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Creating an Adorable Strawberry Tiger in Adobe Illustrator

Final product image
What You'll Be Creating

Are you a fan of tigers as much as I am? If so, you might have heard of the rare and appropriately named Golden Tabby Tiger, also known as a Strawberry Tiger. In this tutorial we'll go through the step-by-step process to make our own cute little bundle of golden fur.  

1. Create Base Elements From Your Sketch

Step 1

I've cleaned up the line quality in Adobe Photoshop and now we can start our project. I'm working in Adobe Illustrator at a size of 11 x 8.5 inches for this specific composition.

I like to keep my layers as neat as I can, and labeling them as you go is a good practice. Doing so makes it easier not only for you as the artist, but also for clients, printers, and any other contributors who may need to have access to this file. I've labeled the first layer "Sketch" and locked the layer to make sure that I won't accidentally move or delete the sketch. 

Tiger Sketch

Step 2

Once our Sketch layer is locked, we can proceed to make another layer which we can call "Tiger" for the time being. We can now start choosing our colors for the body of our tiger. I'm a big fan of Radial Gradients and usually use two or three colors. We'll use two bright oranges, as well as a pure white for our strawberry fur.

Choosing Color for the Tigers Body

Step 3

Using our trusty Pen Tool (P), we'll lay out our figure using the sketch as a template. If you're not following it exactly, it's not that big of a deal. If you look closely, you'll see bits of black peeking through from behind his orange tail. I'm getting the same effect, but there is a bit of give to the design. Remember to have fun with this.

Starting the Tiger Body in Orange
Adding Fur to the Chest Area

Step 4

With our body ready, we can now pay more attention to the head. You may have to adjust the width of your Radial Gradient to get your colors to spread where you'd like them, but this doesn't take much time. As with the body, I'm following my sketch just enough to make a readable shape.

Adding the Orange Head

Step 5

With the larger parts of our face set, we can go in and lay the markings into our face. In order to see these, I simply need to turn my Transparency to between 40% and 50%. You'll be able to see right through your new path work and make the appropriate corrections if need be.

Once my markings have been layered, I can go in and use my Feather effect at 0.2 in to smooth away the edges. We're looking for a soft blend of color.

Adding White Markings to the Face a
Smoothing Out the White Markings on the Face

2. Forming the Facial Features

Step 1

Once the main face colors are complete, we can now overlay our features. I like to start with the largest pieces first, and work my way in. I'll form the nose first and the mouth second. I've gone with a soft pink, since this is a cute rendering of a tiger. It's meant to look less intimidating and more juvenile in nature.

Adding A Nose and Mouth
Close Up of the Mouth and Nose Being Made

Step 2

In order to make our contour lines, we'll be using the same color scheme as the body, minus the white. It's easily seen, but it doesn't come off as being too harsh. If we used a pure black to make the lines and shading, it wouldn't look as natural. The Transparency has been changed to between 20% and 60% for most of these lines.

Adding Contour Lines to the Face

Step 3

Our little tiger will be needing his stripes. We'll be using the same two-toned Radial Gradient, but we'll turn the Transparency down to 0% for the lighter of the two colors.

Follow along the Sketch lines and create your own stripes. Adjust your stripe gradient as needed.

Adding Ear Markings
Turning the Shapes Transparent in Order to See the Stripes on the Face
Adding the Stripes to the Face

Step 4

Once you're happy with your stripes, you can go in and add a few fur marks using the same color scheme.

Adding More Fur to the Ears

Step 5

Next, we'll add a highlight color to the bridge of the nose. We're using another light orange and golden yellow to create a warm glow.

Adding Highlight to the Nose
Changing the Direction of the Colors on the Nose

Step 6

Using our golden highlight color, we'll work it across the forehead as well. This color is a bit too sharp and needs to be toned down.

Using a Feather Effect of 0.1 in gives us a blended tone that smoothly interacts with the rest of the fur.

Adding Highlights to the Forehead
Softening the Highlights on the Forehead and Nose

Step 7

Once we are finished adding to the ears and the rest of the hair on top of his head, we're left with a bright and cheery feel.

The Finished Look After Adding the Highlights to the Face

Step 8

At this point in our project, we can add whisker marks to his face. I like to create one side, make a Group (Control-G), and then duplicate that group to make the other side of the whiskers.

Adding Whisker Marks
Duplicating the Whiskers on Each Side

Step 9

After making both sets of whisker marks, we have a very well rounded little feline. He's coming along nicely, so we should be okay to start the eyes.

Finished Look of the Whiskers

3. Rendering the Eyes

Step 1

Since we have the initial eyes made, we can make a duplicate of the shapes and make them a 1 pt Stroke line smaller.

Adding the Eyes

Step 2

I've taken the Eyedropper Tool (I) to sample the nose color, but I won't be stopping here. If you'd like pink eyes that's entirely your preference, but for this little tiger I've chosen other colors.

Creating the New Color for the Eyes

Step 3

I'm going with a lovely dark navy blue and a periwinkle for the first step. Since we're working with orange, the best way to complement it would be a nice blue.

Picking the New Eye Color
Adding the New Eye Color 

Step 4

We'll add a few reflection marks to the eyes to add a source of wonder to our little tiger. Although this looks pretty good as it is, I think we can achieve a bit more depth by adding one final layer to them.

Adding Shine to the Eyes

Step 5

Using a periwinkle and a cotton blue, we'll add just a little more dimension to our tiger eyes. 

