Painting Pet Portraits Digitally | Sheena Holm | Skillshare

Painting Pet Portraits Digitally

Sheena Holm, Digital Artist

Painting Pet Portraits Digitally

Sheena Holm, Digital Artist

Play Speed
  • 0.5x
  • 1x (Normal)
  • 1.25x
  • 1.5x
  • 2x
7 Lessons (32m)
    • 1. Painting Pets Intro

    • 2. Picking a Reference Photo

    • 3. Sketching a Guide

    • 4. Basic Color Lay In

    • 5. Creating Fur Texture

    • 6. Painting the Eyes and Nose

    • 7. Final Clean Up

  • --
  • Beginner level
  • Intermediate level
  • Advanced level
  • All levels
  • Beg/Int level
  • Int/Adv level

Community Generated

The level is determined by a majority opinion of students who have reviewed this class. The teacher's recommendation is shown until at least 5 student responses are collected.





About This Class

In this class you will learn how to paint a furry friend on a digital platform. Cats, dogs, bunnies, hamsters, and even horses, would work well for this project. Commemorate a wonderful pet and give a friend or family member an awesome gift. I'll guide you through every step as we draw, lay in base colors, add fur texture and whiskers, and paint in the eyes, nose, and background. 

Meet Your Teacher

Teacher Profile Image

Sheena Holm

Digital Artist


Class Ratings

Expectations Met?
  • Exceeded!
  • Yes
  • Somewhat
  • Not really
Reviews Archive

In October 2018, we updated our review system to improve the way we collect feedback. Below are the reviews written before that update.

Your creative journey starts here.

  • Unlimited access to every class
  • Supportive online creative community
  • Learn offline with Skillshare’s app

Why Join Skillshare?

Take award-winning Skillshare Original Classes

Each class has short lessons, hands-on projects

Your membership supports Skillshare teachers

Learn From Anywhere

Take classes on the go with the Skillshare app. Stream or download to watch on the plane, the subway, or wherever you learn best.



