How To Create A Tiger Acrylic Painting (2023)

final How To Paint A Tiger In Acrylic

This easy tutorial step by step Tiger acrylic painting here at verycreate is ideal for beginners to follow along and paint.   You’ll be thrilled with what you can easily accomplish, even if you have never painted before!

Step One: Assemble Your Supplies


Paper palette – We used  a  few wax-coated paper plates

Water rinse cup

Paper towels

1/2 inch flat brush

1/2 inch flat bristle brush

9 x 12 size Illustration Board or canvas

size 8 round soft brush with a fine point

Assemble the palette of colors: Golden Liquid Artist Acrylics:  Raw Umber, Quinacridone Nickel Azo Gold, Raw Sienna, Burnt Sienna

Golden Heavy Body Artist Tube Acrylics: Azurite Hue.

Liquitex Tube Artist Acrylics: Permanent Alizarin Crimson Hue, Titanium White.

Black of any brand.

You can try using other brands of acrylic colors as well.  The important one is the Golden Quinacridone Nickel Azo Gold because it is very transparent and clear-toned.

palette How To Paint A Tiger In Acrylic
Palette of colors used


Step Two: Get The Pattern Onto the Surface

I used a Don Barrick photo from the Facebook group Free Photos For Artists as my reference.  I sketched it off in pencil.   Feel free to download our pdf pattern here.

To transfer the drawing to the surface of your painting, rub a number 2 pencil thoroughly on the back of the pattern and trace over the pattern lines lightly.   Don’t emboss into the paper!

transfered sketch on board How To Paint A Tiger In Acrylic
Pattern thinly drawn on the illustration board

Step Three: Initial Lay-In Of Color

Because the tiger is predominantly orange hues, I want him to really stand out, so I opted to paint the background a blue hue to begin with. With Golden Azurite Hue (a grey-blue) thinned with water and Alizarin Crimson Permanent Hue, thinly paint in the background with casual thin strokes.   It’s the opposite on the color wheel to orange,  so a blue color will really make him pop.  I’ll have to darken and adjust the lightness later because I plan on brushing the hairs of the fur over into the background and if I want the hairs to show up, the background will need to be significantly darker than the fur. But for now, this covers the white of the canvas and helps my eyes focus on the tiger.

Using Golden Raw Umber thinned with water until it is inky consistency, draw over lines of tiger and fill in some of the darkest stripes.

Then thin the background blue to a glaze consistency and wash under the tiger’s chin and down the center of his torso and to the left side of his body with this same blue/purple mix.  This thin mix will absorb into the illustration board and subsequent layers will adhere to the lower layers securely.  If I were painting on a hardboard, I would use a glazing medium to make sure all the paint layers would adhere well. Painting on wood, metal or board is really non-absorbant, so a good tight chemical bond is a top priority.  With canvas or illustration board, that isn’t as big a concern with this method of using thinned acrylics.

Paint layer 1How To Paint A Tiger In Acrylic
Background and shadow wash

Step Four: Here Comes The Fur Base

Apply thinned washes of the orange fur going from the lightest to the darkest using Raw Sienna. This color has nice transparency that won’t give a cloudy look when dry. I start with a pale wash, then add more paint and gradually build up the yellow color in places like the center of the skull, under the eyes, and under the chin fur ruff.


step 2 paint How To Paint A Tiger In Acrylic
First two layers of color on the fur and pale raw umber lightly indicating the location of the stripes.


Step Five: Starting To Mold The Fur

Now using Quinacridone Nickel Azo Gold Fluid Acrylic and a round brush, begin to draw suggestions of the fur in between the black stripes.  Make your stroke lines go in the direction that the fur lays on his body. (It gently flows away from the center of his chest, for example).

Do the same with slightly thinned Burnt Sienna.



paint step 4 How To Paint A Tiger In Acrylic
lightly indicated the direction that the fur lays with Ochre and thinned Burnt Sienna using a round brush.


Step Six: Copy The Color Shading

Now, using the example below, darken the fur using a wash of Burnt Sienna on the bridge of his nose and skull, under his eyes, on his ears, around his snout/nose area, under his white neck ruff and on the left side of his body.

Go back to the Quinacridone Nickel Azo Gold and the Raw Sienna and add more layers of colors to build up the tones in the fur.  Occasionally add a tiny bit of Raw Umber to the mixes, and using  jagged dot-dash strokes paint in the fur on the bridge of his snout and on the ears.  It doesn’t have to look photorealistic because we’re going to add individual fur hairs on top of some of this.


paint step 5 some dark stripes
Using Raw Umber, paint in the dark stripes using a round or small flat soft brush. Don’t go for darkest black yet…this is for placement and you don’t want it super dark yet.



