Caracal Cat – Pencil to Paint Tutorial

Zebra Zensations Technical pens and Daniel Smith Watercolor on Hahnemühle Rough Watercolor postcard.

This painting is what is known as a ‘line and wash’ because it is drawn in pen first and then painted with watercolor.

Before You Start

Okay – this was one of those paintings where life and art collided a bit.

I thought I had scanned the pencil drawing, but I didn’t evidently. Note also that the pen drawing is minimal – almost unfinished. That’s because it’s unfinished.

It would be nice if you could always plan what you want and get the result you want. Sometimes though, you just do the best with what you’ve got.

I was interrupted when I was doing the pen drawing, and life got crazy for a while, and I didn’t get back to it for a couple of months. Who knew what I had planned at first. In the end, I made my decisions at the point where I was adding paint and they were partially dictated by the fact that I had left masking fluid on the paper for too long. I’ll explain why later.

Reference photo courtesy of Rinzler on Pixabay

I’ve written elsewhere about using color in shadows. In that write-up, I talked about the intense blue and purple shadows that can give a real sense of light.

With this painting, I wanted a much more subtle effect. I don’t know if you see it on your screen, but on mine, this cat has subtle hints of violet. It’s pretty subtle, but that’s one of the things you start looking for when you are more experienced.

I also had some colors that I don’t use too often, and I wanted to play with them. So I did.


Oops! No pencil scan. The shapes are fairly simple though, so I know I freehanded it, mostly just blocking in the shapes, placing the facial details and making sure everything fit the size of the card.

Not sure if you’re up to drawing this? Art Tutor has a great grid program that will help by applying a grid to your uploaded photo. You can also crop and adjust color and value.


The light blue on this scan is masking fluid. There is a lot of white on this cat, much of it interspersed with other colors so I decided to reserve it before drawing with the ink. As mentioned above, I was delayed in painting this and the masking fluid came back to bite me for two reasons.

  • You shouldn’t leave masking fluid on paper for very long because it will be harder to remove.
  • You shouldn’t use masking fluid on rough paper because it can seep into the wells of the paper and be harder to remove.

You get the theme of this? Harder to remove. More about that later.

When I came back to this drawing after a couple of months, I knew at this point that the masking fluid was going to be a problem, to the point where I might have to throw the whole thing away, so I didn’t draw any further.


Daniel Smith is known for colors made from unusual pigments. Often, these seem to be so close to other more common colors that people wonder why bother.

The difference often has to do with characteristics – the unusual pigment might granulate more, or be more intense. Sometimes, the main difference might be the way in which the color mixes with other colors.

It was the mixing qualities and temperature I was exploring with this piece. The colors I used were:

I also used Phthalo Blue Green Shade, which is a common color.

Note that I used watery mixes for all of this. I wasn’t trying to capture the exact correct color of the fur, but I wanted a subtle sense of light shining on fur.

I started by painting the sky with Phthalo Blue and dropped in touches of Wisteria here and there.

Many animals have an off-white color in their coat, especially when it is ticked or mixed with other colors. Buff Titanium is a good color for it, but I’ve found it easily leads to green if you add blue to your shadows. Monte Amiata is a yellowish color, but can take a little blue without going green. In a light wash it looks similar to Buff Titanium. Not giving up the Buff but Monte will be used more often.

For the shadows, I wanted to punch up that subtle hint of violet and turn it more towards purple so it would be warmer (look up purple vs violet if you are confused by that) so I used Wisteria.

In essence, I wanted the fur to reflect my background, which was Phthalo Blue with a little bit of Wisteria, so I add some Phthalo Blue to my Wisteria shadows, especially at the top of the head.

Rose of Ultramarine is an interesting granulating color. It’s a mix of Quinacridone Rose with Ultramarine Blue. It’s a purple, but the blue granulates – settles into the wells of the paper so the rose comes forward. (And yes – you could mix your own if you have these two colors-though getting the right mix might be a challenge).

The cat’s fur has a variation of color – more of a charcoal & brown with cream in real life giving a textured look to the fur. I added a darker mix of the Monte Amiata to give a feel of the real color, and then used the Rose Of Ultramarine for the rest of the darker fur, as though the light was hiding the real color from the eye. I let the Monte and Rose run together slightly.

The granulation doesn’t show well in the scan, but is there in real life.

And now for the masking fluid. I did get most of it off, but not all of it, and it left a muddy greenish stain in a few areas. Fortunately, that doesn’t show very well in the scan, either.

Should you run out and buy these colors? Only if you are at the stage where characteristics like opacity, staining, temperature, granulation, and other qualities of color pigments have started to make sense. The reason for this post is to help you get to that point, but there are other similar colors among the standards that are cheaper and easier to use for the beginner to intermediate watercolorist.

Whew! Sorry that turned out to be a longer post than I intended.

Published by Life Imitates Doodles Art, Reviews & Tutorials

Artist Ambassador for Zebra Pens. I'm a self-taught artist who dances about with all sorts of artistic mediums. My main loves are Watercolor, Zentangle and Ballpoint pen. The subjects of my work are many and varied and change at whim. I'm a little bit crazy, but doesn't that come with being an artist? At my Life Imitates Doodles Blog, I post a list of resource links for Tangles, Tutorials and Giveaways two times a week. I also write reviews, hold giveaways and share my art work.

12 thoughts on “Caracal Cat – Pencil to Paint Tutorial

  1. WOW you did an awesome painting of this gorgeous CARACAL CAT. Great colours an love the looseness of the paint. The reference photo beautiful an nice job of sketching freehand. This one I’ve put on my list of Art I’d Like to Do. Now just finding the time…..I know its not possible but I wish you had a video on how to create your art, enjoy your work an always look forward to checking out your Instagram. Have a beautiful week.

    1. Thank you, Joan! I do have videos for the tutorials that I do on Doodlewash (you don’t have to be a member to watch). Videos takes a lot of time and I have to do the painting while sitting at an odd angle, so the camera can pick up what I’m doing) so I don’t do many of them. You can see just the videos on my YouTube Channel or you can see them at Doodlewash, which is better because you can read the review or tutorial where I go in to more detail. and Not all the tutorials and reviews are from me, but they’re all good ones.

  2. Beautiful….you keep outdoing yourself! Especially with your sophistication with colors and their properties. This Cat is stunning!

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