This new tutorial is quite unique—unlike the other tutorials we’ve done in the past, this one is more like a game. First we will create many different elements of character design from scratch, and then we will use these elements to create different characters. I promise you that you will have lots of fun combining different parts together and experiencing the excitement of creating various characters.
Envato Market is a great place where you can find many character kits and mascot kits and where you can always find your inspiration. I'll let you in on a secret: that's the place which inspired me to write this tutorial for you!
Let’s get to it!
1. Draw the Head
After opening Adobe Illustrator and creating a new document with 600 x 600 px Width and Height, we will start by drawing the head, which will be the same for every character.
Using the Ellipse Tool (L), draw an oval. In the image below, you can see which fill color you need. To give the head an irregular shape, go to Effect > Warp > Inflate. Enter the options you see below.
Create two more circles, which overlap each other as in the image below. Go to the Pathfinder panel and press the Minus Front button. Now, create a circle using the same fill color as the head. Place the crescent moon shape on the circle that you just created. We have our ear.
Since this was the left ear, we’ll put it on the left side of the head. While keeping it selected, take the Reflect Tool (O). Hold down the Alt key and then click the forehead, in the center of the face.
In the new dialogue window, select Vertical, Angle 90 degrees and press Copy. Voila! We have two ears now.
A tiny ellipse on the face, close to the left ear, will show the blush on the left cheek. It needs to be slightly tilted to the right. Using the Reflect Tool (O) again (Vertical, Angle 90 degrees, Copy), create the right cheek.
Using the Rectangle Tool (M), draw a small rectangle under the head. While keeping it selected, go to Effect > Warp > Arc Lower and enter the following options:
Create three more heads like the previous one by copying-pasting. Play with colors and create different skin types, or just enter the color codes you see below.
2. Create Different Eyes
On to the eyes—the windows to our souls. To create an even circle, use the Ellipse Tool (L) while holding down the Shift key. Then add a smaller, darker circle inside (Control-C, Control-F). Add two more tiny white circles to add sparkles to the eyes.
While holding the Shift and Alt keys, move this eye to the right. You will get another copy of it to complete the eyes. For your convenience, group the eyes together (right-click > Group).
Let’s add the eyebrows. Create two circles, which overlap each other, as in the image below. Be sure that the bigger one is over the smaller. Go to the Pathfinder panel and press the Minus Front button.
Place the left eyebrow over the left eye. While keeping the left eyebrow selected, take the Reflect Tool (O) and while holding down the Alt key, click between the two eyes.
In the new dialogue window, select Vertical, Angle 90 degrees and press Copy. Now we should have the two eyebrows.
We will now duplicate the set of eyes and eyebrows to create different
variations of this set. Change the colors of the eyes and the eyebrows,
or even tilt the eyebrows a bit to create different varieties.
The set of eyes in image 3 is created by using the eyebrows, to show how your eyes close when you laugh out loud.
3. Create Different Mouths
Let’s tackle the mouth. When you create this on your own, you just need a white colored mouth, minus the black strokes—I just have the black strokes in the first few images below so that you can see better.
Let’s first create a little white ellipse, and then, using the Convert Anchor Point Tool (Shift-C), make the left and right anchor points sharp by clicking on them. Select the top and bottom anchor points (with the Direct Selection Tool (A)) and move them down by pressing the Down Arrow on your keyboard.
By moving the handles of the anchor points of the mouth, you can create many different variations of the mouth. You can also just draw a tiny ellipse like the last one in the image below, to show a singing or surprised mouth.
4. Create Different Hairstyles
Take one of the heads you created before, because it will be easier to draw the hair directly on the head.
We will use the Warp Tool (Shift-R) to style our hair. But first, we want to create one brown ellipse behind the head and one small ellipse in the forehead—these two elements will be used to stretch out—or style—the hair.
Double-click on the Warp Tool (Shift-R). Enter the options you see in the image below. Note that the arrows in the image show how to move your mouse.
It is very important to select the object before you use the Warp Tool (Shift-R)—otherwise you will spread other objects surrounding it.
Another hairstyle for another skin type.
Another idea for a hairstyle. All the hairdos here are just ideas to spark your creativity—be as creative and wild as you want!
Certain hairstyles can be made best with small circles.
5. Create the Outfits
We will now design different outfits.
Take the Rounded Rectangle Tool and create two rounded rectangles, one over the other. You can choose any color, so be creative here. Just keep in mind that the first one needs to be a slightly darker color.
Select one rectangle and go to Effect > Warp > Arc. Enter the options you see below. Both rectangles have the same options. Expand the rectangles: Object > Expand Appearance.
Draw a rectangle with any fill color and place it as shown below, covering the lower part of the rounded rectangles. We will use this as a cutter. Keeping it selected, create a copy in front (Control-C, Control-F).
Select the first rounded rectangle and the cutter, and press the Minus Front button on the Pathfinder panel. Select the copy of the cutter and the second rounded rectangle and press Minus Front in Pathfinder. This is the upper part of the torso, the shoulders and the chest.
