Animal Print Showdown: Cheetah vs. Leopard

Time Several Hours

Budget $ $$$

Skill Level

WORDS BY Sara Watson

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Published on October 1, 2021

The cat’s out of the bag: cheetah print and leopard print aren’t the same thing. Although these two animal prints have clear similarities, our designers can spot (get it?) the difference — and are ready to pass on their tried and true tips on how to use which one, and when.

Backing up. A little zoology 101, compliments of Havenly lead designer Vivian Torres. “Leopards have a warm brown base coat with jagged, black spots resembling a rose with a warm brown center. Cheetahs have a slightly lighter brown base coat with solid, smaller black spots and dots packed closely together,” Vivian says. 

The good news is, both leopard and cheetah prints work equally well for a playful accent — but make sure to pay attention to the base color and tones to pick the best print for your space.

Why You Should Use Animal Print Decor

animal print pillow

“Animal prints are one of the classiest, eye-catching patterns around, and while they’ve been relevant for ages and associated with many periods of interior design history, they don’t seem to be going away any time soon,” Vivian shares. They’re universally appealing, timeless, and seasonless, too — use them year round for a luxe touch. And while we certainly see animal patterns frequently in our glam designs, no matter your design style, both cheetah and leopard prints make an impact. 

“Its nature-inspired origins lend a sense of realism to more modern designs, while its exotic characteristics add an unexpected element to formal or classic spaces,” Vivian explains.

When to Add Cheetah and Leopard Print

Both leopard print and cheetah print are incredibly versatile, but Vivian loves using these bold patterns with neutral palettes. “The key is to repeat the same print multiple times and vary its scale, color shade and texture,” Vivian says. This way, the prints all work cohesively to create a balanced effect. 

They also can be leveraged for a surprise pop of color as well as textural accent. Since modern animal prints come in a variety of tones (from bold color to natural hues) and various materials (faux fur or even woven fabric), it’s a chic way to add edge and flair to your textile ensemble just remember not to go overboard.

Team Leopard

1. Black Botanic  //  2. Leopard Shoe Art   //  3. Faux Fur Throw Blanket //  4. Leopard Pillow  //  5. Black / White Throw Pillow //  6. Velvet Mulberry Pillow   //  7. Savoy Lamp  //  8. Leopard Stool //  9. Bamboo Vanity Tray  //  10. Velvet Sofa  //  11. Rug

If your aesthetic leans a touch luxe, leopard might be the perfect animal print for you, Vivian says. “Leopard prints are slightly more elaborate than cheetah prints, making them well-suited for luxe or elevated classic aesthetics.” To tastefully pair your leopard accents, try a mix of silhouettes for furniture, from clean lines to tufted pieces. Same goes for the patterns: in addition to animal print, add in florals, plaids, or stripes for a more sophisticated curation. As for the art, Vivian suggests portraits and landscapes that add a vintage feel. And don’t forget the mirrors (preferably brass or gold-toned!) to reflect it all back.

Team Cheetah

1.Black Cheetah Spots Art  //  2. Abstract Sketch  //  3. Pewter Throw Blanket //  4. Black Geometric Pillow Cover  //  5. Cheetah Pillow //  6. Green Velvet Throw Pillow  //  7. Table Lamp //  8.Abstract Geometric Art  //  9. Chair  //  10. Sculpture //  11. Jute Rug  // 12. Cane Media Unit

Even if you’re a minimalist, you can still employ animal prints — and cheetah will likely be more your speed. “Because of the solid and smaller black spots, cheetah works best in modern, more minimalist spaces,” Vivian says. The print is a smart match for other elements commonly found in modern design, like geometric or graphic patterns in simple, striking black and white colorways. Cheetah also pairs well with abstract paintings, sketches, and sculptural wall decor. Because it’s inherently nature-inspired, cheetah print adds an organic, grounding vibe to modern spaces. It’s all about the balance! 

From the clever use of animal prints to employing the latest trends, our expert interior designers will help you put together your dream room with the utmost of taste. Ready to get matched?

Words by Sara Watson