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Create a Friendly, Futuristic Robot in Affinity Designer

This post is part of a series called Easy Character Design.
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Final product image
What You'll Be Creating

In this tutorial we’ll go time travelling into the future and create a friendly, futuristic robot in Affinity Designer. We’ll be using simple shapes to create the base of our robot and applying gradients and transparencies to make the elements more realistic and three-dimensional. Finally, we’ll finish up by making some parts of our robot glow. If you're looking to skip the process, you can purchase character vectors over on Envato Market. Let’s get started!

1. Render the Head of the Robot

Step 1

First of all, let’s create a simple background to make the light parts of our future robot look more contrasting. Create a New Document of 600 x 600 px size. Use the Rectangle Tool (M) and hold down Shift to make an even square. 

Switch to the Fill Tool (G) and head to the upper context toolbar. From here, select the Radial Type of gradient. Then click the color square icon on the right to open the Color drop-down menu. Make the left side of the gradient bar light-blue and the right part darker blue. Place the gradient slider vertically, as shown in the screenshot, using the Fill Tool (G).

make a background rectangle with radial gradient

Step 2

Now let’s start forming the head of our robot. Take the Ellipse Tool (M) and hold down Shift to make an even circle of about 200 x 200 px size. Use the Fill Tool (G) to make a radial gradient from white to light-grey, creating a spherical shape.

Then Convert the circle to Curves from the toolbar above. Now we can deform the shape with the help of the Node Tool (A). Select the upper node and move it down a bit, squashing the top part of the head.

form the head base with ellipse tool and radial gradient

Step 3

Copy the base of the head and Paste it (Command-C > Command-V). Make the created shape a bit smaller by holding Command-Shift and dragging it to the center with the Move Tool (V). 

Change the color of the shape to a very dark-grey radial gradient, creating a dark screen.

copy the shape and make a dark screen

Step 4

Create another copy of the head shape and make it a bit darker. Resize it, making the copy smaller. Place it around the dark screen, forming a grey rim around it.

Now let’s make a subtle highlight to make our screen glossy. Place a squashed ellipse in the top part of the screen, using the Ellipse Tool (M). Apply a linear gradient, using the Fill Tool (G) to place the gradient slider vertically. 

Fill both sides of the gradient bar with blue color, and make the right side transparent by lowering the Opacity to 0% in the Gradient options menu in the upper toolbar. Keeping the ellipse selected, set the Blend Mode to Colour Dodge and the Opacity to 75% in the top part of the Layers panel.

make a blue highlight on the screen

Step 5

Let’s add another glossy highlight on the screen. Copy the screen twice (Command-C > Command-V > Command-V) and move it down and to the right a bit, using the arrow keys of your keyboard. Select two copies and use the Subtract Operation from the upper toolbar to cut off the unneeded part, leaving only a thin, crescent-shaped piece. Fill the shape with any color just to make it visible.

add another highlight using Subtract

Step 6

Move the created shape a few pixels to the right, detaching it from the edge of the screen.

We already have one highlight on the screen, so let’s see how can we use its appearance to make our workflow faster. Copy (Command-C) the squashed elliptical highlight. Then select the crescent-shaped piece and go to Edit > Paste Style

Voila! We’ve applied the appearance of the shape that we’ve copied. Now we can use the Fill Tool (G) to change the direction of the gradient, making the highlight more realistic.

paste style to the new highlight

Step 7

Let’s add the ears or the headphones to our robot. Make a narrow rectangle using the Rectangle Tool (M) and fill it with the same light-grey radial gradient as the head base. Place the rectangle at the left side of the head, right click and Arrange > Move to Back (or press Shift-Command-[).

Make the Corners of the rectangle Rounded to 50% in the upper context toolbar.

make a rounded rectangle for the ear

Step 8

Copy the created rounded rectangle and Move the copy to Back (Shift-Command-[). Make the copy a bit smaller and move it to the left, using the left arrow key. Change the color to a bright-blue linear gradient, making a bright decorative element of the headphone. 

