Painting Inky Cats | Melissa Iwai | Skillshare

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

10 Lessons (54m)
    • 1. Class Trailer

    • 2. Researching and Finding Inspiration

    • 3. Materials

    • 4. Drawing Cat Heads

    • 5. Drawing Cat Bodies

    • 6. Ink Drop Technique

    • 7. Wet On Wet Technique

    • 8. Wet On Dry Technique

    • 9. Adding Details in Pen

    • 10. Class Project and Final Thoughts

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About This Class


Do you love cats as much as I do? 
I love painting and drawing them even if I'm terribly allergic to cats!

Learn how to do simple ink paintings of our feline friends using the basics: Paper, pencil, ink, water, and pen. 

This class is made up of step-by-step lessons on how to create your own ink painted cat. I will share my process and tips along the way.


  • How to gather reference and inspiration for your cat drawings and paintings
  • How to pinpoint the basic features of cat types to sketch their faces and bodies
  • How to look for the gesture and overall shape of the cat and sketch in some details
  • How to paint your cat using India ink in a very quick fashion using three¬†techniques: Ink drop method, wet on wet, wet on dry
  • How to add details in pen¬†

For this class, basic drawing skills are helpful, but all students are welcome.

This class is perfect for artists, illustrators, and anyone who loves cats and would like to expand their drawing and painting skills and explore using a new medium that is quick, spontaneous, and full of welcome surprises!


Meet Your Teacher

Teacher Profile Image

Melissa Iwai

Children's Book Illustrator and Author


I'm Melissa Iwai and I'm a children's book author and illustrator. From my first book, Night Shift Daddy (Hyperion 2000) written by Eileen Spinelli to my more recent book, 30 Minutes Over Oregon (Clarion Books 2018) written by Mark Tyler Nobleman, I've been fortunate enough to work with some of the most respected authors, editors, and publishing houses, including Henry Holt/Macmillan, Viking, Scholastic, Harper Collins, Simon and Schuster, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, and Sourcebook during my career.

Having illustrated over thirty books, as well as engaging in other freelance and licensing projects, my style has evolved and continued to change as I explore new ways of creating art. I'm really passionate about learning and have taken many Skillshare classes myself. I hope I ... See full profile

