JD Hillberry
Westminster, CO :
March 3 - 5, 2017

Subject: Realistic Flowers

Bradenton, FL :
(Near Sarasota)
April 28 - 30, 2017

Subject: Trompe l'Oeil

Bradenton, FL :
(Near Sarasota)
May 5 - 7, 2017

Subject: Realistic Portraits
More workshops:
full details
Pencil Kit & DVD
Everything I supply in my live workshops
full details
Mike Sibley
STUDIO Workshops, UK:
April 1/2
July 15/16
May 13/14
Including Perspective
June 24/25

Workshops ONLINE
Join me at
full details

Drawing from Line to Life:
Beginner (The 8 Week Drawing Course)

Drawing from Line to Life - 8-week Beginners Course Self-directed lessons
204 pages
250 Illustrations
Resource + Activity
Only $9.99 USD
From Drawspace Publishing
Buy Now

Help with horse hair and furry things

The animal and wildlife forum concentrates on drawings of all animals, from domestic pets to wildlife - anything dressed in fur, feathers or scales. The emphasis is on drawing but paintings are also acceptable.

Moderator: Mike Sibley

Posts: 2
Joined: Fri Dec 30, 2016 10:49 pm

Help with horse hair and furry things

Postby stevengarver » Fri Dec 30, 2016 11:10 pm

I am starting to draw a little again about a month ago after many many years. I was never much good compared to what I see here, but I enjoy drawing and will continue doodling with it for fun.
I have a very hard time trying to make things look realistic especial hair or fur on animals.
Is there a place i can find information on drawing fur and hair on animals?
here is a picture I started last nite but will probably have to start over once i find the answer.
Thanks for the help.

User avatar
Posts: 959
Joined: Sat Feb 23, 2013 1:35 pm
Location: Canada

Re: Help with horse hair and furry things

Postby Laurene » Sun Jan 08, 2017 1:16 am

Hi Steven and welcome! I can't see your uploaded drawing, but a great place to start learning is Mike's site ( You can check out his free tutorials ( Eventually I strongly suggest buying his book or taking his online course at Drawspace.

Hope we'll see some of your artwork soon!

User avatar
Posts: 78
Joined: Wed Jan 30, 2013 11:44 am

Re: Help with horse hair and furry things

Postby KenBrown » Wed Jan 18, 2017 12:30 am

Hi Steven ... I can't see your drawing either, but keep in mind that drawing is a skill that can be learned with practice and perseverance - talent has little to do with it.

Here's an explanation I did elsewhere on the net that may be of some help.

I was going to mention the hair but I didn't want to overwhelm you with stuff. Hair is actually not that hard - it's just a texture and you have to learn how to render it so it "reads" realistically. I suppose that is probably my best skill .. but it's really important that artists not start to think of it as "hard". It's not - just learn a technique and it's really pretty easy. In time you will think of it as fun.

Everyone will tell you not to draw every hair (including me). That will drive you nuts and your drawing will get entirely too busy. But, you have to get the overall shapes in the right places. Then enough detail to get the viewer to "see" it as hair.

There are several ways to do this. Mike Sibley draws hair negatively as does Armin Mersmann (I believe). I can't seem to get my brain to work that way so I erase hairs. Negative drawing has the advantage of not putting graphite on the paper on the light hairs until you decide just what value to put there. Erasing will never quite return to pristine paper. Both have pros and cons, of course, as does every technique it seems with graphite. So you need to try different ones and see what works for you and what is too cumbersome or just won't come out well.

My technique works for all kinds of hair/fur .. the difference is in the motion of the eraser and the pressure used. There is almost no overlap between my method and negative drawing so keep that in mind as I explain what I do. Since most of my work deals with cats, I will start out talking about that but bear in mind any hair uses the same technique.

I begin in small areas and use a grade pencil that approximates the darker shadows/recesses. I use a dull pencil - not much more than flat - no sharpeners. In fact, I sharpen my pencils less than once a year and generally immediately scrub them back down to dull. What I want is some sharp places but mostly dull so they cover larger areas with each pass. As you apply the graphite try to avoid those "hooks" as you return the stroke for the next one. Anything you put down will show through in the end so you need to fix anything you don't want. The strokes need to be in the direction of the hair growth. Then I use a stick eraser to lift hairs. I sharpen the eraser by cutting it off with a razor blade or scrubbing it flat parallel to the tip of the tube so I have reasonably sharp edges all round. Then, holding the eraser in a writing grip and using the sharp edge, I'll squeeze my hand dragging the eraser over the area I want the hair to be. Graphite is a dry lubricant so not every squeeze will result in a light hair - sometimes it will just skim over the surface and leave almost no trail. This is fine - it replicates those almost invisible hairs. The stick eraser leaves eraser residue .. you MUST remove this NOW. I start out with a 2" paint brush fairly aggressively. Then I move to a kneaded eraser shaped to a point and try to pick up any little pieces I can see. If you neglect this step, those pieces will get rolled up by your pencil, become small graphite balls and adhere themselves to your drawing - usually in the worst possible place - like the middle of an eye or forehead. And you won't be able to get them off. I've tried erasers and even scraping with a razor blade ... they are horrible and seemingly permanent. So beware of that. This shows one of my pencils so you can see how sharp it isn't and also the scale I work in.


