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Art Therapy: Draw by Numbers for Adults

This post is part of a series called Art Therapy.
Art Therapy: Paint What You Feel
Final product image
What You'll Be Creating

Do you remember those color-by-numbers pages you used to play with as a child? You were provided with the outlines, and your job was to fill them with colors as they showed, to create an artwork the author had planned for you. It was fun without any stress! 

Today, I'd like you to try something similar, but more interesting for an adult: draw-by-numbers with a complex end result. If you follow my instructions, you'll create a beautiful, intricate artwork—safely, without any stress or fear of failure.

This tutorial is part of the Art Therapy series. It teaches you how to use art for relaxation and fun, without putting too much pressure on yourself.

What You Will Need

Look to the right: there's an attachment you need to download to start. In it, you'll find three versions of the template. Pick one and print it.

  • template-numbers: the template with faded numbers (easy)
  • template-no-numbers: the template with the lines only, if you want to keep it clean (medium)
  • template-clear: faded template with no numbers; use it to draw all the lines on your own (hard)

You will also need a tool. It must be something black, thick, and precise at the same time. It can be any marker/ink liner (at least 0.5), even the cheapest one. You can also have a thicker one, for filling big areas and for drawing the final lines (make sure both tools have the same shade of black).

Although the whole piece can be finished very quickly, it will have a higher therapeutic value if you do it slowly. Draw the lines carefully, trying to stay within the outline. Pay attention to every little line, drawing each one in a measured way. There's no hurry—the artwork will be finished either way, but if you do it slowly, you'll enjoy the process more. It's all about the journey, not the destination!

1. Fill Area A

Area A will be filled with vertical lines:

fill area with vertical lines

Step 1

Fill A1. Keep it symmetrical and radial.

lines between the brow

Step 2

Fill A2. If you start with a "V" in the middle, you'll achieve an interesting effect.

nose width

Step 3

Fill A3.

nose triangle

Step 4

Fill A4. This direction will accentuate the 3D form of the muzzle.

muzzle nose sides

Step 5

Fill A5. Tightly placed lines will make the nose look dark without filling it completely.

simple shading nose

Step 6

Fill A6, the whisker area.

whiskers shading

Step 7

Fill A7-A10, changing the direction gradually to accentuate the 3D form of the cheek-bone.

muzzle width
between eye sockets and muzzle
under the cheekbones
upper cheekbone

Step 8

Fill A11.

behind the cheeks

Step 9

Fill A12.

forehead roundness

Step 10

Fill A13.

forehead sides

Step 11

Fill A14 to finish the shape of the forehead.

top of the forehead

Step 12

Fill A15, the fluff in front of the ears.

ears fur

Step 13

Fill A16.

simple tiger pattern

Step 14

Fill A17.

top of the head

Step 15

Fill A18 to darken the inside of the ears.

inside of the ears

2. Fill Area B

Area B will be filled completely with black. You can use a thicker tool for this task.

fill area with black

Step 1

Fill B1 to create dark nose-holes.

dark noseholes

Step 2

Fill B2 to create the dark "tear path" under the eye.

dark corner of the eye

Step 3

Fill B3, the dark outline of the eye.

dark outline of cat eye

Step 4

Fill B4 to make the eyes stand out more.

cat eyeliner

Step 5

Fill B5.

line under the eye

Step 6

Fill B6.

tiger pattern simple

Step 7

Fill B7.

tiger pattern on face

Step 8

Fill B8.

patter between eyes

Step 9

Fill B9-B13 to create a pattern on the forehead.

little stripes forehead
more stripes on forehead
tiger eyebrows
tiger pattern between eyebrows
tiger pattern above eyebrows

Step 10

Fill B14 to give some depth to the ears.

dark ears

Step 11

Fill B15 to darken the backs of the ears.

dark back of the ears

Step 12

Finally, fill B16—the pupils.

dark pupils

3. Fill Area C

This area should be filled with circles and ovals:

fill area with circles

Step 1

Fill C1.

tiger nose pattern

Step 2

Fill C2.

tiger nose decor

Step 3

Fill C3. Darkening this area this way will make the eyes stand out even more.

lines around the eyes

Step 4

Fill C4.

area around the eyes

Step 5

Fill C5 to finish the cheek-bone area.

cheekbone finished

Step 6

Fill C6 to finish the forehead.

forehead finished

4. Fill Area D

This area will be filled with arcs:

fill area with arcs

Step 1

Fill D1. This is where the "mane" starts, and as it's usually brighter, the pattern should look "brighter" too.

tiger mane pattern

Step 2

Fill D2.

pattern under the cheeks

Step 3

Fill D3.

high mane pattern

Step 4

Fill D4.

forehead stripe

Step 5

Fill D5.

cheekbones complete

5. Fill Area E

This area will be filled with a leaf-like pattern:

fill area with leaf pattern

Step 1

Draw a line across E1, adjusting it to its shape.

line across the fur strand

Step 2

Draw lines coming from the middle line towards the outer edges.

draw leaf pattern

Step 3

Fill E2 with the same pattern.

tiger fur simple
tiger fur leaf pattern

Step 4

Fill E3.

furry cheeks
full fury cheeks

Step 5

Fill E4.

tiger fur sides
tiger fur sides complete

Step 6

Fill E5.

tiger face fur
tiger face fur complete

Step 7

Fill E6. We're halfway there!

tiger cheek mane
tiger chek mane fur

Step 8

Fill E7.

tiger fur strands
tiger fur strands complete

Step 9

Fill E8.

fur behind ears
fur behind ears complete

Step 10

Fill E9.

ear tufts
ear tufts complete

Step 11

Fill E10.

full ears
full ears complete

Step 12

To simulate shading, add more lines where the "leaves" seem to cover each other.

simulated geometric shading

6. Finish the Artwork

The patterns are all filled in, but the whole thing may look quite confusing to the eyes of the viewer. Let's accentuate some lines to make the tiger's head clearer. You can use the thicker tool for this. If you only have a thin tool, first draw the outline of a thick line and then fill it.

Step 1

Outline the roundness of the muzzle.

outline the muzzle

Step 2

Outline the furry chin.

outline the chin

Step 3

Outline the cheek-bones.

outline the cheekbones

Step 4

Outline the forehead and the eyelids.

outline the forehead

Step 5

Outline all of the cheeks and the whole forehead.

outline cheeks and forehead

Step 6

Outline the pattern on the cheeks.

outline cheek pattern

Step 7

Outline the nose.

outline the nose

Step 8

Outline the ears.

outline the ears

Step 9

Outline the fur in front of the ears.

outline ear fur

Step 10

Accentuate the outline of the whole piece.

outline the artwork

Good Job!

Your beautiful artwork is finished! You can now treat it as a coloring page and fill it with fantastic colors, or leave it as it is and hang it up on your wall—even looking at it will give you a therapeutic effect, as the intricate patterns keep your brain busy. You can also print the template once again and fill it with any patterns you like, now that you know the rules!

If you enjoyed this tutorial, you may also like the others from the Art Therapy series:

And if you simply want to keep drawing, you may like these simple step-by-step tutorials:

how to draw gemoetric tiger head simple
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