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1. Class Trailer: E illustrator living in Brooklyn. I love drawing and painting Cat, even though I'm terribly alert. Join me in this class will teach you how to draw and paint cats. Using just pencil, paper, ink, water and pins. I'll show you how to gather inspiration and photo reference. Had a draw basic cat, head and body and how to paint. Using ink and water. I'll demonstrate my process for drawing and painting cats and teach you how you can use this exciting fund medium in your work. It's fast, spontaneous and unpredictable. I hope you'll join the course and explore this great medium where you'll be able to create your own. In the next video, we'll go over the material you'll need to get started. 2. Researching and Finding Inspiration: before drawing your cats, gather some photos of cats to use his reference on inspiration. There's so many cat videos and cat photos on the Internet. I don't think you'll have a problem finding suitable reference for joining cats. I've also included a link to the painting in Key Catskill share Class Pinterest board I've created for the course. So feel free to look at that. You aren't going to be copying these exactly this way of painting isn't photo realistic? There's a lot of movement in them because of the way the ink moves in the water. So you kind of get the field the cat and it's for that is an interpreter representation. That's why when I use photo reference to paint these cats, I don't really think of it as copying them. Because the end product is so different, it becomes your own unique cat. I also take my own photos of cats. If you have your own cat, it's even better, and you can even sketch from life. Since I'm allergic to cats, I often rely on photos I take or photos of my friends. Beautiful cats. I'm also very lucky that there's an actual cat cafe in my neighborhood. I could go, too, if I ever need to take photos of a variety of breeds in the next video, let's get started drawing cats using the reference you've collected. 3. Materials: these air the materials you'll need for this class. Let's start with the paper. The paintings. We will be doing our small it quick so there's no need to go out and by super expensive paper. In fact, I prefer using cheaper paper. One doing these because it's less intimidating and frees me up to be okay with making mistakes and experimenting. So I like to use this skansen pad of multimedia paper. It's a £98 wait and has a smooth surface. If I was doing something special to give to someone or sell, I would use my hot press arches watercolor paper, which is £140. Let's have here wait, and it comes in a block. So there's no warping that when the painting is dry, the I used pencils with hard lead u H or three H because I draw very lightly, only to get an idea where I will pain. I don't want the lines to show when I erase used softer pencil, such as a regular to be or to be, just make sure not to press too hard. I always have my trusty kneaded eraser on hand. This is a perfect eraser for not leaving any trace marks. I love these. They also carry a pencil sharpener with me in case I need to sharpen my pencils quickly was for ink. I will be using speedball Super Black India ink. You can experiment with different kinds of India inks if you like. I prefer speedball because it's really dark, and I like the feel of it on my brush. This brings us to brush is sometimes I use my watercolor brushes, but more often than not, I used my synthetic travel brushes because they're cheaper and easier to replace. I find that sometimes the ink it's hard on the natural brushes, and if you're using them for watercolors and other medium, I prefer to keep them separate. You do use them. Make sure to wash them really well afterwards. Should have two containers of water, one for rinsing your brush and won t use one painting. I deal the have to because the water can get really dirty after just rinsing your brush. Once you need a palate and I just use the lid of my water jar and you need paper towel for blotting and drawing your brush after rinsing. Finally, when you're adding details to painting after it is dry, you'll need a waterproof ink on. This is a cop IQ multi liner, uh, point to noon on a white gel pen. I got this cheap Pan it a stationary star, and I have included a list of all these tools which you can download in the class material section. So that's about it. Let's get started. And the next lesson will cover basic pointers on drawing cats heads. 4. Drawing Cat Heads: in this video, I'll go over basic cat head characteristics and do a drawing demo. I'll be using the Pinterest board I created for this class. Feel free to check it out and the link will be in the class material section. Different breeds of cats have different facial characteristics, and I'll go through several. But when drawing all breeds of cats, there are five main things to keep in mind while drawing their head the shape of the head, where the eyes sit on the head when the nose sits in relation to the eyes, where the mouth ISS in relation to the nose and where the ears air placed on the head. Let's go through several examples. These air very quick, rough sketches. I'm not spending so much time on them because I'll be painting over them later. So let's look at this guy. He has a basic cat shape that is shared by many breeds. Kind of reminds me of Morris of the Nine Lives commercials way back in the eighties. His head is kind of oval, and his eyes are about halfway down his head, so I'll draw a line here and then the center of his head is here. His eyes set about this far apart. The short of sort of almond shaped and tilt outwards. His nose is around here. Cats have short smelts, unlike most dogs. Then his mouth is close to his nose. Here his muzzle is this round shape. His ears are here. How about this tabby cat? He also has a commonly shaped cat face. Sort of diamond shaped his eyes. It here so will draw a line across center of his face is here. He has big eyes and really big dilated peoples. He has almond shaped eyes too. His nose is here, so I'll kind of connected with his eyes than his mouth is right under it. You can see it has a chin here. He has bigger ears in the