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How to Draw a Set of Emoticons in Adobe Illustrator

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Final product image
What You'll Be Creating
This tutorial was originally published in January 2013 as a Tuts+ Premium tutorial. It is now available free to view. Although this tutorial does not use the latest version of Adobe Illustrator, its techniques and process are still relevant. 

In this tutorial we are going to draw a set of Emoticons or Smileys by using gradients and basics shapes that, combined with the Pathfinder panel, will give the emoticons life. So let's begin.

1. Create the Emoticon Base

Step 1

First open a New document (Command-N) and add layers in this order: on top it's the "Faces" layer, then the "Faces Sketch" layer and the "Base" layer (in here we are going to draw our base shape of the emoticons) and finally the "Base Sketch" layer.

Create the Emoticon Base

Step 2

In the "Base Sketch" layer we draw our base figure of the emoticons by using the Blob Brush Tool (Shift-B). In this case it's just a circle with some lines to define shadows and lights. Lower the Opacity of the sketch to 40% and lock the "Base Sketch" layer. We are going to begin to draw in the "Base" layer.

Create the Emoticon Base

Step 3

Our circle (L) size is 300 x 300 px. This is the basic shape, so draw it with a 1 pt black stroke.

Create the Emoticon Base

Step 4

Select the circle and apply the Offset Path option (Object > Path > Offset Path) with a -10 px Offset value. With this we get a circle a little smaller than our original circle (you can also do it by duplicating it and scale it).

Create the Emoticon Base

Step 5

Now duplicate the circle (the blue one in the image) with Command-C to Copy and Command-F to Paste in Front, and drag it like the magenta circle in the image. Duplicate the blue circle again, select both circles, and apply Intersect in the Pathfinder panel.

Create the Emoticon Base

And we get this figure (yellow one)—this is the light area of the emoticon.

Create the Emoticon Base

Step 6

Now repeat the process—duplicate the circle again. Drag it like the magenta circle in the image, duplicate the blue circle in the image again, select both, and apply Intersect in the Pathfinder panel again.

Create the Emoticon Base

And we get this figure (yellow one)—this is the darker area of the emoticon.

Create the Emoticon Base

Step 7

Select all the shapes and press D. This is our emoticon's base shape without color. With the color application we are going to detail a little bit more. Now you can delete your "Base Sketch" layer.

Create the Emoticon Base

Step 8

This is our color palette:

  • White #FFFFFF
  • Yellow #FCF17C
  • Red #F05850
  • Blue #67CDF5
  • Brown #641912

With these colors we are going to generate all the gradient combinations to have a more complete palette (all the gradients we are going to use are linear gradients). To save your palette colors, select the colors and click the New Color Group icon in the Swatches panel.

Create the Emoticon Base

Just give a name to your palette and click OK.

Create the Emoticon Base

Step 9

Now we add the gradients of each color, first from an opacity of 100% to 0% for each one. To change colors in the gradient window, just double click on the color and you get your Swatches panel, and there you change the colors.

Create the Emoticon Base

Step 10

Now the gradients with all the colors with white.

Create the Emoticon Base

Now with the yellow color.

Create the Emoticon Base

The red color.

Create the Emoticon Base

And finally the blue. Now we have all the gradient combinations of these colors, and this will be our color palette. To add gradients to the Swatches panel, you need to drag them from the color window.

Create the Emoticon Base

Step 11

For applying the colors, I recommend having your colors near your illustration and applying them with the Eyedropper Tool (I). If you click with this tool, you get the color value of the figure you click, and if you press Alt you use that color to paint. We start with the yellow color.

Create the Emoticon Base

Step 12

Now apply the red and yellow gradient; however, in the Gradient panel we will select Radial instead of Linear. This will be the only gradient that we use in Radial mode.

Create the Emoticon Base

Step 13

For the shadow, we use the Red Gradient like in the image.

Create the Emoticon Base

Step 14

For the light, we use the white gradient. Now we are starting to see some depth in our shape.

Create the Emoticon Base

Step 15

Add more detail to our base, and now we are ready to start drawing the faces of our emoticons.

Create the Emoticon Base

2. Create the Crying Emoticon

Step 1

We copy five circles of our base shape for the emoticons and in our "Faces Sketch" layer. We draw the sketches—sad, angry, surprised, happy and in love expressions—by using the Blob Brush Tool (Shift-B). We put the Opacity to 40% to redraw more easily, lock this layer, and we start to redraw in our "Faces" layer.

Create the Crying Emoticon

Step 2

For the sad emoticon, we begin by drawing the eyes. The shapes we are going to use are a Rectangle (M) and a Rounded Rectangle. Remember to align the sketch to our emoticon base shape.

Create the Crying Emoticon

Step 3

Now, to add more detail like the shine of the tears, we draw a figure made of triangles with the Polygon Tool. Intersect it with the Pathfinder panel into the rectangle shape.

