In this tutorial, we'll go through the step by step creation of a cute illustration of an American classic war plane, the A-10 Warthog. This design is intended for branding a boys bicycle. Even if you are a more advanced Illustrator user, you will follow techniques that can streamline your own process.
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.
First, let's talk a little about the concept. I know this is going to be an illustration used on a boy's bicycle. With that in mind, I quickly sketched up an A-10 Warthog that is age appropriate.
My process with sketching is pretty simple, I start off using a drafting pencil with non-photo blue. As you can tell from this, it really isn't non-photo, but it works great for roughing in a sketch. Knowing this is a kids illustration, the goal isn't too necessary worry about exact proportions, but rather making it a "character" more than an aircraft. Since I do not own a scanner, a quick photo with my iphone, and we are ready to start.
If you open up the file, "Warthog_illustration_Start.ai," you will see that I have already placed the linked image and we are ready to begin. Notice we have two layers, "illustration" and "BG." I have placed the illustration on the "BG" layer and locked the layer... this is so we can quickly turn off the background, and not accidently select the image while we are working. Let's begin.
First, select the Ellipse Tool (L) and create a circle (hold Shift while dragging) roughly the size of the front engine intake.
Next, rotate the circle and transform the circle so that it fits the engine intake.
Now, with the circle still selected, Copy (Command + C) and Paste in Front (Command + F). Now scale that ellipse while holding Shift so that it is smaller than the original. See the image below for reference.
Now use the Pen Tool (P) to draw the engine shape, as seen below.
Note - when using the Pen Tool, it is important to use as few points as possible to create the shapes. The colored circles below represent where I created points. On this shape, I started where you see the blue circle and then went to the green circles, and finished with the orange circle. Understanding that this shape will be behind the engine intake is important, as "closing" the shape doesn't have to be pretty... just fast.
The purple circle is just created to allow for closing the shape... which happened when I clicked on the original blue circle. Remember to use Alt to adjust the handles. If you need more assistance with using the Pen Tool, visit the following tutorial: Illustrators Pen Tool: The Comprehensive Guide.
Next, select the inner ellipse and Copy and Paste in Front. Then Alt-click and Drag to duplicate the inner circle. Use the image below for reference as to where to drag it to.
Now, select both the newly created circle (represented in black below) and the copied inner ellipse (represented in red below), and under the Pathfinder Pallet select the Intersection icon (highlighted in green below).
This is what you should end up with.
Note - I hid the inner circle (Command + 3) to illustrate the shape that we end up with, but as you can see from the following images, I unhide it (Command + Option + 3).
Now select the outer circle and the engine shape, and select the Union icon in the Pathfinder Pallet.
Now let's move on to the body, use the Pen Tool to create the main body shape.
Next I created the wing. At this point I realized that my perspective was really off in my quick sketch...
So I selected everything and Reflected it. I do this often when working on illustrations, as it helps make sure things look right. It really is amazing how off things can be sometimes, and you never notice it until it is reflected.
Here is the reflected image... I need to rotate the wing...
Here is the adjustment I made to the wing, I think this looks MUCH better, let's continue...
I filled in all the shapes with a good green (PMS 350 is perfect).
Note, if you have drawn all of these shapes in the order I have thus far, the body of the aircraft is in front of the engine. To fix this, select the body and send it to the back, Command + Shift + [.
Now let's work on the other wing. At this point I am deviating from my sketch, so I made some quick guides (as seen in blue below) so that the perspective on that wing will match.
Next, draw the wing.
Fill with Green.
And then send to back, Command + Shift + [.
Now, draw the cockpit canopy.
We need some separation from the cockpit canopy, so I made a little "frame piece." When done drawing, fill with a darker green and send it back behind the cockpit canopy, Command + [.
Select the whole engine, and Alt-click & drag to where the other engine is located.
Once in place, send to the back, Command + Shift + [.
I felt like the back engine was a little too large, and I wanted to modify the perspective of the engine a bit. I squashed it a bit using the Transform Tool, and then rotated it some, and modified the shape a touch.
There we go, MUCH better. This is looking pretty good so far!
Since I really like where this is going, I want to give it a bit of character... the easiest way to do that is to play with line weight. In the past, this was a PAIN to do. It involved offsetting paths, scaling, and redrawing a bit. THANKFULLY, Adobe has incorporated a line weight tool called Width Shift. The icon is highlighted below, and the keyboard shortcut is Shift + W, which is easy to remember... SHIFT the Width of the line.
The goal here is to give the object a bit of line width variation. This is to accomplish a few things:
- Make the illustration more interesting.
- Give the plane a bit more weight, to ground it.
- Adds character to the illustration.
I also decided to weight the front a little. This helps add depth between the engine and the body.
Here is the outcome of the line weight adjustments. As you can see, what this tool actually does is create a stroke profile, as you can see in the Stroke Pallet.
Now, lets do the same to the back engine.
Here is the outcome...
Let's also adjust the line weights of the inner ring. This one, we will weight the top because it is the inside of the engine intake.
Here is the outcome of this. You can see this really adds interest to the illustration.
And now, let's adjust the weight of the other engine intake.
