Colored Pencil Demo - Fur
Rendering Fur with Colored Pencils, by Kathie Miller
Doing fur with colored pencils is actually very easy. It can be time consuming however, so you might want to start small. Doing fur, to me, is very zen like. I just immerse myself into the piece and let the world go away. I'll show you, step by step, just how to do great fur.
This is the picture I'll be doing the demo from. But, I'm not going to do the whole mouse.
Just this part.
Here are the materials you need.
You don't have to get all of these things, but the more tools you have, the easier you will find the process.
Colored Pencils - There are several brands of colored pencils, some easier to find than others, some better than others. My personal favorite is Prisma Color for several reasons. They are very creamy, have a wide range of colors and most of all, I can get them in my local art supply store. Never by the student grade pencil in any brand. They are too hard and don't have a very good selection of colors. If money is a factor, and it usually is with all of us, then buy just a few colors at a time of the better brand. In time you will build up a good range of colors.You should be able to pick up most of the colors at any good art supply store.
Colorless Blender - This is a colored pencil without any pigment. It's used to move the wax of the colored pencil around and smooth it down into the paper. You'll find these with the colored pencils. Pick up a couple, you will go through them faster than the pencils.
Paper - The type of paper you use can make a big difference in the end result. I like Canson Mi-Teintes watercolor papers. It has enough tooth to hold several layers of color, but not so much that I have to work hard if I don't want the paper to show through. It has a smooth side and a rougher side, so be sure to check which side your using. I use the smooth side. These papers come in a variety of colors. I like to use a color that most matches the medium tones to the subject. Since the mid tones are already done, I only have to work into the darks and lights. Again, a good art supply store should carry this. If they don't have this brand, look for a medium smooth watercolor paper.
Transfer paper - The watercolor paper won't hold up to a lot of erasing. So you need to do your sketching on drawing paper. When you're satisfied with the sketch, you will need to transfer it to your final work surface. I use white transfer paper if I'm using a dark paper. White transfer paper can be a bit hard to find, but if you have a fabric store near you, they have a variety of transfer colors used to transfer a pattern onto the fabric. Look for the white only, you won't use the other colors.
Kneaded Eraser - Kneaded erasers are a great invention. They are pliable and can be formed into various shapes to get into small areas. They are gentle and won't damage the paper and they don't leave any crumbs behind like most erasers do. Your craft supply stores will have these.
Electric Eraser - This is not something you have to have, but there are times where it's very useful. It can help when you need to remove larger mistakes. A good art supply store will carry these. The Sakura Electric eraser shown here is a good one. It doesn't have so much power to go through the paper and it's nice and small and light.
Brush - This is handy to brush away any crumbs from the colored pencils or any that your eraser might leave behind. From time to time you will want to brush your surface to keep it clean. Using a soft brush will prevent any smearing. I use a soft brush from the paint store. It's inexpensive and does the job just fine.
Craft Foam - This might sound like a strange thing to have, but I assure you it's very nice to have. There are times when you need a bit more pressure to get your colors down into the paper. By taping your paper to a sheet of craft foam, you will find it much more pleasant to work on. It gives you a bit of cushion. If you had your paper on a hard surface, like your table, you will find it harder to work on. It's not absolutely necessary, but they are so inexpensive it's worth it. Michaels, JoAnn's, and most craft stores have these.
Pencil Sharpener - You can start with just a hand held sharpener, but you will find an electric sharpener to be much better. The hand held sharpeners tend to break the tips and you find yourself sharpening it again and again. That's not only annoying, but wastes the pencil. I've never had a tip break with the electric sharpener. Choose one that has an automatic shut off when the pencil is sharp. This will prevent you from grinding the pencil more than needed. Your local office supply store has lots of them.
Lighting - It's important that you have good light. What ever light you use, get a color corrected bulb for it. It will make a big difference when you can see the actual colors you're using. Try your local hardware store or art supply store for these.
Extra sheet of paper - I actually use a sheet protector used for papers in a binder, but anything handy will work. This is to put under your hand and arm to keep them off the art work. It allows you to move your hand and arm without smearing your work or getting oils from your skin on the paper.
That's it for the supplies. I know this looks like a lot of stuff, but like I said, you don't have to have it all to get started. Build your supplies a little at a time. You will find, however, that all these items will come in very handy as you get more comfortable working with colored pencils. If all you can get right now are a few pencils and a sheet of paper, great. It's a start and you can jump in right away. So, let's get started.