Step Seven: Eyes

I started to refine the eyes, and then I stepped back and looked at the pupils.  Yikes!   I’ve got them kitty-wampus!  The pupils are NOT in the same location on the eyeball.  If I were painting a comical cartoon-like painting of a tiger, then this would work fine.  Crazy Goofy Eyes!  As this is not my intention, I’m going to use a portrait painting trick!  Also, the shape of each eyeball is not the same size slant.

Eyes oops
Look at the dots of the pupils…if they were on a map of the USA, the left dot would be Texas and the right dot would be Idaho…You want the Pupils to be located in the same ‘state’ or hour on a clock. This is driving me nuts. Gotta correct it now!!



Turn the painting upside down!  This makes the painting look like confusion to your brain, and your brain quits trying to label all the features and fool your eyes.  I’ll start by making a mix of Raw Sienna and Azurite Blue with a tad of white.  Then I’ll paint out the entire iris and refine the shape as I go into uniform eyeball sizes. Notice that if I drew a directional line from 1o am o’clock to four o’clock on the right eyeball,  and a directional line going from 8 pm to 2 pm on a clock face the lines would be a mirror to each other.



fixed eyes upside down How To Paint A Tiger In Acrylic
A great tool to check your work as you paint or draw is to turn your work upside down. This turns off your labeling brain and lets your analytic brain examine your work without preconceived notions


Wash Burnt Sienna on the top of the iris near the black upper lid.  Wash Raw Sienna on the lower portion of each iris.

Now you can place the dots in the exact same location on each eyeball.


Step Eight: Begin Refining



step 6 How To Paint A Tiger In Acrylic
Darken the under chin and central parts of the torso with a pale was of blue+Azurite Hue


Before we start refining the fur, we’ll need to darken the background blue now so that the white parts of the fur and the medium orange will really stand out apart from the background. Using the Azurite Hue Blue and the Permanent Alizarin Crimson mixed together, paint the background full strength, keeping it darkest near the top half of the head.


Using the round brush darken the stripes and the black markings around the eyes with a mix of Black and Raw Umber.  Begin to darken the center areas of each stripe with the mix then with straight Black.


Using Burnt Sienna and Raw Sienna, draw some directional individual hair lines in the orange fur areas.  Overlap onto the stripes are so that the edges are jagged where they meet.


Step Nine: White Individual Hairs

Start the individual white hair area using a grey mix of White and Black on a flat, bristle brush.  The paint needs to be a thicker consistency than we’ve used before and on the dry side.  Holding a flat bristle brush straight up in the air, use the chisel edge of the brush and draw/drag the grey of the fur from dark towards the light, letting pressure go as you stroke. Do this on the ears, the fur around his jaw and a few other places.  Look at the final photo for placements.

Makes these strokes go in the direction of the fur away from the central part of the tiger’s skull.  See the closeup and finished photos.


chisel up on a flat bristle brush How To Paint A Tiger In Acrylic
using a fairly dry paint loaded onto the tips of a flat bristle brush, drybrush draw some fur directionally using a greyed down white.

Now add some water to the grey-white mix and using the small round brush, create individual whiskers and hairs by holding the brush completely vertical and letting just a couple of hairs of the round brush touch the surface.

Up on point for fur drawing
Using the thinnest round you have, hold your brush vertically and keeping your fingers rigid, draw the whiskers with just a few hairs touching the surface using a greyed down white.

Using straight white and the round brush, paint over the white areas of fur around his eyes with pure white. You will want to keep this as the focal point, and all the other areas of fur will be slightly greyed.


step 8 brushing hairs How To Paint A Tiger In Acrylic
Using a bristle flat and dryish paint, start laying in the whitest fur

Now finish the white fur hairs by giving the white fur areas some hits with pure white hairs.

Now is the time when you could spend the rest of your life drawing in individual hairs using super tiny brushes if you like.  I did go back into the orange fur areas and give a few thin strokes of fur hairs.  But, at this point, my choice is to NOT get too detailed with individual hairs.  It would take a long time!


Here is a couple of closeups, but keep in mind that no one is going to stick their nose 2 inches from the surface of your painting like these closeups are.  This close the paint strokes look really fat.  In a good viewing distance of ten inches, the lines are really thin.

closeup fur 1How To Paint A Tiger In Acrylic
Super close up about 2 inches from the surface



closeup 2 How To Paint A Tiger In Acrylic
Super closeup about 2 inches from the canvas

Here Is The Final:

9 x 12 inches Acrylic ready to frame!  We hope you enjoyed this tutorial and you love your own results!

final How To Paint A Tiger In Acrylic
Final artwork

Anita HC

I hope you are enjoying this article! I love helping creators learn. My goal is to help you find the knowledge and inspiration you need. Check out our library of articles and visit often...I'm adding articles every week! Thank you again for reading!

Recent Posts