How to Draw a Cat in Proportion

Drawing our pets is one of the many ways we express love for our furry friends. In this free step-by-step exercise, Grant Fuller shows us how to plot basic proportion from photographs to sketch a simple, realistic drawing of a cat. Check out Grant’s latest North Light book for beginners, Start Sketching and Drawing Now, available on


How to Draw a Cat in 5 Simple Steps
To get started, find a good reference photo of your own, or use a finished drawing as a reference. For materials, grab a sheet of acid-free art paper, an HB graphite stick, some 2H, HB and B wooden pencils, and a kneaded eraser.

1 Practice Plotting Proportion from a Photograph
Use a piece of scrap paper and a ruler to plot proportions of your photograph. In this example of a boat, I’ve used the clean straight side of the paper to mark the length of the boat with two pencil lines. Now it is easy to figure how many boat lengths equals the height of the mast. When you scale your drawing, decide how long you want to make the boat and then make the mast height the same relationship. Here, my mast was about 1 boat length tall. Apply this proportion method to your cat photo, it works for all subjects.

2 Sketch the Shape and Plot Proportions

Start with an HB pencil and make the width of the cat’s head about 1¼ times the height of the head (or about 25 percent wider). Set the height of the cat’s body at 3½ heads. Make the body 2 heads wide. Draw a diagonal guideline in the center of the head to establish the tilt. (Animals and figures look better when the head is angled slightly.) Set other guidelines at 90 degrees to the center line to ensure you get the eyes and mouth properly aligned. Block in the facial features and take care making the eyes the same size and shape.

3 Define Fur Patterns and Add Texture
Once the shape has been established, use a B pencil to define the fur pattern where the darkest value meets the lightest value. Use a 2H pencil to suggest the texture of fur in the light areas. Erase the guidelines when you no longer need them. Clean any smudges with a kneaded eraser as you go. They may get more difficult to remove as the drawing becomes more elaborate.

4 Fill In the Dark Areas
Use the side of the B pencil to fill in the dark areas. Because these areas are so large, you may want to use an HB graphite stick for the broad strokes. Draw back into any of the darks that need to be reinforced. Use an HB pencil for any of the fine dark work because the lead is soft enough to deposit more graphite, but hard enough to press the paper texture flat and fill in the white bits.

5 Continue Filling In and Refine the Details to Finish
Always think in terms of three values—light, medium and dark. Other subtle shades will find their way into the drawing as you refine the shapes. Don’t attempt to get photorealistic at this stage. Focus on getting the size relationship of the various parts working together. The proportions and values are more important than fine detail such as rendering fur. In fact, the suggestion of fur may be all you want here.

More Great Drawing Instruction from Grant Fuller
Check out Grant Fuller’s Drawing Workshop DVD. It features 2 complete step-by-step demonstrations that give you in-depth instruction on line work, edges and values, along with expert tips for accurate proportions and perspective. More than 60 minutes of advice, tips and inspiration!


About the Author
Grant Fuller was born in Winnipeg, Canada. During his early career as a commercial artist and an art director in broadcast production, he worked throughout the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico.

Since 1984, Grant has been painting and teaching watercolor full time, and he continues to travel to teach workshops at the request of various art groups across the U.S. and Canada, and even in the United Kingdom.

Grant’s paintings have won several jurors awards and have been featured in magazines and newspapers at local and international levels. He has had numerous one-man shows and has participated in various group shows. His subjects range from buildings and boats to figures and portraits.

Grant’s first book for North Light, the painting instruction book Watercolor A to Z, was published in 2008. He lives in British Columbia.

Visit his website at


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