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Create a Colorful, 1940s-Inspired Witch in Adobe Illustrator

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This post is part of a series called Halloween and Day of the Dead Vector Design.
How to Create an Enchanting Broom in Adobe Illustrator
Using Sketch to Create a Dark Halloween Party Invitation

Pick up your broom, we're going for a ride! Join me in Adobe Illustrator to create a bright and colorful little witch flying high above a city with the Pen Tool, Blob Brush Tool, Gradient Tool, and Shape Builder Tool. The magic's in the making when you combine well-used tools to create something fresh for the season.


1. Create the Head Shapes

Step 1

This is my initial sketch. I drew it out in Paint Tool SAI. The main idea is a cute, tiny witch pin-up, reminiscent of classic pin-up work from the 1940s.

The various curves and arcs made by the character's legs, clothing, and pose move the viewer's eyes around the composition to create something dynamic and as vibrant in tone as the colors being used.

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Step 2

Starting with the Pen Tool (P), a personal favorite of mine, I've traced the basic head shape. Although I've added the ear onto this shape, I'll have to redraw it later so it peeks out from underneath the hair.

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Step 3

Complete the head and make sure your shape is closed. Since the head isn't an ellipse, you could also use the Rounded Rectangle Tool to get the overall shape drawn below.

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Step 4

The hair is done in stages, starting with a bright orange as the base color. For the bangs, bring the curves of the hair down into a point and sweep it to the right side of the picture plane. The sides of the hair flip upwards and outwards.

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Step 5

Let's draw the witch's hat. I've started with a dark purple for the brim. If you're not starting off with a sketch, use the Ellipse Tool (L) to create an elongated ellipse that will be placed behind the hair and head on the Layers panel.

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Step 6

The main body of the hat is a cone, rounded off at the top. If you're having trouble with the shape, draw one half and simply Copy (Control-C) and Paste (Control-V) the piece, flip it over a vertical axis, and align with the first piece.

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2. Create the Body Shapes

Step 1

The body mainly consists of a fabulous purple jacket, white panel for a shirt, a hand and two legs. The arms of the jacket are separate from the rest of the garment so it's easier to see the form of each component while rendering later. I opted for a high, dramatic collar, billowing skirt, and puffy sleeves. Place the shirt panel under the jacket parts.

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Step 2

The legs are reminiscent of hooves, having no foot definition. Similar to the face being rounded off and squished up, the legs are simplified so their shape and position is the focus, rather than extra features.

Place the little hand (this one is pointy and contains only three fingers on this side (the fourth would be a thumb, but it's not shown at this angle) behind the jacket parts in the Layers panel.

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3. Create the Sock Stripes

Step 1

Draw around one of the legs with the Pen Tool. Select the leg and sock piece. Using the Shape Builder Tool (Shift-M), select the portions of the sock shape that do not intersect with the leg. Once you've clicked all of them, deselect, and delete each section of pink that is outside of the leg shape.

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Step 2

Now your sock will conform perfectly to the little leg. Repeat on the other side.

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Step 3

For the stripes themselves, draw curves stripe shapes with a bright contrasting color. Repeat the process from the sock steps using the Shape Builder Tool.

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4. Build a Cute Face

Step 1

Cute faces are simple. Use the Ellipse Tool (L) to draw an eye. Rotate it slightly inward. Repeat on the other side.

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Step 2

Add two small ellipses or rounded rectangles on the sides of the eyes for the lashes.

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Step 3

This next step is easiest if you're using a tablet. With the Blob Brush Tool (Control-B), draw two eyebrows and a little smiley mouth. Alternatively, you can draw strokes with the Pen Tool and expand them under options (at the top) so they become shapes.

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Step 4

The cheeks are two little pink ellipses and the ear gets a quickly drawn, funky "s"-shape.

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Step 5

To manipulate the Blob Brush Tool, double-click on the icon in the Tools panel and you'll get the Blob Brush Tool Options. From this you can modify the brush.

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Step 6

Add some dots, hearts, and sparkles to the eyes and your little witch's face is ready to go!

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5. Draw the Broom

Step 1

Here's our little witch friend so far. She's floating in space without a broom, though. Let's fix that.

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Step 2

Using the Rounded Rectangle Tool (M), draw a long box for the handle of the broom. Optionally you can manipulate the handles of the end anchor points to round-off the broom's end.

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Step 3

The bristles of the broom is a curvy paint-brush shape. This was drawn with the Blob Brush Tool. Using the Direct Selection Tool (A) select the inside shape and delete it from the broom's head. You should be left with a filled shape instead of the outline seen below.

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Step 4

The end of this cute little broom has a string tied around it with some stars and a slip of paper. The stars can be doodled by hand or drawn using the Star Tool.

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6. Add Clothing Details

Step 1

Add some little heart shapes for buttons on the witch's shirt.

