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How to Create a Colorful Candied Illustration in Adobe Illustrator

Final product image
What You'll Be Creating

If your summers are anything like mine, you'll happily look for a sweet treat to beat the heat. In this tutorial, I'll break down the basics of this project, showing you how to create everything in Adobe Illustrator, from the character's waffle cone skirt to the cherry on top.

1. Create the Main Character's Body

Step 1

We'll begin by scanning our sketch into our computer at 300 dpi to catch as much of the detail as possible. This drawing was done with a mechanical pencil, so the initial tools aren't really that important. Use what you're comfortable with.

We'll be working with a clean line quality from Adobe Photoshop, and now we can begin to work. I'm working in Adobe Illustrator at a size of 8.5 x 11 inches for this specific project.

I've labeled the first layer "Sketch" and locked it to make sure that I won't accidentally move or delete it. We'll be loosely following this drawing as our guideline.


Step 2

Now that our cool picture is ready for rendering, we can start to make our first initial shapes. I'm using our handy little Pen Tool (P) to create our upper body shape. There isn't a need to create the entire body, only the areas we'll see.

Color for Main Body
Result of Color for Main Body

Step 3

We're going to Copy (Control-C) and Paste in Front (Control-F) a lighter mahogany of both the head and the upper torso. Using our Feather effect, we'll soften the edges to give the body dimension. 

Overlaying Color of Main Body
Result of Overlaying Color onf Main Body

2. Add Facial Features

Step 1

My next step is to make the eyes. I start with a color darker than white to enhance the rest of the eye in the long run. You'll see a distinct difference if you try both solutions.  

Color of Eye Shape
Resulting Color of Eye Shape

Step 2

The nose and creases around the eye are handled with a darker mahogany. I work a bit flatter than most with these features, which gives my characters a cute, cartoon-like look. 

Color of Nose
Result of Nose Color Chosen

Step 3

While still using my solid colors, I've taken my Pen Tool (P) and used it to form her eyelashes in a purple plum color. Normally I would have used a darker color such as black, but this is an extremely color-driven character. She deserves a bit more pizzazz. 

Eyelash Color
Results of Lash Color

Step 4

The color of her iris is made with a three-colored Radial Gradient. It gives off a warm glow without the use of blur effects. 

Iris Colors
Result of Iris Color
Creating Pupil

Step 5

I like to go with a two-color Radial Gradient of pure white on either side to create a shine effect to areas that require it. 

Adding line work to the iris gives them a doll-like quality that adds whimsy and dimension. 

Adding Shine to the Eyes
Adding Line Work to the Iris
Finishing Up Eyes

Step 6

As you can tell, I'm a fan of Transparency effects. Just the slightest bit of color can make the best shadows. 

Adding Shadow to Bridge of Nose
Finished Shadow on Nose

3. Add Makeup

Step 1

The lips are made with a bright, two-toned color combination. The colors work well with her skin tone and personify the idea of a hard-candy-coated smile.  

Color of Lips
Adding Lips
Adding Shading to Lips
Adding Shine to Lips
Finished Lips

Step 2

Taking a step back, you'll see that she has a pretty prominent look. Don't fall in love with the eyebrows yet. This is simply a placeholder until you find a color that works well with her hair. 

I'm also not completely happy with the shape of the lips, so this too may change as we progress. It's alright to start off with a certain look in mind and make changes to the composition as you go. The beauty of Adobe Illustrator is that it's so forgiving and flexible. Use it to your advantage. 

Finished Makeup

Step 3

I love a bright cheek on happy girl illustrations. It gives the suggestion of life and vibrancy. The more subtle the Transparency, the more believable they'll look.  

Adding Blush
Altering the Transparency of the Blush

Step 4

From here, we'll apply the eye shadow. I liken this bright color to a throwback from the 80s. Notice how it gives a shimmer to her eyelid. 

Make sure to be mindful of the order of your layers. Notice that the eye shadow has been placed behind the creases of the eyes made earlier. 

Eyeshadow Colors
Adding Eyeshadow
End Result of Eyeshadow

Step 5

When I want to add a bit more depth to a large space such as the forehead, I'll use a Radial Gradient with a Feather effect to soften the edges. 

Try to stay away from Gaussian Blurs if at all possible. They're great for glows, but can look very messy as blush or as skin reflections. 

Adding Shine to Forehead
Adding Shine to Cheeks

Step 6 

We're finally able to add candy elements. I've started with circular candy sprinkles around the eyes. I've added the same Radial Gradient used on top of the iris and pupil of the eye to add a bit of shine to each. 

Adding Sprinkles to Cheeks

4. Add Hair and Clothes

Step 1

The next step is to make her long bangs. I'm starting off with a pink to see how I like it against her skin and makeup. I want it to have a pastel feel, similar to recently churned ice cream. 

In the project file, you'll notice that the bangs and long hair in the back have been separated onto two individual layers. This lessens confusion, and makes selection easier. I recommend locking any layer you're not working in at the time to avoid accidental movement or recoloring. 