Morris Cat. They'll go here. This Siberian shorthaired cat has a very round face. His eyes are really round two. They have very short snout, so their noses are close to their eyes. Then he has a wide friendly mouth like this. His ears are shorter than the previous cats. They go here and then the next one is this Persian cat. He hasn't even shorter snout pretty much non existent. His head is all belong like this and notice that his nose is even higher than his eyes. Unlike the others, this cat's eyes air sort of down turning. Also, his eyes seem to be pointing tow opposite directions. This one is a 3/4 view. If you're drawing at a 3/4 angle, the concepts are the same. But the center vertical line of the head is to the side, so his I sit here. Cats have really big eyeballs in relation to their nose. They're like marbles, But the eye opening is usually almond shaped and turned up, so the eyeballs sit in the sockets like this. Here's the shorts now than the mouth. The ears sit on top at an angle rather than straight on for ah, profile view like this one. I still start with shape of the cat's head. As you can see, it's sort of flat on top here on their forehead, their faces usually squished down in the bottom half again. They have short snouts and big round eyeballs. I opening as almond shaped and turns up at the ends. Here is his mouth, and I have the ears last. I will include a cheat sheet of these cat characteristics in the class so you can review them if you like. The best way to learn how to draw something has to do it over and over and over again. So feel free to practice with a few types to get a sense of the cats features before painting in the next video, I'll go over things to look out for when drawing cats bodies. 5. Drawing Cat Bodies: in this lesson, I will go over some key points to think about when drawing cats bodies. I don't want to get so detailed with an enemy is that could be a whole course in and of himself. Also, this class is focused on painting cats in a more stylized interpretive and less photo realistic manner. But it is good to know the basics about cats bodies. So here's a quick overview. I think of cats is having three main parts their overall. Bottomley structure the head, the chest in the pelvis. So here's the head. Here's the chest. Here's the pelvis. I draw these three parts as ovals and connect them. Then I ended legs, tail and ears and reclaim the body as a whole. I'm sorry if it's kind of hard to see. I'm using a to H pencil on the lines or light, which is what I want so they don't show through the ink after I pain it. When drawing cats from reference, I don't try and copy them exactly, but use them as a jumping off point for creating my own version. First, let's look at the body and the gesture it's making. Usually there's a curve involved. Is the cat curled up in a ball that twisting? Is it stretching? Also, look at the gesture in relation to the ears and tail. Which way are they pointing? Here's a curled up cat, his body shaped like a circle in a spina shaped like see. So we place the head on top, then find the shapes in the body and the legs and place the features on its face like we didn't a previous lesson. - Here's a cat with the curve gesture in the spine. He's an old cat, I think 15 years old, you just wanted to sleep in one look at us, drawing cats turn away as the easiest. Here's another one, also looking away with a twist in a spine, Look at his ears and the gesture in his tail. - This rather plump can is made up of large circles. Look at her overall body. Her head sits on top. It's kind of small compared to her body, because she's so overweight. I draw the face like we discussed in the previous video. Find the eyes, nose and mouth. Then I am three years. She was actually kind of a grumpy cat This sweet cat is our neighbors. Her name is Hazel. She has such a sweet face in this view. She's looking up, and the focus is right on her face. Here she is at a more complicated angle. There's a twist in her spine, and her head is facing in the same direction as your backside. - Here's her elbow Looking out. The very best way to learn how to draw cats is to do just that. Just keep drawing them over and over, get to know the feel of their lines and proportions. They could be so athletic and graceful as well is very still and compact. The really great models in that sense. Also, don't get frustrated if you're joined the look exactly like your reference. This is fine. You're creating your own piece of artwork and not trying to copy something exactly. So just have fun in the process. In the next video, I'll demonstrate a fun and easy painting technique with ink 6. Ink Drop Technique: The first method I'd like to demonstrate for you is what I call the ink job method. This method is really fun because the results are so unpredictable. The ink moves really fast, so you have to move really fast. But it gives a really unique, spontaneous quality to your painting. I'm using three different brushes here, one for clean water to for in painting. I'm using my sink synthetic cheap brushes and two jars of water, one that will stay clean and one that all rinse my in. Keep Russian. So where this first demo start with a simple one? This town is the easiest. It's just all black, and it's not even looking at us. So here I am, painting his whole body and the clear with clear water. Then I did my brush in the ink and get it really dark and quickly dropped the paint in the wet area on the paper, using cancer on paper Here, you might want to use heavier weight paper for this technique, cause a lot of water is used where the other two demonstrations will use my watercolor papers that you can compare. I just kind of moved the ink around with my brush, and it's making all these patterns, which you'll see more clearly when it dries. No, the cool thing is that with this way of painting it so spontaneous and unique, you can't get this quality digitally. So there's that cat. Here's another mostly black cat, but he has a little bit of white fur on his belly pause and shin area. So here's my sketch. He's also wearing collar, so make sure to keep in mind where that is, like with watercolor when painting within the white parts of the painting are the