We are going to create this fun canine cowboy character using Affinity Designer. As we'll only be employing vector shapes and effects, this illustration can be used for everything from online purposes to full colour t-shirts and beyond.
We'll be creating this stylized portrait using the sketch below to guide us, combining simple vector shapes utilizing Affinity Designer's Pen Tool and shading effects to simulate light and shadow.
We'll start by drawing all of the main shapes in an organized layer based workflow and then fill the shapes with solid flat colour and add effects and shading to create a semi-realistic, believable cartoony character.
Some knowledge of Affinity Designer's Pen Tool and basic shape creation will be beneficial but not absolutely necessary as we'll cover what is needed as we go.
Let's get started...
1. Prepare the File
Right-click on the sketch to download it.
Let's start by creating a new single-page RGB colour Affinity Designer file with the approximate dimensions of 20 cm x 20 cm (any square shape size will work).
Use the Place Image Tool from the Toolbar on the left-hand side to choose and place the sketch from your desktop or hard drive into your file.
Scale (resize) the sketch up or down if needed to fill the area by selecting the sketch with the Move Tool (V) (the black filled cursor top left on toolbar) and clicking and dragging on any corner handle of the selected sketch.
Locate the Layers panel and you should see a new image type layer called Canine Cowboy.
Go the top of the Layers panel to the right of the word Opacity, click and hold on the pull-down with Normal on it and select Multiply, the fourth option down the list.
This will make the sketch transparent and allow us to see our sketch as we create all of the shapes.
Now lock this layer for now by making sure the layer is selected and clicking the lock icon in the top right of the panel.
Or you can right-click on the layer to access a menu of options, one of them being Lock.
After placing and sizing the sketch, I like to organize my Layers panel before starting to create any shapes.
Having your main elements organized on individual layers keeps everything manageable as the illustration develops.
In Affinity Designer shapes on a layer below will appear behind shapes on a layer above.
Have a look at the sketch and try to decide which elements should be on separate layers, or which shapes are in front and which are behind.
Starting with the background on the bottom layer, I create and name the layers: Hat, Head, Nose, Front Ear, etc.
You create new layers by clicking the new vector layer icon in the bottom right corner of the Layers panel.
Make sure you are adding Vector Layers with this icon as the other icon is for adding Pixel Layers and we won't be using those in this tutorial.
When you add a new layer this way, the layers are still empty as we haven't created any shapes yet. After adding and naming your layers, you now have a structure to build on.
The following screenshot shows how I choose to set up my layers for this project based on the provided sketch.
Before we start making our shapes, let's make sure that the sketch layer is the topmost layer.
Most likely all of the new layers were added on top of this layer.
To move this layer up to the top, click to select it and drag it up in the layer stack to the top position in the panel.
You should see a horizontal light blue highlight indicating its position.
Let go when it's seated at the top.
Bring the Opacity of this layer down to 50% to see the artwork a little better as we create the shapes and element underneath it.
Earlier we set the Canine Cowboy layer to Multiply so it will be visible as we create the illustration. Ensure this is still the case as it may have changed back to Normal after moving it.
2. Draw Your Shapes
The Pen Tool (P) is the heart and soul of Affinity Designer.
It allows you to create smooth curves and corners as well as straight lines, sharp corners and everything in between.
In my experience, success with the Pen Tool is knowing when to click and when to un-click, and the more you use it, the easier it gets.
If you don't create the perfect line or shape straight off, you can easily make adjustments.
When starting to draw the vector shapes in an illustration, I usually start with the easier, less complicated shapes.
Any shapes that repeat are also a good place to start as you can see results more quickly.
Let's start this tutorial with the front ear shape.
Making sure the front ear layer is selected in the Layers panel, chose the Pen Tool (P) and begin at the top of the ear.
Click once and un-click to place a Node to start the shape at the top of the ear
Then (without clicking) move your cursor down to the bottom left side of the ear and click, hold and drag near the bottom of the ear shape and keep holding and dragging until you have a smooth curve from the first node that roughly lines up with the sketch...
