Ultimate Guide: How To Draw & Paint Cat Noses

How to draw and paint cat noses

How do you draw cat noses?

Making sure the nose on your cat drawing looks good is really important.

Why? Noses can add a lot of realism to your drawing or painting of a cat because they’re a different texture than fur or eyes and on top of that, they’re an important way-finding feature. But getting a cat’s nose right is tough! There are all sorts of things to consider, like where is it, how big is it, how dark the nostrils should be, and what the heck are all these folds??

To help you out, I’ve broken down the big topic of how to draw and paint a cat’s nose into subcategories you can explore as you like.

  1. Frontal anatomy
    Basic cat nose anatomy for drawing. Draw a cat’s nose in 4 steps.
  2. Location
    How do you draw a cat’s nose in the right place?
  3. Size
    How to make a cat’s nose the right size in a drawing.
  4. Anatomy from the top, bottom and side
    Learn to draw a cat’s nose from different angles
  5. 3/4 views
    Advanced cat nose anatomy for drawing and painting

 

Before getting into paint, I’ll start with drawing. Because that’s where you can get a handle on the anatomy and placement of your cat’s nose without having to worry about the added complexities of paints.

Frontal anatomy of a cat's nose — for drawing and painting

The front is the simplest view of a cat’s nose, so let’s start there. What’s going on with all those folds?? Like dogs, cats have what’s called an alar fold. These folds seem to help animals get more odour particles into their scent receptors, so they can smell better.

painting of a cat nose with reference

However, all that extra surface area does make their noses harder to draw! Instead of a simple triangle with holes in it for nostrils, we get this sort of twisty snail shape in each nostril. Let’s break that fold down, and look at some ways to make it easier to draw.

Basic shapes from the front

The basic shape of a cat’s nose is a triangle. But I find it easier to start with an open-topped V shape, because the top of the ‘triangle’ is actually a lumpy wave shape. Other shapes to consider are the nostril holes, and the area just under the nostril holes that is not nostril, but actually full of fur. Look carefully at the photo above and you’ll spot these furry sections. Below, you can see them in step 2, “false nostrils”.

draw a cat's nose in 4 steps

1. Start with a V shape
Top to bottom, it should start about 2/3 of the way down your cat’s face, and extend about 1/3 of the way from there to his chin.

2. False nostrils
I call these “false” nostrils because they’re actually furry sections of muzzle that extend into the nose space.

3. Real nostrils!
The real nostril shows up in drawings as a dark shape where the nose folds into itself.

4. Separate nose texture from fur, and add nostril shadows
The top line of the nose and the two indents from step 2 show where the fur stops and the glossy pink nose texture begins. As soon as you mark in these three areas, your drawing will stop looking like a triangle and start looking like part of a cat!

How to draw a cat's nose in the right place

First of all, let’s start with the simplest cat drawing we’ve ever drawn. Circle, two points-up triangles for ears, one pointy-side-down triangle for a nose.

How to draw a simple cat
Et Voila, A cat.

But wait! Not so fast. Where do all these triangles go, exactly?

Without getting too distracted by the ears (because that’s going to be its own blog post eventually), let’s take a look at what happens when you move the nose triangle around. Grab a sheet of paper and try it for yourself! Try putting your simple cat’s nose in the middle, at the top, to the sides, etc.

how to draw a simple cat looking to the side

Hey whoa! The cat is looking around. What’s going on?

Pro tip: where you put your cat’s nose determines where she’s looking. If your cat is looking up, nose goes up. Cat looking left, nose goes left.

When a cat is looking right at you, the top of his nose is going to be about 2/3 of the way down his face. Let’s use my cat Tiberius as an example below.

how big are cat noses when you draw them

I’ll get into more examples of where a cat’s nose goes as she turns her head later on, but for now let’s nail down the frontal view. You can draw and paint amazing, intense cat portraits even using this one view!

pet memorial portrait artist Zann Hemphill

How big should I make a cat's nose in a drawing?

