Today’s submission comes from artist Kaela McCoy. She has painted this white tiger in acrylics. There are two things that really stand out to me in this piece that I love! First is the eyes. You’ve done a great job of shading the upper section of the eye so that it looks like the eyelid is casting a shadow making it look more realistic. The second are the butterflies. I love that you didn’t make them all the same angle. I really like how the top butterfly fades from yellows to oranges too!


Taking a look at some areas we can improve on, first I suspect the color is quite yellow because of the photograph. If it is not, ignore this, but you want to make sure your photo is as close to your painting as possible. There is a very good chance that this was taken in somewhat dim/yellow light.

Look at the difference it would make if you took the photo in different lighting!



I don’t have your reference photo but I can tell that there are some areas that are off in the drawing itself. Make sure that before you ever start painting that your line drawing is completely accurate before you ever get started with the color! If the drawing isn’t quite right, it’s not going to improve as paint is added which can make getting the realism you’re going for frustrating. I can’t point out all of the areas that are off given I don’t have that reference photo, but just remember to always take extra time to get the drawing just right!




My next tip is on the eyes. Make sure they are always round. This is going to be the case for all animals unless they are squinting. Right now these eyes are very oval. Our eyeballs are round. The skin around them may be different shapes, but the eyeball itself is always round. If you paint they eyeball itself in an oval/egg/cat eye shape it will look flat.


Remember when drawing fur or hair that you don’t want to try and draw every strand. You also don’t want things to be too uniform, which is what is happening here. You did great keeping the fur on the bridge of the nose short and in keeping the fur going the right direction. Those are two huge hurdles when painting fur! Let’s then look at the two big things you can adjust to improve on the fur.

Brush strokes – It looks like you made the exact same brush stroke again and again for all of the fur. Variation is key. Look at the brush strokes I have in this tiger painting. Some are MUCH larger and some smaller. I hardly have any brush strokes compared to you. I likely spent far less time creating this than you did on your fur because you created more work for yourself than needed.

You also want to notice the variation here. I used a filbert on some of this fur, a round on some, and a liner brush for a few smaller areas. I also have the fur around the underside of the eye much much shorter, which is more accurate for a tiger. Don’t make extra work for yourself for the sake of detail. Detail does not always mean “more realistic”. Sometimes it’s the opposite!

Color/Values – This is a big one for making your subject look realistic. Right now the cream/white color you’ve got is pretty even everywhere. You’re both missing out on shadows and reflections from the surroundings. You’ve got a beautiful purple color…that purple would be reflecting in the tigers white fur! Going back to my example, look how much of the grey/blue background is in my tiger. There are only a couple of spots that have pure white…it’s mostly various shades of that background!

Your tiger does not look that different from mine when I first started painting. You are going to do great!! It may seem like not that big of a deal, but the fact that you followed the direction of the fur, and how great the shading in the eyes are is a really good indication that you are already starting to notice small details in your reference photo! I can’t wait to see what you create in the future!!