wildlife artist Laura Curtin

How to Paint a Tiger

I’ve been having a lot of fun painting vignettes of little pink elephants.  I am painting little pink elephants on black backgrounds in the water, on the trail, pushed along by Mom, on white canvas going to the beach, at the beach, playing in the water.  I’ve been very focused on elephants.  Sometimes I must take a break and paint FUR!  I love fur, and anything it grows on.

How to paint a tiger by: Wildlife Artist Laura Curtin

I used a black canvas for this painting. The black background was really complimentary as an underpainting for the tiger.  My color pallet is pretty full of yellows and browns so I can alternate the colors. I put a list of the paint I used at the end of the blog. I drew the original drawing on tracing paper and transferred the drawing to the canvas using white transfer paper.  When the subject of the painting is an expressive animal such as this tiger I get the eyes on first. There are a lot of opinions by artist when to paint the eyes and my preference is to paint them in at first.

Step 1 The basic sketch. Wildlife Art by: Laura Curtin (click to enlarge)
Step 1 The sketch


I started painting the tiger from the left side of the canvas to the right like I normally do. I am right handed so I paint from left to right so I don’t drag my hand through the wet paint. I soon realized I had to start the painting on the right and lay each stripe on top of each other the way the fur lays on the cat. I use my Chinese hairbrush (which I’ve heard is now discontinued! Oh NO!), with linseed oil as my medium to block in the fur.

 Step 2 Block in the body. Wildlife Art by: Laura Curtin (click to enlarge)

Step 2 Block In
Once the major body area is blocked in I switch to a smaller brush and start on the face. Stripes are so fun. There is a simple rule for stripes, paint the first color and then clean my brush and start fresh with the new color. If I don’t keep the colors separate I deal with a mush of color that has to be corrected when the paint dries. Believe me, I’ve repainted enough muddy colors that I pay attention to what color stripe I am painting.

Step 3 Block in the face. Wildlife Art by: Laura Curtin (click to enlarge)

Step 3 Block in the face.

At this stage I paint the colors of the tiger skin that will show through the hair, block in the nose with Alizarine Crimson, Thalo Red Rose, and Cadmium Orange. I do put some grey in the nose for shadow effect but will eventually cover most of it up. Here is the complete block in of the tiger. I overpaint this cat at least two more times to refine the details of fur and eyes.

Step 4 Add detail.. Wildlife Art by: Laura Curtin (click to enlarge)

Step 4 add detail

Here is the completed painting. I’ve refined the shadows and stripes, added the highlights, fine fur strokes and whiskers.

Final Piece “Young Tiger” Wildlife Art by: Laura Curtin (click to enlarge)
Final Piece "Young Tiger" Wildlife Art by: Laura Curtin

I love painting the kitties, big or small, domestic or wild they are all beautiful to me. This painting was a really nice fur break between all the little elephants I’m painting for the Art-A-Fair.

My pallet colors for this painting were:
Flesh Tint
Jaune Brillant
Naples Yellow Deep
Raw Sienna
Yellow Ochre
Ultra Blue
Burnt Umber


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I am helping to support a great animal rescue center with portions of my sales from my Etsy sales site. I am giving 10% of all sales to this fantastic animal rescue center.
Forever Wild Exotic Animal Sanctuary

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