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Create a Kung Fu Panda Diptych in Adobe Illustrator CS5

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In today's tutorial, I'll show you how to create a Kung Fu Panda Diptych composition in Adobe Illustrator CS5. I'll be using a variety of tools and tricks along the way, as well as a little bit of magic from creating your own pattern to creating a conical Asian hat. It's time for some vector kung fu.


I've never hidden my passion for computer games and possibly one of my favorites would have to be the MMORPG game World of Warcraft. After the success of my first WoW inspired tutorial on creating a Blood Elf inspired portrait, I've been on the look out for my next topic to cover. Thankfully the recently announced expansion of Mists of Pandaria has proved to be such inspiration!

I'll be using two stock images for this tutorial, which you can get from PhotoDune from here and here. So what are you waiting for, let's get to it!

Step 1

I'm going to modify the stock images slightly, as well as sketch on them the conical Asian hats in Photoshop. First of all I'm going to increase the size of the canvas for each of the images. Do this by going to Image > Canvas Size (Alt + Command + C) and in the pop up options change the width and height to 150% from the bottom middle.

Step 2

After doing a very rough sketch of the placement of the hat on one of the stock images, you can see that the shoulders of the panda would get in the way.

So to alter it, I'm going to use the Filters > Liquify option (Shift + Command + X). If you've used the Warp Tool in Illustrator, this is a pretty similar way of modifying a raster image.

I'm going to enlarge the Brush Size to 270 and then push the shoulders in. As well as doing this to the shoulder, I'm going to exaggerate the black spot on the eye. These are a defining characteristic of the panda look, so I want to emphasis this feature.

Then I'm going to repeat this same element for the other stock image.

Step 3

Now continue sketching on the modified stock images to where the hats will be placed. Keeping in mind where the ears are. I'm wanting to exaggerate the appearance and size of the hats, but I also don't want them looking as if the ears should be visible.

Step 4

Now in Illustrator, I'm going to File > Place the stock images into their own New Documents and set up the layers as shown below. The "BG" layer will contain a white fill Rectangle which covers the canvas set to Opacity 50%.

Step 5

Now we'll begin drawing the base shapes for the pandas. The head is going to be made from modifying an Ellipse (L) by adding points with the Pen Tool (P), and then use the Direct Selection Tool (V) to alter the points.

Step 6

Now Double-click on the Crystallize Tool to access the options and modify the Width and Height of the Global Brush Dimensions as shown below. Be sure to also tick the "Use Pressure Pen" box, as I'm using a graphic tablet.

Then using this tool, I'm going to "Crystallize" the edges. Note that around the nose and mouth, the fur isn't as long, therefore you won't need to modify the edges too much if at all.

Step 7

After "Crystallizing" the edges, change the stroke to a light gray fill (C=10, M=10, Y=15, K=0), and then use Pathfinder > Unite. This will turn the shapes into a Group. You'll want to delete any unnecessary shapes from the main shape and then Ungroup the object (Shift + Command + G).

Step 8

I'm going to repeat the same process for the other shapes. The dark areas will be filled with C=70, M=70, Y=60, and K=70.

Step 9

As some of the head will be covered under the hat, I won't need to render the fur underneath it. In order for me to know where this covered area is, I'm going to do a quick 3D render to show where the hat is to be placed.

So draw a curved line using the Pen Tool (P) with a 7pt Stroke Weight with Round Caps.

Then use the Effects > 3D > Revolve with the below options set to create the conical Asian hat.

Step 10

Now Copy and Paste the hat object into the canvas of the other panda.

Of course the angle of this won't be the same, so I'm going to go into the options for the effect via the Appearance panel and modify the rotation.

Then I'm going to enlarge the hat slightly using the Free Transform Tool (E).

Step 11

As you can see from the hats, you are able to view in the back inside of the hat. This is covering fur that still needs to be rendered. So I'm going to draw a line along the rim of the hat and use this as my guide.

While I'm at it, I'm going to reorganize the layer folders.

Step 12

I've rendered the fur of many animals, but I have to say that pandas are more difficult. The reason being is that their fur is so dense and varies in length in places. So keep this in mind when you are rendering the fur.

I'm going to go around the outside of each of the base layers with my Width Profile 1 brush with the Paintbrush Tool (B). These will be the same stroke color as the base layer it is accompanying with a Stroke Weight of 2pt and Opacity 80%.

