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Snow Leopard Tutorial by whisperpntr Snow Leopard Tutorial by whisperpntr
On references:
Before there is further confusion and I can see more people misread my meaning, by all means use references. My point however was not to use them as a crutch if you WANT to improve your animal anatomy. If you want the best use out of them reference at the very end so you can correct and learn from your mistakes rather than straight tracing from the get go.
It's VERY easy to get lazy and sloppy with a picture if you have everything, composition, anatomy, colors provided to you. And while I learned via photography and nature shows as well and rarely had the luxury of zoo sketching, I managed to learn a boatload and I attribute this to not copying straight from a photo but using them as references.
If you have your own experiences or remain unconvinced that is your call, but please do not try to sabotage this tutorial. I am open to differences of opinion but feel it is counterproductive when you feel your methods are more useful and they are not shown in a tutorial. I encourage those who feel differently to instead create your own tutorials to disprove my theories and explain how you are able to learn more animal anatomy and structure (not details) from straight tracing or copying.


A snow leopard tutorial requested by :iconchaopets: :3

I added a few more head details to help some people.

Notes would be that snow leopard spots are rather light but you should still take note that you should use a lighter color at 100% opacity brush stroke. if you want to go and color it in more solidly protect transparency and go over it with a darker color. For me I used an oblique brush as this gives the spots a more naturalistic slant.

Another would be that the face is absolutely paramount. the body in general should look good but if the body looks spectacular but the face looks off then your picture would be a failure since most everyone focuses on heads the most.

This where you MUST spend your most time on and references definitely should be used even when indirect.

On this note copying from photographs is a nono. I see a lot of deviants here just copy off from their own photographs, animal anatomy, composition and all thinking that it's ok and the results will be awesome.

Wrong. The results don't have the spirit and life of the animal unless you learned how to paint and draw the animal's anatomy.

And that's the main point of this tutorial. If you want to learn animal anatomy and underlying structure you have to stop relying on a photo for everything. Yes, fine artists do actually use photographs and reference heavily off them for the fur details, but they also have the ability to draw realistically without them as they do plenty of field study. If you want to only draw fur details copying photographs will help, however if you want to draw an animal in any pose I firmly believe copying will not help you.

To help my animal structure I do this. I go for a sketchy base even if it looks like crap and work to fix it step by step while preserving the liveliness and motion. Only on the final phase do I use photographs for reference and while the frustration that it's not exact will be there I'll be given details and information I would never notice if I was just straight tracing.

Straight tracing is only useful if you want to get the general appearance of what is right. If you say straight trace in lines a zebra or a horse you can use that linework as a reference for what a perfectly anatomically correct horse would look like.

Again photographs do provide you with details you'll never be able to accurately duplicate off the bat. And for that, I agree that detailing requires good photography so you can learn how the light falls on the fur and how to paint the forms and colors. But animals are like people and can be absolutely beautifully photogenic, or simply look like crap. If you want to make pretty animals, use photographs in the way that helps you not harms you.

It takes work to draw like this. A lot of work, but soon you'll be able to draw the base relatively reference free and use refs only to check your final anatomy or for details and fur that we cannot memorize fully.
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:iconinsanitypossessed:
InSaNiTyPossessed Featured By Owner Aug 9, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Part two maybe? I'm working on a project and I need as much help I can get.
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:iconjoesnake32:
JoeSnake32 Featured By Owner Aug 5, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
THX 4 the help!
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:iconfaith625:
Faith625 Featured By Owner Apr 20, 2013
Thank you! I've been looking for something like this for a very long time!
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:iconruffletgirl:
RuffletGirl Featured By Owner Mar 1, 2013  Student Traditional Artist
Cool! It helps a lot thanks
Reply
:iconbells-snowpaws:
Bells-SnowPaws Featured By Owner Jan 26, 2013  Student General Artist
I love snow leopards. even without the spots it looks like a snow leopard.
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:icondreamgirlxx:
dreamgirlxX Featured By Owner Apr 3, 2012  Student Traditional Artist
FINALLY a tutorial for these beautiful animals. I've been looking for something like this for so long. Now I oficially love you <3
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:iconlionthunder:
lionthunder Featured By Owner Mar 24, 2012
thank you soo much i was looking for something like this to help me with them
Reply
:iconpencilartguy:
Pencilartguy Featured By Owner Feb 14, 2012
Hey thanks. Could this also work for an anthro snow leopard?
Reply
:iconlunarthunderstorm:
LunarThunderStorm Featured By Owner Oct 30, 2011  Student Digital Artist
Thank you for this tutorial! Is awesome. :D
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:iconhirui:
Hirui Featured By Owner Jul 3, 2011
Thank you for this. It's always nice to have another prospective and new ideas. I will definetly try to reference these techniciques in the future.