Group (Command-G) the pieces of the headphone, copy the group and Flip it Horizontal, using the Align feature in the upper toolbar. Place the mirrored copy on the right side of the robot’s head.

add a blue element and make a second headphone

Step 9

Let’s make the plastic parts of the head glossy as well. Draw a squashed ellipse at the top of the head and fill it with white color. Use the Transparency Tool (Y) to make the highlight semi-transparent, placing the transparency slider vertically. In fact, the Transparency Tool (Y) creates a linear gradient (the Opacity of one of its sides is set to 0%) from a solid color, so it is very convenient and fast to work with.

use the Transparency Tool for the highlight

Step 10

Let’s make another highlight on the left side of the head, using the same technique as we did for the screen. Copy the head base twice (Command-C > Command-V > Command-V) and move the upper copy down and to the right a bit. Select the two copies and use the Subtract Operation, cutting off the unneeded part. Fill the remaining piece with white color and use the Transparency Tool (Y) to make a gentle highlight.

use Subtract to make another highlight

Step 11

Use the same method with Subtract Operation and Transparency Tool (Y) to add semi-transparent light-blue overtones on the right side of the head and at the edge of the right ear.

add semi-transparent light-blue overtones

Step 12

The top part of the head looks a bit empty at this step. Let’s fix this, because our robot definitely needs an antenna. Create a rounded rectangle (or just copy one from the headphone) and place it horizontally beneath the head (Shift-Command-[).

Now let’s form an antenna on top. Make a small, narrow rectangle and fill it with horizontal linear gradient from dark grey to a very dark grey, making the shape look three-dimensional.

form an antenna from rectangle

Step 13

Move the antenna to Back (Shift-Command-[), beneath the head. Below you can see a close-up with the dark-grey linear gradient that we’ve applied. 

Let’s add some notches to make the antenna more detailed. Use the Rectangle Tool (M) to make a narrow, dark stripe the same width as the antenna and place it on top. Select the created stripe, hold Option-Shift and drag it down with the Move Tool (V), making a copy. 

Make some more copies, and let’s distribute them in the right way. Select the stripes and open the Arrange window from the upper toolbar. Select Space Vertically to align the stripes, making the gaps between them even.

form an antenna from rectangle 2

Step 14

Finish up by placing a spherical blue element on top of the antenna. Add glossiness by putting a bright-blue highlight on top. Switch the Blend Mode to Colour Dodge in the Layers panel and lower the Opacity to 75%. Use the Transparency Tool (Y) to make the highlight semi-transparent.

place a spherical blue element on top of the antenna

2. Form the Body of the Robot

Step 1

Now that we’ve finished with the head, let’s move on to the body of our robot.

Start by placing a squashed ellipse beneath the head and fill it with bright-blue vertical linear gradient. Duplicate the shape and Convert the upper copy to Curves in the context toolbar. 

Take the Node Tool (A), select the bottom anchor point of the converted copy and move it down, making a long arched shape.

Move the shape to Back (Shift-Command-[).

start forming the body from the ellipse

Step 2

Let’s fill the body with the same plastic-grey gradient as we have on the head. As previously, we can do this by copying the head (Command-C) and then selecting the body and Edit > Paste Style.

Now we can edit the bottom part of the body, making it more rounded and smooth. Use the Node Tool (A) to pull the node handles, making them longer and thus making the bottom part of the shape wider.

Finally, use the Fill Tool (G) to edit the position of the radial gradient, placing its lighter center in the bottom left part of the body, thus making the body more three-dimensional.

apply grey gradient to the body and edit the bottom part

Step 3

Now let’s make the body more slick and glossy. Make a narrow shape for the highlight, using the same technique as we had for the side highlights on the head and on the face-screen. Add a smaller overtone on the right side of the body, filling it with a semi-transparent blue color.

Move the bigger highlight to the right a bit, detaching it from the edge of the body shape. Fill it with white color and use the Transparency Tool (Y) to make it semi-transparent.

add highlights to the body

Step 4

Let’s make the highlight a bit more realistic by dividing it into three parts. We can do this easily with the help of Operations. 