Adding Bangs
Adding Long Hair

Step 2

After finishing up the initial shape of the hair, we'll work on her festive candy top. I chose to make a candy belt pattern due to its unique pattern and flexibility. It's almost believable as a fashionable top. 

To smooth out any rough bits, I used a 1.5 pt Stroke line around the entire piece of clothing. 

Adding Candy Top
Finishing Up Shading to Top
Adding Stroke Line to Top

Step 3

The waffle cone skirt is made simply from two colors combined in another Radial Gradient, with a Stroke line of 1.5 pt. We're merely carving out the main shapes first. 

Skirt Color
Adding Skirt Color

Step 4

At this point, we can add one of my favorite elements. Candy Belts are literally covered completely with sugar, so it's only fitting that our character has a similar Candy Belt top. For a better understanding of how to make your own glitter/sugar you can refer to Create a Lisa Frank Inspired Colourful Pegasus in Adobe Illustrator to create a great Symbol pattern to use repeatedly. This will cut down on your file size considerably. 

Also, add a bit to her cheeks to tie in with her sugary sweet look. 

Adding SugarGlitter to Top
Finishing Up GlitterSugar
Adding GlitterSugar to Face

5. Add Hair Details

Step 1

Sometimes, it takes seeing the rest of the elements to come up with the appropriate hair color for your character. I chose a Neapolitan ice cream color, which would give us three different colors to her hair for a sweet, frosty look.  

I liked the idea of strawberry ice cream, but I didn't want to overwhelm the piece with too much pink. I like the use of different flavors to represent her hair.

Finalizing Hair Color
Adding Hair Details
Continuing Details of Hair
Adding Curls to Bangs

Step 2

Once the larger elements have been created, we'll start to make our drippy hair pieces. I've started with the middle strawberry color since it'll be easier to bring the other two colors into its coloring, creating a suggestion of the flavors mixing. 

Adding Strawberry Drips to Hair 1
Adding Strawberry Drips to Hair 2
Adding Strawberry Drips to Hair 3

Step 3

As you can see, we've moved over to the vanilla side of her bangs, creating the same drippy effect as used with the strawberry side. 

We are gradually adding elements of strawberry to our vanilla and chocolate to our strawberry layers in a very convincing display of color. 

Adding Vanilla Drips to Hair 1
Adding Vanilla Drips to Hair 2
Adding Strawberry to Vanilla Bangs
Adding Long Hair Ice cream Splashes 1
Adding Long Hair Ice cream Splashes 2

Step 4

Now a large portion of our hair is complete. I've gone in to the hair behind her head to add splashes and liquid-like curls as an extra special effect. I think it reads well as both hair and liquid. 

Adding Long Hair Ice cream Splashes 3

6. Add Jewelry

Step 1

Where would a candy girl be without her candy necklace? In my childhood, this was a must for any little girl with a sweet tooth like mine. Using simple shapes and gradients will give a clean finish to your candy.

Making Candy Necklace 1
Making Candy Necklace 2
Making Candy Necklace 3
Making Candy Necklace 4

Step 2

To complement her candy necklace, we've made a square of gum which will not be very visible under her hair, so there isn't a real need for detail here. 

Making Candy Earring 1
Making Candy Earring 2

Step 3

To top off her jewelry, we'll make a cherry-shaped fastener to affix to her hair. Any good old-fashioned sundae would come with one, so the idea of the cherry is very iconic, especially in the United States. 

If you're not a "cherry" kind of person, experiment with different toppings, or come up with an alternative that suits your tastes. 

Adding Cherry Fastener 1
Adding Cherry Fastener 2
Adding Cherry Fastener 3
Adding Cherry Fastener 4
Adding Cherry Fastener 5

Step 4

We're now ready to add the long sprinkles to adorn her syrupy tresses. I started with a simple 5 pt Stroke line with Rounded Caps and Rounded Corners

Making Sprinkles 1
Making Sprinkles 2

Step 5

Create various colored sprinkles all over her hair and Group (Control-G) them all together. Copy (Control-C) and Paste in Front (Control-F) twice. 

The top group of sprinkles will be used to make the flat sprinkles more believable. The lower group of sprinkles will be used to make a shadow component. 

Making Sprinkles 3
Making Sprinkles 4
Making Sprinkles 5

7. Create a Marshmallow Bird

Marshmallow Peeps are a popular candy that many can identify. The body is billowy with very soft features. Top off the look with a little iconic chocolate eye. 

Peeps are covered in their own sugary coating as well, so you can be generous with your sugar/glitter Symbols here as well. 

Making a Marshmallow Peep 1
Making a Marshmallow Peep 2
Making a Marshmallow Peep 3
Making a Marshmallow Peep 4
Making a Marshmallow Peep 5
Making a Marshmallow Peep 6

8. Add Decorative Nails

Step 1

I love adding nail polish to my own nails, so I couldn't wait to add this simple feature. Going with our candy theme, I chose bright colors similar to her clothing. 

