Create a Cute Little Tiger in Illustrator

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My name is Ilie Ciorba and I am a graphic designer and illustrator from Chisinau, Moldova. I am also the creator of Vectelligence. More about Ilie ↬

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This is the perfect tutorial that teaches you how to draw a cute little tiger that you will be able to use in your projects or simply as a desktop wallpaper. Get ready for looots of cool Illustrator techniques.

The tiger is one of the coolest animals in the earth. It’s a very powerful, dangerous, yet fascinating animal. In this tutorial, we will be drawing the tiger, but we will be doing it a little bit different. Instead of portraying the tiger as a savage and mean creature, I will teach you how to draw a cute little tiger that you will be able to use in your projects, as a desktop wallpaper, etc.

You will also learn lots of Illustrator techniques as well. This is the perfect tutorial for year 2010, the year of the tiger. So what are we waiting for? Let’s begin, r-r-r-r…

Step 1: Set Up

Open Illustrator and set up a new document. Rename “Layer 1” to “Head”. Select the ellipse Tool (L) and draw a circle.


Step 2: Head

With the Direct Selection Tool (A) click on the top anchor point to select it and drag in down to modify your circle like this.

Tiger head, modifying the circle

Select the left anchor point and rotate the handles so the path will look more rounded. Do the same thing to the right anchor point.

Tiger head, left side, rotation of the handles, so the path looks more rounded
Tiger head, right side, rotation of the handles, so the path looks more rounded

Step 3: Nose

Make a copy of the head path. Select the Ellipse Tool and draw an ellipse on the top of the head shape.

Tiger nose, copy of head path and drawing an ellipse on top of the head shape

Select this ellipse and the head path copy that we’ve made by shift clicking and pressing the Intersect button in the pathfinder palette.

Tiger nose, modifying the ellipse on the head path copy

With the Pen Tool (P) try to draw nostrils path as you see below.

Tiger nose, drawing nosdrils

Move the nose path down a little.

Tiger nose, moving nose path down a little

Select the lowest anchor point of the nose path and move it up to hide it behind the nostrils path.

Tiger nose, moving lowest part of the nose to hide it behind the nosdrils

Step 4: Cheeks

Draw an ellipse and rotate it 8 degrees counterclock-wise.

Tiger cheeks, drawing ellipse, right side

Press Shift + Ctrl + [ to send it back.

Tiger cheeks, seendiong ellipse back, right side

Make a copy of this path, move it to the left and reflect.

Tiger cheeks, drawing and sending ellipse back, left side

Select both paths and press the Unite button in the Pathfinder palette.

Tiger cheeks, both sidees selected and united

With the Direct Selection Tool (A) select the anchor point that connects the two cheeks path and convert it to a smooth anchor point and then make the path more narrow.

Tiger cheeks, making the connection point of both sides of cheeks smooth

Step 5: Chin

For the chin, draw another small ellipse and press Shift + Ctrl + [ to send it back.

Tiger chin, drawing a small ellipse and sending it back

Step 6: Ears

Draw an ellipse and rotate it counter-clock-wise about 50 degrees.

Tiger ears, drawing an ellipse and rotate 50 degrees

Draw a circle that intersects this ellipse and then press the Minus Front button in the pathfinder to extract this circle from the main ear path.

Tiger ears, drawing a circle that intersects the ellipse
Tiger ears, extracting the circle from main ear path

With the resulting path selected, go to Object > Path > Offset Path and create a smaller copy of this path inside it by entering negative Offset values.

Tiger ears, creating a smaller copy of the path inside

Move the resulting path down and to the left.

Tiger ears, moving the path down to the left

Place the ear on the tiger’s head, create a reflection of it and place it on the left side.

Tiger ears, creating the reflection of the left ear and pacing on the tiger’s head

Step 7: Adding Color

Select the head path and give it a radial gradient from #F79442 to #C86735 and a 3pt #9E4D2A stroke. Adjust the position and Aspect Ration of the gradient.

Tiger, adding color for head

Apply the same gradient to the nose using the eyedropper Tool (I) but give it a 2pt stroke with #B3512B.

Tiger, adding color for nose

On the cheek path apply a radial gradient from #C24B37 to #FCCB88 and a 0.25pt Tapered stroke (#8C372F) .

Tiger, adding color for cheeks

Select the nostrils path and give it a gradient fill from #341214 to #60180C.

Tiger, adding color nosdrils

Apply the same gradient and stroke that we used for the cheeks to the chin but make it linear this time.

Tiger, adding color for chin

Select the biggest shape of the ear and Eyedropper tool and then click on the head path to apply the same settings to it. Select the smaller path, make it have no stroke and give it a linear gradient from #9E4D2A to #C86735.

Tiger, adding color for inner ear part

Step 8: Eyes

Draw a circle, give it a 2pt white stroke and a radial gradient from #2B3990 to #27AAE1.

Tiger eyes, drawing a circle and white stroke

Create another, smaller circle. That way, their centers coincide and then fill it with 90% gray.

Tiger eyes, creating another circle inside an eye, grey

Draw two highlights, those will be two white circles, one a little bigger than the first.

Tiger eyes, draw two highlights of different sizes, white

Make a copy of this eye.

Tiger eyes, making a copy of created eye

Draw small shadow under the eyes by making copies of the biggest paths and pasting them back.

