Tut: Draw This Cute Lion and Sharpen Your Drawing Techniques (Part Two)

In the previous post we created the head and mane of our lion; in this post we are going to add some colour and then complete the drawing using a range of techniques.

A Bit of Colouring In

step1Select the main face and outer part of the ears then, making sure that the fill has focus (solid square in front in the Toolbox—tap X to toggle) hit the PERIOD key (full-stop) on your keyboard to set a gradient fill. The Gradient Panel will open, usually with the default white-black gradient; if this is not the case, then choose that gradient from the selector at the top right of the panel.step1a


Now in turn, double-click the stops at either end of the gradient ramp and choose a light and dark colour for the lion’s basic body colour—you can mix these yourself or choose from the swatches.step1b


From the drop-down at the top of the panel, choose Radial and then tap G on your keyboard to activate the gradient tool. Using the widgets on the gradient, make it more elliptical, and rotate it around so that the ellipse is tall; make it larger if necessary. The only way that this sort of thing could be achieved used to be with opacity masks until a few years ago—if you’ve ever used them to do something like this you’ll appreciate how much faster this way of working is!

In the Gradient Panel click the selector gradient drop-down and at the bottom-left click the icon to save the gradient; if you want to name the gradient you’ll find it in the Swatches Panel once created and double-clicking it there will give you that opportunity.step1d

Now select the inner ear parts; click the gradient you’ve just made in the Gradient Panel, then hit the Reverse Gradient button just above the ramp, as we want the inner part of the gradient to be darker.step1e

Tap the Recolor Artwork button in the Control Strip:step1f


In the dialog, click the Edit tab, and making sure that the colours are linked (1) then tune the Hue, Saturation and Brightness sliders to make lighter colours; click OK to exit the dialog when done then if desired, select the inner ears individually and the Gradient Tool to re-centre and/or adjust the gradients.step1g

Once you’re done with those gradients, select the face shape, outer and inner ears; toggle the focus for fill/stroke to Stroke by tapping X—bringing the hollow square to the front—then then hit / (Slash) to remove the stroke; tap X again as we’ll be returning to fills in the next step but remember what you just did, as we can use that to remove any other strokes we don’t need in future steps.

Next select the mane and send it to the back—as we drew it last in the first exercise it will be at the front—using the shortcut SHIFTCMD[ or Object > Arrange >Send to Back. Keep the mane selected and also include the forelock, then add your gradient and work as you did with the inner ears, only this time to create a darker variation. Make sure that when you use the gradient tool that both objects are selected—this will unify the gradient across both—and it may help to centre the gradient in the bottom-third of the mane. Once you’re happy with the gradient remove the strokes as we did earlier.step1h

Mesh Up the Nose

Select the nose and remove the stroke from it, then tap X to switch the focus back to the fill and choose the darkest colour you’d like the nose to be. Now go to Object > Create Gradient Mesh… and choose the following options:

  1. Rows2
  2. Columns: 2
  3. Appearance: To Center
  4. Highlight: 40% (or tune to preference)
  5. Select the Direct Selection Tool and move the centre point a little if desired. You could also select a completely different fill colour if desired while the centre point is selected.step2

Mouth and Muzzle

Easy bit first—select the “tongue” and mouth opening then hold SHIFT and tap X to swap out the stroke and fill—then select the tongue shape and apply a more appropriate fill to that; you may also feel that black is a bit harsh for the mouth opening too so change that as well if you like and also with the other black lines of the mouth.step2a

Select the main mouth line, bring it to the front (SHIFTCMD]) and change the weight to around 3pt; then select Width Profile 1 from the Variable Width Profile drop-down; tune the width if necessary. Repeat with the curves at the top of either side of the mouth—perhaps with less weight—then using the Line Tool draw a line up from the mouth towards the nose and apply Width Profile 4 to that.step2b


Using the Line Tool (BACKSLASH) and holding down ALT to draw from the centre create a line across the top of the nose, then with the Reshape Tool, bend it as shown here:step2c

Give the stroke a weight of around 5pt then applyWidth Profile 1 to it; hold down SHIFT and tap W to activate the Width Tool. You’ll notice as you move over the stroke that widgets appear—these allow you to manually create profiles or modify existing profiles; holding down ALT allows you to bend the profile asymmetrically—pull the top of the profile up a bit from the centre:step2d

Making sure that the stroke attribute has focus in the Toolbox (tap X to toggle) then tap the PERIOD key (full-stop) on your keyboard to apply a gradient to the stroke. Model the gradient:

  1. Make both stops exactly the same brown colour
  2. Drag the rightmost stop to the centre of the ramp
  3. Give the leftmost stop 0% opacity
  4. ALT-drag a copy of the transparent stop to the other side of the ramp
  5. Click the Apply gradient across stroke button in the Gradient Panelstep2e

Tune as desired. It’s a quick and easy technique to add a cute crease to indicate the muzzle shape.

Drawing the Eyes

Select the “eye sockets”, remove the stroke and fill with white, or a very light grey; draw a circle for the eye, tap D to give it the default fill/stroke and then double-click it with the Selection Tool (V) to go into Isolation Mode.

Making sure the fill has focus in the Toolbox, tap the PERIOD key (full-stop) on your keyboard to set a gradient fill; create a radial gradient as we did at the start and then use the Gradient Tool to offset it from the centre as shown:

Now draw two more ellipses for the pupil and a highlight for the eye; I’ve used a white-white radial gradient and set the outer colour to 0% opacity in the fill dialog; once complete select all three and group them, then exit Isolation Mode by double-clicking outside of the objects.

Hold down ALT and drag a copy over to the other eye—don’t worry about the precise position—then cut it to the clipboard (CMD-X). Click on the eye socket and then, holding down SHIFT tap D twice; a dotted boundary will appear around the shape—you’re now in Draw Inside mode—and you can paste (CMD-V) the eye into the socket; nudge it with the arrow keys to position it; repeat with the other eye, and when done use SHIFT-D to return to Draw Normal mode. step3c


Create the Legs

Select the mane, hold down SHIFT and tap D to go into Draw Behind Mode—you can always tell which drawing mode you’re in (as well as switch modes, of course) by looking at the bottom of the Toolbox:step4

Some of the following steps should be familiar by now after the first part of this tutorial; draw a couple of rectangles to make an L-shape and then join them using the Shape Builder Tool (SHIFT-M); switch to the Direct Selection Tool (A) then select individual points, to round them off; optionally, use the Reshape Tool to bend it around a little and make it look less “mechanical”. Fill the shape with your first gradient; reverse the gradient if necessary and reposition so that the darkest colour is nearest the mane to give a slight shadow effect. Use the Reflect Tool and ALT-click on the centre-line to create a reflected copy. Select both legs and copy, then Paste in Back (CMD-B). Move them up and out a little to each side.step4a

Extra Credit

Before duplicating make little curved lines like the one for the muzzle, and paste them into the leg shape to make claws, using the same techniques that we used on the eyes—don’t forget to switch drawing modes first (SHIFT-D to switch). Note: once you’ve made a clipping mask like this, you’ll find that you can only select it by it’s edges.

Making the Tail

The last bit is so simple that you should be able to finish this off now in just a few minutes. The tail is made with a gradient stroke, using a width profile to make it fatter at the end nearest the lion; the tassel or tuft at the end of the tail is made with just a few clicks of the pen tool. Here are the paths and then the finished tail.step5


Hopefully you’ve enjoyed the tutorial and picked up some handy tricks and techniques—you’re welcome to comment below.


The steps in this tutorial can all be found in this video:

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