How to Paint A Lion’s Fur My 7 Top Tips

I’m going to talk specifically about how I paint the long fur of a lion’s mane. This is something that can make all the difference when trying to paint a realistic looking lion.

How to paint a Lion’s mane

  1. Start dark
  2. Block in the basic shapes
  3. Think about clumps not single hairs
  4. Build light on top of dark
  5. Glaze varying colours
  6. Glaze shadows
  7. Add detailed highlights with a liner brush

I’m just going to be talking about the lion’s mane mostly and maybe a little bit about the body and how I finished this painting.

Start Dark and Block in Basic Shapes

Firstly always start my paintings in the same way, I block in a dark base colour with a fairly large brush. For this painting I am using one of my favourite brushes which is just a very old and very frayed round brush.

I build up the darker layers and draw out the shapes of the fur, I am not focusing on individual strands yet, just the larger blocks of colour and the big clumps of fur on the Lion’s mane.

Build Lighter Colours on Top of Darker Colours

Next I wait a minute or two for the paint to dry then add another lighter layer on top breaking those blocks down into even smaller slightly more specific strands of fur.

At this point I am using fairly large, abstract strokes that just about represent the long strands of hair.

Glaze Colours and Shadows on the Lion’s Mane

Once this has dried, I use a glazing technique, which is just very thin washes of paint to add the shadows and adjust the colours of the marks I have just made. If you are using acrylic it doesn’t take very long to dry.

Here are The Colours I Use for Painting Lions.

 If you are using oils you might have to wait a few days for the surface of the painting to dry completely before you start glazing.

Once I am happy with the shadows start to add the details. I’ve just bought a new sword liner or dagger brush I think it’s also called. And it is actually perfect for painting long hairs and whiskers.

It carries loads of paint and I use it to add more detailed lighter strands of fur.

After that I then glaze back over the ends of these new strands to blend them in to the rest of the mane then repeat the process with slightly lighter values of paint until I am happy with the finished outcome.

Fur tips

If you are wanting a realistic finish to your wildlife paintings it is really important that you add lots of variation to your fur.

What I mean by this is you don’t want all of your fur strands being exactly the same length or going in exactly the same direction like the image on the left below.

Even though it looks like tiger fur It is very simple and quite boring to look at because all of those strands of fur are exactly the same.

What you should be doing is varying the direction and length of the strokes giving the fur a slight random curve this makes it look much more interesting like the image on the right above.

Furthermore it is also important that you leave some of the darker fur showing through you don’t want to cover all of it when you do the lighter layers.

By leaving small gaps of dark fur showing through you are giving the impression of layers of realistic fur.

Even though that was demonstrated using tiger fur but the principle still applies for lion fur. Make sure you have some areas of the block in showing through and there is lots of variation in the fur length and direction.

I continue to use the same techniques to paint in the rest of the mane.

Starting by blocking in the darker regions and basic shapes with the round brush and building slightly lighter layers above that to refine the fur strands.

Add Details with a Liner brush

Next I am using a liner brush to add some random strands of fur, I am using this instead of the sword liner because it gives me much more consistent width of marks when I am roughly blocking in. The sword liner requires a bit more precision.

Again I use thin washes of paint and the glazing technique to knock back some of the fur and blend it into one mass.

Sometimes when you add lighter strands of fur they look a little out of place, like they are just floating around on top of the painting.

By glazing over one end and blending it into the fur underneath you get a much more realistic looking effect and the fur looks like it is actually connected to the lion.

I bring back the dagger brush for those final details making sure to vary the length of each of my strokes and slightly change the direction of each strand, giving a slight curl towards the end making sure it is as random as possible.

A final round of detail, glaze back and repeat to finish of the hair and I am about ready to call the painting finished.

One of the things that I find makes a painting most interesting to look at is variation. Finally I like to abstract my paintings slightly to give the viewer a bit more to look at. 

I use various tools to do this but for most of my paintings I find an ink roller spread onto some acrylic paint works perfectly to add some random interesting marks.

Thanks For Reading

I hope you have found this quick guide helpful for your own artwork.

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