The erased hair is now appearing to lie on top of the other hair with a definite start and end. This is not realistic so I use a pencil to push one end back into the mass of hair where it belongs just using value. I may also shape the hair by shading the back shadow side slightly though not always.


This sort of shows the process. At the moment I did this the drawing appeared a bit flat but later sittings resolved this. I go over my entire drawing up to the time I last stopped when I first sit down to a new session. This allows me to fine tune or change things I do not like. My day job won't let me draw except on weekends but I put the scan of my drawing on my computer as wallpaper so I can look at it numerous times each day and come to see the flaws and limitations so by the next drawing session I know most of what I want to work on.

Here's a closeup of the same area on the final drawing a number of sessions later.


The same thing can be done with human hair. The only difference is in how hard you press with the eraser and the movement you make. Beards, for instance, are almost always thicker, squiggly hairs while hair on the head can be straight or curly but generally longer. I will usually repeat the drawing process at least twice and often more till I reach the appearance I'm wanting.



With more complex patterns, do it in stages.


Now I also know I draw in more detail than many want which is just my style. I'm not advocating that anyone else do this but the technique can be adjusted to whatever level of detail a person wants - just stop earlier. And my method may not work for you or anyone else. I've had people tell me they could not get anywhere with it .. but then I can't get anywhere with negative drawing. We all are different and nobody is right or wrong. Some part of my method may very well work for you and with practice and some experimentation you will likely find a way to make it your own.

When you are lifting hairs, always be aware of the lighting - especially on head hair. Keep the erasures light (not coarse) and let the viewer do most of the work filling in things they "think" they see. Put em to work

Also, hairs are not soldiers standing in nice neat rows. There is overlap, stray hairs even if they just got up from the hairdresser. Ignoring this will lead to an appearance of a helmet. Also, always put in some flyaways because it will soften the outside edges. Again, leaving the edges hard makes it look something like a helmet.

Here's one I did some time back where I intentionally left the hair helmetlike as I progressed. Then I put in the black background and softened the edges. It was much easier to put in the black with a more solid edge.


And that's about all I can offer in help for hair. It's really not hard like your brain is going to tell you ... just a texture and a technique.
HTH ...

User avatar
Posts: 78
Joined: Wed Jan 30, 2013 11:44 am

Re: Help with horse hair and furry things

Postby KenBrown » Wed Jan 18, 2017 12:36 am

I'm not fond of the program this site uses ... attachments in particular are very touchy and hard to use. There were some duplicates in my message but the site will not let me add new ones so I guess it has to stay the way it is. Hopefully at least some of it will be helpful ...

User avatar
Posts: 959
Joined: Sat Feb 23, 2013 1:35 pm
Location: Canada

Re: Help with horse hair and furry things

Postby Laurene » Wed Jan 18, 2017 2:50 pm

Hi Ken,

I wanted to thank you for you detailed post. I know you meant your reply to be for Steven but it helps everyone and is a great refresher for those of us who knew your work back on Artpapa. Back then when I hadn't been drawing for a very long time, you were very generous in answering many of my questions and I appreciate it. I also wanted to take the opportunity to congratulate you on making the cover of Strokes of Genius 8. Well deserved!

User avatar
Posts: 11
Joined: Mon Dec 05, 2016 8:03 pm

Re: Help with horse hair and furry things

Postby BlackScorpion » Fri Jan 20, 2017 6:35 pm

Wow... the fur on that cat is magnificent!
I try to follow your explanation, but I find it difficult.

What is a stick eraser?
And you say you do not draw every hair, but in the sample it surely does look like it.
I would love to know more how you work, my main interest is furry animals.

User avatar
Posts: 251
Joined: Sun Mar 17, 2013 6:39 am
Location: Mt Glorious Australia

Re: Help with horse hair and furry things

Postby Garry » Sat Jan 21, 2017 9:23 pm

A Stick eraser is simply a plastic eraser in a pen form, you can cut the end to what ever shape you want. As Ken suggests he cuts the end square as do I but I also cut it to a chisel shape the same as a pencil.
"Learn to draw, it will change your life."


Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest