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Create a Cute Retro-Flavored Teddy Bear with the Gradient Mesh Tool

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In this tutorial, you'll learn how you can easily add a retro feeling to your creations. We'll also cover techniques such as using gradient mesh tool to add inner shadows to your objects, which gives them a subtle rounding while keeping your artwork scalable. Let's learn how to make a character head of a retro circus bear, then you can apply these techniques in your own work!

Final Image Preview

Below is the final image we will be working towards. Want access to the full Vector Source files and downloadable copies of every tutorial, including this one? Join Vector Plus for just 9$ a month.

Tutorial Details

  • Program: Adobe Illustrator CS4
  • Difficulty: Intermediate
  • Estimated Completion Time: 1 hour
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Step 1

In order to create this simple illustration I started with a raw sketch. In fact my drawing is so simple that this step could easily be skipped. Open your scan in Illustrator and set it as a Template.

Step 2

Now we'll outline the shapes of our teddy bear head. Create a new layer (you may use the shortcut Command + L). As you can see it is not a very faithful tracing of my initial sketch.

I decided not to use the Pen Tool. Instead I'll use the Ellipse Tool (L) each time tweaking more or less my ellipse shapes with the Direct Selection Tool (A). To create the heart-shaped nose and the mouth part, use the Convert Anchor Point Tool (Shift + C). You can see some of the anchor points together with their handles in the image below.

Step 3

The colors that we are going to use come from the yummy Adobe Illustrator built-in swatches palette: Foods > Ice Cream.

Step 4

We'll start with the main part of the head. For the moment put it above all the other shapes. To do that select it, Right-click and choose Arrange > Bring to Front (Shift + Command + Right Bracket key.)

Fill the shape with the lightest color (vanilla) from the Banana Split group (R=244, G=236, B=206), and set the stroke to none. With the Gradient Mesh Tool (U) first click in about the center point of the head, next add four more mesh points by clicking about the points marked in the image. You do not have to be very exact.

Step 5

Choose the Direct Selection Tool (A), then hold down the Shift key and select all the sixteen border mesh points. Now fill them with the Chocolate Chip brown color (R=73, G=54, B=31).

Next adjust the positions of the four mesh points little bit, as marked in the image below. Do this by dragging them towards the center of the circle so that the mesh inner shadow has a round shape.

Step 6

Select the head shape and send it to the very back (Shift + Command + Left Bracket key). Select the outer parts of the ears and the eyes and bring them to front (Shift + Command + Right Bracket key). With these parts, we'll proceed similarly as we did in the two previous steps.

Fill the outer parts of the ears with the same color we used for the main head and set the stroke to none. Now use the Gradient Mesh Tool (U) to add the mesh points as in the previous step, while skipping the bottom one.

With the Direct Selection Tool select the nine border mesh points situated above the blue line marked in the image below. Now fill them with the Chocolate Chip brown (R=73, G=54, B=31). Drag the two top corner mesh points slightly towards the center, as we did in the previous step.

Repeat the same for the outer parts of the eyes. The only difference is the fill color. Choose the vanilla color from the Neapolitan group (R=255, G=241, B=228).

Step 7

Send the outer parts of the ears to back (Shift + Command + Left Bracket key). Select and bring the inner parts to front (Shift + Command + Right Bracket key).

Fill them with the yellow color from the Banana Split group (R=252, G=221, B=124), and give them no stroke. Click in the center with the Mesh Tool (U). Next fill the top (above the blue line) five border mesh points with the Chocolate Chip dark brown color (R=73 G=54 B=31).

Send the inner ears to back (Shift + Command + Left Bracket key). Then immediately bring them forward (Shift + Command + Right Bracket key).

Step 8

Now we'll create the iris parts of the eyes. Bring them to front, then fill them with the brown color from the Neapolitan group (R=107, G=78, B=56), and give them no stroke. Next use the Gradient Mesh Tool (U) to add the mesh points, then adjust their positions as shown below.

Select the border mesh points situated above the blue line and set them to black. Next change the color of two more mesh points as shown. The colors we use are light vanilla (R=255, G=241, B=228) and pink (R=238, G=156, B=176) from the Neapolitan group. This way we add some lighting and color.

Next try recreate this effect with the second eye. I wanted my teddy bear to have a bit of asymmetry.

Step 9

Bring the heart-shaped nose to front and fill it with the Neapolitan pink color (R=238, G=156, B=176), then set the stroke to none. Switch to the Gradient Mesh Tool (U) and add the mesh points as in the image - starting in the center of the heart. You can follow my order of adding the mesh points, but it is not obligatory.

