How to paint dog portraits - Johanne Mangi - Georgie
Johanne Mangi, "Georgie," 2012, oil on linen board, 6 x 6 in.

When Johanne Mangi, one of the world’s top painters of dogs, spent the day at our studios, she recorded a detailed video on how to paint dog portraits, step by step. Drawing and painting dogs can be enjoyable — we love our dogs so much — but there’s a market for commission work as well. Once you master the art of painting dog portraits, consider the possibilities. To start, take a master class, such as studying Johanne’s “The Fine Art of Painting Dog Portraits” (available here). Until then, check out these quick tips to get you started.

how to paint dogs - Johanne Mangi - Windblown Charlie
Johanne Mangi, “Windblown Charlie,” 2017, oil, 18 x 14 in.

3 Quick Tips on How to Paint Dog Portraits

By Johanne Mangi

I hear it all the time: “I don’t know where to start!”
“How do I paint fur?”
“Why do my animal paintings not look right?”

If you think these statements were made by new, inexperienced artists, think again. These were actual statements by experienced, accomplished painters. There’s just something about fur that confuses even the most confident artist.

how to paint dogs - Johanne Mangi - Penny
Johanne Mangi, “Penny,” 2017, oil, 10 x 8 in.

I will give you a few quick tips that will set you in the right direction when it comes to learning how to paint dog portraits:

1. Under all that fur lies a roadmap. A skeletal structure. You just have to look for it.

2. IT’S JUST PAINT! That’s right. Easy on, easy off. If that first stroke didn’t work, get rid of it and do it again!

3. BIG BRUSHES! People love their teeny, tiny brushes. Trust me, you won’t get the effect you’re looking for. Only a big brush will do.

I guarantee if you follow these simple steps you will immediately improve. Good luck! ~Johanne Mangi

Watch a preview of Johanne’s new instructional art DVD, “The Fine Art of Painting Dog Portraits,” here:

Additional Dog Portraits by Johanne Mangi:

How to paint dogs - Johanne Mangi - Flat Coated Retreiver
Flat-coated Retriever
How to Paint Dog Portraits
How to Paint Dog Portraits
Street Singer

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  1. Wow, I did not realize that there was so much to know when it came to painting pictures of dogs. However, I do agree that you need to be using big brush strokes for it. After all, tiny details aren’t really that important for dog portraits and should not be concentrated on.

  2. Joanne is a wonderful true artist, capable of capturing the essence of her subject with a minimum of strokes…not as easy as it sounds, keep inspiring me Joanne.

  3. Amazing paintings and great article! I think this is way more harder to capture animal’s emotions. My dad has a reproduction of “Dogs playing poker” in his office and I remember how impressed I was when saw it at the first time

  4. You mentioned that there is a skeletal structure under all that fur. How do you go about finding and seeing that? Does it just take time for your eyes to be able to pick it out? My grandmother would like some painted artwork of her puppy, but she is so fluffy, I’m not sure how to do it right. I may just have to call in a professional to ensure that she is pleased with the work.

  5. Hi Cherie
    I was trying to use photoshop to convert a dog photo into oil painting when I come accross your website. Whish I could do it like you do with brush 🙂

  6. Show us more please…and no hurry! At one point where you put a highlight in on portrait I thought you were painting it in the dog’s eyes! How real was it!!


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