Cat Painting [full video + how to choose the best reference]

Zann Hemphill Cat Painting Demo

Full Cat Painting Video

In this cat painting demo, I’ll show you some great tips on choosing the best reference material, and how to paint realistic cat fur.

Choosing a Reference Photo

I’ve always felt that lighting is the most important thing when choosing a reference image to work from for a cat portrait (or for any portrait, really). Here are my top 2 tips for getting good lighting in a reference image.

  1. The first key thing is to make sure you’re using natural light.

    This can come from a window or skylight, or if you have an outdoor cat, anywhere outside works!

    Natural light gives true colours, and helps your eye understand the shape of 3D objects when viewed on a 2D canvas. Our brains are just wired to understand natural light.

  2. The second is to use just one source of light. A window OR skylight will look better than a window AND skylight.
cat painting reference with bad lighting

The worst thing you can have is two or more sources of artificial light. These can really mess with perceived colour, shadow and ultimately, shape.

Value before detail in Portraits

Another takeaway from this demo is the importance of getting dark and light in place before worrying about detail.

Painting in this way allows you to make big changes to the lighting and structure of the piece quickly, without worrying about having to redo a bunch of fiddly little bits of texture. Once the lighting and shape look right, it’s much easier to add the finer points!

realistic Cat painting in oil details

Looking for more Cat Paintings?

For art updates, fresh pet portraits, videos and more, sign up for my occasional newsletter (below), or check out my YouTube channel for more video tutorials.

Or to get your own cat painted on canvas, get in touch. I’d love to bring your art vision to life!

Thanks for reading, and see you next time.


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Zann Hemphill

Zann Hemphill is a practising pet portrait artist, writer, and video producer.

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