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This tutorial goes through the full process of creating a cute dressed fox, drawn and colored in a "flat" style. We will learn how to create fur, clothes, accessories and texture using simple methods in Adobe Illustrator.
1. Create a Base Above Your Sketch
We'll start by making a rough sketch of our character directly in Adobe Illustrator using the Pencil Tool (N). Set the Pencil Tool options by double-clicking on the Pencil Tool icon and using the following: Fidelity - 2px, Smoothness - 2%. This will make the drawing more natural and easy.
We'll start from building a basic head-shape. For this purpose, take the Ellipse Tool (L) and make a slightly squashed orange circle. Place it on a new layer under the sketch layer. Don't forget to lock your sketch layer in order to not to move it accidentally.
Use the Pencil Tool (N) to draw a cheek that is a distorted triangle. Double-click on the Reflect Tool (O) and hit the Copy button to add a second cheek by reflecting it over the vertical axis.
Add two lovely ears in the same way as we just did it with the cheeks and move forward, to the clothes.
Switch the color to olive-green and form a basic sweater shape with the Pencil Tool (N) by drawing out the lines of your sketch.
Draw a little red paw with three tiny fingers using the Pencil Tool (N).
Continue adding basic shapes for the dark-blue denim skirt.
Draw one leg and duplicate it to make a second one. Add a big fancy tail. Move the anchor points to make the lines more smooth and flowing.
2. Add Details to the Face
Add a nose to our fox by drawing a smooth triangle shape filled with dark-brown.
Add a squashed circle for the eye of a same brown color as the nose.
We'll use the Blob Brush Tool (B) to add a few more details to the eye. Double-click on the Blob Brush Tool (B) and adjust the following settings as shown on the screenshot below:
Now add a couple of smooth lines forming the upper eye-lid and a pair of small eye-lashes.
Well done! Add some highlights on the eye and the nose by drawing white spots with the Ellipse Tool (L) in order to make the image more glittering.
The next important facial detail – is a cute mouth. We'll create it using the Pathfinder panel. First of all, draw two squashed circles and turn them into a Compound Path (Control-8) or use the Unite function in Pathfinder to create a single shape. Duplicate them and move the copy a few pixels up as shown on the screenshot:
Select both copies and use Minus Front in the Pathfinder panel to form a mouth curve.
Let's move on and add more colors to the face. Draw a curved shape from the cheeks to the nose. Fill it with a light beige color.
Duplicate the basic head shape, and keeping the selection on both head shape and beige shape, use Intersect in Pathfinder to cut off the unneeded parts of the beige shape.
Let's make our fox more fancy! Change her ear color to the same dark-brown as on her nose. In order to make the ears blend nicely with the head, add a couple of red furry pieces to both ears. Draw a smooth curly lock on her forehead so that she doesn't look bald.
Do the same with the paws by adding dark shapes to them and using Pathfinder.
Finally, the basic shapes of our fox should look like this:
3. Separate the Parts by Adding Shadows
Copy the basic head shape and move it down a bit. Use Pathfinder as we did it before to form a gentle shadow under the fox's head falling on the sweater. Change the color of the shadow to a darker olive.
Let's add a more complete and fashionable look to the skirt. For this purpose, use a Pencil Tool (N) to draw a shape which will form a pocket and fill it with darker blue color. Use Intersect again, to cut off the unnecessary parts.
Add some details to the pocket by drawing a curved line with the Pen Tool (P) with a lighter blue stroke color. Then go to Stroke panel (Window > Stroke) and check the Dashed Line box. Set dash to 4pt and gap to 2pt to make a dashed line looking like a stitch around the pocket.
Furthermore, we need to make the tail more dimensional. Draw a curved shape that covers the lower part of the tail (I've moved it under the tail on the screenshot so that you can see which part of the tail is covered).
Duplicate the basic tail shape several times and use Pathfinder to form the shadows. One for the upper part of the tail (fill it with darker beige color) and the second one for the rest tail-part (darker orange color).
4. Create the Fox Fur With Custom Brushes
Let's make the process of adding fur simple and fun! For this purpose we'll create our own fur brush which is very easy.
Draw a small squashed circle. Its size should be the size of one hair on the fox's coat. Drag and drop the shape on the Brushes panel and choose Scatter Brush in the pop-up menu. Edit the settings of this brush as shown on the screenshot below.
Let's see how it works. Draw several curved lines with Pencil Tool (N) crossing the tail. Select the lines and click on the newly created brush. Voila! The tail looks much better now!
Continue adding fur in a same way to other body parts.
After you've finished adding fur, select all the brush strokes, go to Object > Expand Appearance and recolor those fur-shapes which are on the paws and ears. As far as the ears and paws are dark-brown, make the fur a bit lighter there.
After expanding the brush strokes, you have an opportunity to move and rotate every fur-part separately.
5. Add the Accessories
Let's add to our fox more trendy items! Draw a circle using the Ellipse Tool (L) and holding Shift button to make it perfectly round. Fill it with the same light-blue color as the stitches on the skirt (use the Eyedropper Tool (I) to pick the necessary color).
Add four small circles in the middle of the button and use Pathfinder to cut out the holes. The go to Object > Path > Offset Path and set the Offset value to 2px to create the outer ring of our button.
Cut out the holes in the newly created shape as well.
To make the button more dimensional, we'll add some shadows and highlights. Select the outer ring of our button and duplicate it twice. Move the upper copy down a bit. Use Minus front function in Pathfinder again to get the shapes that we need. Fill the lower shape with darker color forming a deep shadow and the upper shape with lighter color to make a highlight.
Let's sew our button down! Take the Rounded Rectangle Tool and draw a stitch filled with dark brown color. Add shadow as we just did it with the button itself.
Use the Reflect Tool (O) to copy and reflect our stitch.
Duplicate our button twice and put the copies in a vertical row.
6. Create a Stylish Sweater Texture
It's time to make a popular sweater-texture! And it is not so hard as it may seem, as far as we are drawing in a "flat" style.
Draw a vertical rectangle using the Rectangle Tool (M). Go to Effect > Distort & Transform > Zig Zag and play with the Options to turn your line into a funny smooth "snake". Don't forget to Object > Expand your shape. Fill it with an olive green color, slightly lighter than the sweater itself.
Copy and reflect the shape. Fill the upper shape with darker olive color.
Now we need to wrap the shapes around each other and make something like a braid. For this purpose we need to delete the middle part of the upper shape in those places where it should be hidden behind the lower shape. Take the Scissors Tool (C) and click on the points which are marked on the screenshot below.
After you've clicked on the points, delete the unneeded parts in the middle which are left after these manipulations.
As a result, you'll get something like this:
Let's move on and create another part of our pattern. It reminds me of a simplified upside down X-mas tree. Make a vertical shape with Rounded Rectangle Tool and Rotate it to 45 degrees angle by holding Shift button and turning it.
Copy and reflect your shape and put the shapes together so that the center points of their lower parts match. Duplicate the created "V" group of two shapes and move it down as show on the screenshot. Color the newly created shape in the lighter olive color.
You can copy and drag down every new shape manually or, to speed up your work, copy and move the shape once and then just hit Control-D. This command repeats your last action and again which makes it much easier to do the tedious action. Don't forget to recolor the alternated parts.
After creating the elements for out texture, copy them into the clipboard, select the sweater shape and turn the Draw Inside mode, which you can find in the bottom of the Tool panel.
After you've entered the Draw Inside mode (you will see the dashed corners around your shape), paste the pattern shapes and move them around to your liking. The unnecessary parts will be automatically hidden.
This is how the fox's sweater should look like with a trendy pattern.
7. Add a Simple Background
To give out image a complete look, let's add some details to it. Create a New Layer under the layer with your fox and draw several squashed ellipses with the Ellipse Tool (L), combining them together so that they look like a single shape. Add smaller ellipses around.
Add a white rectangle and four smaller shapes inside with the Rectangle Tool (M), forming a window frame. Use Pathfinder to cut out the holes.
Go to Effect > Distort & Transform > Free Distort and move the points of the window to show the perspective.
Add some stars (using Star Tool) and spots of various sizes inside the holes of the window-frame.
Let's separate our fox from the background by making a smooth outline around it. Select all the fox's parts and go to Path > Offset Path. Set the Offset value to 5px.
Keeping the selection, switch the fill color to white.
Click the Unite button in the Pathfinder to turn the separate white parts into a single shape. Finally, move the newly created white shape under the fox forming a white stroke around the character.
Yay! The Cute Fox Illustration is Complete!
As you can see, in the final version I've slightly changed the background color from milk-white to light-beige and from blue to gentle lilac. Hope you've enjoyed this tutorial and found some useful tips and tricks!