... then un-click.
One single click and release with no hold will create a single sharp node.
Clicking and holding while dragging creates a curve and a curve-based node.
We will be utilizing this technique for most of the creation of this tutorial.
Let's finish the path for this ear shape.
If your path is still selected, click, hold and drag just to the right of the last node, following the sketch to form the bottom part of the ear.
Un-click and finally return up to the first node (you should see a little circle shape near the Pen Tool cursor as you hover over the first node, indicating the path will be closed if you click on it.
Click to close the shape path. You should now have an ear-shaped vector path.
Let's go back and adjust the path.
Depending on how you clicked, you may have to make some adjustments.
If you have a sharp corner where you want a smooth corner, with the Pen Tool click and drag on the node and it will change to a smooth node.
Keep dragging to make the adjustment. If you have smooth node where you wanted a sharp corner, click the node with the Pen Tool and Option key pressed.
To select a node on the path, press A or select the Node Tool in the Tool panel.
To add a node to an existing path, select the Node Tool (A) and simply click on the path to create a new node.
You can even click and drag on the path itself with the Node Tool to move the path.
It's usually good practice to create all of the main shapes before thinking about colour.
Some shapes will need to be created as we develop the illustration, but for now let's get all of the main elements blocked in.
Here is my closed and adjusted ear shape. I use a 1 pt magenta line width to draw the shapes, as it's easy to see any areas I may have missed when it comes time to add colour.
Using the same Pen and Node Tool techniques, let's continue drawing the inside shape of the ear and the rest of the main shapes, paying close attention to the sketch and making sure we are drawing on the correct layer.
When building your shapes, only create the part of the shape that will be visible.
For example, the bottom portion of the back ear will not be seen behind the hat, so there is no need to draw the whole ear.
The laurel leaves and branch will be duplicated and flipped once they are drawn and shaded, so let’s just create the left side for now.
3. Apply a Base Colour Scheme
Let’s concentrate next on applying colour to all of the basic shapes we’ve just drawn.
Import the supplied colour palette by downloading the attached file to your hard drive or desktop.
Find your swatches panel in Affinity Designer (View > Studio > Swatches) and by clicking on the Three Small Horizontal Lines in the top right corner.
Go to Import Palette > as Document Palette.
Navigate to where you saved the colour palette and it should show up in your Swatches panel.
Alternatively you can use your own colour scheme.
Once you have the Colour Palette imported, you can start selecting shapes and filling with flat colour.
Do this by selecting each shape or Shift > Selecting multiple shapes and then clicking on the desired colour swatch.
Follow the finished illustration as a guide or choose your own colour scheme for each shape.
Continue filling in all of the shapes until all of the magenta lines are gone.
Another quick way to fill in shapes with the same colour is to pick an already filled-in shape of the colour you want.
Shift > Select all of the shapes to colour, and then Command > Shift > V to paste that colour into all of the selected shapes.
This technique is very powerful in Affinity Designer as it will also paste any copied effects or gradient attributes from one element to another.
After I have coloured everything, I decided to apply some varying thickness to the branch.
To do this, first select the branch.
In the Stroke panel, change the line thickness to 15.5 pt.
Then click on Pressure in the lower right corner and you will see two nodes at the top of a pop-up window with a line connecting them.
The distance between them represents the length of the line selected.
Clicking and dragging a node up or down will change the whole line width.
To change the line width independently, Option-Click each node and drag.
For even more control, click the line anywhere to add more nodes, and adjust accordingly.
Click Reset or delete a node if needed.
4. Shading and Effects: The Hat
The next part of the tutorial involves adding shading, lighting, and effects. This is the phase that brings the character to life. I generally use a combination of gradients, transparency, inner shadows, gaussian blurs, etc. We will cover the essential techniques involved along with the various settings I use.
At this point, we can hide the sketch for now as it will just get in the way.
Click on the Checkmark on the right side of the Canine Cowboy layer to hide the sketch.