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Step 2

For her little shoes, start with the strap. Note how it curves across the foot rather than being stick-straight. Leave a space open between the strap and the shoe itself.

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Step 3

Repeat the shoe on the other side. Alternatively, you can Copy and Paste the little shoe and rotate is so it fits on the other foot.

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Step 4

With the entire witch blocked in we're ready to work on a background.

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7. Create a Basic Background

Step 1

Draw a large gray rectangle for the main portion of the background. The moon our little witch is floating in front of is a simple circle drawn with the Ellipse Tool (L) in a lighter gray.

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Step 2

These cloud shapes were drawn with the Pencil Tool (N) and extend beyond the artboard. Place them above the moon and behind the witch in your Layers panel.

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Step 3

Play with the background colors. The clouds are darker than the moon but lighter than the background. Too much contrast between the three elements of this portion of the background and you'll compete with the vibrancy of the witch. Too little contrast and you'll obscure the overall details.

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Step 4

For the little city below, we're not getting into too much detail. An alternative to this design are little gravestones to keep with the Halloween theme. Regardless, you'll be creating shapes in a dark gray for layer one. Unite these dark gray shapes together in Pathfinder. Layer lighter gray building or grave marker shapes above the dark gray ones.

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Step 5

Group (Control-G) together your background elements.

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Step 6

For the little witch's ghost friends, draw varying sizes of curving teardrop shapes.

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Step 7

Check out the placement of the little ghosts. Group them together at the left side of the witch.

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8. Render the Hair

Step 1

Starting with the left side of the hair, draw gradient shapes (with the Gradient Tool (G) going from red-orange to the same orange of the hair (set at 0% Opacity). The shapes should define the underside of the swooping hair. Play with their overall Opacity in the Transparency panel. We'll be layering them in the next few steps.

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Step 2

Continue to add shapes to help define where the hair separates. Use the Shape Builder Tool to delete non-intersecting components of gradient shapes.

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Step 3

Add darker colors, pinks, reds, and oranges, to show shadows case by the bulk of the hair, head, and hat.

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Step 4

Continue building shapes until you're satisfied with the color variation and shadows you've built up. Delete whatever doesn't intersect with the main hair shape.

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Step 5

Repeat the process on the bangs and other side of the hair. For the bangs, focus on the shapes as though they are clumps of hair.

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Step 6

Add some gradient going in the opposite direction to show swirls and strands of the hair.

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Step 7

Add glossy highlights with a bright yellow radial gradient going from 100% to 0% Opacity.

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9. Add Shadow on the Face and Hand

Step 1

Two steps will be taken to add some shadows to the face. the first is a cast shadow going from dark peach at 100% Opacity to the main skin color at 0% Opacity. If your little witch has a different skin tone, shade appropriately.

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Step 2

The second part is adding a similar (albeit lighter) gradient to the overall head shape (though both colors are set to 100% Opacity). Both of these gradients are linear.

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Step 3

Select the hand and use the Eyedropper Tool to apply the gradient from the face.

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Step 4

Add additional highlight and shadow shapes (shadows are dark peach to light peach and highlights are cream to light peach).

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10. Render the Jacket

Step 1

Starting with shadow shapes that go from dark purple to the main purple of the jacket, define the curves and angles of the jacket's collar and the puffy sleeves.

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Step 2

Make a distinction between the sleeve and the skirt of the jacket with a gradient whose darkest color is angled under the sleeve shape.

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Step 3

additional, thin, shapes can be drawn with the Pen Tool that follow the contour of the jacket and help define its edge against the shirt, head, and other side of the jacket. These pieces can either be the same linear gradient as the other shadows on the jacket or they can be the dark purple as a fill color (with or without the opacity adjusted).

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Step 4

Some of the gradient shapes are meant to add detail and pattern to the jacket itself. Perhaps the jacket is an embossed velvet and has scalloped designs in the arms and on the skirt. Add a shadow to the left side of the jacket to separate it from the right sleeve.

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Step 5

For the skirt, allow lighter colors to remain in the middle. Add highlight shapes to make the skirt a bit glossy-looking, similar to what was done with the hair (although the highlight color should go from light purple to the base purple with the opacity of the individual colors adjusted in the Gradient panel.

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Step 6

Draw some little leaf-like scalloped shapes on each pleat of the skirt.

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Step 7

Here's a shot of all of the shadow and highlight gradients without being obscured by the rest of the composition.

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Step 8

Draw a curved shape to be placed beneath the jacket for the little witch's underwear, or add some ruffles for an underskirt.

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11. Add Clothing Details

Step 1

Render the shirt by adding some shadows and highlights to the heart buttons and a strip down the center of the shirt itself for the opening.

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Step 2

Draw web-like shapes on the pink bat wings. Check out the Gradient panel below.

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Step 3

Add some highlights that stop higher up so the wings are shiny like the other components of the design.