Arm yourself with the Pencil Tool (N) and draw a curve looking like a horseshoe, both ends of which are overlapping the highlight. It doesn’t matter if the shape looks rough and wobbly. Select both the curve and the highlight and apply the Subtract Operation to break the highlight into segments.

use Subtract Operation to break the highlight into segments

Step 5

Make two copies of the body base, move the upper one down and to the left, and use Subtract again to cut the shapes. Fill the remaining piece with grey color and switch it to Multiply mode with 21% Opacity in the Layers panel, darkening the right edge of the body.

add a shadow to the body

Step 6

Let’s make our robot look more fancy and detailed. Duplicate the body base and make the copy smaller, moving it to the center. Switch the colors of the radial gradient to bright orange. 

Copy the orange shape and make it a bit smaller. Fill the back shape with dark-grey radial gradient in Multiply Blend Mode, forming a subtle shadow beneath the orange element.

add a bright orange element to the body

Step 7

Add more highlights to the orange part, making it glossy and detailed.

And, finally, let’s move to the arms. Copy the headphones that we’ve created for the robot’s ears and place the copies on the top part of the body, rotating them a bit and thus creating the shoulders.

copy the headphones to make the shoulders

Step 8

Go on and duplicate the antenna from the robot’s head (without the top sphere), making the copy much larger. We’ll be using it to create an arm. Select the base of the arm and make the Corners of the rectangle 50% Rounded in the context toolbar above.

Convert the shape to Curves, take the Node Tool (A) and make the bottom part of the arm much wider by moving the bottom side nodes in the opposite directions with the help of the arrow keys of your keyboard.

Finally, make the stripes above the arm wider as well (let them cross the edges of the arm). Add more stripes, if needed, to cover the entire arm.

copy the antenna and edit it to make the arm

Step 9

Select all the stripes and Space them Vertically in the Arrange menu in order to align the shapes, making the gaps between them equal.

Group (Command-G) the stripes and Cut (Command-X) them. Then select the arm and Edit > Paste Inside. Great! Now all the stripes are hidden inside the arm shape.

align the stripes and past them inside the arm shape

Step 10

Let’s finish up with the arm by forming a simple robotic hand. Make two overlapping squares, one a bit larger than the other, placing the smaller square on top. Select both squares and use the Subtract Operation to cut out a square hole in the larger shape.

Move it to Back (Shift-Command-[) and fill with a bright-blue linear gradient.

Let’s add a gentle shadow from the arm. Copy the arm base and move the bottom copy down a bit. Fill it with a semi-transparent blue color and switch to Multiply mode. Finally, Cut (Command-X) the shadow, select the blue hand and Edit > Paste Inside to hide the unneeded pieces inside the hand.

make a simple arm from rectangles and add a shadow

3. Form the Face and Add Glowing Effects

Step 1

Attach the created arms to the robot’s body and let’s drop a gentle shadow beneath our character to make it float above the ground. Make a squashed dark-blue ellipse, select it and right click to open a drop-down menu. Click Layer Effects and check the very first box: Gaussian Blur. Set the Radius to about 9 px, making the shadow soft and blurry.

attach the arms and make a shadow with Gaussian Blur

Step 2

Now let’s add a friendly face to our robot. Use the Ellipse Tool (M) to make a pair of circled bright-blue eyes. Then take the Rectangle Tool (M) and form a group of narrow stripes, depicting a squared, smiling mouth. Use the Add Operation to unite all the stripes together into a single shape.

make a friendly face of the robot

Step 3

Now copy the eyes and the mouth and apply Gaussian Blur with 5 px Radius to the copies, thus adding a subtle glow.

copy the face and apply Gaussian Blur to add glow

Step 4

Put a thin squashed ellipse across the eyes and apply Gaussian Blur to it as well, setting the Radius to 5 px. If you feel that the glowing effect is too distracting, you can lower its Fill Opacity in the bottom of the Layer Effects option window.

add a glowing stripe across the eyes

Step 5

Add more glowing highlights, using the same method with Gaussian Blur effect. Play with Blend Modes of the created shapes, setting them to Screen and Add in the top of the Layers panel.

add more glowing shapes with Gaussian Blur

Great Job! Our Futuristic Robot Is Finished!

Congratulations, folks! We’ve successfully completed designing this friendly little guy in Affinity Designer, using basic shapes, gradients and Blend Modes to make it look glossy, three-dimensional and realistic. I hope you’ve enjoyed following this tutorial and learned some new tips and tricks that can be useful for your future illustrations. Have fun and stay tuned for more!

Our Futuristic Robot is Finished
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