At this point, we need to adjust the line weight on the body.
It's looking good so far! If you have made it this far, give yourself a pat on the back, and lets continue!
Now, let's draw the tail section. I started with the piece closest to us. I deviated from the sketch, but I will discuss that more during Step 41.
Repeat the process for varying the line width, using the Width Tool.
I want to take a moment to explain why I didn't stick to the sketch. The plane so far has a lot of character, and it almost has a slight fish-eye lens look to it. I wanted to continue this on the tail (which I didn't do on my sketch). I've drawn blue lines in there for reference to show the angel we would use if we were trying to make it "accurate."
Go ahead and Command-click + Drag the tail over to the other side to make a duplicate.
And now send it to the back, Command + Shift + [.
I decided to scale and tuck the back tail in a bit. The highlighted tail below shows how much I moved and scaled the tail.
I quick flip, to make sure it looks right... I have done this around 5 times so far. It is always good to do this when illustrating to give your eyes a fresh look.
Now, lets give the wing some weight by adjusting the width of the stroke, just like we have done on all the other pieces.
And now the other wing.
Here is the progress so far.
Now, lets draw the wing tank. Remember, we deviated from the sketch a little, so keep that in mind when drawing.
Adjust the line weight of the wing tank.
Command-click + Drag to duplicate.
Now scale it down a bit. Since this will be hidden by the canopy, it doesn't have to be accurate in scale.
Next, draw the tail fin wing. You can either send it back, until it is in the right place OR you can be creative in what you bring forward. This is all a personal preference of course. In this instance, I selected the closest tail fin, and the closest engine and pulled them to the front.
Next I drew the end of the tail wing.
I filled everything back with color, and adjusted the weight of the end piece.
At this point, we have the base of the illustration completed, so now we can just add details.
And on the other side.
Next, I added a flap to the wing
Now open up "mouth.ai."
Copy and paste the mouth into the illustration.
Scale it down just a bit, and we are going to distort it into place. With the mouth still selected create an Envelope Mesh, Command + Option + M. I used a 4 by 4 mesh.
This will take some time, but move all of the points and handles until you have something you like. See below for basic reference.
Next, draw the tusk.
Alt-click + Drag the tusk to make a duplicate.
Select the back wing and the tusk, and send them to the back.
Now let's draw the warthog nose.
Now that we have the base completed, we can draw the nostrils.
Next, to give the character more life, we are going to create some nose wrinkles.
Don't forget to use the Weight Tool to adjust the line width. Make sure they are filled with green as well, to block the artwork behind them.
Group the nose , Command + G, and bring the group to the front, Command + Shift + ].
Now, draw the eye.
For the inner part of the eye, create a circle and apply a radial gradient with red on the outside, and green on the inside.
Copy and Paste in Front, and fill with black. Then scale down as shown.
Then move the eye into place, rotate it a bit, and pinch in the sides to give it some perspective. Go ahead and group these together as well.
Copy the white part of the eye, and paste in front. Now select both the white part, and the inner eye, and create a Clipping Mask (Command + 7).
Next, draw the underside of the eye socket.
Adjust the line weight
And do the same two steps for the other side.
Now we need to make some missile docks. Lets start with the close wing...
Duplicate it a few times and position accordingly.
Now copy those three docks over to the other wing. I also scaled down a little bit as well.
Select the ring running around the engine intake...
Move it so it is on top of the recessed black area. I made this stroke red for visibility only. Copy the circle and Paste in Front, then hide what you just pasted (Command + 3).
Now scale it down while holding the Shift key so that it scales proportionally.
I adjusted the left anchor point so that the shape has a bit of a point on it. Use the image below as a reference.
Make the shape gray, and copy it over to the other intake.
Now we are going to create the fan within the engine intake... start by making the circle.
Now create a rectangle, use the image below as reference...
Create two points on the the sides of the rectangle and move both points towards the middle as seen below.
Select the "rectangle" and rotate it 45 degrees, hit the "Copy" within the dialog box.
Duplicate that action by pressing Command + D two times.
Select the circle, and scale the circle a bit so that it is inside the rectangles, see the image below as a reference.
Select all the rectangles, and use the Pathfinder Union Tool to create a unified shape.
Now, select both the fan and the circle, and select the Pathfinder Intersect Tool (the icon third from the left).
Unhide the circle that we hid before (Command + Alt + 3). Now Copy and move the fan in over the circle. Scale it so that it fits roughly the shape of the circle. Use the image below as a reference. Once it is scaled, hide the red circle again.
Bring the nose of the intake fan to the front by selecting and and using the following keyboard shortcut, Command + Alt + ].
Select the black shape behind the fan, bring to the front (Command + Alt + ]) and while holding shift, select the fan. Now create a Clipping Mask (Command + 7).
Repeat the process on the other intake, or just copy and past the fan, then create a new clipping mask using the left engine intake black area. We are ALMOST done... one final little step.
Unhide the red circle, add and delete points using the Pen Tool to make the shape seen below.
Make the red circle stroke black, and adjust the line weight. Repeat this process on the other side.
WE ARE DONE! I hope you enjoyed this tutorial. Feel free to ask questions in the comments.