Create the Crying Emoticon

Step 4

To draw the shine, draw a triangle with the Polygon Tool. To do it, draw a Polygon and with the arrow keys up and down you can add or remove sides to the polygon. Make a triangle and then duplicate it by dragging it and pressing Alt. Then Command-D to duplicate a copy at the same distance, and then duplicate the three triangles and rotate them with the Rotate Tool (R) like in the image. Finally apply Unite in the Pathfinder panel.

Create the Crying Emoticon

Step 5

To start the mouth, we begin by drawing a Rounded Rectangle. Select it, and then with the Eraser Tool (Shift-E) by pressing Alt we make a drag and erase half of the shape. Then we duplicate our shape and again with the Eraser Tool make another drag to get the teeth. 

Add some rectangles for more detail. First draw one and then duplicate it. To do this select it and then press Alt-Shift and drag it to get a copy of your rectangle figure. Then press Command-D to do your last step and you get a copy of it at the same distance. Then select the three. Apply Unite in the Pathfinder panel, and finally apply Intersect in the Pathfinder panel with the tooth shape (remember to duplicate your base shape).

Create the Crying Emoticon

Step 6

Now to add the shape of the shadow of the teeth. Use your base shape and duplicate it and drag it down a little, and then duplicate again and you get the shadow shape. To make the tongue you can use your mouth base shape and scale it and then duplicate it and apply Unite in the Pathfinder panel. Finally duplicate your mouth base shape and Intersect the shapes.

Create the Crying Emoticon

Step 7

Once you have created the tongue, to give more detail to the mouth you can use a circle and Crop it with our mouth base figure. Then just draw a little circle and apply Minus Front in the Pathfinder panel. Now our sad emoticon mouth is done.

Create the Crying Emoticon

This is the look of the emoticon Sad face. Remember to group everything and Align it to the center.

Create the Crying Emoticon

Step 8

Select the face and press D to set it with the basic Black line and White fill. If you need to send something to front or back, just select the object and Cut it (Command-X) and select the object where you want to Paste in Front (Command-F) or Paste in Back (Command-B). Use the Pathfinder panel to paste the tears inside our emoticon base shape, and align all to center. Now we are going to begin to add some colors.

Create the Crying Emoticon

Step 9

For the eyes we use our brown solid color, for the tears the yellow and blue gradient, and for the shine the white gradient. Apply them like in the image.

Create the Crying Emoticon

To paint the mouth we use the brown and red gradient, for the tongue the yellow and red, and the brown gradient to the last detail. You can play with the values of the gradients as you wish, or you can apply them like in the image.

Create the Crying Emoticon

For the teeth we use the blue color for the lines and our blue and white gradient for the tooth base. For the shadow we use our brown gradient, and now our sad emoticon is finished.

Create the Crying Emoticon

3. Create the Angry Emoticon

Step 1

Now with the angry emoticon, we begin with a circle for the eye.

Create the Angry Emoticon

Step 2

To draw the eye, first use the Eraser Tool (Shift-E) and erase with a drag by pressing Alt and drag to cut the circle to the half. Then duplicate your figure and drag it and use Minus Front in the Pathfinder panel to make the eyelid. Finally duplicate your eye's shape and erase with a drag to make the shadow.

Create the Angry Emoticon

Step 3

To the eyebrow we only need to draw a triangle and transform it like in the image. Then just rotate it and add it to the eye as shown.

Create the Angry Emoticon

Step 4

To make the horns, we start with a circle and then grab the upper node and drag it like in the image. Then remove the anchor points of the node with the Convert Anchor Point Tool (Shift-C) and click on the node. With this tool you can add or remove anchor points. Finally just rotate the horn as shown in the image.

Create the Angry Emoticon

Step 5

To make the mouth we start with a triangle, and then remove the nodes with the Scissors Tool (C). Just click on the nodes and remove the segment. Another way to cut anchor points is by selecting them and on the application bar clicking on the scissors icon. The cut will be exactly in the node(s) you select. Then, after removing the nodes, add some points to the line and apply Outline Stroke (Object > Path > Outline Stroke), and finally with the Eraser Tool erase with a drag and we've got the mouth.

Create the Angry Emoticon

Our Angry emoticon's face will look something like this.

Create the Angry Emoticon

Step 6

We align to the center our angry face to the emoticon base, and now we are going to begin with the color. And we erase a part of the shine (in magenta) because of the horns.

Create the Angry Emoticon

Step 7

First we color the horns with our yellow and red gradient and the eyebrows with brown color.

Create the Angry Emoticon

For the eyes and mouth use red, for the eyes' shadow the brown gradient, and for the eyelids the yellow and red gradient. Our angry face is almost done.

Create the Angry Emoticon

Add some details like the shine in the horns with white gradient and the shadow behind them with red gradient, remembering to apply the Pathfinder to Crop the objects. Our angry emoticon is done.