Let’s start by adding an Inner Shadow effect to the hat.
Inner shadows are a great way to add a sense of dimension to any element quickly and easily.
Select the main or middle part of the hat and locate the Effects panel (View > Studio > Effects).
Enable an inner shadow by ticking the box beside the Inner Shadow effect and apply the values and settings from the screenshot.
Pick a slightly darker colour than the hat’s base colour from your Colour panel.
To do this, click on the Colour Swatch in the inner shadow drop down, and a Colour Picker system will pop up.
Click on the colour system and pull down to access the Swatches mode.
Your Colour Palette will show up in the List.
You may need to select the actual Document Swatch Palette from the second pulldown in this popup…
Adjust the Opacity and Radius of the inner shadow to something that works for you.
Play around with Offset and Angle too (although I didn’t add these on mine).
There's an almost unlimited array of combinations possible with these settings.
Opacity controls the overall value of the effect.
Radius controls the size of the effect and its blur.
Offset and Angle usually work hand in hand and allow for the effect to be offset or shifted and/or rotated (angle). We will cover this on the brim of the hat next.
Select the front brim of the hat.
Apply the values and settings from the screenshot.
To simulate more of a shadow underneath the brim, add some offset and an angle of 90 degrees to shift the inner shadow effect towards the bottom to add more shadow below and towards the back of the hat.
This helps to suggest the curve of the brim as it turns under.
With these settings, you have a lot of control here. If you feel you want a sharper shadow, reduce the Radius to something that feels right.
For the colour on this shadow, add a bit of red to simulate some bounce colour off the fur below the hat.
Now select the far brim of the hat. Here we will use a Gradient to add a shadow to the bottom and right side.
Select the Fill Tool (G) and click and drag on the selected shape similar to the screenshot, and assign a colour to the second Gradient Node similar to what I have here.
This adds a nice shadow that simulates the space between the brim and the peak of the hat.
I would like to adjust this shadow colour a bit, so with the shape and the Second Node of the Gradient Tool still selected, change the colour system from wheel to HSL.
Move the L Slider to 32 to darken the level and the S Slider to 29 to add some saturation back into the colour.
Now our hat is starting to take shape.
Let's add some thickness to the brims because right now they appear to be paper thin.
With the Pen Tool (P), click in behind the front ear along where the ridge of the brim behind it is and, making sure you are still on the hat layer, create a path along the brim going from right to left.
It doesn’t have to be exact as it will be covering the current brim edge when finished.
Make any positioning adjustments if needed with the Node Tool (A).
Make the line width 2 pt in the Stroke panel.
Change the colour if need be to something light as this is going to be the edge of the brim that will catch the light.
Now we will adjust the thickness along the line to complete the effect of a nice edge. We want the front of the hat edge to come to a point as it dips down in the front.
With the path you just made still selected, in the Stroke panel click on the Pressure icon and adjust according to the screenshot.
Once you’ve done this, let’s move over to the second brim and do the same basic process.
The reason that we are doing this as two separate paths instead of one is because on the second path we need the top end of the path to be behind the centre portion of the hat.
With the Hat Layer still active, select the Pen Tool (P) and draw along the edge of the second brim.
This time, because the brim is a little further back, let’s make the line width 1.5 pt.
Notice that your new path is in front of the main centre hat element. Let’s move that in behind but still in front of the back brim.
In the Layers panel, drag the path layer down so it’s underneath the main centre hat shape.
Now, as we did earlier, let’s adjust the line width along the line with the Pressure adjustment.
Depending on which end of the path you started the line, the pressure pop-up may look different than the one shown here. If it is the opposite to the screenshot, just flip the settings.
The hat is almost complete, but there are a couple more final touches we can add to really finish it off.
Let’s add some dimension to the band and the top of the hat.
We’ll start on the band by adding a shadow to the right side of it as it goes in behind the front brim.
For this shadow, let’s try a different technique. Instead of the Gradient method we used earlier, we will add a duplicate band shape above and apply a dark colour and a transparency effect to it.
