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Create a Cartoon Bear Scene Using Repeating Shapes in Illustrator

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Read Time: 11 min

In this tutorial, I will be discussing various points in making a cartoon bear scene with simple shapes and with a limiter color palette in Adobe Illustrator. From sketching and planning, I will be choosing the overall color and feel with Adobe Kuler, illustrating main elements for the scene and learning to reuse existing illustrations to save time but will still be able to present a unique look in the elements to avoid redundancy in the design. Now let's get started!

1. Prepare the Sketch

This will already serve as reminder for everyone: sketching is a very important part of the design process. When we sketch, we get to have an overview of what we would like to achieve in our illustrations. For this tutorial, I drew a very rough sketch in Adobe Photoshop, with enough clarity to distinguish basic shapes.


2. Identify the Basic Shapes Needed for the Illustration

In order for us to have an efficient way of illustrating things for the artwork, it is also important to plan ahead on what are the shapes that we will be using. For this tutorial, please refer to the image below that will tell you my plans in a nutshell.


3. Plan the Look and Feel of the Scene With Adobe Kuler

There are a lot of color palette creation extensions and websites that I know on the web, but I really prefer using Kuler from Adobe among anything else. Adobe Kuler has an extension for Adobe Illustrator CS5 and CS6 which lets you choose your desired color schemes, right inside your Adobe Illustrator application. Illustrator CC has Kuler fully integrated, so you don't even need to download any extensions. Pretty handy, right? For this tutorial, I'll be using the downloadable extension for CS5 and CS6.

Step 1

Activate the Adobe Kuler extension panel by going to Window > Extension > Adobe Kuler and you'll see that the extension panel will appear in your workspace.


Step 2

While Adobe Kuler lets us choose different color palettes, we still need manually add them to our local workspace by adding it to the Swatches panel. In order to do this, go to Window > Swatches to add the Swatches panel in your workspace. In your Adobe Kuler extension panel, type in your desired and related keywords so you can see the available color palettes available.

I decided to go for something with an Autumn feel so I searched for the keyword Orange. Select your desired color palette from the search results and click the Add Selected Theme to Swatches found at the bottom part of the panel. After clicking it, you'll notice that your selected palette is now stored in your local Swatches panel. Do this until you have all your desired colors that will help you decide with the overall look and feel for the illustration.


Please take note that the colors that we chose are just guidelines for the illustration. During the process, we can use the default colors from the selection but we can also play with the colors a little bit to achieve something new and unique. In short, just play with the colors until you find something new suitable for your taste and style.

4. Create a New Document

Create a New document by going to File > New (Control + N) and use the following settings and hit OK.


5. Create the Mountains

Step 1

Using the Pen Tool (P), draw a triangle and select an orange from your palette. For this, I used #EF5411 fill color with no stroke.


Step 2

Select the orange triangle and activate the Draw Inside option on your Tools bar. Using the Pen Tool (P), make an ice cap looking shape similar to the image below. Select a light orange color (#FFC887) for the fill.


Step 3

Still using the Pen Tool (P) with the Draw Inside option active, draw some random shapes (refer to the shape below for an example) with straight lines and and used two colors (#800C00 with Blending Mode Overlay, 50% Opacity and #CC3A00 with Blending Mode Multiply, 60% Opacity). Make sure that you put the shapes below the ice cap shape.


Step 4

We are going to make three copies of the mountain. For the first one, select the mountain and Copy (Control + C) then Paste (Control + V) it to the artboard. Activate the Direct Selection Tool (A) and select the main shape of the mountain and change its fill color to #FF7100.


Step 5

We're going to change some things in the mountain to make them less like duplicates. Go inside the mountain clip group by activating the Selection Tool (V) and by double-clicking the new mountain group. Activate the Direct Selection Tool (A) and select one shape texture from the mountain and click on Select Similar Objects option to select all the shapes with the same transparency, color and opacity. Change the fill color to #FF8A00 with Blending Mode Multiply and 50% Opacity. I also changed the ice cap color to #FFEBC3.


Step 6

Using the same technique mentioned in the previous step, do two more versions of the mountain. You can change the shape of the ice cap to achieve more unique shape. Play with the colors, transparency and opacity. As you can see, I made two versions with a dark background and two others with lighter colors but still coming from the look and feel from our chosen colors.

Put the mountains in a new layer and hide that layer so we can move on to the next elements.


6. Create the Trees

Step 1

Using the Pen Tool (P), create a triangle that will look like a tree trunk and use the color #553200.


Step 2

Open the Brushes panel (Window > Brushes) and click the drop down menu and select Open Brush Library > Artistic > Artistic_ChalkCharcoalPencil. Select the Chalk Brush.


Step 3

Using the Selection Tool (V), select the tree trunk and click Draw Inside. Using the Paintbrush Tool (B), draw a straight line starting from the top most part of the trunk until you reach the bottom. Make sure that the Chalk Brush is selected so it it will be applied in the brush stroke with #553200 stroke color and no fill color. Apply the Blending Mode Screen to the new brush stroke.


Step 4

Make several copies of the trunk, resize and arrange them that will make them look like tree branches. See example below.