Tiger eyes, drawing small shasows under the eyes

Step 9: Tiger Pattern

Draw a small black ellipse with no stroke and drag it into brush palette, check the “New Art Brush” and click ok. Name the new brush “Tiger Lines” and leave all setting with their default values.

Tiger pattern, creating a new brush called Tiger Lines

Now, Select the Pen Tool (P) and draw some lines with no fill, where you want your tiger to have lines.

Tiger pattern, drawing lines on tiger face with Pen Tool

Select all these lines and click on the newly created brush in the brushes palette.

Tiger pattern, using the brush to create thicker lines on tiger face

With the lines still selected go to Object > Expand Appearance to expand the lines.

Tiger pattern, expanding lines on tiger face

Select the head path, make a copy of it and bring it to front.

Tiger pattern, copying the head path and bringing it to front

By shift-clicking, select the copy and all expanded lines, right-click on the copy of the head path and select Make Clipping Mask.

Tiger pattern, making clipping mask
Tiger pattern, making clipping mask1

Select all lines and apply a linear gradient from #341214 to #60180C to them.

Tiger pattern, applying a liner gradient

Step 10: Cheeks Details

Draw a small circle and give it a vertical, linear gradient from #F79442 to #FCCB88 .

Tiger cheek details, creating a dot

Make lots of copies of this circle and place these copies on the cheeks.

Tiger cheek details, making lots of copies and scattering them on the cheeks

Step 11: Face Shadows and Highlights

Select the Pen Tool and draw highlights on the tiger’s face, eyebrow, nose and ears. Fill these paths with #FCCB88 .

Tiger, face highlights, face, eyebrow, nose

Set the Blending mode to Soft Light.

Tiger, setting the blending mode to soft light

Select the nostrils path, press Ctrl + C and Ctrl + B to create a copy behind it. Move the copy down a little and to right and fill it with #C86735.

Tiger, copying the nosdrils path, moving ut behind and filling it with a bit lighter color

Step 11: Body

Create a new layer, name it “Body” and drag in under the “Head” layer. Use Pen Tool or Ellipse Tool to create an egg-like path and fill it with the same gradient that we’ve used for the head but adjust its position and angle.

Tiger’s body, creating egg-like layer

Select the Rotate Tool (R), hold down the Alt key and click on the center of the body shape to bring up the options dialog box. Check preview, set 12 as Angle value and hit OK.

Tiger’s body, rotating the shape 12 degrees

Place this path under the head.

Tiger’s body, placing the body under the head

Step 12: Belly

Our tiger has a big bright spot on his belly. Take the Pen Tool and draw it. Pay attention only to the left side of the spot because the right edge will be covered by a hand. Apply a gradient from #FCCB88 to #DBAD75 and no stroke.

Tiger’s belly, bright spot on tiger’s belly

Extract a small part of the top of the belly path to add some detail to it.

Tiger’s belly, adding some details to a bright spot on the belly ## Step 13: Hands Select the Pen Tool and draw an open path for the hand. Select the Eyedropper Tool and lick on the body path to apply the same setting to the hand, but make the gradient linear this time and adjust the angle.
Tiger’s hands, drawing an open path for a hand

Drag a copy of this hand to the left and press Shift + Ctrl + [ to send it back under the body path.

Tiger, copying a secong hand

Repeat step 9 to draw lines on the tiger’s hands.

Tiger hands, drawing lines on the hands

For the fingers, draw six ellipses with the same settings as the chin path and arrange them on the hands.

Tiger’s fingers, six ellipses

Step 14: Legs

Select the Pen Tool and try to draw a legs path. This will probably take a couple of tries before you get the needed result.

Tiger’s legs, drawing a leg path with the Pen Tool

Make a copy of the right hand fingers and place them on the leg.

Tiger’s legs, copying the right fingers and placing them on the leg

Make a copy of the whole leg, drag the copy to the left a little and press Shift + Ctrl + [ to send it back.

Tiger’s legs, copying the leg and sending it to the back

Repeat Step 9 and draw lines on the right leg.


Now, draw some more lines to the body, but make them bigger.

Tiger’s legs, drawing the lines on the leg

Step15: Tail

Our tiger looks pretty good already but he won’t be a real tiger without a tail. Create a new layer and name it “Tail”. Drag it under the “Body” layer. Select the Pen Tool and draw the ttail path. Give it a 20pt stroke of any color.

Tiger’ tail, drawing a tail with the Pen Tool

Expand it, (go to Object >Expand), select the Eyedropper Tool and click on the body path. Make it linear and position it vertically.

Tiger’ tail, positioning the tail vertically

Repeat Step 9 one again and draw lines on the tail.

Tiger’ tail, drawing lines on the tail

Step 16: Background

Create a new layer under the “Tail” and name it “background”. Select the Rectangle Tool (M) and draw a rectangle with the same dimensions as your art board and fill it with a radial gradient from #99CA3C to #006838.

Tiger’s background, green

Lock this sublayer. Draw an ellipse under the tiger and fill it with #006838. Go to Effect > Blur > Gaussian Blur and set the Radius to 30 pixels.

Tiger’s shadow, ellipse dark green shadow

Step 17: Text

Add some text to your Illustration and we’re done!

Tiger, text that says RRRRR on the background

Thank you for reading the tutorial. If you have any questions about the tutorial, please leave your comments below.

We’d love to hear your comments about this tutorial. Please leave some feedback about your opinion on this tiger tutorials.

Further Reading on SmashingMag:

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