Select the band shape and Copy (Command-C) and Paste it (Command-V).
You should now have an exact copy directly on top of the original shape.
Fill it with a dark colour and change the Layer Mode to Multiply.
Select the Transparency Tool (Y) in the Tool panel—it looks like a wine glass.
Click and drag on the shape from the top left of the shape to the bottom right.
With the Transparency Tool (Y) still selected, notice on the gradient thumbnail there are two endpoints and a slider in the middle.
The two End Points show the amount of transparency applied along the gradient.
The solid black end point indicates 0% Transparency while the white end point indicates 100% Transparency.
Adjusting the Points positions or the Slider by clicking and dragging will adjust the transparency effect.
You can add Points in between by clicking on the Line but we won’t do that for this shape.
Since we dragged from the top to the bottom, we’ll need to reverse the gradient direction to achieve the proper effect we’re after.
To do this, simply redraw the gradient by clicking from the bottom right and up to the top left.
It’s now flipped and looks more natural, as if there is a shadow going in behind the brim.
Let’s reduce the amount of shadow a bit as it looks a little too dark at the moment.
There are a few ways to do this.
You can select the bottom End Point and move it further away, you can select the bottom End Point and adjust the level of transparency Opacity as shown, or you can move the Slider to adjust the gradient.
By using a Transparency Gradient here instead of a Colour Gradient to make the shadow, we are able to quickly select the original coloured shape below and change its colour without having to adjust the shadow as the shadow effect is sitting on the layer above and will affect the shape below instantly.
One last thing we will do to the hat band is to add a subtle highlight as it’s feeling a little flat currently.
With the Pen Tool (P), create a path 2 pt wide horizontally left to right along but just below the top of the hat band.
Choose a colour that will make a nice highlight colour for the band.
To soften the effect, give the path Rounded End Caps and add a 0.9 px Gaussian Blur to the path from the Effects panel.
Finally, select the Transparency Tool (Y) and create a transparency effect similar to the screenshot by clicking and dragging the tool from left to right across the stroke.
By adding a third point on the line and adjusting its position and level of Opacity, we are able to create a nice highlight effect exactly where we need it.
The left and right points have 0% Opacity so the highlight appears to disappear. We will reuse this technique on the front and top of the centre portion of the hat shortly.
With the Pen Tool (P), create a path with an 18 pt line width and the same colour as the previous highlight colour.
Apply Pressure settings as shown to change the path shape.
Apply an 11 px Gaussian Blur and reduce the Opacity to around 75%.
Very quickly we added a nice highlight on the front of the hat, giving it a tangible quality.
On the sketch, there is an area at the top of the hat that forms an indentation.
This will be the final detail on the hat before moving on to the glasses.
With the Pen Tool (P), create the shape that will become the indent at the top of the hat and fill with a slightly darker colour than the hat base.
Select the Transparency Tool (Y) and drag from below the shape to almost the top of the shape.
Adjust until the shadow appears to disappear towards the top of the shape.
To add the highlight, we’ll reuse the earlier technique for the last time on the hat.
Select the Pen Tool (P) and draw a curved horizontal 2.5 pt wide path just below the bottom of the indent and apply Pressure settings that bring the line ends to a point.
In the Effects panel, with the path selected, apply a 4 px Gaussian Blur.
Congratulations! You’ve just created an awesome cowboy hat. Let’s move on to the sunglasses next.
5. Shading and Effects: The Sunglasses
The sunglasses are a big part of what makes this character so appealing, and they are a pretty simple setup.
They are mainly all dark shapes with some key highlights.
Let’s start with the lenses.
Select the right inner lens and Command Click > Shift and Drag a copy of the right lens off to the right side.
With the Pen Tool (P), create a shape that will be used to create the highlight shape.
We will use a Boolean command to create a new shape based on the original shape so it will fit precisely on top of the lens.
Ensure that the new shape is a closed path or the Boolean won’t work.
Select the copied right lens and Shift-Select the new shape.