Now adjust their positions as in the image. Set the color of all the border points as Chocolate Chip brown (R=73, G=54, B=31) and the color of the blue-marked point as Neapolitan vanilla (R=255, G=241, B=228).

Step 10

Having locked and set the heart to invisible, we'll now work on the "mouth" part. Make sure it is placed above the eyes and below the nose. Fill it with the yellow from the Banana Split group (R=252, G=221, B=124), and give it no stroke.

Add five mesh points starting from the one marked with the blue arrow below. Change the color of all border mesh points to the Chocolate Chip brown (R=73, G=54, B=31). Next drag the four points marked with the dark brown arrows towards the center.

Step 11

Set the fill color back to the Banana Split yellow (R=252, G=221, B=124) and stroke to none. Add two more mesh points as marked with the dark arrows in the image below. Next change the color of the point marked with the blue arrow to Chocolate Chip brown (R=73, G=54, B=31).

Step 12

Turn the heart-shaped nose visible, but keep it still locked (it should be above the mouth). Adjust the shape of the mesh lines so that the mouth part has a more natural look. Move the handles a bit using the Convert Anchor Point Tool in the Pen Tool palette (or use the shortcut Shift + C).

Step 13

Now we will create the cap. First create the simple shape of the cap. Copy it Command + C and paste it to the front Command + F, then lock it and set it as invisible (we will need it later).

Next create three triangles as shown, make sure that they all start in the peak point of the cap. Now select all, then go to the Pathfinder Panel and choose Divide. Ungroup your selection (Shift + Command + G) and delete the unwanted parts. Set the fill colors of the separate parts alternately to light vanilla (R=244, G=236, B=206) and light red (R=231, G=104, B=93) from the Banana Split group.

Step 14

Copy the middle red part (Command + C) and paste it to front (Command + F). Next add a mesh point as in the image below, set the color to Banana Split vanilla (R=244, G=236, B=206) and decrease the opacity a bit, I set it to 87%. Select all the stripes and group them (Command + G).

Step 15

Unlock and set visible the copy of the cap shape. Bring it to front (Shift+ Command + Right Bracket key), set the color to Chocolate Chip brown (R=73, G=54, B=31), set the stroke to none, the blending mode to Multiply, and decrease the Opacity to 63%.

Add the mesh points as shown, and manipulate points 1-3 slightly using the Direct Selection Tool (A). Change the color of the four mesh points (marked in the image with the blue circles) to white.

Step 16

Copy the mesh object created in the previous step (Command + C) and paste it to front (Command + F). Change the two remaining inner mesh points to white, as well as the top border mesh points on the right side of the cap. Increase the Opacity to 75%.

Group all the parts of the cup, Command + G.

Here is where we are at the moment.

Step 17

Now we will add some slight shadow coming from the base of the cap. Use the Direct Selection Tool (A) to drag down one of the head mesh points a bit, as shown below. Also, adjust the handles as well.

Step 18

Now we'll add a few freckles. Hold down Shift to create a square with the Rectangle Tool (M). The rectangle surrounds a single freckle. Fill it with the Banana Split yellow color (R=252, G=221, B=124), and give it no stroke.

Now use the Gradient Mesh Tool (U) to create the mesh grid as shown. Move the mesh points a bit using the Direct Selection Tool (A). Change the color of the center point to the Chocolate Chip brown color (R=73, G=54, B=31). Change the blending mode to Darken (this is just in case the square that surrounds the freckle intersects with the brown seam).

Step 19

Copy, rotate and scale as many freckles as you wish. I decided to put four of them, two as created in Step 18 and two a little bit less star-shaped.

Step 20

Create a new layer Command + L and place it below the "teddy bear" layer. Use the Rectangle Tool (M) to create the background rectangle at the size that you wish. Mine is 590 px wide by 675 px high, which corresponds to the span of the teddy bear that is 347 px wide by 480 px high.

Fill it with the Chocolate Chip brown color (R=73, G=54, B=31), and give it no stroke. Use the Gradient Mesh Tool (U) to add the mesh points as shown. Change the color of all the inner mesh points to the Neapolitan pink (R=238, G=156, B=176). Use the Direct Selection Tool to drag the four inner-corner mesh points a little bit toward the outer corners.

Align the bear and the background.

Step 21

To create the "Tutsy Bear" text I used the BoltonShadowedfont from Dafont. My font size is 72 pt. In the Character Panel, I switched the kerning to Optical and Tracking to 10. For the letters I use a dark brown color (R=56, G=41, B=26).

Conclusions

The main focus of this tutorial was to show you how you can easily add a retro feeling to your creations. I've chosen the gradient mesh as a tool to add the inner shadows so that my object remained fully scalable, i.e. so that no raster effects were used. Have fun and good luck applying these techniques in your own work!

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