Adding Depth to the Eyes

4. Adding Whiskers and Body Stripes

Step 1

Our little tiger needs whiskers. We can accomplish this by making several pure white Stroke lines with a weight of 1 pt. Group (Control-G) these and bring the Transparency down to 40%

Adding Whiskers
Finished Whiskers

Step 2

Next, we'll render our tiger's body stripes. We'll be creating these with the same color scheme as the face. 

Adding the Additional Body Stripes

Step 3

Right around the tips of the ears of our tiger's head, we can add a little white. It's an important little detail that you'll find on most tigers.

Adding White Markings to the Ears

5. Adding Dimples to the Nose

Step 1

We'll go back to the nose and add texture to it. Using a series of Ellipses (L), we'll make enough to cover the entire front. 

Detailing the Nose

Step 2

Group (Control-G) all of your Ellipses (L)

Masking the Nose Dimples

Step 3

Duplicate the front of the nose and create a Clipping Mask (Control-7) to tailor our texture to the right specifications. 

The Finished Nose

6. Detailing the Body

Step 1

We're making good progress, so we can now give a bit more attention to his body. We only have his main orange coloring, but we need to apply a white stomach as well.

The Finished Markings of the Nose Against the Body

Step 2

Using a solid butter cream coloring, we'll cover the lower half of his body. We'll finish up this look by using the Feather Tool to smooth and blend into this orange fur.

Adding Cream Markings to the Stomach
Smoothing Out the Stomach Markings

Step 3

As we did with the face, we'll add highlights to his back to give us a warm glow. It also gives us that added bump to our composition. 

Adding Highlight to the Back
Overall Look After Adding Highlights to the Tail as Well

Step 4

Using the same coloring that we've used around our tiger's mouth, we'll start to detail the fur around his chest. We won't need much since he's done in a less than realistic style.

Adding Detail to the White on the Chest

Step 5

Your tiger's chest fur will look something like this. Though it is done simply, it still reads well. 

Finished Look After Adding All the Shading on the Chest

Step 6

Adding more fur to the cheeks will give him a cuddly appeal. Just as we did with the whiskers, we'll do one side at a time, duplicating one to match the other.

Adding Texture Fur to the Cheeks
Duplicating the Cheek Texture

Step 7

At this point, we're now ready to add a cute little row of teeth to our little tiger's mouth. He's not very vicious or mean, so they're rounded to reiterate that he's a sweet juvenile tiger.

Add a layer of shine to them to finish off the look. The tongue has been enhanced by adding a very small bit of pink in a two-toned gradient, and using our Feather effect at a Weight of 0.06 in

Adding Teeth
Adding the Tongue and Teeth Highlights

Step 8

Our body is not complete without feet to match. I'm using the same butter cream to create the base, and the shading is done using the chest colors. 

Adding Paws

Step 9

Once the paws are ready, we can add claws to top them off. I'm using a pure white solid with a 1 pt Stroke line. 

Adding Claws

7. Adding a Defining Stroke

Step 1

Our little tiger is now ready for the next step. We've almost completed him, but there's just one thing we need to add, a full body Stroke line.

Overall Look Before Applying the Stroke Line

Step 2

This step might get a little tricky if you're not paying attention to your layers. You'll need to make a duplicate of the entire tiger and take out any pieces that are linked to Clipping Masks. These you will need to delete so that they will not interfere with the rest of your piece. 

Also, make sure your whiskers are turned into Fills. You can do this by selecting the whiskers and clicking on Object > Expand and clicking the Stroke box. After doing so, change all of your duplicate layer to a new color. This is a precaution so that you won't accidentally create hundreds of gradient layers in the next step.

Select all of the pieces and using our Pathfinder Tab (Shift-Control-F9), we can Unite all of our pieces to form one whole.

Creating a Duplicate and Making the Stroke
Creating a Full Solid of the Body

Step 3

In this step, we can flip the Fill to a Stroke. Make sure to smooth out your edges as indicated below.

Creating the Stoke Line

Step 4

Once your Stroke has been created, it will look like this against your tiger.

Applying the Stroke Line

8. Adding Foreground and Background Elements

Step 1

After finishing your tiger, you can now add foreground and background elements. I've decided to use a butter cream and forest green to make most of these. 

Choosing the Background Color

Step 2

We can form little sprouts of grass at his feet, which we can decorate later with flowers. 

Adding Foreground Grass

Step 3

Using the Rectangle Tool (M), create your background color. It's a muted color that doesn't take away from the intensity of our tiger.

Adding A Background

9. Making Bamboo

Step 1

Our next step is to create the bamboo for our background. Start with a single shoot, and create layers. 

First Step in Making Bamboo
Second Step in Making Bamboo

Step 2

We can now add leaves and leave stems to our towering bamboo shoots. Do this throughout your shoots in various places. 

Third Step in Making Bamboo
Fouth Step in Making Bamboo

Step 3

Group (Control-G) your bamboo or Unite them however you please. This is your little space, so add or take away as many shoots as you'd like. 

Grouping Bamboo to Make Background Element

Step 4

Adjust your colors so that you can apply it almost as camouflage to your background rectangle. You can always play with this coloring to suit your own needs.

Recoloring Bamboo Element
Bamboo with Background

Step 5

Our little tiger is almost complete, but we'll add a few flowers to decorate the grass at his feet. This of course something you can decide not to add if flowers aren't your thing.

Applying the Tiger to the the Whole Picture

10. Making Flowers

Using the forest green and pure white to create small flowers, we'll disperse them around until we're happy with the overall look. 

Adding Side Flowers
Adding Forward Sitting Flowers

And Voila! Your Ferocious Little Tiger is Complete!

Congratulations, you’ve done a great job on creating a fun and ridiculously cute tiger. I hope it was at least informative, and that you can apply these ideas to your own projects in the future!

Finished Project
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