In this tutorial we’ll be creating a colorful cartoon hot-dog van, going down the road and bringing yummy snacks! We’ll be using basic shapes and playing around with Blending Modes, adding semi-realistic shadows and highlights to our van to make it more glossy and three-dimensional. Let’s get started!
1. Make the Base of the Van
Let’s start forming the chassis of the van from a 100 x 50 px rectangle made with the Rectangle Tool (M). Select the upper right anchor point with the Direct Selection Tool (A), and press Enter to open the Move options window. Set the Horizontal Position value to -10 px and the Vertical value to 0 px, moving the anchor point to the left.
Select the entire shape and use the Live Corners feature to make the corners rounded by pulling the circle indicator to the center of the shape, setting the corner radius to about 10 px. If this function is unavailable in your version of Adobe Illustrator, use Effect > Stylize > Round Corners.
Add two smaller rounded rectangles in the bottom of the shape, forming the front and back bumpers.
Select the Ellipse Tool (L) and make an 18 x 18 px circle for the wheel. Add two smaller circles inside for the tires and alloys. Put a narrow vertical rectangle across the base of the van for the decorative rim, rounding the corners. Add a thinner stripe in the top part of the van.
Let’s form the windscreen of our van. Make a rounded rectangle in the front part, making it overlap the base of the van. Add another rounded rectangle next to the first one, making it a bit narrower.
Let’s add a portable table for hot-dogs. Make a narrow rectangle, attaching its upper edge to the rim of the van. Take the Direct Selection Tool (A) and select the bottom left anchor point of the rectangle. Press Enter to call out the Move options window, and set the Horizontal value to -5 px and the Vertical value to 0 px, moving the anchor point 5 px to the left. Do the same for the bottom right anchor point, moving it in the opposite direction.
Make the table more three-dimensional, adding a thin horizontal stripe in the lower part of the table. Adjust the height of the table, making it a bit narrower, so that it fits the perspective.
Add a rectangle of the same width as the table for the window. Select both upper anchor points of the window with the Direct Selection Tool (A), and pull the Live Corners markers to make the upper part of the shape rounded.
Add a small rectangle in the bottom left part of the van for the tailpipe.
And let’s divide the van into two parts, so that we can color these parts separately. Duplicate the base of our van. Select the copy of the base together with the central rim. Take the Shape Builder Tool (Shift-M) and hover your mouse over the bottom part of the van until you see a grey selection. Single-click on the shape, and here we have it! Now the bottom of the van is a separate shape!
2. Apply Flat Colors to the Van
Now that the base of the van is ready, let’s apply basic colors! Select the base of the van, and switch the Fill color to light-beige and the Stroke color to None in the Color panel. Apply a bright-red color to the bottom of the van. Fill the central rim of the van with darker-beige color.
Let’s cut off those parts of the windows that stand outside the base of the van. Select the overlapping windows together with the base van shape, and use the Shape Builder Tool (Shift-M) by holding down the Alt key and clicking the unwanted pieces to delete them.
Let’s make the image more detailed by adding rims to the windows. Select the windows and go to Object > Path > Offset Path, setting the Offset value to -2 px.
Drag the side anchor points of the front and back windows to the sides, outside the edge of the van. Use the Shape Builder Tool (Shift-M) to cut off the unneeded pieces outside the van, and fill the glass shapes with bright-blue color.
Apply dark shades of brown to the table and to the biggest window, forming the inner part of the van.
Apply colors to the wheels of our van.
Let’s form the sunshade awning above the table. Start by making a narrow rectangle of 6 x 20 px size. Keeping the rectangle selected, press Enter, and in the Move window set the Horizontal value to 6 px, which equals the width of our rectangle. Click the Copy button to duplicate the shape and press Control-D several times to form seven more copies. Vary the colors of the stripes next but one, alternating white and red colors.
Let’s add rounded shapes to the bottom of the stripes. Take the Ellipse Tool (L) and create a circle that fits the width of the stripe. Press Alt-Shift and drag the circle to the right, creating a copy. Press Control-D several times, creating more circles.
We need to deform our sunshade, putting it into a proper position in the perspective. For this purpose, create a rectangle on top of the biggest window, fitting its width, and modify it by moving its bottom anchor points to the sides, so that the rectangle looks squashed.
Now we’ll use this rectangle to create the perspective look of the sunshade. Group (Control-G) the stripes of the sunshade (without the circles) and select the group together with the created rectangle. Go to Object > Envelope Distort > Make with Top Object. Great, now the sunshade covers the window!
Select the circles and use the Eraser Tool (Shift-E) holding down the Alt key to erase the upper halves of the circles. Make the colors of the circles a bit darker, adding dimension to the awning.
Now let’s render a yummy hot-dog! Make a yellow rectangle of about 73 x 22 px size. Make the corners of the yellow rectangle fully rounded. Create a bigger rectangle with rounded corners, forming a sausage, and fill it with sausage-red color. Add another yellow shape, and place the sausage between two pieces of bread.