For each of the sections of fur, Group them (Command + G).

Step 13

I'm going to organize the layer folders again so each part of the panda has it's own layer folder so it's easier to access and refer back to.

Step 14

Create a new transparent radial gradient with a darker shade to the lighter base shapes (C=10, M=10, Y=15, K=10). I'm going to use this to add darker areas to the face, which are set to Blending Mode Multiply with an Opacity of 80%. For the lighter areas it will be set to Blending Mode Screen and Opacity 10%.

Step 15

So I'm going to work on rendering the fur in the darker areas of the face. This will be done using the darker gray that was used in the radial gradients. These strokes will be 2pt, set to Blending Mode Multiply and Opacity 15%. As with all different settings of fur strokes, Group them once done (Command + G).

Step 16

I'm going to build up the darker areas again with the same brush and weight. This time I'm going to use a darker stroke color (C=15, M=15, Y=20, and K=20). These will be set to Blending Mode Normal with Opacity 40%.

As you can see from the image below that the strokes of fur are overlapping on the black eye region. This will help soften the harder edges of the eyes.

Step 17

Now we'll add highlights to the fur. I'll be using the gray used for the white bases. These strokes will be 2pt, and set to Blending Mode Screen with Opacity 50%.

Step 18

Time to start adding dark strokes around the eyes on the body. I'll start by adding 2pt strokes set to Blending Mode Multiply and Opacity 15%, with the "black" base color as the stroke. I'll need to separate the fur into groups for the eyes and the body.

Step 19

The chest of the panda is to now have some dirty light strands of fur. I'll be using the darkest gray (C=15, M=15, Y=20, and K=20) to draw 2pt strokes with a Blending Mode Normal and Opacity 10%.

Step 20

I'm now going to add brown strokes into the "black" fur (C=40, M=45, Y=50, and K=5). These strokes have a weight of 2pt and are set to Blending Mode Multiply with Opacity 30%. I'm also going to add the same appearance strokes to the face to help define the nose/mouth area.

Step 21

Using the same settings as before, yet with a Stroke Weight of 8pt, use a painting motion with the Paintbrush Tool (B) to add dark, thick strokes around the face and body.

Step 22

Now using the lightest gray, with a Stroke Weight of 8pt and Blending Mode Screen, Opacity 30%, paint in the highlights.

Step 23

Using the same technique, use the "black" base of the body color as a stroke color to soften the lines around the mouth, chest, eyes and neck. These will be set to Blending Mode Screen with Opacity 30%.

Step 24

Create New Layer and rename it "Eyes".

All the visible eyes will be created in the same way, so I'll just show you the process for one of them. Now use the Pen Tool (P) to create the shapes. The larger eye shape will have a light gray fill (C=15, M=15, Y=20, K=20) set to Blending Mode Lighten with Opacity 30%. The smaller shape will be the "black" fill set to Blending Mode Multiply with Opacity 50%.

The next two shapes which are used for shading around the eyeball, and shadow cast from the eyelid will have a "black" fill set to Blending Mode Multiply with Opacity 50%.

Step 25

I'm going to add some highlights to the eye. The first is with the light gray gradient used to darken the fur earlier on. This is to add an overall shine to the eyes and will be set to Blending Mode Normal with Opacity 50%.

Now add highlights along the waterline and as a reflection on the eye. These will be set to Blending Mode Screen with Opacity 50%.

Step 26

To add more of the "cute" factor, I'm going to enlarge the eyes. So select all the shapes for the eye and go to Object > Transform > Scale to increase the size by 150%.

Step 27

Now Create a New Layer and rename it "Nose". Using the "black", create a shape for the nose that is set to Blending Mode Normal with Opacity 90%.

Add shapes around the nose, specifically around the nostrils and bottom of the nose mouth area. Set these to Blending Mode Multiply with Opacity 15%.

Step 28

Add texture to the nose by using the Width Profile 1 brush with Stroke Weight 2pt to create dots across the nose. These will be with the darkest gray and set to Blending Mode Normal with Opacity 15%.

Step 29

For the hat, I'm going to use the Map Art options within the 3D tools. Yet in order for me to get to this, I'm going to create the vector work to place upon it.

