how to paint roosters
Cheri Christensen, “Color My World,” oil on board, 18 x 18 in.

On painting feathers: If your paintings of birds are too “tight,” consider these tips from Cheri Christensen on how to loosen up.

By Cheri Christensen

Wondering how to paint feathers? Feel your paintings are too tight? Want to loosen up?

How to paint roosters - painting of chickens
Cheri Christensen, “Protecting the Flock,” oil on board, 18 x 36 in.

Then follow these quick tips for painting feathers for chickens and other birds:

  1. Consider the passages of light and shadow versus each individual feather. Think: Big Shapes! You must get the main structure down first. You’ve got to paint the bird before the feathers!
  2. To paint those big shapes, use big brushes and stand back from your painting while looking at your reference subject. Don’t get in too close to your artwork to paint details before the structure is complete.
  3. Look for lost edges! Don’t make every edge sharp. Soften the edges where needed and lose them where you can. Less is more. It is the suggestion of feathers that makes the painting interesting — not each individual feather.

Follow these tips and you will be painting beautiful birds!

how to paint chickens - painting of a chick
Cheri Christensen, “Shy Chick,” oil on board, 6 x 6 in.
how to paint birds - portrait of a chick
Cheri Christensen, “Scruffy Chick,” oil on board, 6 x 6 in.
how to paint chickens
Cheri Christensen, “Scattered Chicks,” oil on board, 6 x 18 in.
how to paint feathers
Cheri Christensen, “Side by Side,” oil on board, 16 x 20 in.
how to paint feathers
Cheri Christensen, “Rooster at Grey Barn,” oil on board, 12 x 12 in.

Visit Cheri Christensen’s website at, and learn how to paint from this artist in the comfort of your own home with her art video workshop on color, light, and how to paint animals!

This article was originally published in 2018

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