Ever wanted to illustrate a kid’s book or learn to design cute cartoon characters? This tutorial might be interesting for you! We’ll go through a fun and easy process of creating a cute Siamese kitten in Adobe Illustrator, using simple shapes, Warp Effects and the Pencil Tool with a bit of freehand drawing. Ready to begin?
1. How to Draw the Cat’s Head
Let’s start by creating a New Document of 600 x 600 px size and RGB Color Mode. Use the Rectangle Tool (M) to make a rectangle of the same size and Fill it with a light blue color for the background.
We’ll start with the base of the head. Use the Ellipse Tool (L) to make a 285 x 215 px light beige oval. Selects its side anchor points with the Direct Selection Tool (A) and drag them a few pixels down, making the bottom of the shape somewhat flatter. You can move them by holding down Shift and either clicking and dragging with your mouse or by using the Down Arrow key of your keyboard.
Copy (Control-C) the shape and Paste in Place (Shift-Control-V). Hold down Alt-Shift and make the copy smaller. Change its color to pale grey.
Let’s attach a couple of ears to the kitten’s head. Firstly, take the Polygon Tool (it is located in the same drop-down menu as the Rectangle Tool (M)) and single click anywhere on the Artboard to open the Options menu.
Set the Sides value to 3 and create a triangle of the same pale grey shape as we have for the face. You can use the Eyedropper Tool (I) to pick and apply the color if it isn’t selected in the Colors panel.
Now let’s transform the shape to make it look more like an ear. Keeping it selected, go to Effect > Warp > Bulge and set the Vertical Bend value to 40%; Horizontal Distortion to -10%. In this way, we're bulging our shape and bending it to the left.
Object > Expand Appearance to apply the effect. Select its top anchor point with the Direct Selection Tool (A) and drag the circle marker of the Live Corners down, making the top of the shape rounded. We can also adjust the Corner Radius from the control panel on top, if needed.
Keeping the shape selected, go to Object > Path > Offset Path and set the Offset value to -15 px, leaving all other options as Default. Click OK to create a smaller triangle and Fill it with rose pink color, thus creating the inner part of the ear.
Make the top of the pink shape rounded as well, using the Direct Selection Tool (A) and the Live Corners feature.
Group (Control-G) both elements of the ear and attach them to the head, Rotating and resizing the ear to make it fit the head.
Double-click the Reflect Tool (O), select the Vertical Axis and click Copy to make a mirrored copy of the ear. Attach it to the opposite part of the head.
Let’s go on and draw the face of our character. Use the Ellipse Tool (L) to make a 65 x 55 px white ellipse for the eyeball. Use the Direct Selection Tool (A) to shorten the right handle of the top anchor point and the top handle of the right anchor point, making the right edge of the eye more slanted.
Now add a 50 x 60 px light blue oval for the iris and a 30 x 37 px dark blue ellipse for the pupil. Place the shapes as shown in the screenshot below, covering the right half of the eyeball.
Add a tiny white ellipse for the highlight, and let’s see how we can hide the unneeded parts of the iris.
Copy (Control-C) the white eyeball, Paste in Front (Control-F) and Bring to Front (Shift-Control-]). Now select all the elements of the eye, click the right mouse button, and Make Clipping Mask, thus placing everything inside the top copy, which serves as an imaginary container. All the shapes inside this container are still editable. You can find the Clip Group in the Layers panel, unfold it, and move, edit and rearrange the objects.
Use the Reflect Tool (O) to Flip the eye over the Vertical Axis and make a Copy. Move the iris and its elements inside the Clipping Mask to fix the kitten’s gaze.
Now let’s draw the nose. Make a 25 x 15 px light pink ellipse and reshape it a bit with the Direct Selection Tool (A), moving its top and bottom anchor points down to make it look more like a rounded upside-down triangle.
Make another ellipse of 13 x 12 px for the brow, Fill it with light grey color, and reshape it slightly. Rotate the brow and use the Reflect Tool (O) to add a second one.
Let’s move on and depict a mouth. Use the Line Segment Tool (\) while holding down Shift to draw a straight horizontal line. Apply a dark gray Stroke color from the Color panel. Adjust the thickness of the line either from the control panel on top or from the Stroke panel (Window > Stroke) by setting the Weight to 3 pt and Cap to Round Cap.
Go to Effect > Distort & Transform > Zig Zag. From here, set the Size to 4 px, Ridges per segment to 3, and Points to Smooth. Adjust the Ridges per segment value if your result differs from the one presented in the image below.
Object > Expand Appearance to apply the effect. Now we can edit the tips of the line using the Direct Selection Tool (A). Rotate the anchor handles down to make the corners of the mouth rounded.
Let’s draw the whiskers using the Ellipse Tool (L). Make a 40 x 3 px dark-grey circle, select its side anchor points with the Direct Selection Tool (A), and Convert selected anchor points to corner from the control panel on top, making the tips of the ellipse sharp.
Duplicate (Control-C > Control-F) the shape a few times, making the copies smaller and Rotating them to add more whiskers.
Finish off the kitten’s head by adding a funny tuft of hair on top, using the Pencil Tool (N). You can adjust the tool’s settings by double-clicking it to open the Pencil Tool Options window. From here, move the Fidelity slider further right if you want to make the lines smoother or further left if you’re using a graphic tablet and have a firm hand.