I'm going to start by creating a group of squares using the Rectangle Tool (M), as shown below:

Step 30

Use the Line Segment Tool (\) to draw a line, then give it a 2pt Stroke Weight and apply the Width Profile 1 brush to it. Go to Effects > Distort & Transform > and apply the below options for a horizontal line.

Once done, duplicate the line to place in the diagonally across square. Duplicate it again and Object > Rotate by 90 degrees. You'll then need to go back into the Transform Effect options to modify the Vertical value to be the Horizontal. Duplicate again to fill the leftover square so you should get the below example.

These lines are set to Blending Mode Screen.

Step 31

Group the elements together (Command + G) and then drag and drop them into the Swatch panel. This will create a "New Pattern Swatch". Use the Rectangle Tool (M) to then draw a long rectangle with your new pattern as the fill.

To modify the scale of the pattern, go to Object > Transform > Scale and select only the Option "Pattern" to alter it. I've reduced mine here by 50%.

Step 32

The pattern I've created is inspired by weaves on a conical Asian hat and usually this would be it for the decorations on it. However I want to add a little more detail. So I'm going to do this by adding horizontal bars across it. I've used a line with a dark 6pt stroke weight, then lighter with 4pt, and then even lighter with 2pt stroke as shown.

Step 33

After you've added all the bars to your pattern, Group all the elements (Command + G), click on New Symbol, and then click on OK to add it to your Symbols panel.

Step 34

Access the 3D revolve options for the hat via the Appearance panel and then click on the button "Map Art". You can find your texture from the Symbol drop down menu and then stretch it across the entire area using Scale to Fit. Now click on OK.

Copy and paste the texture to your other vector and repeat the same process to apply your texture.

Step 35

I'm going to Object > Expand the hat so I can divide it into two layers... the hat at the front and the hat behind the head. When expanding the artwork, you'll find some unnecessary shapes, which you can just delete.

Now organize the shapes with the layer folders to have the hat shapes behind the head in a New Sub layer named "Hat Back," as shown below.

Step 36

When you look deeper into the Expanded hat, you will find some shapes are very small but can cause some issues. The hat is created using a Clipping Mask for example. You'll need to remove these shapes also to tidy it up.

Step 37

As previously mentioned, inside the Groups for the Expanded hats are Clipping Masks; so I'm going to take advantage of these for the shading.

I'm going to create an inverted brown transparent radial gradient set to Blending Mode Multiply with Opacity 100% within an Ellipse (L). I'll then place this within the Clipping Mask.

This will be the same for the other hat.

Step 38

I'm going to repeat the same process; however, with a much darker brown for the gradient and this time for the "Hat Back" Clipping Mask group. Again this will be set to Blending Mode Multiply with Opacity 100%.

Step 39

Now to add the ribbons, which are attached to the hats and go under the chin. This is going to be created by using a 20pt Stroke Weight line and applying the Profile "Width Profile 4" to it.

The profile panda will need the ribbon divided into two layer folders, so one ribbon is hidden by some of the head.

Step 40

Select the ribbon strokes and then Object > Expand them so the stroke becomes a shape with a fill. Within this, apply a simple dark red to red to dark red linear gradient.

Step 41

Add some 2pt Stroke Weight lines along the ribbons to give the impression of creases. These will be with the Width Profile 1 brush with the "black" stroke color set to Blending Mode Multiply, and Opacity set to 40%.

Step 42

As the ribbons and the hat itself will cast a shadow on the face, use a black transparent radial gradient on top of the fur set to Blending Mode Multiply with Opacity 20% in the relevant places.

Step 43

Using the Artboard Tool (Shift + O), I'm going to use it to define the crop of the canvas for one of the pandas.

Jot down the Width and the Height of that artboard and then use these dimensions to create the artboard for the other panda, so you have exactly the same sizes.

Step 44

For a simple background, I've used the bamboo brushes from a recent tutorial, with the 3pt Stroke Weight lines at the front and 2pt Stroke Weight lines at the back. In between the bamboo sticks, I've added a brown fill Rectangle (M) set to Blending Mode Screen to add some subtle depth.

Step 45

Finally, I've added a black inverted transparent radial gradient set to Blending Mode Multiply to create a vignette effect and an 8pt Stroke Weight white frame.


I hope you've enjoyed today's tutorial. If you're a Warcraft fan, check out my previous inspired tutorial on creating your own Blood Elf!

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