Character Design

How to Create a Cute, 3D Vector Robot


For this tutorial, we'll use simple shapes to create a cute robot. We'll apply various shading techniques to give our vector illustration a 3D style. We'll work from sketch the final illustration, and cover all the techniques used to make this character. Let's get started!

You can find the source files in the directory labeled "source" that came in the files that you downloaded. You may wish to look through them briefly before we begin.

Step 1

Start with sketching the character in a blue line using the Brush Tool (B), just a quick loose sketch.

Step 2

Trace the sketch in a new layer. Fill all the shapes with a white fill and a black stroke. This should be a quick job since most of the shapes are very simple.

Step 3

Start coloring the head with a white to blue gradient. I want the main light coming from the upper-right so I drag the gradient from the upper-right to the bottom-left. I'm not too good with RGB color so I work in CMYK mode. Feel free to use whichever mode is suitable to you.

Step 4

On second thought, I'd like to add a secondary yellow light source at the bottom-left. That means I have to add yellowish lights on the object. To do so, I add a yellow color to the gradient, as shown below. To have a more dramatic effect I need to have a strong yellow light, so I move the right diamond slider (between blue and yellow) closer to the blue one.

Step 5

I'd like to have the visor made from LCD with a black surface and digital eyes within. So I fill the visor with a grey to black gradient.

Step 6

Make a diagonal line as shown below, select the line and the visor then trim them, ungroup and fill the right part with black. Now it has a close resemblance to a glass-like material.

Step 7

Make the eyes with a simple ellipse and fill them with light grey.

Step 8

I need a light area at the top of the head, so I Warp an ellipse with the Arc set as shown below.

Expand the outcome by going to Edit > Expand Appearance, then fill it with white. Set the blending mode to Overlay and change the Transparency to 37% as you position it to the top of the head.

Step 9

Next I work on the ear, starting with the hole first.

Fill the ear with a red gradient. Apply the same light treatment to it as in the head.

Step 10

Make a line with a the Pen Tool (as shown below in blue), duplicate it and place them over the antenna. I'm going to cut the antenna into three pieces using those lines. Select the lines and the antenna, then click the Divide button in the Pathfinder palette.

Step 11

Ungroup (Command + Shift + G) the objects. Fill the middle one with black and the others with a white to black gradient, set the gradient from top to bottom as shown.

Step 12

Next I will create a highlight reflection on it. The highlight should go on the thick side of the antenna, since the main light source comes from the top.

Make a couple copies of the antenna and position them as shown. Select them both and click the Subtract From Shape Area button in a Pathfinder palette. Fill the subtracted object with white and set the Opacity to 65%.

Step 13

Now it's time to move onto the body. I apply the same gradient to the body as in the head.

Step 14

Create a logo to be placed on it, in this case a modified letter "V" will be use as the logo. Go to Object > Path > Offset Path to duplicate it, set the number to -0.05cm or whatever you like. The negative (-) means that it will have the duplicate object smaller than the original. Move the duplicate a few pixels to the right so it will look proportional and fill it with yellow.

Step 15

I want the logo to have a lighting effect that comes from the inside the body, so I apply the Outer Glow with orange as the color source.

Step 16

I'm thinking that the body is assembled from two different parts, the top and the bottom. So it's going to need a joint line? Make a line across the body from left to right with a Pen Tool. Set the stroke to white then Expand it (go to Object > Path > Outline Stroke).

Duplicate the object and place it in front, make it smaller and also adjust the anchor point position using the Direct Selection Tool (A). Fill it with dark blue. Place them below the logo when it's done.

Step 17

Duplicate the body (red color) and paste it right in front. Make an ellipse to subtract it. We're going to use the results as a highlight area. Fill the subtracted shape with white and 43% Opacity.

Step 18

Add a shadow of the head (the head is floating) to the body, fill the shadow with black and 27% Opacity, then set it to Multiply.

Here's what I have so far.

Step 19

Let's move to the left hand. Fill the arm and all the fingers with a white to blue linear gradient. Apply different angles for each.

Color the hole as shown below. Add a joint line as in the body (Step 16), also add a shadow underneath it.

Step 20

Do the same for the right one.

Step 21

Lets move to the spark board. Fill it with a white to red radial gradient with a color combination shown below. Set the direction from right to left.

Step 22

Make a thickness effect on it by creating a highlight reflection using the same technique as I did for the antenna (Step 12). Make two copies of the spark board, offset the above one and subtract the below one with it. Adjust the result if needed, fill it with white and set the Opacity to 20%.

Step 23

Create a highlight at the back of the spark board. Use the same technique as previous ones. When it's done add a drop shadow of the body above as shown.

Step 24

Apply a radial gradient to the tire with the color combination shown below. Set the angle direction close as the tire. Color the axle end cover with the same gradient as the spark board.

Step 25

Now I'm going to make a radial blur to give it a moving effect. First make an ellipse and fill it with 20% black, Rotate it about 15-20° left. Then go to Effect > Blur > Radial Blur and apply the settings shown below.

Step 26

Copy the blurry ellipse and overlap them at the left and right side of the tire. Create the inside area of the spark board and place it behind.

Step 27

Next, create a drop shadow by applying Object > Blend > Create to the two objects as shown. The small one is filled with gray and the large is filled with white. Now use the Direct Selection Tool (A) to select both shapes, then set the white shape Opacity to 0%, this will make the shadow blend more softly to the background.

OK, it's almost done.

Step 28

Apply the same light treatment to the balloons.

Step 29

Work the background into a new layer below the robot layer. I used retro style stripes as the background.

Step 30

Now I'll add scattered circles in front of the stripes. The quick way to do it is using brushes. I make three different size black circles and drag them into the Brushes Palette. Choose Scatter Brush when the dialog box pops up and apply the settings shown below.

Step 31

Apply the custom brush to the background, experiment with color and opacity to have the best outcome.


Done! I hope you enjoyed making this vector robot.

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