paper itself. Also, you want a paint like two dark so you can always dark and you're layers with Maureen. But you can't lighten them. I'll go over that more in detail in the falling lessons. So for this ink drop technique again, the first area wanna paint is the area. I want black. So I'm painting with clear water, so I'm gonna paint. I painted his head and now I'm just adding the ink in that area on. I made sure not to paint his white the white part of his face. Now I'm gonna paint his body with the Clearwater and I want to make sure I avoid the white of his chest and hiss. Pause. You have to move fast because the you want the water to be very wet, so the ink moves in the water and the eat dries fast also. So you have to, so you have to paint quickly, just drop blobs of ink in the filled area. I love the way the ink is so unpredictable and spontaneous and creates interesting patterns in the water. So even if you do the same cat over and over, you'll always get a different result just finishing his tail. And I can get create hard edges of his back with my brush after the water has been pulled in to other areas there. So I will let that dry and I'll do one more cat. Here's a cat that has a calico coat. This is sweet Boo, my friend Christine's cat. So he has orange, white and black on his coat. So first I'm gonna paint the lighter areas because you want to paint light to dark. So I'm gonna wet that area that I'm painting first, which is kind of the orangey part of his coat. A little bit on its belly and then his I and I'm gonna get just a little bit of ink and tested on my palette and out a little water to lighten it. I was a good idea to have a piece of test paper so you can see how dark the ink is that you're using. Some paint the Mentone area on his belly and get his nose as I a little more on his belly. You can always out a little water with a lighter value, getting a little more variation there. And then I I wanna let this dry completely before I do. Don't want it to bleed in. So building a shadow where the whites are I can't really see his legs, his hind legs in this photo. So I'm just gonna kind of make it up. Okay, let's let this dry completely before we do the job. Okay, so this is dry now, and you want it to be completely dry before you do the drop technique. I don't want the darker value to mix in with the mid value areas that I just painted, but the ink dries pretty quickly. It doesn't take long, so now I'm gonna paint the area. I want to be dark black with water, like I did before with black cats, all right. Plain painting around his had his cheeks and hiss muzzle. It's very dark here when I'm trying to work fast again. And now I'm gonna drop the dark ink in the area that I just went and just let the Inc do its job. So it creates a really nice spy, Torri effect that you can't really get with any other medium. And I think it captures the quality of the for really? Well, I'm just going to continue down on his body. Here's his arm. Drop the ink in there. I'm using my clean brush to get more clear water, and I'll do his other arm and his body. And I'm just gonna kind of make up his hind legs because you can't really see it in the photo. And then I'm going to drop, Think they're do it really quickly. You can just kind of pull pull the ink where you want it to go in the water, doing a hard edge where the curve of his back is. As you can see, it goes very quickly. I love how unpredictable it is. And like I said, even if you paint the same cat over and over, they'll turn out differently every time. So so I'll finish these cats in the following videos where we explore other painting techniques. 7. Wet On Wet Technique: in this lesson, I'll go over a very common method of painting which is wet on wet. Many you continue to paint while the medium is still wet. I'm gonna take my clear brush and have been in water. And what? All the areas I'm going to start painting first. This cat is gray and white, so I'm going to start with the gray parts that are lighter. I often use this method when painting in watercolor. And as with watercolor, you want to work light to dark. So now I'm testing the ink on my test paper to get the right value to get a kind of Ah, light gray. Okay, that looks good. Now I'm gonna paint the shadows on his belly. Remember, you can always make something darker, but you can't make something lighter. So I'm just doing some shadows on his body, and then I'll do the blobs of gray on his bath. Next what? Your darker. Just going to get some anc off the other fresh instead of dumping in the think well, because I don't want it to be too dark. So I'm just painting the blobs in, and I'm not trying to make it look exactly like the photo, but that's OK. Make sure you brush your you rents your brush thoroughly if you're using the same one. To paint in Clearwater later or you can use to brush is like I'm using. Well, I'm getting his tail before this area has dried completely. We could go back in with a little bit of ink on the brush and paint in the stripes. So it's cool the way the ink spreads out and creates little spindly parts that look like for we'll get her till it's dark at the end and then on me, try the top of her head. Well, let me get her legs. Okay, let's do the top of her head one year. Like I said, you can always go back in and make things darker. Glory do her stripes and layer on top in the water, still wet, and now do her ear and the stripes on top of the head, a little bit of her pants and the dark part of her tail. And while this cat dries, forget Hazel. She's also striped but doesn't have the patches of stripes like the previous cap. So this is Hazel for her coat. I would start with a light gray, so I'm painting in the area that's gray and avoiding the area that's white, just painting with some water first and some diluted ink to get the gray areas. - Now , when it's still wet, I'll go back in and paint stripes and then, like before, I can build up from light to dark and again. I'm not really trying to paint or exactly like the photo. It's just getting an idea from the photo. Go back and get her stripes on her head on our ears and a little bit of shadow. I forgot the shadow on her chest, still had some a little bit of shadow here. Go