Step 5

Create an oblong using the Ellipse Tool (L) and use #FFE354 as the fill color. Copy (Control + C) the oblong that you just created and Copy in Place (Shift + Control + V) the shape. You'll end up with three same oblongs placed on top of each other. Now, select the top most oblong and move it a bit to the bottom-right part. With it still selected, hold down the Shift key and select the next oblong below and click Minus Front from the Pathfinder panel (Window > Pathfinder). Change the color to #F27900 and change the Blending Mode to Color Burn with an Opacity of 50%.


Step 6

Open the Swatches panel (Window > Swatches) and from the drop down menu, go to Open Swatch Library > Patterns > Basic Graphics > Basic Graphics_Textures. Create a circle with the Ellipse Tool (L) and apply the USGS 2 Marsh Pattern found in the pattern list and apply it to the circle that you just created.


Step 7

Select the yellow oblong left and go to the Appearance panel (Window > Appearance). From the drop down menu of the Appearance panel, select Add New Fill. Then activate the Eyedropper Tool (I) and click the circle with the pattern that we prepared in the previous step. Change the Blending Mode to Color Dodge.


Step 8

Place the leaves at the back of the trunk and the branches. Group (Control + G) them altogether.


Step 9

Just like with what we did for the mountains, create more versions for the tree. Changes can include: new colors for the leaves and trunk/branches, branches placements, etc. After that, place the trees in the layer with the mountains and hide the layer again.


7. Create the Grass

Step 1

Using the Pen Tool (P), create several triangles with #E97500 fill color and click Unite from the Pathfinder panel (Window > Pathfinder) to merge all the shapes.


Step 2

Make two copies of the grass base shape by using Copy (Control + C) and Paste in Place (Control + Shift + V) and by moving the top most layer a little lower and selecting the next layer at the same time, click Minus Front from the Pathfinder panel and change the Blending Mode to Color Dodge.


Step 3

Using the same technique that we did when adding textures to the leaves of the tree, add again the USGS 2 Marsh Pattern to the grass by Adding New Fill with the Appearance panel and change the Blending Mode to Soft Light. Group them together (Control + G).


Step 4

Do the same thing for the grasses.


8. Create the Background

Step 1

Fill the artboard with a rectangle using the Rectangle Tool (M) and add a Radial Gradient with #FFE37F and #FF8E00 colors respectively.


Step 2

Select the background and click the Draw Inside option and start drawing the details with the Pen Tool (P). Play with the Blending Mode and Opacity until you get a look that suits your taste.


Step 3

Create a new rectangle and use the color #FFC887. This will be for the ground in the illustration.


Step 4

Select the brown rectangle that we just created and activate the Draw Inside option and draw a new rectangle inside it and apply the Mezzotint Irregular pattern from the Basic Graphics_Textures swatch with Color Burn Blending Mode and 20% Opacity. After that, select the Pen Tool (P) and draw some shapes that will some depth and details to the ground, with #CC5400 fill color and Blending Mode Multiply and 20% Opacity.


9. Arrange the Elements to Create Your Scene

Now, here's comes the fun part: arranging the scene. In order to this this, Unhide the extra layer that we have to reveal all the elements that we illustrated earlier. Lock the "Background" layer.

As you can see in my Layers panel, I arranged them by layers. Mountains first, then I added the first layer of trees, then the first layer of grass, and then, I created a second layer for the trees and for the grass respectively. In this way, we will be able to have a sense of depth for the scene as we display two different layers for trees and grasses respectively.


10. Add Details Such as Rocks

Little details can mean a lot in an illustration. So grab your Pen Tool (P) and start adding rocks with #3B2400 fill color and #A55E00 fill color. Set the Blending Mode to Lighten and 20% Opacity for the shading. Duplicate the rocks and put it in the scene.


11. Bring on the Bears!

Now it's time to illustrate the main characters for the scene: the bears.

Step 1

Create a circle using the Ellipse Tool (L) with #361400 fill color.


Step 2

Grab the Pen Tool (P) and start illustrating the similar shape below. Note that it needs to be in proportion to the head and make sure that you change the color to #361400.


Step 3

Create a new Ellipse (L) and erase the bottom part with the Eraser Tool (Shift + E). Attach the shape to the bear's head and neck and transform the shape when necessary.


Step 4

Add the ears by adding two circles at the top side of the head. After that, Unite all the shapes in the Pathfinder panel.


Step 5

With the Pen Tool (P), add two eyes with a dark red color #7C0101


Step 6

Start drawing the shadows and details with the Pen Tool (P).

Now we have the bear for the scene, Create New Layer above the "Trees 1" layer and place the bear there. Add more instances of the bear and distribute them in the scene. Arrange other elements like the grass when necessary.


Congratulations! You're Now Finished!

In this tutorial, we were able to maximize one of the most powerful features of vector art: creating new elements from an existing element with efficiency. Just by changing the colors and other things like the shapes, we can turn an existing illustration into something new. We also learned how to add textures to the elements and creating depth to the scene just by arranging the elements and distributing them into different layers. We also learned on how to use Adobe Kuler in helping us decide the look and feel for the colors of the illustration. I hope you enjoyed this tutorial.

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