When painting digital light in fur I try to take advantage of Photoshop’s strong light layer styles. By switching between Soft Light, Hard Light or Overlay and seeing what works best, I can effectively achieve that particular kind of glowing light that appears when light is scattered through and between strands of hair.
I always paint the animal without light first, as if it were completely unlit. On top of that, I wash it over with surrounding colours and light, which helps to sculpt the shapes of the animal. Bounce light is very important, so don’t concentrate just on painting direct light from the sun. For example, if you’re painting a forest scene, make sure that the fur which isn’t in direct sunlight picks up the green colours of the environment.
Where direct sunlight hits the creature, I paint in bold strokes of white and light yellow. Be careful though, and don’t overdo it so that it looks garish. Keep it clean. Always be consistent with light directions and try to picture the animal as a threedimensional object. Light should always be wrapped around the form – it’s what makes a painting read as believable.
Photoshop is good at handling lighting, but not everything will work first time for you. I always trial-and-error my way through a painting. Experiment!