1. Painting Pets Intro: Hi everyone. I'm Sheena, a Los Angeles based or teacher and digital illustrator. Today I'm gonna be showing you how to paint pets. I'll be covering everything from choosing a reference picture to setting up your document. And then we're going to lay in our symbol drawing. On top of that, we'll add a base color and then I'll share with you that top secret methods of digitally painting for whiskers. At the end will polish everything off with a couple of little extra tips. And then you'll have a beautiful piece that you can share it with friends and family. Know that while this video is tailored for digital art, you can work on any platform. And if you choose to work traditionally, you can still follow some of these methods. I hope you learn a lot and I can't wait to see your work. 2. Picking a Reference Photo: Let's talk about your reference picture first. When choosing a photo to use for this project, there's only really two things that you want to keep in mind. And those two things are lighting and clarity. Now, if I had a all-black cat, the lighting on her would be extra importance so that I could actually see the layers and parts of her for. But because my cat has a multitude of different browns and greens and whites and blacks. That was a little less important. Or this photo, that being said, I know it can be very challenging with some pets to get them to sit still long enough. In which case, I recommend shooting in a very, very bright areas so your shutter speed is faster and you are less likely to get blur. So outside is a really great option. I don't wanna talk to you much about that though, because in some instances, you will only have a photo or two to work from. Especially if that Pat is living somewhere far away or has already passed away, in which case then you'll just have to make do with what you have available. The other thing I wanna talk about is your documents setup for this project. I am working in Photoshop, but of course you can work on pretty much any digital platform or even worked traditionally for this kind of project. So for me and Photoshop, I have set up my document so that my image is on the right-hand side and I have an area to work and on the left-hand side because I'm left-handed, so it helps for me to have my reference to the right. So vice versa, if you're right-handed, it's also not necessary for you to have your image in screen right next to what you're working on. It can just be very helpful for lining things up. Also, if you're a beginner artist and you're not very comfortable drawing free hand. Then of course, you can start off with your image directly in Photoshop or procreate or critic, and turned down the opacity of the layer and essentially trace it on a layer on top. I don't really recommend doing this process though, because first of all, you don't learn as much. And second of all, it lacked some personality and you really delving in deep to capture the essence of your pet. So the only other comment I want to make about your setup is the size. So if I go to image, image size, you can see here that my document is a resolution of 350 pixels per inch, which is really good. And the width is 17 inches and the height is 10.5. Now, this is a comfortable size for me knowing that I'm going to crop the width in half. So the height being 10.5, It's actually very manageable for printing purposes. So that's a pretty good standard. Doesn't have to be anything more complex than that. Now that we're all set up and ready to go, let's actually get started on drawing. 3. Sketching a Guide: For drawing, I personally never like to draw. Staring at a white background hurts my eyes. And frankly, it can be very confusing once you actually start working with color. So step number one for me is to always make my background color. I tend to lean towards more natural neutral tones. But if you have a very bubbly, crazy pet, you might want to make your background also a bubbly bright color. So for my case, I chose a nice neutral green tone. Now that I have that setup, of course remember to make a new layer. Don't ever draw all on one layer because that way if you need to make changes and all that, it's a lot easier if you've drawn specifically on its own layer. So they are number one right here, I am naming draw. And now we're going to set up our brush for drawing. Now, brushes for drawing should be pretty standard, kind of like what you see over here. If you don't have these kinds of options are new sidebar, know that in your brush settings you just want to have shaped dynamics checkmarked with a kind of standard round brush available. What that does is it makes it so that way when you press lightly with your pen on the tablet, it makes very thin lines. And the harder you press, the thicker the lines get, it feels most naturally like you're actually using a pencil or pen. So now that we have our brush setup, and also hopefully you are comfortable using your research as well. If you are not, go ahead and figure that out so you're all ready to go. When it comes to drawing animals, you want to break them up into nice simple shapes. First to make sure you have the proportions and placement setup very comfortably. Now notice I'm staying zoomed out. I don't wanna get too zoomed in and I'm off for my brush to be rather small to probably about ten pixels will be nice. And I want to first block in where I want for my sweet little cats had to go. This is kids who by the way, she's about seven years old and there's another one gone. But I also love very much, but he's very finicky and difficult to get a photo of. This project can be really, really nice for a friend or family member as a gift if they're very, very much attached to a pet of theirs. And also can be a really, really sweet such mental thing to do. If you have an animal that has passed away recently, you want to give their owner a piece to remember them by. So notice that I am not at all caught up in any small details. I am not attempting to 12 and knows her eyes are not asking myself what is the shape of the year. I'm just trying to figure out where it's going to fit. On my canvas verbs. It's very common to draw the muzzle on cats and dogs. So that way you feel comfortable with where that pull portion of the face is going to fit in. Because I'm drawing such simple shapes is really easy for me to make adjustments of the stage. And inside of here, I think it's important this shape of white on the chest, the shape of warrior on the pol. Now I'm going to place her nose just generically very carefully. And it's totally okay from EarSketch to be really messy and crazy. This is your opportunity to really find and feel out where all the features are going to go. If you're gonna make mistakes, this is the place to make them. To make sure that you're putting cute. You want to make sure that the eyes are round and far apart. If you make very slanted or kind of angry eyes that are close together, you're going to end up with a Derby or very mean looking animal. Now, I think I drew just a Schmid, Hi, my canvas and a little bit. So I'm using Command T on my Mac and making more just a tiny bit smaller law also not so Arafat, Tanya life, I would have to race to draw everything smaller, but I doubt how to do that digitally. Okay. I think this is as far as I need to go find sketch of course, anytime of sketching Cyrus fine. If you like to do stuff with career harder edges, you are absolutely welcome snip. This is just a really solid guideline being moved forward with. 4. Basic Color Lay In: It is now time to block in our color. So to do so, first step, like always, is to make a new layer on top of everything. And let's call this base color. Reason why color is because one of