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Step 4

Draw thin dark purple shapes to further define the distinction between the hair and the hat.

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Step 5

Do the same to the hair, but with a maroon color. Redraw the ear so it appears in front of the hair.

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Step 6

Our progress so far. Next up is the hat.

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12. Create a Starry Hat

Step 1

Start by either drawing a little yellow star with the Star Tool or drawing a blob-like version with the Blob Brush Too. I opted for the latter. It sort of looks like a little yellow flower with only five petals.

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Step 2

Copy and Paste the stars around the hat.

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Step 3

Much like the rendered shapes and the stripy socks, the parts of the stars that do not intersect with the main hat shape need to be deleted. Select all of the stars and the main hat shape. With the Shape Builder Tool, select the outside bits. Delete them, Group the stars together, and place them above the hat shape in the Layers panel

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Step 4

Copy and Paste the main hat shape and add a linear gradient going from dark purple to a fully transparent lighter purple and back to dark purple again. Play with the gradient's angle so the side of the cone are shaded as best you can get it.

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Step 5

For the hat brim, add some shapes the follow the curve of the brim's contour. Place them above the brim shape in the Layers panel.

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13. Render the Socks

Step 1

Start by changing the colors of the sock and leg on the left side to darker tones.

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Step 2

Much like the jacket, the goal is to show cast shadows, the form of the garment, and to add cute little detail shapes like the flower-looking one on the knee. The highlights for the legs are cream instead of light purple.

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Step 2

Repeat on the other side. Add a yellow circle and a highlight circle shape for the button snap on the shoe.

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14. Render the Broom

Step 1

For the shadows on the broom, concentrate on adding them on the bottom of the handle and between the witch's body and either end of the broom. Layer more transparent gradients (these are variations of browns) slower to the middle of the broom handle.

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Step 2

For the brush part of the broom, use gradient shapes that define the curve of the bristles.

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Step 3

Approach this portion of the design as you would hair. Use the gradients as a means to define sections, strands, and shadow shapes.

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Step 4

Half of the brush has dark brown shadows while the other half has a lighter brown (the same brown as the broomstick).

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Step 5

Add some creamy highlight shapes to the lighter side of the broom's head.

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Step 6

Next up are details, ghosts, and some final background work. Let's do this!

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15. Render the Stars

Step 1

Using the same gradient from the hair (dark orange to light orange), draw a flower burst shape on one of the stars. Lower the Opacity of this new shape.

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Step 2

Layer another shape, this one with higher opacity, that follows the indents of the little curvy star. Delete the portions of the shadow shapes that do not intersect with the star with the Shape Builder Tool. Repeat for the other star.

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Step 3

Add some shiny creamy highlights to finish up the little stars.

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16. Additional Details

Step 1

Like the edges of the hair and jacket, the hand and broom needs some thin, dark brown, tapered lines to help define the edges of the little witch's body.

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Step 2

Add these along the broom's edges wherever they intersect with the witch or the broom's brush.

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17. Create the Witch's Shadow

Step 1

Group (Control-G) together the little witch and her broom.

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Step 2

Copy (Control-C) and Paste (Control-V) the witch and Unite the new shape together in Pathfinder.

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Step 3

There's two choices for the shadow. Either, lower the Opacity and use a simple dark brown or gray for the fill color, or set the fill to a radial gradient going from a fully opaque to a fully transparent dark gray. Regardless of which you choose it will be set behind the witch in the Layers panel and a bit off center (down and to the right).

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18. Create the Ghost Faces

Step 1

Draw some cute little sleepy faces with the Blob Brush Tool. You'll want the faces to be shapes rather than strokes.

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Step 2

Unite the face features of each little ghost's face in the Pathfinder panel. Then select both the ghost body and its face and hit Exclude in Pathfinder. You may need to recolor the ghost, since it'll take on whatever color you used to draw the face.

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19. Add a Glow to the Ghosts

Step 1

Group together all of your little ghost shapes. Apply a linear gradient going from the ethereal light blue seen below to a fully transparent version of that blue.

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Step 2

Copy and Paste the ghost shape group. Unite these shapes in Pathfinder and set the stroke to light blue (Stroke Weight is up to you).

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Step 3

At the top navigation bar, go to Effect > Blur > Gaussian Blur. Adjust the blue to your liking.

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Step 4

Align the blur effect ghost shapes with the original ghost group and set it behind the group.

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20. Add the Final Touches

Step 1

Using the Pen Tool (P), draw some angled shapes radiating out of the center of the composition.

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Step 2

Set the fill to a radial gradient as seen in the Gradient panel below. Place this shape behind the composition's elements

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Awesome Work, You're Now Done!

Our little witch is complete! Add additional details as you see fit: additional highlights on the clothing and hair, add a soft glow to the buildings below, or some stars in the night sky.

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