You should have both shapes selected.
Locate the Boolean row of tools in the upper tool shelf and, with both shapes still selected, click the Divide or second to last icon in the row to chop the two overlapped shapes.
Now we will select and delete the shapes we don’t need.
Select the remaining shape and drag it with the Shift key pressed to keep it lined up horizontally with the original lens shape.
Place it back on top of the original lens shape.
This will be our right lens highlight.
Fill the new shape with a light pink colour to add a little warmth to the glasses highlight.
Using the Transparency Tool (Y), click just outside the top left of the shape and over to the right until you achieve the amount of reflected highlight you like.
I’m going to increase the contrast by darkening all of the sunglass elements slightly.
Now let’s repeat the previous steps for the left inner lens.
Copy Drag the lens off to the left this time, creating a shape used to chop up this shape into the left lens highlight.
Select both shapes and click the Divide Boolean Command as before from the upper Tool Shelf.
Move the shape into position over the left inner lens and apply the light pink highlight colour.
Using the Transparency Tool (Y), create a Linear transparency gradient similar to the right lens.
Wow! These lens highlights are really giving the glasses a nice plastic sunglass look.
Just a few more well-placed highlights will really bring them to life.
Using the same technique as with the hat brim highlights, we’re going to use a few light-coloured strokes with pointy ends and well-placed transparency effects to suggest sunlight on the frames.
Using the Pen Tool (P), on the back frame layer draw a path similar to the one shown, make it around 1 pt in width and use the same pink colour from the lens highlights.
With the path selected, click on the Pressure setting and apply pressure to make both path ends go to a point.
The path needs to softly fade to nothing, so let’s use the Transparency Tool (Y) again.
This time we’ll go diagonally across the path as shown, allowing each end to fade out and keeping the highlight at 100% in the top left corner where the light source is coming from.
Let’s continue to add a few more highlights on the Glasses Back Layer as shown.
These are ultra-thin lines, and because these are so thin (0.3 pt) we don’t really need the transparency effect here.
Let’s go back to the glasses front layer and add a few highlights in the same manner.
For the bottom and right highlights I used a darker colour as these areas of the glasses aren’t catching as much of the sunlight.
One last adjustment and we will be done with the glasses.
Let’s add a subtle soft highlight to add some dimension to the middle section. This was achieved in exactly the same way as the lens highlights.
I created a shape to fit just inside the middle section, filled it with our pink highlight colour and then applied a transparency effect that just adds a nice, subtle highlight pulling that shape out a bit.
Now that these awesome sunglasses are complete, let’s move on to the head.
6. Shading and Effects: The Head
With the dog’s head, not only do we need to add shading to define it, we also need to think about the shadows created from the objects adjacent to it, specifically the glasses, hat, handkerchief and front ear.
Currently, without shadows, these objects seem to be floating in place and need to be grounded or visually connected to the head.
Let’s start by adding an inner shadow to the head shape.
Pick a fairly dark, almost black colour, and apply these settings to the shape.
This instantly adds interest and believability to the head. It’s a great start but we need to do a bit more.
Next, we’ll create a shape to add some shading along the top of the handkerchief.
Using the same dark colour, create a shape that starts out just under the bottom jaw and curves up to just behind the ear before continuing down along the back of the neck and under the top of the handkerchief.
Adjust the Opacity to 36% and apply a 21 px Gaussian Blur.
Let’s create the dark shadow under the hat.
Draw another shape that starts under the hat and completely covers the area of forehead between the hat and halfway down the back of the glasses as shown.
Using the Transparency Tool (Y), let’s soften the hard edge at the bottom of the dark shape so it fades to nothing gradually.
Next we’ll define the glasses shadow.
Because we want the shadow to fall on the nose under the glasses, create the following shape on the Nose Layer.
Start it under the right lens and sweep in a nice curve to behind the bottom of the ear and continuing up behind the arm of the glasses and back down, making sure to hug just inside the outside edge of the glasses.
Fill the shape with the same dark shadow colour.