the tricks to drawing very animals is to start with a darker tone that you color and for the most part, flat underneath and builds up your lighter little pieces of paper on top of that. So it means that these base colors are going to be essentially the darker version of the for area. Now that being said, for the white furry part, I'm on my cat's chest. I'm gonna make that a gray tone, knowing that white fur is gonna go on top of that. And that way there aren't like holes being punched through the pieces of further I'm going to be drawing later. It'll look very solid and it will give it little bit more depth. So obviously areas that are black, I will simply fill in black. And I'm not going to pay far too much attention to the nose and eyes at this point. Because trying to capture for can sometimes be a little bit of a messy process and keeping edges clean, it's complicated when you don't necessarily want clean edges for a lot of parts. So we're not going to worry about those features just yet. That's something that's going to come later. So what I'm gonna do now at this point is block in those darker bass tones. Okay. Okay. Okay. But yes. 5. Creating Fur Texture: We're going to start with what I like to think of as round one of adding texture to our pen. So the most important thing, the thing that drives everybody crazy or makes them feel like their genius is the kind of brush that they want to use to create the effect of fur texture. So here is the secret. The kinda brush you want to use should be dots. And if you're like, whoa, what are you talking about? The reason why you want to use a dot texture brush? Because like I have here, this is really just a series of dots, but when I click and drag with my pen or mouse, I am actually creating lines that move with the angle of my brush. Beautiful for a texture, hair texture, all that jazz is not wonderful. I have absolutely no settings on this brush right now other than to make sure that there's very little to no spacing at all between my dots so that they create lines. And I also want a pretty sparse dot pattern as well. So if you're like, I know how to make brushes, but I only have very standard brushes and I don't have this dot brush here it is. It's literally a tiny flattering of dots. Now you do have the other option as well, especially if you're dealing with extra dense for to use a brush that is essentially made up of lines. Just know that if you change the angle and direction of your line, it's no longer going to create a nice texture. It's gonna create almost like a repeating step pattern. So you would need to actually change the angle of your brush here and this little do dad, which can be very tedious because as we know, animals have for going in all directions, radiating out from the center of their face and then going in different directions on their body. So that can be exhausting. So once again, I highly recommend the dots. It's as simple as that. If you want to mess with your settings over here with Shape Dynamics and transparent all that once you have your dot brush setup, you are absolutely more than welcome to. But this is really all you need to get started. So once you've chosen, and of course I was just using a bright color here to show you an example. Once you have your brush setup, remember that if you color, pick an area and bump up your brightness of your color, you are now going to be working closer to the field of for texture that you want to place on top of that base we created. Because remember that base is a little bit dark. So if you followed my instructions, you'll have absolutely no problem doing that. The other extremely important tip I have to give you is you want to layer the for back to front. So while it might be really exciting to get started right around the eyes or the center of the face. You probably actually want to start with the edges of the face, the edges of the ears, the body, if it's further back behind the legs, that kind of thing. And work your way, quote unquote, forward. As you go. That way, your brush will lay on top of your old Marx and it will create the illusion of deaths. Cool. Alright? Alright, so I'm going to jump into with a global, a timelapse. And I wish you lots of luck. It can be a really, really fun, but do you know that it takes some time? All right, and there is all refer for the first pass. Next video, we're gonna work on the features and background that are not including this texture brush. And then we will wrap it up with some finishing touches. 6. Painting the Eyes and Nose: Now that the bulk of our for and everything is laid and let's get to those eyes and nose. I'm also gonna go ahead and put in a background. So know that I have added a couple of layers. So right now, the order of my layers is my original setup for the background color. By drawing a new layer in which I'm gonna paint just a little bit extra color and gradient from my background than the base color then the for, and then on top of that, the eyes and nose. After all of this will just do a little polish off and then we'll be done. So let's crack back into that time ops again where I start to add in some background. Okay. No. Okay. 7. Final Clean Up: Alright guys, we are done with the meat and potatoes of this project. Hopefully you're feeling pretty good about where you've gotten so far. What we're gonna do now is talk about whiskers first and foremost. And then I'm probably going to break back and a time-lapse again where I'm just going to be resolving any last small details that I would like to clean up. So for me that includes things like adjusting the nose a little bit, adding some extra shadows of for onto the chest, adding some texture to the background and cleaning up edges. For you, those things will probably be different. And the best way to make those finishing touches is to refer to your original picture if you want to get as close as possible to reality, that's gonna help you get there. If you choose that you want something a little bit more stylized or it's not as important to you. It's not necessary to do very much clean up at the end of your project. So let's jump into whiskers. First step always is to make a new layer on top of everything. Secondly, the trick to whiskers as you want to make sure that you are going to be guaranteed the smoothest of lines that don't have any weird little jagged bits. So to do so in Photoshop, I'm going to use the pencil tool, which will allow me to turn up smoothing here at the top bar, rather high percentage right now I have it set to 92. Notice that when I wiggle my mouse's, I go down. It's trying to smooth out the line as much as possible. Without that smoothing option, you will end up with little jagged bits if you do not have the cleanest of line work, if you don't have a very, very steady hand, I don't usually have a very steady hand just by being an artist. So know that that's a great trick just to make sure that you end up with something as fine as possible. Now we're going to make sure that our pencils slash brush is going to be really, really small. We definitely don't want for these whiskers to the very large. And let's do a test string here. I think that looks great. And notice that I'm making sure I'm often underneath there. Let's go a little bit better. I use brackets on my keyboard, by the way, is the shortcut to make my brush bigger or smaller. But now you can also always come up to the top. Are here. There we go. That's what I want. I can always erase down these whisk girth if they're a little long. And I want to err on the side of caution. I'm actually going to move these out a little. And she loved Photoshop that allows you to cheat like that. And I'm gonna make my brush even finer for small extras.