Again thank you for putting your time and effort forward to help others.
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:iconmidnightrayne91:
midnightrayne91 Featured By Owner Mar 11, 2011  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
very helpful! ty!
Reply
:iconsovaaun:
Sovaaun Featured By Owner Feb 23, 2011  Hobbyist General Artist
The head drawings were very useful c:
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:icondragonfang467:
Dragonfang467 Featured By Owner Feb 15, 2011   Filmographer
So cool! You're such a big help. Keep up the good work!
Reply
:iconipreferlemonpie:
IPreferLemonPie Featured By Owner Jan 24, 2011  Student
I really need this, thank you! And AWESOME!
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:iconsilverokami666:
SilverOkami666 Featured By Owner Dec 7, 2010  Hobbyist General Artist
You need a premuim membership.
Reply
:iconpurplehope:
PurpleHope Featured By Owner Nov 7, 2010  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Im trying to do as you said in the users comment, do it my own than correct witha ref after .I failed like insane, seems like im a helpless case :P
Also, do you always draw with this technique or you can just draw them on one shot because you are used to the anatomy ?
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:iconwhisperpntr:
whisperpntr Featured By Owner Nov 7, 2010  Student General Artist
half and half. I do this with wolves, giraffes or things I've never really drawn. But for felines I do get sloppy and it shows sometimes.

This technique is just a basic way of letting me screw up EARLY on before screwing up when all the details are in place :)
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:iconookamivampire:
OokamiVampire Featured By Owner Oct 12, 2010
it's so beautiful! i love it :love:

the last panel makes me remember grimmjow from bleach XD
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:iconxx-loveme-xx:
xx-loveme-xx Featured By Owner Sep 17, 2010  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Hi i love your works and drawings I wonder how you draw this. The only thing I 've draw very well (What i think) is an ibex :P

I love to draw horses and big cat's but they don't come out very good.
Even if I use a tutorial it looks bad.

can you tell me how I can draw better? (not digitally but traditional drawing)
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:iconwhisperpntr:
whisperpntr Featured By Owner Oct 6, 2010  Student General Artist
well try not to get too frustrated at yourself :) I know it's easier said than done but the adage of practice makes perfect really applies here.

Keep drawing and don't give up. BTW your icon is LOVE I had gerbils when I was a kid and they are the best!
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:iconxx-loveme-xx:
xx-loveme-xx Featured By Owner Oct 26, 2010  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
ok thnx I'll never stop drawing ;)
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:iconlifestrike:
LifeStrike Featured By Owner Sep 13, 2010  Hobbyist General Artist
Good turtorial-I might try to draw sumfin, if I do I'll show you the link to the pic (though I bet ten bucks it'll look crapy cause Imma badd drawer XD lol) bahaha
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:iconhazelnut-husky:
Hazelnut-Husky Featured By Owner Sep 12, 2010
Man! I wished I had seen this yesterday. Lol. I was drawing a snow leopard. Thanks for the tips!! :)
Reply
:iconmoonfootgamgee:
MoonfootGamgee Featured By Owner Sep 12, 2010  Student Traditional Artist
Thanks so much! This has been a lot of help.
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:icondolphinsea:
Dolphinsea Featured By Owner Aug 30, 2010  Student Digital Artist
thank you, I've got about 4 snowy characters and I this is a great deal of help with the anatomy :D this will most DEFINITLY help :D
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:icononesoldier:
OneSoldier Featured By Owner Aug 14, 2010  Student General Artist
This is very helpful I fail at cats and hope to get better in the future!! :D
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:icongraphiteforlunch:
graphiteforlunch Featured By Owner Aug 8, 2010  Hobbyist
This is true and helpful. Thanks! As usual, you inspire me! I don't see why people gave you grief over this tutorial. Honestly, it is good advice. Maybe they just have a different drawing and learning style, but I've been drawing all my life and I feel that drawing from your head sometimes when you have a decent understanding of anatomy can teach you things and/or make you realize what areas you need the most growth in. It can be incredibly useful and freeing to the imagination. It makes things possible that wouldn't be before. After all, sometimes, (such as in this case) the odds of finding a photo of an exact pose you want are slim to none.

