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Create a Cute Moldovan Chibi Character in Adobe Illustrator

Final product image
What You'll Be Creating

In this tutorial you'll learn to create a cute Moldovan chibi character. We'll use simple shapes, brushes, gradients, which are easy to apply in other illustrations.

1. Make a Sketch

Step 1

At the beginning let's draw a sketch. You can draw it on the paper or directly in Illustrator. I portrayed a cute chibi in a traditional Moldovan costume. We need to use references of folk costumes and ornaments to make the image plausible.

sketch of a chibi

Step 2

Create a New document 500 x 700 px RGB. Then File > Place your sketch in Adobe Illustrator and change the layer name to "sketch".

layer options for the sketch

Step 3

Create a New Layer for the lines. For a convenient work process, we'll need two types of layers for each group of objects: line and shape.

2 layer types

2. Create a Brush for the Contour of the Character

Step 1

Start by making a black ellipse with the Ellipse Tool (L) with 100% fill and without stroke. Drag this shape to the Brushes panel using the Selection Tool (V). Go to New Brush > New Art Brush.

Then press OK, and the window Art Brush Options will appear. Choose the Tints method. It will change your brush color at any time.

creating new brush

Step 2

Let's draw the contour of our character. Choose the Paintbrush Tool (B), find your new brush and set its thickness on the Stroke panel.

Start drawing the face. Draw lines as smoothly as you like—don't close the contour. If necessary, change the evenness of lines.

drawing face contour

Don't worry about crooked lines—you can always fix them using the Direct Selection Tool (A).

fixing curves

Step 3

At the intersection of the lines, cut unnecessary pieces using the Scissors Tool (C), select the segment and press Delete.

cutting unnecessary pieces

Step 4

Draw the entire sketch this way, creating new layers one by one: flower, hair, hands, etc.

Here is how the character looks now.

sketch overdrawed in lines

3. Create the Main Shapes

Step 1

Add a new layer for the background.

First create the swatch of the main colors—pick the most suitable for you. We’ll be able to adjust them later. Also let's choose the background’s color. Create a 500 x 700 px rectangle using the Rectangle Tool (M), and fill it with linear gradient from light-yellow to light-turquoise.

Open the Align panel and choose Align to Artboard, and then Align Objects: Horizontal and Vertical.

main colours swatch

background aligning

Step 2

Now it's time to begin painting. I will start by creating main shapes for the head on the "face_shape" layer. Choose the skin color from your swatch using the Eyedropper Tool (I). You can use the Pencil Tool (N) or the Pen Tool (P) for your convenience. Start drawing the main shape following the brush contour. If you choose the Pencil Tool (N), hold Alt to close the contour.

Add a new layer for the eyes and lips. It will make your work on the skin much easier.

drawing main shapes of face

Step 3

Well, it's time to draw the main shapes of the hair.

As you can see, the hairstyle of our chibi can be divided into two parts: front and back. So we'll add a new layer for the "back" hair under the "face_shape" layer.

It's difficult to draw the entire hair shape using the Pencil Tool (N), so we'll create a few smaller shapes and then unite them. Open the Pathfinder panel and click Unite.

unite hairs main shapes

drawing hair main shapes

Step 4

Fill the whole picture with colors using this method. Here's what we've got at this stage.

picture fullfilled in main colours

Step 5

Now we need to repaint the contours for each of the objects. Allocate the contours using the Selection Tool (V), holding the Shift button. Choose the color on the Color panel, moving the crawler’s pick to the desired position.

repainting lips contours

Step 6

Let's repaint the contours of the hair in one color. Unlock the layer "hair_line", and select all the hair at once. Using the Selection Tool (V) and holding the left mouse button, move the mouse to select all lines.

Using the Eyedropper Tool (I), just select the color we picked for the eyebrows and lashes.

repainting hair contours

Step 7

Repaint all contours following this method.

repainting all contours

4. Create a Pattern Brush for the Embroidery

Step 1

First of all we'll draw a cross using our brush. Select this figure and group by pressing Control-G. Then drag it to the Brushes panel. Create a New Pattern Brush as shown below.

creating pattern brushes

Step 2

We'll create several pattern brushes this way.

pattern brushes

Step 3

Choose the brush and draw lines to decorate the clothing of our chibi.

Sometimes the pattern goes off the drawing frame. In this case, select the brush and go to Object > Expand Appearance. Then draw a shape covering the part of the pattern that needs to be deleted, go to the Pathfinder panel and click Minus Front.

pattern brushes usage

Step 4

The main part of the drawing is done. Here is how the chibi looks now.

character finished in solid colours

5. Add Shadows and Highlights

Step 1

Let's add some volume to the face. We'll work on the "face_shape" layer.

We'll draw the blush first. Choose a red color and form the shape of the blush, and then go to Effect > Blur > Gaussian Blur. On the Transparency panel, reduce the Opacity to 30%.