2. How to Draw the Kitten’s Body With the Pencil Tool
Let’s start making the body with an ellipse. Create a 160 x 210 px ellipse of dark beige color. Use the Direct Selection Tool (A) to select both side anchor points and drag them down, making the shape look more like an egg.
Send the ellipse to Back (Shift-Control-[), beneath the head.
Now grab the Pencil Tool (N) and let’s practice our hand drawing a bit. Draw a front right paw and attach it to the body, as shown below.
Let’s apply a simple Linear Gradient to the paw, making the kitten look more like a Siamese one. Use the Gradient panel (Window > Gradient) to apply a dark-grey color to the left slider and the Gradient Tool (G) to adjust the direction of the gradient, so that it blends nicely with the body.
Duplicate the paw and place the copy as shown in the screenshot below.
Now let’s add the back paws. Use the Pencil Tool (N) to draw the desired shape of the paw, Send to Back (Shift-Control-[), and make it slightly darker than the body in order to separate the elements from each other. You can either apply the same gradient to this paw or not, because it will be hidden behind the bottle. In case you want to animate your character or change some of its details later, make sure you’ve applied the same gradient to all the paws. Just select the paws and use the Eyedropper Tool (I) to pick and apply the appearance.
Finish up with the body parts by adding a funny curled tail using the Pencil Tool (N), and Fill it with the same Linear Gradient.
Great! Looks like our kitten is ready! Let’s add a final detail to it.
3. How to Draw a Bottle of Milk
As you might already know, cats are actually lactose intolerant and, hence, indifferent to milk. However, as we’re creating a kid’s illustration with an imaginary character, we can draw anything we want, whether it’s a milkshake or a green smoothie or a can of soda, depending on the purpose of the image. In our case, let's make our kitten a milkshake lover!
So let’s start building our bottle from a 90 x 150 px light blue rectangle. Add a 40 x 65 px rectangle and place it over the top of the first one, forming a bottleneck.
You can Align both shapes either to the Artboard or to the Key Object, using the Align panel (Window > Align). Select both shapes and click Horizontal Align Center to Align to Artboard. If you want to align to one of the objects, click both shapes and click one of them once again. You will see a thicker selection around it, indicating that this is the Key Object.
Once you’re happy with the result, select both shapes and Unite them in the Pathfinder panel, merging them into one silhouette.
Let’s select the corners of the bottle with the Direct Selection Tool (A) and make them rounded by pulling the circle marker of the Live Corners. Select the inner corners between the body of the bottle and the bottleneck, and smooth them out as well. You can adjust the Corner Radius from the control panel on top if you like round numbers, or you may leave it as it is if it looks good.
Grab the Curvature Tool (Shift-‘) and make the bottom of the bottle slightly rounded by bending its edge down.
Go to Object > Path > Offset Path and set the Offset value to -5 px, creating a smaller silhouette inside. Fill it with the lighter blue color to make the glass edges of the bottle thick. Duplicate (Control-C > Control-F) the new shape and Fill the copy with white for the milk.
Let's make the bottle half-empty! Create an ellipse, Rotate it, and resize it, making it fit the inner part of the bottle. Select both the ellipse and the milk shape. Now grab the Shape Builder Tool (Shift-M), hold down Alt and, as soon as you see a tiny minus sign next to your mouse cursor, hover it over the top half of the milk shape. Once it becomes gray, single click it in order to Delete this piece. Great! Half of the milk is gone!
Let’s form the top of the bottleneck. Make a 60 x 20 px ellipse and Fill it with a blue color slightly lighter than the body of the bottle. Create a smaller ellipse inside the first one to form a hole, either making it manually or using the Offset Path function.
Now that the bottle is finished, let’s Group (Control-G) all of its elements and place it in the kitty’s paws. We can do it by positioning the bottle in the desired place and then either Sending it Backward (Control-[) a few times or dragging it down manually in the Layers panel.
Let’s add a straw, making the image more detailed. Use the Pen Tool (P) to draw a polyline. Apply pink color for the Stroke in the Colors panel. Then open the Stroke panel and set the Weight to 4 pt, making the straw thicker.
As with geometric shapes, we can use the Live Corners function for the polylines. Just select the corner anchor point with the Direct Selection Tool (A) and make it slightly rounded.
Once you’re happy with how it looks, Object > Expand the line to turn it into a shape.
Since the bottom part of the straw is located inside the bottle, its color should differ from the top part, as it is dimmed behind the glass.
Let’s see how we can achieve this effect. Select the straw and the inner ellipse of the bottleneck. Take the Shape Builder Tool (Shift-M) and single-click the bottom part of the straw once it becomes gray. Notice that this time we’re not holding down Alt or any other key because we want to divide the shape, slicing the straw into two parts.
Fill the bottom part with lighter pink color and Send Backward (Control-[) a few times, partially hiding it beneath the bottleneck.
This is how it looks now all together. Don’t forget to Bring the mouth shape to Front (Shift-Control-]), covering the tip of the straw.
Let’s finish our illustration by adding any minor details to our liking. For example, here I’ve speckled a group of dark blue ellipses, placing a shadow beneath the kitten.
Meow! Our Cute Kitten Illustration Is Finished!
And there we have it! Great job!
I hope you enjoyed following this tutorial and learned some simple tips and tricks that will help you speed up your work to create more fancy cartoon character illustrations!