Would you like to learn how to draw a squirrel and create a realistic squirrel drawing that you can be proud of? This lesson will help you with drawing this animal by utilizing key techniques on drawing fur to bring it to life.
Whether in real life or in cartoons, squirrels are cute creatures that we are familiar with in one way or another. How do these animals relate to you? For some, they help bury acorns that could grow into a full tree. For others, this animal is just relaxing to be around.
Regardless of the reason, drawing a squirrel is not too difficult. Rather, it's a practice exercise of controlling different lengths of brush strokes to get fur. Most noticeably, the tail has very intricate long fur compared to the fur found on the body.
The goal is to get artists to control when to use long and short brush strokes in different capacities to create layers of fur. After all, not all fur is the same. Follow along to not only create a squirrel drawing, but to improve your eye-hand coordination.
We should start off the squirrel drawing with a gesture sketch. This is to make sure you have an accurate representation of form and proportion. Aside from the bushy tail, what other distinguishing characteristics can you think of?
Using this visualization, think about the circles, triangles, and squares that comprise the main body. Near the tail, think about creating simple gesture lines for the tail and how the fur will fan out.
Once you are done with that, create a new layer underneath and paint it into the shape of your gesture sketch. This will be the base where you will paint the details on. You may want to start working one some quick light and shadows of the squirrel by blocking in simple shapes to form the body.
Make sure to lock the shape ('preserve transparency' option) so you don't accidentally paint outside of its boundaries. When you are satisfied, go ahead and merge the layers together to be worked on all at once.
This part of learning how to draw a squirrel will require you to smudge your squirrel drawing with the smudge tool using the chalk brush tip. This brush tip's properties will fan out the edges of anything you smudge.
On the body, proceed with smudging in the same direction as the gesture lines with a medium sized brush. You will discover that you will get nice variations of tone to work with on top of simulating small bits of fur.
You may want to start working on some of the preliminary details to be refined in later stages. Start with a light brush and simply block in shapes for the fingers, ears, and any other anatomical features.
Once you are done that, you can also define the entire object more clearly by erasing some of the boundary areas that were smudged too far out. This is to keep the entire squirrel drawing under control from the warping done by the smudge tool.
Now that you have a good base to work with, the next step of learning how to draw a squirrel is to detail in some fur. But first, make sure to lock the squirrel layer so you don't accidentally paint outside of it.
After that, then you can switch to a smaller brush and start doing the fur. You want to do short bursts as outlined by the smudge lines. Add more short brush strokes around the edges of the limbs to separate it from the rest of the body.
For the tail, you can even try drawing with the smudge brush. To do that, put the pressure on 100% and choose a brush tip that looks like a sponge. Use it to 'push out' the colors from the tail to create long thin fur.
Using this method, you can create many tonal variations in the fur strands because you are using the colors in the original drawing rather than a set color from your palette. The advantage is more quick color harmony.
The squirrel drawing should be coming out very nicely at this point. There is one last step and that is to give it more depth by drawing in a proper light source. Focus on where the light will hit and where the shadows will appear in the absence of light.
If you're using Photoshop, create a new layer on top of the squirrel, change it to a clipping mask, and then paint in the light and shadows. You can adjust the opacity of the clipping mask to hide or show the details of the squirrel layer underneath.
If you are using other digital art software, continue to paint the light source on a different layer, and then merge it to the squirrel layer if you are happy with it. Alternatively, if you're comfortable, you can paint the light source right on the squirrel drawing.
The best way to create large areas of shadow and light is through a very large round shaped brush tip. You can use this brush tip with the dodge and burn tools to highlight or darken textures.
The key here is to be very gentle with applying light and shadows. Too much pressure will overwrite the textures. To prevent this, you can also try changing the entire behavior of the brush to specific blend modes like overlay or soft light to help with this part.
From the regular brushes to the smudge brushes, you have learned many ways to create form out of a simple shape. Practice these techniques well as it will allow you draw even more amazing things.