Create the Angry Emoticon

4. Create the Surprised Emoticon

Step 1

For the surprised emoticon we begin with a rounded rectangle for the eyes.

Create the Surprised Emoticon

Step 2

You can do the eye by using the Offset Path and then duplicating the figure and erasing with a drag with the Eraser Tool like the magenta figure in the image. Finally add some circles for the shine in the eyes.

Create the Surprised Emoticon

Step 3

For the mouth, we begin with a simple circle, and for the teeth two rounded rectangles. Apply Unite in the Pathfinder and Crop them inside the circle, and then generate a smaller circle by selecting the object and applying Offset Path.

Create the Surprised Emoticon

Step 4

Duplicate the teeth and use Minus Front in Pathfinder to generate the shadows. To make the tongue, add two circles and apply Unite and then crop with the main circle of the mouth.

Create the Surprised Emoticon

Step 5

To add more detail to the mouth, you can draw the throat with a circle for the base and combine a rectangle and a circle for the uvula. Apply Unite in the Pathfinder, select the nodes as you see in the image (green dashed line), and in the Toolbar convert them to rounded to give a smoother look. Finally apply Minus Front.

Create the Surprised Emoticon

Our Surprised face is done. Remember to press D and arrange the objects where they belong by cutting them and pasting them in front or behind the part where they should be. When you get used to this, it's faster than using the arrange commands.

Create the Surprised Emoticon

Step 6

Align the surprised face to the emoticon's base shape, and let's begin with the colors.

Create the Surprised Emoticon

Step 7

For the eyes we use the brown color, for the eyes' shines we use the yellow and white gradients, and for the detail in the eyes the yellow and red gradient.

Create the Surprised Emoticon

For the cheeks we use the red color, for the teeth the white and blue gradient, and for the shadow the brown and blue gradient.

Create the Surprised Emoticon

For the mouth we use the yellow and red gradient to add color to the tongue, the brown and red gradient for the mouth, and for the throat the brown color. Our surprised emoticon is finished.

Create the Surprised Emoticon

5. Create the Happy Emoticon

Step 1

We can start the happy emoticon with a circle to draw a big smile.

Create the Happy Emoticon

Step 2

First apply the Eraser Tool and erase half of the circle with a drag.

Create the Happy Emoticon

Step 3

To create the teeth, first draw a Rounded Rectangle and then duplicate it like in the image. Then use the Eraser Tool, and finally duplicate them and use the Reflection Tool (O).

Create the Happy Emoticon

Step 4

Align the teeth to the mouth shape, and then remove one of the teeth.

Create the Happy Emoticon

Step 5

For the tongue and throat we can use the same as in the surprised face—just crop it in the mouth's base shape.

Create the Happy Emoticon

Step 6

For the eye, draw a circle, remove some nodes and add some points to the line, and make the values of the line Round Cap and Round Join. Finally apply Outline Stroke.

Create the Happy Emoticon

Our happy face is done, and now we can color it.

Create the Happy Emoticon

Step 7

As with the previous emoticons, align the face to the center, and now let's begin with colors.

Create the Happy Emoticon

For the eyes we use our yellow and brown gradient, and for the cheeks the red color.

Create the Happy Emoticon

For the teeth we use the white and blue gradient and for the shadow the brown gradient. To separate the teeth in different planes, just adjust the gradient to give volume and a sensation of depth in the teeth.

Create the Happy Emoticon

The colors of the mouth are the same as the surprised face—just the light in the tongue is a white gradient. Our happy emoticon is finished.

Create the Happy Emoticon

6. Create the Love Emoticon

Step 1

Finally the in love emoticon. As with all of the previous emoticons, align the sketch to the center and start the re-drawing.

Create the Love Emoticon

Step 2

To draw the heart, the base is two circles. Apply Unite in the Pathfinder and drag the node in the middle, as shown in the picture.

Create the Love Emoticon

Step 3

Select the node in the middle and remove the anchor points. You can do it by clicking on the icon in the application bar and converting to corner, or you can convert it to corner with the Convert Anchor Point Tool (Shift-C). After this, adjust the nodes to make the heart more rounded, and finally apply Offset Path.

Create the Love Emoticon

Step 4

To make the mouth, we start with a circle, remove some anchor points, and duplicate and drag like in the image. Then add more points to the stroke, apply Outline Stroke, and finally apply Unite to convert it into one path.

Create the Love Emoticon

Our in love emoticon face is done.

Create the Love Emoticon

Step 5

Align the face to our emoticon's base.

Create the Love Emoticon

For the hearts we use the red and brown gradient, and for the light the white gradient.

Create the Love Emoticon

For the mouth and cheeks we use the red color, and our in love emoticon is finished.

Create the Love Emoticon

Awesome Work!

This is our last result. Hope you have enjoyed this tutorial! If you make some emoticons, share them with us. Saludos to everyone!

End Result
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