[a black cat sits on yellow and orange leaves on the ground]

How To Give Your Black Cat Characters Interesting Designs by Mantis’Paw

Mantis’Paw shares tips on how to liven up designs of black cats.

[a black cat sits on yellow and orange leaves on the ground]
[a black cat sits on yellow and orange leaves on the ground]

Hello, all! Mantis’Paw here, and welcome to my first-ever article! I want to thank you all for clicking on this and taking the time to read it. Now, let’s actually get into the article.

How To Give Your Black Cat Characters Interesting Designs

Because let’s be honest- solid black cats don’t cut it. As an artist who has been designing and drawing cats for at least four years, I feel like I will never escape those early drawings. The ones where I spent hours on the lineart, only for the solid black colors to hide all my details and turn my once-beautiful Ravenpaw drawing into a blob with eyes and a nose. Therefore, leading me to my first tip-

Tip #1 – Don’t ACTUALLY make them black.
There’s a simple fix to that issue- turning the pelt color from the darkest black on your color wheel to a dark gray tone. This allows your lineart to stand out from the rest of the cat, and when you start shading you can get darker tones. It’s a good idea in any character design to not use those two beautifully extreme colors from the ends of the color wheel. By that, I’m talking about pure black and solid white. The black prevents you from getting any colors darker than it for shading, whereas the white prevents you from getting those GLOSSY highlights. I have thankfully left the black in the past, however, I still fall victim to the pure white color. I recommend diluting it with some gray or yellow tones for a more ‘tan’ color. But we’re not here to talk about white cats, we’re talking about black cats.
And now that we can see our lineart, it’s more painfully obvious how blank the character is.

Tip #2 – Add markings
Yes, just like any other characters, black cats have markings too! Stripes, speckles, spots, whatever you’d add to another character. Make the stomach lighter, darken their face, whatever you’d like! Experiment with it, and make it however complex or as simple as you’d like. Look up references of any cats- not just black ones- and try to recreate their patterns. The only limitation to it? Keep it close-ish to the base color of your character. This will keep them recognizable as a black cat, but add detail and depth to their design.

Tip #3 – Lighten it up!
I highly, HIGHLY recommend adding accent tones to characters, and black cats aren’t any different! But if you add ginger, they’re no longer a black cat- you’ve got yourself a torbie. And blue-gray… well, I don’t know what it is, and it’s really cool-looking, but it’s not a black cat. And brown with it is a torbie too, I think? The point is, though I may not know my cat breeds, it’s not a black cat. Thus, I present to you- white! Or, more accurately, off-white (Remember that ramble from tip one?). Ravenpaw, probably the most iconic black cat in the entire Warriors series, has a white chest spot and white paws. He’s the perfect example for this tip! Add white spots to your character. These can include but are not limited to, nose-bridges, ear tips, paws, tail-tips, stomachs, chest-spots, and freckles. Mix and match- I try not to keep too much white in black cats, as I want someone to see my design and think, ‘Wow, now that is a black cat that actually looks cool!’ I don’t want them to mix up my design with any other cat breed. I’m not trying to shame these other designs, but they aren’t exactly black cats. So if you make these your characters, maybe change their description a tad bit.

Tip #4 – Accessories GALORE!
Black cats are kind of plain. Sure, they’re a lot more interesting than what we started with, but they’re still kind of plain. But we can use this in our favor! Let’s turn plain into blank canvas. As in, a blank canvas for accessories! Leaves behind their ear, flowers in their fur, vines around their paws, get creative! Look up inspo photos, and have fun! Just don’t outdo it and make them a pain in the neck to draw. Or do, it’s your character. I like to tie my color palettes together by matching my accessory colors to that of my character’s eyes. I find this creates a much more streamlined color palette, and therefore a neater character.

Now don’t think that these tips are law- they’re not! It’s just how I like to make my black cat characters stand out. Use as many or as few as you want, and make your character uniquely yours. Don’t feel bad if your character doesn’t match any of these, because you don’t need to make them fit if you love them as they are, because they’re perfect as long as you love them.

Do you have any other black cat designing tips that I forgot in this article? Post them in the comments below! And I encourage all readers to browse through them to get more tips that I might not have known.

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