I desperately want to make a leap from being bound to strictly traditional materials to having the freedom to use digital media like tablets, etc. While, like you said, nothing replaces the traditional hands-on feel, I know that going digital would give me so much more freedom and perhaps the ability to create things more quickly and practice more efficiently. I know I need 3 things, though- a tablet, a computer with a large monitor, and Photoshop or something similar.

You are my DeviantArt crush. Seriously. lol
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:icongraphiteforlunch:
graphiteforlunch Featured By Owner Aug 8, 2010  Hobbyist
Alright, maybe nobody outright gave you grief, but they misunderstood. :P
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:icontai-l-rodriguez:
Tai-L-RodRigueZ Featured By Owner Jul 30, 2010  Student Digital Artist
useful tutorial.
Reply
:iconerichan8dd:
Erichan8DD Featured By Owner Jul 13, 2010  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
oh man....you make this seem So easy..."XDD

i REALLY have great difficulty in drawing cats...x.x'

og geez....UU"

and You make so beautifull ones
keep doing it
you make them very well
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:iconlantairvlea:
lantairvlea Featured By Owner Jul 12, 2010  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
I agree with your comments on using photos. I sometimes sit down and sketch from photos to help hone my eye and hand, but when it comes to creating serious works my sketches always come off the top of my head and, if required, I'll hunt for references to help with a particularly difficult spot. It's a little sad to see these brilliant artists who can't work outside of a photograph because they've leaned on them so long they can no longer stand on their own.

Nice to see how you build from a loose sketch to a lighter, but still lively, polished drawing.
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:iconalectryomachy:
alectryomachy Featured By Owner Jul 12, 2010
Thank you for making this tutorial. I am so sick of getting hit with the "DON'T NEED ANATOMY LOL ITS A STYLE" bullshit when trying to help people understand that anatomy is necessary and helpful.
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:iconwhisperpntr:
whisperpntr Featured By Owner Jul 12, 2010  Student General Artist
I usually help people only when they ask for it. If they don't ask for it or do not recommend critique they have a right to their opinion so long as they don't spread misinformation. When they do I will indeed say something respectful but contentious, and may post another tutorial in response.

To draw people may not need anatomy, but if they want to improve they better believe it's necessary.
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:iconalectryomachy:
alectryomachy Featured By Owner Jul 12, 2010
I really don't believe in keeping quiet in that aspect. This site isn't big on critique, and critique is what helps an artist thrive. I can't even count the times that I've critiqued pieces where it wasn't asked for and was thanked by the original poster because all they got was a stream of "OMG AWESUM" brainless comments and favs.

It's necessary no matter what. It kills me when people will "practice realism" and just copy photos instead of trying to understand the anatomy beneath.

It would be nice to see a tutorial (more like a size chart, really) comparing a large dog breed, a hyena and a gray wolf. Many people can't seem to differentiate between wolves and dogs. The hyena would just be a nice middleman for more comparison. An equine vs deer and a wing tutorial are other suggestions, since people seem to commonly screw up on the anatomy of those animals, myself included.

I would be at the zoo every day drawing if it was only closer to my town.
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:iconwhisperpntr:
whisperpntr Featured By Owner Jul 12, 2010  Student General Artist
The artists you talked to must have been very open-minded and kind.

