4. Add detail and color.
Now’s the time to add some polish to your drawing. Finalize the facial details, like the cat’s eyes, whiskers, and markings, and layer in some color. Remember that cats have slit-shaped pupils. So when the pupils are small, they look more like straight vertical lines, and when the pupils are large, they have a more rounded shape, eclipsing the colorful iris of the eye.
“Shading gives your drawing more life and interest, so it really takes on personality,” explains Merien. Again, if you use digital tools, keep your shading and color on a separate layer from your line art.
A few final tips for drawing felines.
Show off a cat’s mood and attitude with its ears, tail, and posture. “The tail is really important. While not all cats have tails, I find that cats have very expressive tails. Animals like dogs will just wag their tail, but cats do more interesting and fun things with theirs,” notes Hutchinson.
The position of a cat’s tail and ears tells you a lot about their mood and body language. For example, a cat with its tail straight up in the air is usually confident and content. A cat with its ears pressed flat to its head could be angry or scared. Use the cat’s body language to give it personality and express mood. The markings on a cat’s face can also help you express emotion. Stripes on the head can stand in for eyebrows, or add dimension to the cat’s smile or stare.
When you draw a cat, you don’t need to sketch in every strand of fur. This would make your drawing overly busy and hard to understand. “Think about the placement of details. If you use a reference photo of a cat with fur going in all directions, you want to be particular about where you place detail to make sure the drawing still looks good,” explains Merien. Create fur texture by shading small sections or adding a few small lines to hint at individual strands of the cat’s fur. This can simplify your sketch and give the viewer a better sense of the cat’s shape and physicality.
Don’t forget about the markings and patterns of your cat. “If the cat has markings, like a tabby cat, and you randomly just draw the stripes straight down, it’s going to look a little odd. You have to curve them around the body and around the fur. This gives it more life and more believability,” explains Merien.