A beautiful tiger cartoon is a great way to practice stripes and working with a very limited color palette. Yet, when done right with colorful oranges, this animal in cartoon form gives off a unique amount of flare that is both clean and vibrant.
The biggest challenge for completing a tiger cartoon is to find a way to draw the stripes. It is a meticulous step that requires a bit of patience, understanding visual space, and creativity. Rather than be overwhelmed, there are ways to break down the picture into easier parts.
Ironically, the best way to get a feel for the composition and the shape of the tiger is to not worry about the stripes at all in the beginning stages. Rather, focus on how the animal will look like at the most basic level.
Since this is a fun exercise to build a cartoon tiger, concentrate on what proportions the picture will have. A cute tiger will will be best depicted with a large head, paws, and thick powerful limbs in relation with the rest of the body.
The initial sketch is broken down into two parts: the head and the body. Starting with the head, a few scribbles are necessary. First, create a flat egg shape for the head. Draw two ears at the three and nine o'clock positions.
The facial features are then added. The part that helps the most is using the nose to bridge the eyes and the mouth. This will help with creating a natural flow combining all the facial features. Then, add in a few whiskers.
The body is a bit more complicated but is no different from identifying what shapes are needed. For the body, a simple oval will do. As for the limbs, thick long rectangles are good enough. Repeat this shape for the paws. Finally, add in a thick tail.
This will be the basic shape that will dictate the entire composition. Go ahead and adjust some proportional features. Again, don't worry about the stripes. This will be filled in at the later stages of the drawing as needed.
While still on the same layer, it's time to trace over or redraw the sketch lines. Artists that are comfortable using the pen tool can easily create an appealing line drawing using paths. If not, just the simple airbrush and erase works just as well.
The outline consists of just the key parts that make up the overall form. For the head, the nose bridge can be erased to leave only the eyes, nose, and mouth. Even the inner ear openings are not needed. It is just enough to have it cleaned up and combined with the head.
For the body, the parts to clean up are the overlapping bits between the limbs. It is imperative to have the limbs positioned properly to give a sense of depth. A good tip is to have the paws not leveled. That is, the inner limbs should be raise slightly to add perspective. Finally clean up the tail.
So far, the tiger cartoon drawing will look a little bit plain. However, that is to be expected up to this point. Once it's been determined that this is the finalized line drawing though, the next step will involve finally adding the stripes and a colorful coat.
The pivotal part of getting the stripes down properly is to have it curve around the body. Even though it's a cartoon, there's no reason to neglect basic art fundamentals of visualizing space and perspective. It is what keeps a drawing looking 'right'.
For the face, the stripes will circle around the outer perimeter and then slowly spiral inwards. Luckily, as it is a cartoon, there is no need to draw too many stripes. Just a few is enough. After that, break down stripes by erasing into it to create elongated spots.
The body is a bit more complicated. Initially, the stripes will flow down from the back to the tummy in a vertical manner. This direction will continue on towards the tail. When approaching the limbs, the strips will start to rotate into a horizontal direction, however. Draw it accordingly.
As for the limbs, the stripes will disappear near the paws. When the stripes are all done, go ahead and create another layer underneath. Fill it in the shape of the tiger with a bright orange. Lock this layer down to begin the final stages of this tiger cartoon.
There are only two colors that needs to be filled in: white for the underside of the tiger and pink for the nose. The latter is easy enough. Just draw in a triangle shaped to indicate where the nose should be. This can be done on a different layer if desired.
The white underside is a bit more involved. This can be done on another layer or it can be done on the same layer depending on comfort level. If starting on a new layer, change it to a clipping mask that will force it to constrain all paint strokes to the shape of the layer underneath (the orange flat color).
Working on the face, the areas that require attention are the brow, snout, and ear region. The brush strokes used should be jagged, which means going back and forth around the area to stylize the transition between fur colors.
After those are done, work on the outer perimeter around the chin, cheeks, and mane. The eyes are simple enough where it can be colored in fully with white. Another optional step is to simulate rim light, which is a thin halo around the edges.
The body will require some references. The inner parts of the limbs are white while the orange will wrap around the outer side all the way down to the paws. The challenge is to show this difference between the underside and the orange side that we can see.
After that, finish the body with doing a small rim light that extends all the way to the tail. Beyond this, it is possible to add in some layer style effects like gradients or outer glow. These are optional steps that further give the cartoon tiger a more vibrant look.