Apply a 12 px Gaussian Blur and adjust the transparency as shown.
We need to add a bit more of a shadow to the lens, so let’s select the outer lens and add an outer shadow with the settings as shown.
This adds a nice solidity to the shadow. There is one more trick that will finish this shadow.
To define a bit of an edge where the glasses are closest to the nose, create a shape similar to the screenshot, fill it with the shadow colour, and then apply the Transparency Tool (Y) to fade the shadow to transparent as shown.
No blur this time as we want the edge to be seen. It’s a subtle addition, but I think it adds a sense of weight to the glasses.
Let’s add a shadow under the jaw to extend its length and give it some dimension.
The same techniques apply here. Create the shape as shown, fill it with the dark shadow colour and apply the Transparency Tool (Y). No blur this time.
So far we’ve only been adding shadows to the head. Let’s add a couple of highlights to pull out some definition on the jawline and cheek areas.
Create a shape similar to the one shown and fill it with a browny red colour that is lighter than the brown of the head base colour.
Add a 9 px Gaussian Blur to the shape and apply the Transparency Tool (Y) as shown to fade the highlight to 0% as it goes up the jaw.
Let’s do a similar thing with the cheek.
Create a shape similar to the one shown and fill it with the same light browny red as the jaw line highlight.
Apply a 35.5 px Gaussian Blur to create a nice, soft, large cheek bulge.
7. Shading and Effects: The Ears
Let’s continue with the ears. This will be a quick setup. There isn’t really a need to add an inner shadow to the ears.
Let’s start on the front ear by adding a small transparency gradient right down at the bottom of the ear to hide the edge where it would join the head.
This transparency gradient is applied with the Transparency Tool (Y) to the original front ear shape, but the transparency part of it is only right down near the bottom as shown.
While we still have the Transparency Tool (Y) active, select the inner dark shape of the ear and apply a gradient from left to right.
All that’s left is to add a vertical highlight on the left side of the ear to add a bit of dimension to the overall shape.
Create a path in a light browny red colour around 3 pt in width and apply a Pressure setting as shown.
Finish the highlight by applying a 7 px Gaussian Blur to the stroke.
For the back ear, we will simply add a duplicate shape on top of the existing shape with a transparency gradient applied.
Copy (Command-C) and Paste (Command-V) the back ear shape.
This copies and places an exact duplicate directly in front of the original shape.
For this copied shape, let's fill it with the dark shadow colour and apply a transparent gradient with the Transparency Tool (Y) to it as shown.
That’s it, we’re all done with the ears!
8. Shading and Effects: The Nose and Snout
Continuing with the nose area, we will keep applying the same techniques as before.
Let’s tackle the main part of the nose first before moving on to the tip.
Select the main shape and let’s apply an Inner Shadow.
This Inner Shadow will need to be offset somewhat as we don’t want a hard edge to show up in the area that attaches to the head shape.
In the Inner Shadow settings, select the same dark shadow colour and apply the shadow settings as shown.
This applies a nice shading on the top and left side of the shape but avoids the right side, which is perfect.
I’d like a little more shadow underneath the front section of his nose so let’s copy and paste the nose shape to create a copy directly on top of the original.
Fill it with the shadow colour and apply a transparency gradient with the Transparency Tool (Y) as shown, making sure to start the gradient low enough to not add a line to that area that connects with the head.
That looks good.
Now let’s add some volume to his snout.
Create and position a shape similar to the one shown and fill it with the same colour used in the cheek bulge shape from earlier.
Apply a 30 px Gaussian Blur to the shape.
Let’s add a similar effect on the top plane of his nose where the light would definitely be hitting.
Create a shape similar to the one shown, in a lighter colour than the last shape because it would be catching more light.
Place it just under the top ridge of the nose and just to the left of his glasses, making sure that it is behind the nose tip shape.
Apply a transparency gradient with the Transparency Tool (Y) as shown.
To finish it off, apply a 9 px Gaussian Blur.
