Earl Steffa Moran was born in Belle Plaine, Iowa, US. Moran's first instruction in art came under the direction of John Stich, an elderly German artist who also taught the great illustrator W.H.D. Koerner. Moran also studied with Walter Biggs at the Chicago Art Institute and then at the famed Art Students League in Manhattan where he studied under Vincent Dumond, Robert Henri, George Bridgman and Thomas Fogarty (Norman Rockwell's teacher).
Earl Moran was a master of pastels, though he showed little if any influence of reigning Brown & Bigelow star Rolf Armstrong, whose domain he encroached upon in the '30s. Moran was soon a superstar himself, creating lively, sexy girls whose relationship with the viewer was seldom a teasing one. Unlike Gil Elvgren and others, Moran did not continually re-work one type of situation, and his pinups have more variety than any other major contributor to the field.
Moran was a photographer, as well as an illustrator which lent well in his portrait pinups by giving him a great knowledge of lighting and shadows.