Drawing Animal Stripes With Pencil

Drawing Tiger Stripes

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One of the most popular questions i’m asked about drawing animals is “how do you draw tiger stripes?”.

 It may seem like a question with a simple answer but most people draw them incorrectly.  In this tutorial i will show you how to draw tiger stripes.

I have mentioned often in my previous tutorials that before drawing anything, you should first study what you will be drawing.  Most people draw from basic information they know about what they are drawing.  In the case of tiger stripes, most know that they are stripes but don’t understand what they are.  Basically, tiger stripes are just stripes of different colored hair and in tigers, its black hair.


Lets take a look at this picture.  It’s obvious that its a tiger because of the strips. I want you to notice the edges along the black stripes. from the right moving  left, you’ll notice that the light color fur overlaps the dark stripe and the end of the black stripe overlaps the next layer of light color fur. Black stripes are just that, different colored layers of hair and when drawing them we will be treating them that way.  There are simple steps that i take when drawing them and were going to look them now.

Step 1

The first thing we’re going to do is do a quick outline of stripes.  I used a 6b pencil to lightly draw the outline. stripeoutline.jpg

Step 2

From here we will be adding guidelines for the indentations on the light hair.  I want you to keep in mind that fur grows in layers. Each one overlapping the layer below. That is how we will be drawing them.  The first layer we will be indenting is the green area and then over that we will indent the red section and this is how we will be adding the guidelines.  guidlinesstripesc.jpg

The red guidelines will be overlapping the green guidelines so that is why we will start adding the green section first.  You should be able to notice the layers in my guidelines so it should be easy for you to follow. Like the outline, we will be using 6b pencil to lightly add these guidelines. Make the lines random so that they overlap and it makes it look more natural.  They should be quick strokes of similar length to indicate a layer.  Each pencil stroke length is a layer and we will keep doing this until we add guidelines for all the light haired areas. Are guidelines necessary? They are not necessary because with time you will be able to jump straight to indenting as you understand how hair behaves.  But if this is your first time using this technique i recommend adding them to make the process easier. When you are done you should be left with something that looks like the image below.


Step 3

Lets start indenting.  We will be using the needle for indenting as it will make the hair much finer.  What is this tool. Basically, i’ve put a needle inside a mechanical pencil and dulled the tip.  Here’s a short summary on what indenting is.  To put it simply, you are pressing on paper with the tip of the needle.  This creates an “indentation” on paper so when you go over the area with pencil you will be left with a white line.  This is called negative drawing. You can read about it in more detail here.

Before we start,  i will give you a tip.  Add source of light directed at your drawing perpendicular to the direction direction you are indenting.  The light serves to help you see what you indenting. As you indent, because of the light, the indentions will cast a shadow making easier to see what you are indenting.  The diagram below explains the concept behind using a lamp or flashlight to indent.


Step 4

After indenting the first layer and erasing the pencil, im left with this the image below.  Because of the light you’re able to see the indentations.  Notice the patterns and random indentations.  We need to keep them random on order for the hair to look natural. Unlike the guidelines we made with the pencil, the actual indentations will be closer together.  Try to add as many indentations close together as possible. Just make sure not to go over the same area too many times as you may rip through the paper.  Again, this technique takes practice and its a  good idea to indent on  a separate sheet of paper to get accustomed to how hard you need to press on paper to get the effect we are looking for.


Step 5

On the image below i have added the second layer of hair, but i want to explain something first before we move on.  I want you to pay attention to where it is labeled “Beginning of white hair”.  This is the edge where the light colored hair starts to grow and also where the black hair ends. When indenting this section, we will be indenting starting from the outline of the black stripe. Notice that I started from that edge.  Now on the other side, labeled “End of white hair”, it is where the light color hair ends and the black begins. But notice that i have indented over the line that we used for the outline.  The reason i did this is because the area left of the that line will be the another stripe, so the light color hair will overlap the start of the black hair.  Again, keep in mind that black stripes are just the same as the light color hair, except that its black hair. It’s a continuation of the light hair using the layer pattern  we talked about before.  We will be doing the same for the remaining edges of the stripes.


Step 6

From here on we will indent the remaining hair. Remember to keep the indentations random, where you have overlapping, short, long, curved indentations. This will make the final result look more realistic.  Make sure the indentations are close together to give the suggestion of lots of hair.  If you don’t do this, you will have large empty gaps in between the indentation and it will not look right. These gaps are useful but for different areas of animal.  Indent in layers and when starting next layer, the ends of the layer will overlap the previous layer. You will see the purpose of this once we start adding pencil.  Ok after indenting all the hair you should be left with something similar to the image below.indented.jpg

Step 7

Before we start adding pencil we will do one more thing with the stylus.  Even though the stripes are made up of black hair, light may hit  and cast reflections cause the hair to look lighter. We can get this same effect by indenting lightly with the stylus.  We will not be indenting the whole stripe, but quick indentations to suggest random clumps of hairs being highlighted by light. The indentations will follow the same hair direction as the light hair. Just imagine the hair coming up from under the light hair and the tip is hit by light causing it to be visible. You should be left with the image below.


Step 8

Finally, we will start adding pencil.  This may seem like a long process but once you understand you will realize how easy it is to put it to use on your drawings.  The best way to start adding pencil is to outline the hairs that overlap the stripes.  For this part you can use any soft pencil starting from 6b and up. I like an 8b pencil, its soft enough that you don’t need to press too hard and it gives me a deep black.  I also make sure the tip of pencil is dull and not sharp.  The dull tip covers a larger area of paper which won’t get into the indentations.  Move along the edges and you will begin to see the tips of light color hair that overlap the black hair..  We will blend these when we are done adding the pencil.  We are looking to get something like this.


Step 10

We can now start to fill in the remaining area for the stripes.. Once we have filled them we can blend in and darken the hairs on the stripe with a q-tip.  From this point on we will start outlining individual hairs along to edge with a 6b pencil.  By doing this we make the layers stand out much more. On the image below you can see how small details such as this can make a huge difference in adding realism.


Step 11

From this point on we will be adding the detail to the light colored hair. By using a 5H and HB pencil we will begin adding shadows in between the indentations. Doing this will give the illusion of hairs casting shadows as they overlap and clump together. We will also be bringing out the layers that we added at the beginning. To bring them out, we just need to add the shadows along the tips of each layer using 5b pencil. Since this hair is lighter, the shadows will be lighter.  With time, you will see these patterns and will know where to add shadows in order for the layers to stand out.  Study images of hair and it will make this step much simpler.  There is no way for me to teach you that. I can only give you that advice, it will be something that will help you in the long run.  Get used to studying what you are drawing.  Use the image that i posted at the beginning as reference or just search for images of tigers or cats with stripes as reference.   This is the whole process for drawing stripes.  As you can see, they are not just black lines that cover the fur on tigers. As we keep adding details it will start looking like the image below.


Step 12

The final step will be to bring out the black hair along the stripes.  This final detail is what will give the illusion of layers. By extending the black hairs you can drastically change how the drawing will look. It gives it much more depth and texture.  From here on you can keep on adding details such as highlighting individual hairs using a kneaded eraser. You can keep adding details until you are happy with the results.



In summary, drawing stripes,whether its on a tiger, house cat or any other animal with stripes is just a matter of planning and understanding.  If you follow these steps you should improve how your drawing will look.  This technique might not be for you but i always say that there is no right way of drawing.  This may be just a tool that you add to your drawing techniques or it can be something that you find fits your style and you make it your own by adding your own way of doing it. Enjoy and happy Drawing.

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