It's hard to mistaken a cartoon zebra with any other animal. Starting with its stripes and gravity-defying mane, it is this simplicity that allows an artist to really focus on creating a zebra cartoon without fear of messing up how the animal will look like.
The stripes can be intimidating because all those angles and seemingly endless lines seems like a maze of work that an artist will need to navigate. However, like all drawings, there are definitely ways to make it a lot easier. Ironically, the trick is to not worry about the stripes at all in the beginning.
In a cartoon, there are usually one or two characteristics that need to be emphasized. Since stripes are a given, it's necessary to look at other characteristics to help it along. How cute does the cartoon zebra? Answering this question will guide the drawing itself to a set of proportions.
In these proportions, eyes may become simplified to give a more innocent or funny look. The entire head can become bigger as a response, and the legs could be larger to balance out the larger head. These are just some of the ideas. The rest is incorporating a unique personal interpretation to it.
The first step in the lesson deals with one very important skill: to be able to see a silhouette of an animal. Specifically, it allows the artist to practice on removing the 'noise' associated with too many details and focus on the core shape.
A zebra is a good starting point because, when the stripes are taken away, it is really nothing more than an outline of a deformed donkey. This foundation is what will make the animal look distinctive from other similar looking animals.
It goes without saying, when drawing a cartoon zebra, to look at the core shapes that make up the animals. That is, draw a large rectangular body, thick neck, pointy ears, a rectangular head, a thick mane, and thin but short legs first. Just from these basic shapes, does it resemble a zebra?
If it does, great! If it doesn't, adjust the shapes a little. Then, deform the shapes a little to give it a more fun look. For example, enlarge the head and the hooves. How about now? Does it still resemble a zebra? Use this step to experiment on many different silhouette shapes that works.
Out of the many different sketches available, deciding on the silhouette to be used can be tricky. Ultimately, it will come down to what the intended use or effect that the artist would want to portray in a finished drawing.
Even then, there are always opportunities to change and evaluate the silhouette through the drawing software. For cuter drawings, the significance of the neck is reduced and the head size is increased. When this general shape is decided, start erasing out any excess lines.
The refining stages will require some patience to get right as the lines will need to be meticulously drawn in stroke by stroke. Since there are no stripes to deal with at this stage, this step can go very quickly. Again, only focus on the areas that make up the zebra.
To be exactly, draw the hoof lines, nostrils on the snout, simplify the mane, draw a long tail, create openings in the ears, suggest the chin area as it connects to the neck, and fill in the large eyes. After that, fill in the drawing with a neutral grey color, on another layer, to create a solid object.
So far, the hard part of drawing is done and the cartoon form has been finalized. Now it's time to add in shading to give the zebra some more depth. Normally, having flat colors is more than enough to proceed with adding stripes.
However, since the stripes will hide some of the cartoon lines, it's a good idea to generate at least some shading to make the cartoon lines stand out without increasing its thickness. Now that the object is solid, lock it down and start to work on the shading.
The best brush would be the chalk brush head. Set it to a dark grey color and begin to add in the shaded areas. There are a few areas to consider: the belly area, the limbs directly in the background, the area underneath the chin, and the small area around the tail connecting to the buttocks.
Similarly, there are black markings to sketch in as well. The largest part would be the snout. Then, fill in the hooves, and finally, fill in the ends of the tail. If the shading is too dark, go over it with a lighter color. After this, we are now ready to add in the complex stripe details.
While difficult at first, the setup required to do the stripes have been met: a blank canvas that already has the shading information so it doesn't need to be added in later, and the cartoon lines on a separate layer that is used for reference.
As always, start a new layer specifically for the stripes. There will be some thinking involve. Using the cartoon lines as a guide, draw vertical stripes that contour into the chin when starting from the head. The dark snout will be the starting area where the stripes will 'flare out' from.
Continue with drawing vertical lines until near the middle of the body (do not fill in the front legs yet). From there, start to angle the lines to lay it down gradually in a horizontal manner. These horizontal stripes will continue to the rest of the hind legs.
Once that is done, repeat the horizontal stripes on the front legs. Curve the stripes so it naturally bends to form a triangle. This is to help connect the horizontal stripes with the vertical stripes on the rest of the body.
If the stripes are too thick, consider using the eraser tool to make a series of smaller stripes from a larger one. Finish the drawing by filling in the smaller stripes on the tail. Finally, use global color contrasts to bring out the colors if it's too muted.
Overall, it is an easy drawing to complete. To recap, figure out the silhouette that features the unique cartoon style first, fill in the stripes after, and then use color correction at the end is an optimal way to create a cute cartoon zebra with minimal effort. How does your drawing look like?