A few Hints before we get started
Start with a mid-tone color paper. If you start with white paper, your going to be fighting the white every step of the way and you will get very frustrated. Why not make life easier for yourself and use a color that works with the fur color. Choose a color that matches the mid-tones of your piece. It's easier to work up to the lights and down to the shadows, leaving the mid-tones (the paper) to show through.
When laying down the hairs, remember a couple of things.
First - ALWAYS go in the direction of the fur. That means that you will have to move the paper around so that you are always pushing the pencil, not pulling or sliding it from side to side.The pushing motion will give you the best random hairs.
Second - Lay down the hairs in different directions. What I mean by that is don't make every hair go in the exact same direction like soldiers. Make them random and a little messy. The way I do this is to twist my thumb and fingers back and forth so that I'm not using the pencil in the exactly same way. This twisting of the pencil also helps keep the pencil sharper longer.
Lastly - It's important you transfer your lines lightly. You don't want to score the paper. After you have transferred your drawing to the art paper, lightly erase the lines in the area that you are working. You want to be able to just see them. Don't erase them until you get to them. By lightly erasing the lines as you go, they will stay more visible. If you don't erase them you will find they will show through your work.
I'm using a light tan colored paper that matches the mid tones of the fur.
Using white, I lightly get the fur directions laid down. This step is very important. It will give you a guide to follow when adding all the other colors. As you work, you don't have to worry if the hairs are going in the right direction, it's already mapped out for you. I'm not worried at this point about covering the paper. There are a lot more layers to come and it will all fill in as I go. I've left the shadow area under the cheek alone for now.
Next, I pick a nice medium color. I've used Light Umber. Keep the pencil sharp and keep in mind the length of the fur your doing. I usually do a section at a time. The mouse's cheek has very short hair so make the strokes very short.
Using Goldenrod, start filling in the areas a bit more. Not too much, you have more colors to go.
I go back with the white again. This pushes some of the Umber back a bit and picks out some of the lighter fur as well.
Next is a medium dark color - I've used Chocolate. Try to pick your way in between the other lines a bit, picking out some hair groups. Don't overdo it, it will start to become too dark. You can always come back later and adjust the colors if you need to.
Finally the darkest color - Dark Umber, Dark Brown or Burnt Umber. I've used Dark Umber here. Go back and darken just the hairs under the groups that you picked out with the Chocolate, with the occasional long hair here and there. A little goes a long way, so be careful and don't over do it.
I then go back with the white and goldenrod here and there to fill in some of the areas and to soften it up. I then use the colorless blender lightly. The idea here is not to blend the colors, just to smooth the strokes and get rid of some of the paper showing through the strokes
I'll do the rest of the body the same way. The body has longer fur so make your strokes longer. Light Umber is first. Notice how my strokes are not all going the same direction. I also avoid the section I just did for now to make sure it stands out and doesn't get lost in the next section. I'll go back later and smooth the transition later. I do the lines more closely together just under the cheek where it's darker.
Goldenrod - I add this just as I did in the cheek area and I take this into the light area but not too much.
Back to the white just as before. I start blending the different areas together, the cheek and body area. Don't forget that the paper color is also some of your fur color too. Don't cover it completely.
I see I need more light umber so I'll add more where needed to fill in a bit more. Keep turning your drawing so you are always pushing the pencil in the direction of the fur. Remember - as you turn your drawing, turn your reference photo too.
TIP: If you have room on your paper, tape your reference photo to it using a painters tape for delicate surfaces. As you turn your paper around the photo will always be turned with it.
OK, that's better, now on to the next color.
Chocolate - I start with the dark area first so I don't go too dark in the other areas.
Ginger Root and Sand - The light belly fur is a bit more yellow so I add these colors lightly.
I used dark umber as before to pick out some of the shadows of the hair groups then the colorless blender. Now, you can play with this until the cows come home, picking out more hair groups, adjusting the colors here and there, and generally driving yourself crazy. It's better to stop here and move on.
Done! I hope you enjoyed this demo. Although doing fur can be very time consuming, it's not really all that hard. You can see how the colored paper really helps, if you look closely, there is quite a bit of the paper color showing through.
Wildlife Art by award winning artist Kathie Miller
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I've broken the "colored paper rule" here and used white because I wanted the background to be bright.
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A soft tan, the same I used for this demo was used here.