured drawing of any furry animal.
This is the finished drawing.
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