When designing and working out how to draw an outfit for a character I'll pick a main element, then add a couple of complementary materials to help sell it and balance the design as a whole. I've heard it said that one usually wants to have about three different materials in a design to help separate each form.
For this example I decide to dress a warrior in some wolf pelts. The grey wolf fur will be what defines the main shapes, and I'll counter the soft fur with some leather, and then lastly the exposed skin of our character with a splash of red blood. To add to the mood of the character I want to put him in a dynamic pose with a lot of movement.
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I decide that a simple triangular composition would suit the aggressiveness and power I want to convey. Finally, I throw in a simple background to tie the illustration together. And since I want to focus on the character and his movement, I keep the image loose and implied.
01. Use references
I start by collecting the right references. Knowing how to use reference is key. You're looking for general shapes, texture and colour to inform your decisions. Nothing that holds you prisoner to it, but just to get the creative wheels turning. Then I dive into the sketch by roughing out the gesture to the character.
02. Rough the outline
Animal furs tend to have uneven, rough edges. When painting the edges, make sure to have lots of rough fur sticking out. Unlike a regular cloak, fur's silhouette is often spiky and uneven. When approaching folds, note that the fur "fabric" is thick and you often won't see tight folds. Think bulky shapes and coarse edges.
03. Define the fur
Getting into the final render, I make sure the fur is soft, but I don't paint every hair. Think of fur in larger shapes. I add colour variation to the fur, making sure I define the darker roots of the fur with lighter tips. I also like to add a bit of leather and rough-cut animal skin near the edges of a fur coat, to add to the realism.
Artist's Secret: Depicting Perfect fur
I use Photoshop's natural media brushes to paint fur. Using a custom wet flat brush, the bristles simulate hair while also blending the paint nicely. Make sure to balance the variation of materials in your character, so you don't have just a furry mess!
Words: Denman Rooke
Denman Rooke started working as a freelancer in 2007, creating art for games, films and advertising. He now lives in Dublin, where he works at Digit Game Studios. This article originally appeared in ImagineFX magazine issue 125.
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