Few things are as cute as a kitten. They make adorable artwork. This kitten study is a fun project, and it’s not difficult to do. Here we will include the entire body, longer fur and additional colours.



Your reference photo

The grid method

A kitten’s proportions are slightly different from those of a full-grown cat. The grid method will help you accurately capture those differences on your canvas paper.

The line drawing

  • When you have the shapes drawn accurately, your line drawing should look like this.
  • Remove the grid lines with your eraser, leaving the image behind.

Stage 1 - The outlines

  1. Use a No. 2 round and diluted ivory black to capture the shape of the kitten.
  2. Outline the edges of the eyes and nose.
  3. Create a blue-grey by mixing titanium white with a touch of ivory black and a tiny bit of Prussian blue.
  4. Use the No. 3/0 round to fill in the colour of the eyes with this mixture. Allow a small white area to remain for the catch-light.
  5. Fill in the little nose with a diluted mixture of ivory black and burnt umber, using the No. 3/0 round.


Be careful with the Prussian blue - it is extremely potent; a tiny little bit will go a very long way.

Stage 2 - The awkward stage

  1. Block in the fur of the kitten with diluted ivory black and a No. 3 filbert. Your brushstrokes should follow the fur’s direction and natural patterns.
  2. Even at this stage, the texture and depth of the fur is being created.
  3. Use diluted Prussian blue and a No. 3 filbert to wash in the background colour surrounding the kitten.
  4. Create a line across the page to represent a horizon line. This line separates the background from the foreground and creates the illusion of a floor. Fill in this area with a diluted mixture of ivory black and Prussian blue.
  5. With diluted burnt umber and a No. 2 round, fill in the inside of the ears.

Stage 3 - Finishing touches

  1. Apply thicker layers of paint to finish.
  2. Rather than sticking to just ivory black and titanium white, which would result in a kitten in shades of grey, add a touch of burnt umber to the colour mixtures. This addition offers a subtle, warm brown colouration to the fur.
  3. Fill in the darker areas of the body first, using a No. 3 filbert and a mixture of ivory black and burnt umber.Add small amounts of titanium white to this mixture to create several light and medium shades of grey.
  4. Use these colours and the No. 3 filbert to paint the lighter patterns in the fur.
  5. Overlap the light colours on the dark colours to create the illusion of long fur.
  6. Switch to the No. 2 round and continue building the fur layers, overlapping light and dark strokes for a more realistic effect.
  7. Use the No. 2 round to paint the feet. View them as patterns of light and dark shapes.
  8. Add the hair inside the ears. Make sure to use very quick strokes so that they taper at the ends and look like hair.
  9. With the No. 3/0 round and diluted titanium white, add the whiskers. They’ll stand out against the darker fur.
  10. To finish the background, apply a thicker layer of Prussian blue and titanium white.
  11. Use the No. 6 filbert and apply the paint in a circular, swirling motion. Make the colour deeper near the kitten. Add more titanium white to the mixture and make the background colour lighter as it moves farther outward, away from the kitten.
  12. Finish the foreground with a thicker application of grey, using the No. 6 filbert. The subtle blue tones from the original wash should still show through on the right.
  13. Use ivory black to create the shadows under the kitty. As you work away from the kitten, add some burnt umber to the black to give the edge of the shadow a warm glow.
  14. For the shadows on the left side of the kitten, add some ivory black and Prussian blue to the mixture and use circular brushstrokes for a hint of texture. This method allows you to gradually lighten the tones as they get farther away from the kitten.


Look at the chest area to see how I developed the fur layers. Make sure to capture all of the patterns in the face, particularly around the eyes.

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Read the full article on getting started in acrylics by Lee Hammond in our online issue of Start Art 8


For more guides to painting cats and kittens in acrylics