I used to redline a lot and also offer some critique when a few artists, high popularity mind you, asked for opinions. I basically told them politely what looked off proportionally and wow was I ripped into. I was basically told that redlining their picture VIOLATED their rights as an artist and from then on I didn't say a word nor did I follow the artist.

I have discovered few of the minons chirped in as well and decided they were above improving and that the artist was absolutely right. I decided never to spend my time from then on on certain artists because 1) they think they're better than anyone else 2) their minions think you're full of shit because you would dare critique their leader and 3) perhaps they have a point and I am too confident and improve myself further before expressing my corrections. I have stopped following the artist and instead focused wholly on myself and I'll have to say this is much more fulfilling.

But I do have to agree. There are a LOT of people on here blind to critique even when they ask for it and who would far rather get asspats and so forth before maturing and developing into someone they can be. Everyone in their teenage years, including myself, have been through it and we grow out of it. But some artists I've seen are far and above beyond 20... some even 30 years of age.

Critique can be scathing but what I despise most is patronizing behavior. The "I'm so proud of you, my child" that I hear from time to time or people who tell me WHAT to do.

I guess the reason why people hate critique is because they can't differentiate it.

So from that experience, I keep to myself until someone expressly wishes for my help. Even then it's not easy to get on my good side :)

I'm decidedly more grumpy and gruff than I used to be.
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:iconalectryomachy:
alectryomachy Featured By Owner Jul 13, 2010
I used to help people like that too. Then I got the same reaction (HOW DARE YOU CRITIQUE ME I AM PERFECT) but I kept on giving it out. When I was going to art school it was drilled into my head to master the basics and also to share critiques with others to gain improvement. Whether or not they listen is up to them, but my hope is that some of the more egotistical tarts might realize they're acting like children and get with it. It happened to the girl I mentioned before, so I know it's possible with the right action.

YES. The patronizing asspats are the worst. How people can thrive on such nonsense is beyond me.

Or they think that critiques are flames because they don't always agree with the artist's views.

I've also grown grumpier on the subject. I think it comes with maturity and the disgust at being surrounded by people who constantly treat serious advice like it's an option they don't need. I was already somewhat misanthropic when I came out of high school and found that the real world is full of just as many idiots as in school. I'm not even that old, either. e__e

Subject slightly unrelated, but I also want to thank you for your tutorials. I have problems with animal structure (specifically legs) and your tutorials are quite helpful.
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:iconanjaaddiction:
AnjaAddiction Featured By Owner Jul 11, 2010  Student General Artist
You have amazing advice, And i really think that i should be checking more for anatomy flaws. I believe that i use pictures and real life animals for reference a little bit too much, i can look at a picture and do the pose pretty good but then if i try to do it again i always make it look like its boneless (Like my anatomy is way off) i have been practicing wolves for years and still cant get them completely right, and im having lots of troubles with the expressions.

I love drawing but when my pictures turn out wierd looking my mood goes from inspired to sad. Hopefully one day i will master animal anatomy though. (:
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:iconwhisperpntr:
whisperpntr Featured By Owner Jul 12, 2010  Student General Artist
Yea I think everyone had this issue and for a while (years as well) my anatomy looked off too until i built them into really simple and easy to draw shapes. Nothing but organic blocks and spheres and so on and that really helped.
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:iconanjaaddiction:
AnjaAddiction Featured By Owner Jul 12, 2010  Student General Artist
Oh yea im going to try to use organic shapes to get my anatomy right.


Thank you for the help. (:
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:iconseonadh:
seonadh Featured By Owner Jul 11, 2010  Hobbyist Digital Artist
I love drawing big cats but usually I fail too much on the poses to want to show anyone ^^ (you are absolutely right imo about copying from pictures lacking life and spirit) This tutorial is very nice and helpful, thank you for both making it and the tips on how to improve on drawing anatomy :)
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:iconescykane:
EscyKane Featured By Owner Jul 10, 2010  Student General Artist
Amazing!
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:iconflowerlark:
Flowerlark Featured By Owner Jul 10, 2010  Professional General Artist
Good to see art from you again!

