How to Draw a Cat

Learn how to draw a cat from artist Rebecca Schweiger in this Howcast drawing tutorial.


We'll now focus on how to draw a cat; these cute, snuggly little creatures that many of us love. What I have is a photo of a cat. What I'm going to suggest is that you too, find a photo that you really enjoy looking at, so that as you're drawing it, you can feel very inspired.

I'm going to start with the shape of the head. I'm going to be using drawing pencils, and then I'm going to move into using a ballpoint, black pen. The shape of a cat face is very heart-shaped, so it's almost a combination of a circle and a heart. I'm actually going to draw almost a lopsided circle to start. Then I'm going to draw just the bottom of a heart. Instead of it being a pointed bottom, I'm going to make it a rounded bottom. Right now, we're just focusing on the outline of the cat's head.

The ears of a cat, they may not be perfect triangles as some think they are, but they're very triangular. What I'm going to suggest is drawing a triangle to start, just to get that basic shape on there. Now we can really round it out. What really happens is it comes up, and then it rounds over. This is not a perfectly straight line, it's somewhat round. I'll do that to the other ear, as well. In your drawing, you would be looking at a photo of whatever cat really inspires you.

I'm going to play with the shape of the face a little more. I'm going to look at little bits and pieces of the face, rather than the whole face at once. If you try to capture everything at once, it can be very, very overwhelming. What we really want to focus on is just one line at a time; almost like little dashes that connect, rather than one solid line. I'm going to continue my pencil down, finding that shape. If I want to make changes to what I have, I can always erase. I'm going to bring in my gum eraser, and I'm just going to erase some of the lines that I no longer want or need.

As I'm drawing, I know that I might make changes as I go, and that's fine. As you're drawing, it's a constant, constant process. I encourage you to focus on the process, not the product. If you focus on the process, the drawing experience can be very, very peaceful, very relaxing, and most importantly, very self-expressive.

I'm going to look at the angle of the eyes. Before I even draw the eyes in, the eyes will always be on an angle on a plane. The nose and the mouth will also be on an angle. The eyes tend to be in the middle of the head. A lot of people think they're right at the top, but they're not; they tend to be in the middle. I'm going to look at where those eyes are. They're really in the middle, they're on this plane, and they're not perfect circles, but they're not as almond-shaped as human eyes. They're almost something in the middle. What you really have with cat eyes is this curving form that comes and tucks down. When in doubt, make a circle, and you can always change it. I'm really making pieces of a circle, but not all of those pieces are connecting.

With the nose, you're going to look for the connection from the eyes to the nose. From the center of the eye, again, just a little curving form, it comes in, and then comes right out. Cats have pretty wide noses. Then we're going to find the bottom of the nose, which really makes a triangle from the inside of the eyes to the nose. We're going to find, where do we put that nose? The nose is very heart-shaped; the top is almost like a little heart. If you want to, it all really takes place within a triangle. You can draw the triangle, and eventually, erase those guidelines. If you think of a combination of a heart and a triangle, that is pretty much the shape of a cat nose.

Then you have their cute little lips. It's just a straight line. Depending on the cat, it's almost an upside-down, very wide V. Here would be a wide V right-side-up. Upside-down would be something like that, and you have this little line here. I'm going to draw that upside-down V; it's a little curved. As I'm drawing this, I'm realizing the chin is a little too high, so all I'm going to do is make it lower. There's no such thing as a mistake in drawing. You can always make changes, and you continue to make changes until you feel good about what your drawing is looking like.

That is my basic shape of the cat's face. I'm going to just put in a few guidelines for its body. If you really look at it, all it is, is almost a straight line coming out. Instead, I'm just making a little bit curvy. I'm making a very loose line, because also of course, the cat is very furry. I'm going to come in with a ballpoint pen, which I personally love drawing with. You get a lot of really nice dark lines and shades. My process of using the ballpoint pen is literally drawing a lot of different lines, and then you can cross over it; those are called hatch marks. I can press a little . . . I can make the lines much closer together, and those will give me a darker area of shading.

As I continue, I'm going to be using my ballpoint pen, but I'm also going to allow myself to come back in with my pencil, redrawing when I want to. I can start to erase any of the initial guidelines from the eyes to the nose, that midline of the angle of the eyes, or the angle down the middle of the face.

I'm going to use my ballpoint pen and really start to bring out some definition and some highlights. I'm going to first start with the eyes. Cats' eyes are always really beautiful. I'm basically just tracing on top of the pencil lines that I already created. I'm really not doing anything that's so new. Perhaps as I'm doing this, perhaps as I'm using the ballpoint pen, there are certain details that I want to add, that perhaps initially were not there. There is this little eyelid, and again, it's just a curved line. If you really break it down, it's not all that complicated.

I'm continuing with my ballpoint pen. At this point, I'm really coloring in with the tip of the pen. If I make a mistake with this eye, I would have wished that this line were a little higher. It may not ultimately be perfect-perfect, but as long as the drawing is expressing what I'm really wanting it to say, then I feel that it's quite successful. I'm going to continue through the drawing, finding my pencil sketch, and just bringing in a little more definition with my ballpoint pen. Here's the heart-shaped nose. I'm specifically looking for any areas that are very dark. Those dark cat nostrils I'm going to bring right in. I'm just going to color it right in, like a coloring book, but with the ballpoint pen.

What I'm going to really look for are some of the lights and darks within the cat. First, I'm going to bring in those incredibly intense and beautiful cat eyes. I'll first just focus on the pupil, and just by bringing that in, it allows us to feel like the cat is looking at us. What I'm going to start doing is just more shading. I'm going to find these beautiful lines of fur, and I'm just coloring it in. I'm really moving my pen very, very freely. I'm purposely moving it very freely because I want it to feel like fur. With the ballpoint pen, I could spend hours giving this more and more detail. Instead of working on it for hours, I'm just wanting to get the basics down.

The insides of the eyes are definitely not white, but they're not as dark as the pupil. I'm going to just do a little bit of shading inside of the eye. There's a real sense of reflection, so I'll allow that to shine through. Now that we have the nose area, the eyes, and the mouth, perhaps I'll add some whiskers, and perhaps I'm going to continue bringing in some of these really beautiful shapes and forms of the fur. Each stripe is very much its own. The stripes are not the same. Although people think of this as a stripe, a stripe on an animal is not that way; it's more of a shape.

The last thing I'm going to do is just sketch in a little bit of the chin and some of these whiskers. Cats have these little polka dots that then lead to their whiskers; one of their defining facial qualities. I'm going to allow myself to draw these very wispy lines, extending out. There are a couple more up top, near the eyebrows. The last thing I might do is just draw in some of those dark stripes of the cat.

This is just a beginning, and I would definitely continue on bringing in these dark shapes, bringing in these light shapes, bringing in more, and more, and more definition, until I get to the point where I'm really confident and happy with my drawing. All the while, even if this is not completely finished, I'm really enjoying the process, allowing myself to relax and allowing myself to really express myself.

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