in and out her little nose and her pupils, so I'll let these dry completely. And in the next video, I'll demonstrate how to paint wet on dry and when you would want to use that technique 8. Wet On Dry Technique: painting went on dry is just that you wait for the paint to completely dry, so there's no smudging or bleeding. When you go back and paint over it like water. Color of the ink dries pretty quickly. It's pretty waterproof. So here I have two sets of paintings of the same cats. One on the left is arches, and the one on the right is camps and mixed media paper. As you can see the difference in paper, the cancer in is wider, and the ink dries darker on it. See, the cats looked very different, but I think more than the different paper use just the nature of painting. Quickly. Inning creates unpredictable results, and this one is the arches. I'm not too crazy about this cat's face. I used a little bit too much water and didn't wait long enough for the lighter ink to dry before I went in with a darker ink in the last video. So I'm just gonna go back in and dark in that and go over with some ink now. So when you go back and you want to cover the whole area and you can also handsome shadows , you're matting some shadows on this guy's face and his legs for soft edges. Use more water and then paint lightly with the ink like like I'm doing here. I'm just painting some shadows under his body, and I'll go back and paint some shadows on hazel dark in her eyes. You can use the darker ink to accentuate areas, so I'm going to do her eyes on her nose. And I can also darken the folds in her body like here were. Her arms are folded under her l. We're not folded under on just the full shadows under her arms. She was sitting on a couch. So a lot some shadow here on her body. And now we're ready to put the finishing details on Oliver Cat. So join me in the next lesson and I'll show you how to using pens to do that 9. Adding Details in Pen: finish your cats. You can use an ink pan to delineate details. I'm using this co pick multi liner with the point to name. So I'm gonna use it to draw in the cat's pupils. Whiskers pause. I tend not to outline the whole cat. I like to leave in areas line lis, or also some areas that are just negative space. So show you what I mean by finishing this gray and white cat. So I usually do the eyes and ink. Sorry. It's hard to see here. And I'm doing his year and now his paws. Sometimes I may just do a line to suggest the surface. So I'm not drawing outlining the whole cat, as I said. Now, let me show you, Hazel, I'll do her people's and then her her nose and mouth and years whiskers, maybe the side of her face. Yeah. And her little paws. So there. No, this cat. I forgot to do his collar. So I'm gonna just take that and quickly. Yeah, also for black Cat, you can use this white gel pen. Um, as I said before, the other one was a cop. It multi liner. And this is just a cheap gel pen. I like to use it to add details like his eye, and then I'll go back and use the co pick for his paws on his little tag on his collar, and then I'll finish his legs. Now let's finish boo. She has an eye peeking out here, So add her people and her nose and her other eye. I'll do her whiskers and white because her furs black there. And then I'll use this black pen so you can see the whisker continuing on the white part of the paper. So use the white pen for the white for where? The white furs on top of the black. For basically anywhere that there's black. You can use the white gel pen on top and then where it's lighter, you can use the black ink pen. Well, let me add some lines for her paws. Let me finish the skies, legs finishes collar. Make it a little bit darker, and I'm going to use the white gel pen again on the white part of booze. Pause. So when everything is dry, you can use your kneaded eraser to erase all the lines away. This is why I like using the two H or harder pencils also because they're really easy to a race and you don't see any indication off the line after you've erased. So I'm gonna erase all the lines. You get a nice effect where there's white, like on the top of his neck, or you get some just negative space. Now let's finish the sky boo. And now the black and white. Oops. I didn't wait long enough for this to dry before a racing. So there's some smudging here, so be careful of this. Make sure it's completely dry before you erase. This is a good lesson of what you don't want to dio. So I hope you try these painting techniques out in the next video. We'll go over the class project. See you there 10. Class Project and Final Thoughts: for the class project. Create your own cat painting. Using the techniques demonstrated in the class. Feel free to mix and match them. The great thing is that you can't be too precious with this way of painting on because it goes so fast. You can do many in a short period of time, so just experiment with it yourself and have fun after gathering photo reference. Sketch your cat and I encourage you to do many preliminary sketches so you can get comfortable drawing cats. And they don't have to be perfect. In fact, making mistakes is part of the learning process. Use cheap paper so it's not intimidating and do a bunch on just one sheet at a time when you're pretty comfortable drawing cats, choose one or two and sketch them on nicer paper if you like. Paint your cat using the techniques demonstrated in the class, you might do one or two film free to mix and match them. They are the ink drop technique, what on wet, wet on dry then and details to your cat with anchor gel pen or both. A PdF of notes from the class are available for download. Also check out the Pinterest board for the class. If you need more inspiration, share your process in the class Project gallery and please feel free to ask any questions in the comment section. I'm happy to answer them. I'm excited to see what you come up with. Post your cat on social media with the hashtag painting in Key Cat so other people can find you or tag me at at Melissa E Y one on instagram. I hope you enjoy this course on painting Inky Cat. Thank you so much for joining. Be sure to follow me on skill shares. They could be the first to hear about future classes like this.