I've been using a lot of photo refs for my redux of Fawna's Quest. Unfortunately my only resource is ones I can find off google. I think I tend to lean too heavily off them, and often just alter the pose and expression so that it's not infringing on copyright laws. but I think I'm also doing too much copying and not enough of my own armature. Generally I lean on photos until I'm so familiar with the animal that I can do it mostly from memory. What I really need is too find a way to study the skeletal armature in the same way I do for humans to create my own believable poses.
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:iconwhisperpntr:
whisperpntr Featured By Owner Jul 10, 2010  Student General Artist
I think you have a good artistic sense of what is tracing and what is not so you really don't need to worry about copyright. I think the best books on the skeletal subject are probably the (boring) animal anatomy books you can find in b&n and almost any large library. It shows a lot of skeletal and musculature renditions and also very detailed sections but there are no exciting poses nor useful artistic tips in these books and are generally for veterinary reference. Regardless this is where you can really get a lot of great information and under the skin info about an animal. If your library is varied enough you can also get the animal anatomy for artists which includes more exotic animals like lions and so forth.
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:iconflowerlark:
Flowerlark Featured By Owner Jul 10, 2010  Professional General Artist
I'll have to look around for some of those. My library is pretty limited, but I might be able to find something at the bookstore. If I can just get some good skeleton pictures, I could probably rotate them in my head, so I don't need to worry too much about boring poses. Thanks for the advice! :D
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:iconetoma:
etoma Featured By Owner Jul 10, 2010  Hobbyist Digital Artist
this is helpful but gosh i can never get the pelvis right on a quarter-view
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:iconwhisperpntr:
whisperpntr Featured By Owner Jul 10, 2010  Student General Artist
Think of a box. It's not going to be easy on the get go but to help you can take a rubic's cube, dice or any square and look at it from the top.
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:iconetoma:
etoma Featured By Owner Jul 12, 2010  Hobbyist Digital Artist
my two problems with are whether it's connected to the vetebrae and whether the tail ever passes through it, i doubt that but since i don't have a 3-d or 4-d model to look at and only pictures of the skeleton i'm a bit lost.
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:iconblackrathmar:
blackrathmar Featured By Owner Jul 9, 2010  Hobbyist General Artist
This is incredibly useful!
And I know what you mean about copying directly from photographs. Making mistakes is a part of improvement. You learn way more by making your own pose, seeing what looks off, then using references to learn how to fix it.
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:iconwhisperpntr:
whisperpntr Featured By Owner Jul 9, 2010  Student General Artist
Thank you for understanding. There is a definite sense of enjoyment in creating a perfect picture and I also understand and agree with how wildlife painters use photos for their work. But I have also seen wildlife painters draw perfectly without refs as well and this is due to a lot of study.

In my opinion, there are not enough people on dA who want to study the underlying animal structure and who just go straight to detailing fur on a very lopsided animal foundation. Then, they notice the anatomical flaws and go straight to copying a photo. It looks perfect but unfortunately they are limited.

And that is what I'm talking about. Since this happens so often, I see people create a perfectly anatomically sound painting only to turn around and draw a really bad looking sketch of the same animal and it's a shame since they detail quite beautifully.

It's their choice and it would be harsh of me to criticize them further. But if someone wants to learn they really have to look past the fur, scales, and feathers and put those copy photo goggles down, and put on x-ray/simplifying goggles instead.
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:iconblackrathmar:
blackrathmar Featured By Owner Jul 10, 2010  Hobbyist General Artist
Exactly.

It's so limiting too. What if you have a pose in mind, but can't find/take a photo of that perfect pose? It's much easier to rearrange some basic shapes into a new pose than to spend hours looking for a photo that's close enough or waiting at the zoo for the animal you want to draw to do something crazy.

In the end, I think a big part of it is laziness. People just don't want to take the time to study anatomy. Sure, it takes a lot of time to master (I've been at it for years and am still rarely satisfied with my work), but once you do, it's incredibly useful. Heck, even a basic grasp of it is useful. As you said, sketch it, then correct it with refs.
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