Now you know where the nose goes, how big should it be? You’re going to find thirds coming to our rescue again. A cat’s nose extends down about 1/4 to 1/3 of the way from the top of his nose to the bottom of his chin (if he’s looking straight at you).

how big should i draw a cat nose

Interestingly, what makes the difference here is less about how big your cat’s nose is (unlike dogs, cats don’t vary that much in how big their noses are). Instead, it’s about foreshortening! In other words, how close are you to your cat in the drawing? In photos, you can see the perspective of how big a cat’s nose is changes when you get too close.

cat perspective drawing foreshortening nose

Before I go too far, something you’ll notice about this example that’s important for nose placement is where I’ve drawn the “circle” I’m using to represent his head. The 2/3 down rule applies when your circle goes from the top of your cat’s forehead to just under his chin.

If I had chosen to include Tiberius’ super cute fluffy chubby cheeks, I would have had to draw an oval, but I’m going to ignore those for now. Let’s update our simple cat drawing.

draw a cat from a circle

I find he still looks as though he’s looking down a bit. But then, once I add the eyes and fluff that resolves.

Sometimes you just have to trust the process!

Cat Nose Anatomy from the Top, Bottom, and Side

Now that you’ve got the basic anatomy of a cat’s nose down, let’s get more challenging! Changing the angle changes a lot. First, let’s look at how to draw a cat’s nose from the side, then we’ll take a look at the top and bottom. Lastly, the most challenging view: 3/4.

How to draw a cat's nose from the side

The first thing to know about drawing cat noses from the side is that they don’t make a point the way a dog’s nose does. Instead, the nose and the area above the nose make a smooth bump, together. 

And, of course, you can only see one nostril. The nostril curves up and toward the place where the top of the nose meets fur.

 

How to draw cat nose from the side

Painting a Cat's Nose from the Side

The most important this to do when you move from drawing to painting is differentiating the fur from the ‘nose’ surface, as you can see in the example below. Once you have the shapes right in your drawing, moving to paint is much easier.

Amber cat face from the side reference
Cat painting from the side

draw your cat's nose from the Top and Bottom

Next up, let’s see how the anatomy changes when your cat looks up or down. These views will help you see where the nose sticks off the muzzle, and where it doesn’t.

Looking Up

When your cat looks up, her nose sticks off her muzzle as a little bump. See Tiberius, below, for an example.

draw a cat nose looking up
draw a cat looking up drawing

In both the above and below examples, you can see how the nostrils and nose bump stick off the rest of his muzzle a bit. Other than that, the overall shape looks very similar to how a cat’s nose usually looks from the front.

Cat looking up drawing

How to paint a cat's nose looking up

how to paint Cat whiskers cat painting oil

Making the transition to paint, here I’m adding the pink colour of his nose, and leaving the nostrils dark. The little line up the middle of his nose is a little darker than the surrounding flesh, but not as dark as those nostril holes.

Looking Down

When your cat looks down, her nose barely sticks off her muzzle at all! Instead, the nose skin and surrounding muzzle form almost a smooth line. Her nose becomes a little crescent that’s very simple to draw and paint, because all the complex bits are hidden.

Learn to Draw the Nose of a Cat from the most challenging view: 3/4

Now that you know what a cat’s nose looks like from the front, top, bottom, and side, it’s time to start combining your knowledge. 3/4 views are the most challenging for faces of all kinds, human, cat, dog, or otherwise. But with a little practise and a lot of attention to your references, you’ll get it down in no time.

3/4 view of cat's nose

In this photo, we’re not quite looking at Tiberius from the side, nor are we looking from the front. This is the 3/4 view. In his nose, you can see one nostril clearly, and the other is hidden. You can see a little bit of the middle strip, but it’s very far off to one side.

In my drawing, I’ve exaggerated the angle slightly so you can see what it would look like if he turned even more toward us.

Painting a Cat's Nose from the 3/4 View

Drawing is again the most challenging part, so once you’ve gotten that down adding paint shouldn’t be too difficult. Take a look at the below examples of cat paintings and their reference photos for more examples of how a cat’s nose looks from the 3/4 angle.

Marti cat reference photo
Custom Cat Art
colourful colorful pet portrait cat
Custom Cat Art Oil Painting of a cat

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Zann Hemphill

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

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