Take the Polygon Tool and click on your art board. In the new dialogue window, enter 3 Sides and press OK. You will get a triangle. Place it as shown in the image below as part of the collar. Using the Reflect Tool (O), make a vertical copy of this triangle to complete the other part of the collar. Add a couple of circles to the shirt as buttons.
Duplicate the shirt that you made in the previous step and change the fill colors. You will get another shirt.
Here’s another way to create a new outfit—adding a vest.
Duplicate the previous shirt and create a copy of the chest part (not the collar, not the sleeves) in front (Control-C, Control-F). Apply a contrasting fill color. Then draw a triangle (no fill color, any stroke color) using the Polygon Tool and place it on the top—it will create a V-neck style. Add two ellipses using the Ellipse Tool (L)—these will create the additional cuts to our vest. Select the two ellipses, the triangle, and the contrasting chest part of the shirt, and then press Minus Front in Pathfinder.
Create a copy of the outfit you made in the previous step and change the fill colors. You just got another outfit!
Duplicate some of the previous outfits, delete the collar, and add a few stripes. Use the Intersect button on the Pathfinder panel to cut out stripes. This outfit looks like a long-sleeved, striped t-shirt.
6. Combine the Characters
Time to see what we created so far! Combine all the elements you made and create different characters. Here are a few characters that I came up with:
Now that we see the different personalities of each character, we can add some accessories accordingly.
For the gentle, singing boy, we will add a bow tie. Use the Polygon Tool to create a triangle. After making it narrower, rotate it to the right. Using the Reflect Tool (O), create a reflected vertical copy of it. Place a tiny ellipse between the two to finish the bow tie. Let’s have him try it on!
Since he is singing, we can add a few musical notes—I'm pretty sure you know which tools to use!
For this perky buddy, we will add a soccer ball. I won’t be specific in the colors that I used—it’s up to you, so just be creative.
After you create a circle, place a pentagon (use the Polygon Tool) in the
middle of it. Then delete the fill color and apply the same stroke
color. Using the Line Segment Tool (\), draw a line from each point of
the polygon towards the boundaries of the circle. Add five more
pentagons (no stroke color, dark fill color) as shown in the image
Select the circle you created in the beginning of this step, and make a copy in front (Control-C, Control-F). Then choose one of the pentagons which overlaps the circle. Press Intersect in Pathfinder. Make a copy of the circle again. Select the second overlapping pentagon and press Intersect in Pathfinder. Create a copy of the circle in front once more, select the third pentagon and… yes… continue to do the same until you have covered all five pentagons.
This funny little guy spends all day playing video games, and the result is obvious—he needs glasses.
Use the Ellipse Tool (L) to create a circle. It needs to have a black stroke color and a black fill color with Soft Light Transparency. Be careful with the Transparency: after you create a circle with black stroke and fill color, go to the Appearance panel, select the word Fill and then apply Soft Light on the Transparency panel. Hold the Shift and the Alt keys together, and move this glass to the right. You just duplicated it.
Use the Pencil Tool (N) with a thick black stroke and no fill to create the frame of the glasses.
Draw a rectangle (no stroke, black fill color) to create the temples of the glasses (see image 2). Use the Reflect Tool (O) to create another temple. Let the boy try them on!
This cute African boy might be enjoying his music. Let’s give him a set of headphones.
Draw a circle using the Ellipse Tool (L) with no fill and the stroke color of your choice. Grab the Scissors Tool (C) and simply click on the left and right anchor points of this circle. Delete the unneeded parts, and you will get a half circle.
While keeping it selected, make a copy in front, and on the Stroke panel, make this new stroke thicker. Also check Round Cap on the Stroke panel. Take the Scissors Tool (C) again and delete the unneeded parts marked in the image below. You just got the headband of the headphones.
Image 2. Delete the stroke color and set the fill color. Draw an ellipse. Add a rounded rectangle using the Rounded Rectangle Tool. Place those two shapes on the headband. Using the Reflect Tool (O), make a reflection of the left cushion to get the right one. Let’s give the headphones to the boy.
7. Create the Background
Now for your convenience, you can create a New layer. Go to the Layers
panel (Window > Layers) and hit the button Create New Layer. Then
lock the layer where you have drawn the characters and—very
important—drag (with your mouse) this newly created layer under the
layer where the characters are.
Draw a square with the blue fill color,
at size 600 px in the Width and Height. Then draw five darker vertical
rectangles. Leave the right side of the background free—you will place
the completed characters there.
Name every dark blue vertical rectangle using the Type Tool (T). Your text will probably be black, so you can change it to the color of your choice.
Before dragging every piece to its place, group each piece of the character. Put everything in its place.
Here comes the most interesting moment of this tutorial—combining all the different elements into different characters. Enjoy!
Yippee! We’ve done it again! Huge congratulations to you, because it was a huge project. I'm sure you can easily create a bunch of different characters now. I’ll just leave you to it and let you enjoy the process… until next time.