If you’ve ever asked yourself, “How do I make this picture glow like a candle-lit dinner?” “How do I form this line so I can pluck it off the paper?” “Why is this cat’s fur not glistening like the furs of the ancient Sphynx sprawled across her perch?” — you should layer. And what do I mean when I say… layer?
With any medium you have a chance to layer. You can layer colors on top of different colors, complimenting colors, contrasting colors. You can keep the first color and layer itself for that nice glow. Painters dead layer with light washes of paint. Pen and ink artists layer thick lines of ink over thinner and coat with washes.
My love is for the color pencil. So for this post, I’ll use the example of a color pencil piece.
Whenever I begin a piece, I use the lightest pencil to form the outlines. From there I start building up very light colors. For example: a reddish, brown fox would start with the lightest orange. I would slowly fill in the fox’s fur, making sure to press slightly harder in areas that form corners and seem overlapping so as to create shadow and depth. This is just establishing the depth–it’s never too early to start creating the depth and pushing all your medium into its respective cracks and crevices.
After the orange, I’d grab a light red and begin mapping out areas in the fur that might feel a bit darker, usually the fur that would be beneath the top layers. After mapping, the light layering begins BUT make sure to really understand your subject before you go too far into the colors. This’ll lead your hand around the shadows and broader surfaces with more confidence.
When the body of fur seems set in its richness, I’ll go in with some browns. The browns will really bring out the lighter orange you used originally and really pull the figure back in places. Great to use for shadows in fur.
SO, there is some thought about layering fur. The brilliant thing about layering is the patience you’ll have to take. It’ll cause you to slow way down and really get to know your subject and when you know your subject, your piece is harder to mess up!