Color of Nails
Adding Nails 1
Adding Nails 2
Adding Nails 3

Step 2

The nails can be finished off with a bit of shine added to them. We'll also add a soft skin highlight to the fingers and back of her hand. 

Adding Nails 4
Adding Nails 5

9. Create a Waffle Cone Effect

Step 1

There are various ways we can approach this skirt, but one of the simplest and quickest is to use Stroke lines to make a pattern across the length of the skirt. Make a Copy (Control-C) and Paste (Control-V) to overlay a new identical layer of lines to finish up your waffle pattern.  

Even out the tones of the shadows of the skirt folds, taking care not to leave them as dark as they were, and add a nice layer of Feathered light amber to the top, excluding the areas where there would be no real source of light. 

Adding Waffle Pattern to Skirt 1
Adding Waffle Pattern to Skirt 2
Adding Waffle Pattern to Skirt 3
Adding Waffle Pattern to Skirt 4

Step 2

I'm obviously a fan of dipping things in chocolate, but if you're not too keen on the idea, it's great to experiment with other flavors. Maybe you're a lover of all things white chocolate, or caramel—the sky's the limit with this sweet little project. Always keep an open mind. 

Adding Chocolate to Skirt 1
Adding Chocolate to Skirt 2

Step 3

I'm topping off my skirt with a smattering of crushed peanuts. Maybe the idea of seeing peanuts on your project makes you break into hives or want to reach for an epi-pen. Why not cover the bottom in sprinkles instead!

Adding Nuts to Skirt 1
Adding Nuts to Skirt 2

10. Create Gummi Bears

Step 1

As far as gummi bears go, I'm not a fan of their taste, but I love how they look. It's a whimsical, decorative friend with a nearly transparent body, so what's not to love about these particular little guys.  

Making Gummi Bears 1
Making Gummi Bears 2
Making Gummi Bears 3
Making Gummi Bears 4

Step 2

After making the larger areas of our red gummi bear, we'll add the highlights and shading to him. He's got a very glassy skin quality, much like his candy ancestors. 

Making Gummi Bears 5
Making Gummi Bears 6
Making Gummi Bears 7

Step 3

In this step I've added a little gummie treat between his paws. It's a bit of dark tongue-in-cheek humor on my part, but it's not cannibalism, if you don't know where it came from. 

Making Gummi Bears 8
Making Gummi Bears 9

Step 4

In this shot, we see the finalized look for our red gummi friend. 

Making Gummi Bears 10

Step 5

Another of my favorite shortcuts is the Recolor Artwork option located in your Edit tab. This allows me to take all of the colors selected and experiment with them without actually going through the hassle of changing individual gradients. It can all be done in this window, which is why I love this feature so much. 

I have used a green for the little friend perched on her shoulder, and I'll use the same techniques to add depth and shine to his body and face.  

Making Gummi Bears 11
Making Gummi Bears 12
Making Gummi Bears 13

11. Create the Chocolate Rabbit

Step 1

My final character to create is the chocolate rabbit. I've started with a rich, dark brown as my base color, and I'll add sources of light to bring out his shape. The sources of light are then softened with a Feather effect, and his bow has been added in a marigold yellow color as a nod to the traditional chocolate bunny. 

Making a Chocolate Bunny 1
Making a Chocolate Bunny 2
Making a Chocolate Bunny 3
Making a Chocolate Bunny 4
Making a Chocolate Bunny 5

Step 2

Once our rabbit is completed, we can add a few simple jelly beans around him. As a time saver, I would Copy (Control-C) and Paste (Control-V) a bunch and change their color as you go. 

Making a Chocolate Bunny 6

Step 3

The rabbit has also been placed in a Clipping Mask (Control-7) for easier editing. I've set him in the ice cream hair, and I've added a few splash marks to tie the look together into one cohesive idea. 

Making a Chocolate Bunny 7
Making a Chocolate Bunny 8

12. Edit the Lips

Step 1

As I mentioned before, I wasn't completely happy with the lips, but instead of starting from scratch, I've made a duplicate of the bottom lip to work from. 

Using the newly formed top lip, I'll use the same techniques as with the previous lip, even adding a crease to the corner of the mouth. 

No matter how far along you are into a project, you still have the freedom and ease to make changes in Illustrator. 

Editing Lips 1
Editing Lips 2
Editing Lips 3
Editing Lips 4

Step 2

Here's a shot of the newly edited mouth, with a sweeter smile. 

Editing Lips 5

13. Add a Simple Background

Using a two-toned Radial Gradient of purple hues, we've created the final element to our sweet treat project.

Background Color

Finished! Our Sweet Little Picture Is Now Ready to Display!

I really do hope you've enjoyed this rendering. If you're hoping to start off with something a bit easier to follow, try Quick Tip: Create a Candy Flavored Text Effect in Photoshop. If you'd like to try something a bit more challenging, such as creating your own game with your colorful characters, try Getting Started with Phaser: Building Monster Wants Candy. Happy Vectoring!

Final Project
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