Create a Tiger Striped Cat with Illustrator

I’d like to have a cat here in Krakow but there’s too much responsibility attached to such a pet. Until I decide to put up with that, vector cats will have to do. Here’s how to create one in Illustrator.

The Cat

Here he is, looking fun and slightly malicious:

Soundtrack: Primus ‘Tommy The Cat’

Get a load of Primus in their prime with this classic song from Sailing The Seas Of Cheese, featuring Tom Waits as the titular character:

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Funny story: I was wearing a Primus t-shirt during my final high school exam (matura). One of the professors saw it, said he hated the band and proceeded to try and stump me with difficult questions, without too much success. What a loser!

The eye

Draw an ellipse then activate the Convert Anchor Point tool (Shift+C) and click once on the left and right endpoints to turn them into corners. Scale down the eye vertically.

Draw the iris as a circle and the pupil as a squashed ellipse, just like the main eye shape.

Make the eyeball slightly yellow and add an Inner Glow effect.
Fill the iris with a yellow/orange radial gradient.

Make the pupil dark brown. Make a copy of the eyeball, place it behind everything else (Send to Back, Shift+Command+[) and turn it brown. Scale it up horizontally, keeping the right corner coincident with the eyeball. Move the iris-pupil combo up and use a copy of the eyeball to create a clipping mask.

Adjust the angle of the eye so the outer corner is rotated upwards. Add a semi-transparent white circle on top of the iris to act as reflective highlight. Mirror the other eye and place a guide in the middle.

The nose and the snout

Draw the left half of the nose, snapping to the guide. Mirror the right half then hit Command+J to invoke the Join tool. WIndow select the two top middle points and chose the Smooth option. Repeat for the two bottom points.
Fill the nose with a brown gradient and add an Inner Glow and an oval highlight.

Draw the snout with two simple curves. Apply a tapered brush from the Brushes palette, loaded from Artistic > Artistic Ink.

Select both halves and go to Object > Expand Appearance. Unite the two shapes from the Pathfinder palette. Draw two simple teeth and fill them with a light gray gradient to suggest roundness.

The body

Draw the body as a modified oval shape and fill it with an orange gradient, darkening the bottom half.

Draw the ears and unite them with the body as one shape. The inner ears are separate shapes filled with a lighter gradient.

Apply an Inner Glow effect to the body. Draw the belly, fill it with the same gradient as the inner ears and clip mask it to the body.

Now we’ll create some quick fur.
Select the belly then go to Effect > Distort & Transform > Roughen. Use the appropriate values to obtain a frayed edge that resembles fur. Do the same for the inner ears.

The stripes

Let’s create the tiger stripes.
Draw a series of paths radiating along the left side of the cat. Apply a tapered brush to them, loaded from the Artistic Ink brushes. Mirror the stripes to the right side and expand all the paths. Clip mask them to the body and apply the Roughen effect to create the fur.

Select the clip masked group of stripes and click on the Crop icon in the Pathfinder palette. This will expand the group and apply the mask. Make a copy of the belly, make sure it’s expanded. Now select the expanded stripes and the copy of the belly and click on the Divide icon in the Pathfinder. This will create a large group of shapes from which the ends of the stripes that overlap the belly can be deleted. The same goes for every lightly colored shape in the group: it’s the copy of the belly that we don’t need anymore. When you’re done, the stripes will not overlap the belly.

The paws

Still with me? Good. On to the paws.
Draw the paw with a simple path and fill it with an orange shade sampled from the underlying body. Draw the toenail and fill it with an Inner Glow effect, choosing the Center option. Repeat for all toes.

Make a copy of the paw, turn it dark brown and place it underneath the paw. Rotate it a bit and apply a Gaussian Blur effect: it’s the paw’s shadow. You need to clip mask it to the body so there’s no shadow in the air.
Mirror and copy the remaining paws.

Use the same method to create a shadow from the body. Place it above the hind paws, using them as clipping mask. This means you have to create two shadows, one masked to the left hind paw, one to the right hind paw.

The tail

The tail is a curved shape behind the body, filled with the same gradient. Make sure the base of the tail is darker than the tip.
Using the method explained before, create stripes on the tail and make them furry.

Finishing touches

The paws look flat. Add darker shapes, made blurry with a Gaussian Blur effect. Clip mask them to the paw. Do it for each paw of course. Finally create a drop shadow from the body+paws+tail and you’re done.

You should have a vector cat at your disposal now. Have fun!

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