Let’s add some spicy sauce to our image! Use the Line Segment Tool (\) to make a straight horizontal line, holding down Shift. Make the Caps of the line rounded in the Stroke panel.
Go to Effect > Distort & Transform > Zig Zag. Set the Size value to 1 px, Absolute. And set Ridges per segment equal to 8. Select Smooth Points and click OK. Go to Object > Expand Appearance to apply the effect, forming a portion of mustard. Add another wavy line of red color for the ketchup.
Place the hot-dog on top of the van, right above the awning.
3. Use Blending Modes to Add Shiny Details to the Van
Select the basic shape of the van and use the Offset Path function with -2 px Offset value. Fill the shape with linear gradient from dark brown to black, and switch the Blending Mode to Screen, creating a glossy highlight.
Apply a vivid linear gradient of dark and light blue shades to the windows. Let’s darken the upper part of the windows. Make a narrow horizontal stripe across the top of the windows. Fill it with blue color and set the Blending Mode to Multiply.
And let’s get rid of the unneeded pieces outside the windows. Select the windows, right click and Make Compound Path, turning the group of windows into a single shape.
Select both the windows compound path and the blue stripe, and use the Intersect function of the Pathfinder panel. Now we have nice a blue overtone in the top part of the windows.
Use the Offset Path function with -1 px Offset value to add a shiny reflection to the van’s rim. Apply linear gradients to the rims of the windows as well.
Select the wheels and use the Offset Path function with 1 px Offset value. Turn the created shapes into a Compound Path, select it together with the bottom red part of the van, and use the Minus Front function of Pathfinder to cut out the holes for the wheels.
Copy the inner part of the wheel (the alloy) and make it smaller. Use the Eraser Tool (Shift-E) to erase the central part of the shape. Otherwise, use the Pencil Tool (N) to draw a wavy line across the circle, and Divide both shapes in Pathfinder to split the circle apart.
Fill the remaining parts with linear gradient from grey to black and switch the Blending Mode to Screen, creating a glossy highlight on the metal surface of the alloy.
Apply a radial light-beige gradient to the central circle of the wheel, making it more three-dimensional.
Here is how our van looks at this step. Let’s make it a bit more realistic by adding gentle shadows!
Form a narrow stripe beneath the table, using the Rectangle Tool (M) and the Shape Builder Tool (Shift-M). Fill it with light-beige color and switch the Blending Mode to Multiply, forming a semi-transparent shadow.
Apply grayish and red linear gradients to the stripes of the sunshade, making it more realistic.
Now let’s add more details to the table. Fill its upper surface with radial gradient from light-brown to dark-brown, imitating a polished wooden surface.
Take the Rectangle Tool (M) and form two dark, narrow stripes, putting them horizontally along the table. Add several lighter stripes next to the dark ones, forming three-dimensional wooden planks.
Add skewed rectangular shadows beneath the table and the sunshade, switching the Blending Mode to Multiply, as we did previously.
Let’s make our flat hot-dog more realistic and three-dimensional as well. Apply a squashed radial gradient from orange to yellow to the bread pieces of the hot-dog. Fill the sausage with a similar gradient from dark-red to meat-pink.
Add a couple of narrow rounded rectangles above the sausage and the bread, fill them with dark linear gradients from brown to black, and switch the Blending Mode to Screen, making subtle highlights. Finally, add thin, semi-transparent shadows in Multiple Blending Mode to the parts of the hot-dog.
Add a shadow beneath the top hot-dog. Put three smaller hot-dogs on the table. Recolor the white stripes of the sunshade with bright-yellow linear gradients to make the image more colorful and sunny.
4. Add a Simple Background to Our Image
Create a background rectangle and fill it with light-brown color. Put a large, squashed ellipse under the van for the shadow, and fill it with squashed radial gradient from beige to white, switching to Multiple Blending Mode. Copy the shadow ellipse twice, make the copies smaller, and place them beneath both wheels of the van.
Add another rectangle of dark-brown color in the bottom part of the artboard, forming the road. Place a straight horizontal line along the road for the traffic divider. Open the Stroke panel and tick the Dashed Line box, forming the gaps in our line. Set the dash value to 20 pt and the gap to 30 pt.
Adjust the values, if needed, in order to fit the overall scale of the image. If you haven’t resized the van and you're making a small picture, you may need to use smaller values of about 2–5 pt.
Create a cityscape silhouette from light-brown rectangles, making shorter and taller shapes, depicting buildings and skyscrapers.
Add lighter-brown windows, forming sets of small, narrow rectangles above the buildings.
Yay! Our Colorful Cartoon Van With Yummy Hot-Dogs Is Finished!
I hope you enjoyed creating this glossy van with bright elements and learned some new tips and tricks, while using the Shape Builder Tool, Pathfinder panel and Blending Modes. Keep making creative things and come back for more tutorials! Have fun!
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