Add some blushes to the eyes, neck and hair growth line.

drawing face blushes

Step 2

Add some shades. Choose the color of the face contour, and reduce the Opacity to 7–10%. We'll draw the shapes on the area where shadows usually appear.

Lay the shapes one on top of the other till you get the desired result, changing Opacity in the process. Then choose a darker color and draw falling shades.

drawing face shadows

Step 3

Let's add some shades and highlights. Starting from the base skin color, select lighter shades, varying the Opacity from 5% to 20%. Choose a brighter color and draw some highlight shapes. The Opacity can be 50–100%.

drawing face highlights

Step 4

Now we'll get to work on the eyes and lips. We need to make volume on the white of the eye. Draw some dirty-pink shapes on the white parts of the eye. The Opacity may vary according to your taste (my choice was 20%). 

Select the eyebrow color using the Eyedropper Tool (I), reduce the Opacity to 40%, and draw the shadow under the eyelashes. Make sure all paths are drawn in the correct order, using Control-[ to send backward or Control-] to bring forward.

Now we get to the iris of the eye. The eye color is brown-green, so choose the darker color for the top of the iris and lighter for the underside. Add some bright twinkles.

I noticed that the white round shapes are too big. Make them smaller and delete the outline. Also add some shadows and highlights to the eyebrows and the eyelashes.

Let's paint volume lips. The upper part of the lips is shaded, so make it darker. Draw the dark-red shape between the lips. Add some highlights to the bottom part.

drawing eyes and lips

Step 5

To make the skin look more natural and the face cuter, add some freckles and moles. The freckles shouldn't be perfectly round, so draw them randomly, with a different size and opacity on the nose and cheeks.

Now add shades from the background. Select the cyan color and draw some shapes on the edge of the face and neck.

background shades

Step 6

Draw shadows and highlights on the hands and legs as described above.

hands and legs improving

Step 7

Let's start forming the hairstyle. The method of painting is the same: dark shades, fallen shadows, highlights and gloss. Draw different shapes, and lay them on each other, playing around with the Opacity where possible.

forming hairstyle

Step 8

We’ll draw the flower using the same principles, as you can see below.

Don't worry about ragged shapes, because they make the drawing more decorative and picturesque.

flower detaling

Step 9

It’s time to add highlights and shadows to the clothing. Let's start with the shirt and petticoats. They are of the same color, so we'll draw them both at the same time, switching between layers. Don't forget about background shades. Also add some gloss to the embroidery using our first new brush. Just draw short lines on the lightest area.

shirt detailng

Step 10

Now we'll draw the skirt and belt. First add some shadows and highlights to the main brown cloth, and then add decorative red and green elements. In the end, add some gloss to the embroidery. Decorate the belt using the gold brush.

skirt detailing

Step 11

We have a few steps left. This is a bit of a slow process, but we'll get a great result, going step by step.

Unlock the layers with the shoes and shawl—they are of the same color. We'll draw some shades, shadows and highlights switching between layers. Add some falling shadows and gloss too.

Here is how it all looks now.

shoes and shawl detailng

Step 12

It's time for the final touch. Let's add some necessary details. For example we can add a few thin hairs to the hairstyle. This will make it look more natural. Draw some hairs on the edge of the hairstyle using the same brush, reducing the weight of the stroke. Change the color for the lighter ones.

Add some dark shapes to the shady area of the shawl and set their Blending Mode to Overlay, 13% Opacity. Also draw some glows on the shawl using our brush.

Then add some brighter shapes to the lighter area of the hair and the flower, setting their Blending Mode to Screen, 17% Opacity.

Finally our character is ready!

final touch and character ready to go

6. Create an Abstract Background

Step 1

Firstly let's create some circles using a radial gradient, as shown below. I choose bright-green color, 30% Opacity. (This method is available in Adobe Illustrator CS5 and above. If your version of Illustrator doesn't have this option, you can use a Gaussian Blur or Blend).

Select the circle pressing Alt and duplicate it randomly as you wish. For diversity, change the circle radius, color and opacity.

radial gradient using

Step 2

Let's draw stars and glows for the background decoration. Create a star using the Star Tool on a New Layer. Go to Effect > Stylize > Round Corners. Change the radius on the Radius Corners panel to the desired value using the up and down arrows on the keyboard. Reduce the star to the desired size and drag it to the Symbols panel. Create a circle symbol in the same way.

symbols creating

Step 3

Spray some symbols on the background surface randomly using the Symbol Sprayer Tool (Shift-S). Change their size, duplicate them, and move them as you wish. Reduce the opacity of separate elements using the Symbol Screener Tool. If you need to move a single element, you can expand the symbols. Select the symbol and go to Object > Expand. Add some sparkles in the end.

using symbol sprayer tool

Wow, We're Done!

I hope you liked creating this really cute chibi character with me. Enjoy the result!

Final Chibi Character

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