How to paint a greyhound

This guide shows you how I painted Frosts the greyhound. I hope you enjoy it.

You will need:

  • paint: I used System 3 acrylic paint in the following colours:

    Mars Black, Titanium White, Flesh Tint, Burnt Sienna,
    Velvet Purple, Cadminium Red, Burnt Sienna, Rich Gold, Magenta, etc.

  • a variety of paintbrushes
  • Masking tape
  • Water
  • Play mat
  • Easel
  • photograph (this is a cropped version, see below)
  • a canvas

Choose a good composition: This is so important and is so frequently overlooked (…by me…)! Play to your strengths – if you are good at painting animals, don’t chose a composition which is mainly background (that is a note to ME!) I ended up cropping the photograph was trying to replicate to just include the dog’s face and a bit of its body.

the first composition


the second composition

Mark up your canvas: You can see how to do this here. It is a very easy way of ensuring everything is in the right place and in perfect perspective.

Paint in the background: It is easier to just do a plain colour wash, using a variety of shades – creams, golds, ivory etc.
Of course… I chose to do a grassy field, an edit from the original photograph – a muddy field. Always one for the easy option, me! See how I did it here.

After you have completed the background, start painting in simple areas of light and shadow on the dogs back. Use pale colours like Flesh Tint, Burnt Sienna and White, along with blues, purples, browns, greys etc for the areas of shadow.

Use your initiative: on the photograph I used, there were unnatural areas of shadow. They just did not look right taken out of the context of the photograph, so I removed them from my painting.

The painting was then looking really patchy, so I kept working on the dogs back to blend it, to make it all look realistic.
The nose: The nose on the photograph had very clear areas of dark and shine, which I duplicated using black, white and a bit of blue paint. I then carried the shading in grey around the dogs nose.

Paint in the areas of shadow and light on the face: Dont worry if it is really exaggerated at the moment, you can blend in another colour with a small paintbrush to soften the appearance later.

Greyhounds have characteristic muscular bodies and strong cheekbones. Create an area of shadow behind the cheekbone in purples and browns,and a highlight on it to capture this essence.

Put thin colour washes over it if the dogs coat doesn’t seem to be the right shade: These are made from a small amount of paint and mainly water. They can easily be blended in with fingers or a large paintbrush.

Paint the dark areas on the ear: Dark paint should always go down first when using acrylic. Really pay attention to your photograph, keep referring to it to make sure you are getting the colour matches right. Blend areas with your fingers to create a more even and natural finish.

Outline the shape of the eye using near-black paint: black with a bit of blue or brown in it. I put a thin line on top of the eye to create an eye lid too. Then you can use grey to create a spherical shape to the eye. Add a big white glint to make it come alive.

Create light areas on the ear: using flesh tint and white and burnt sienna. Use a small paintbrush and a repetitive motion. I like the liken the motion to plucking your eyebrows – quick, confident motions in the same area in a variety of similar shades. You can then start to add other colours like purple using the same motion. Dogs ears are tricky, so don’t lose confidence if it doesn’t look quite right, you can work over it again and again – that’s the beauty of acrylic!

Pick out individual hairs: As greyhounds have short hair, its difficult to really pick out individual hairs, so make sure you pick these out on areas around the nose and eyebrows. You can use watered down paint to do this to create really defined hairs.

Make a start on the mouth: I left this until near to last as it uses vibrant colours that I didn’t want to bleed into the rest of my palette. I started by painting the black gums and shadow in the mouth.

The tongue: this was tricky as it was folded over creating lots of different shades of red in the mouth. Really pay attention to the photo, using magenta, red, white and Flesh Tint.

The teeth: get the shape right and use greys, Flesh tint and white to create shadow and a glint on the teeth. Teeth are never white. Nor should they be, it is unnatural, especially for a dog.

The collar: This was metal, which was tricky. I really need to invest in some silver paint. I love metallic paint, it is so useful! Even for painting animals!

You have to be really blunt with areas of white, black and grey. Use a really little paintbrush to create shadow around the edges of each loop and a glint in white. I then created each hoop in white and shaded around each one. I made sure that I counted the loops on the photograph and put the exact same number on my painting. It just wont look right if you cut corners, tempting as it seems.

And there we have it, please tell me what you think!

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2 thoughts on “How to paint a greyhound

  1. This is fantastic to see how you did the painting of my lovely dog, didn’t realise you had started it with the full picture then cropped it down. It really is great to see how you created this wonderful piece of art. You are truly very talented.

  2. Pingback: How to paint grass in acrylic | ART by IMI

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