To complete the main nose shape, let’s add a nice bright highlight to the top plane.
In a light highlight colour, create a shape as shown and apply a linear transparency gradient with the Transparency Tool (Y) from left to right with an extra point in the middle set to 100% and the outside two points set to 0%.
Let’s soften this as it’s a little too hard-edged currently.
Apply a 2.5 px Gaussian Blur to the shape. That will complete the main part of the nose.
Let’s move on to the nose tip now.
Select the nose tip shape and apply a dark inner shadow effect as shown.
Notice the Offset applied to shift the darker portion down and to the right.
Let’s add a soft highlight to create some dimension for this nose tip shape.
Create a shape as shown and fill it with a mid-tone highlight colour.
Make sure the nostril shapes are in front of this shape.
Apply a transparency gradient with the Transparency Tool (Y) top to bottom, and then apply a 12.5 px Gaussian Blur to the shape.
The effect we want is subtle to suggest a soft, smooth surface.
To continue the softness effect, let’s add a small Gaussian Blur of 1.5 px to the nostrils.
To suggest a three-dimensional quality to the nostril, let’s add a soft highlight where the light would sit on the bottom ridges.
Create these two shapes, fill with a light brown colour and apply a transparency gradient with the Transparency Tool (Y) to both that fades each end to 0%.
For the right nostril, create one more shape as shown and apply similar effects as the last two shapes, except here for the Gaussian Blur let’s make it a little sharper at only 0.5 px.
We are almost done with the nose tip.
As dogs' noses are usually wet, let’s add one last highlight to the top of the nose tip.
With the same light pink colour from the sunglasses highlights, let’s create a shape similar to the one shown, positioned just below the top edge of the nose tip.
Add a vertical transparency gradient with the Transparency Tool (Y) as shown.
We’ll leave it as is, without a Gaussian Blur this time, to suggest a wet, glossy nose.
Congratulations—you just finished the nose!
We’ll tackle the tongue, teeth and inside the mouth next.
9. Shading and Effects: The Mouth and Tongue
The tongue presents a bit of a challenge, but with what we’ve covered so far and the techniques we’ve learned, I think we’re up for it!
Let’s start by adding a bit of shadow to the top section of the tongue or the part inside the mouth.
Duplicate the tongue shape by Copying (Command-C) and Pasting (Command-V).
Fill the shape with a dark brown, not quite black.
Apply a transparency gradient with the Transparency Tool (Y) as shown and reduce the shape's overall Opacity to 60%.
We are now going to cut a copy of the tongue shape into two pieces.
Copy (Command-C) and Paste (Command-V) the tongue shape.
Create a shape to use as shown, as a Boolean, to create two pieces. We'll cut it behind the front tooth.
Select both the tongue shape and the new boolean shape and apply the Divide function from the top Tool Shelf as we did earlier.
Discard the right half and the extra piece left over from the Boolean.
To start adding some definition to the tongue, let’s create a shape for the indent that goes down the middle of the tongue.
We're using the front tooth as a place to hide the top border of this shape.
This will give us a little more flexibility for shading. (Unhide the Sketch Layer if you need to see the line for creating this shape.)
Apply a dark red Inner Shadow to this new shape and a transparency gradient with the Transparency Tool (Y) that starts near the horizontal centre and extends left and down.
We want to fade out the Inner Shadow here.
We don’t want the centre indent line to appear to go all the way down to the end of the tongue.
On the left portion of the separated tongue shape, apply an Inner Shadow.
Then apply a transparency gradient with the Transparency Tool (Y), this time from the bottom up as shown.
This adds a nice shadow contour around the bottom edge of the tongue and a subtle shadow that stops just before the tongue curves up and into the mouth.
Let’s create the indent on the upper portion of the tongue.
Create the shape as shown and fill it with the same pink as the tongue base colour.
This appears to be too bright. That’s because it’s on top of that shadow shape that we first created and will have to be moved underneath. We’ll do that shortly. First, let’s add an Inner Shadow to this shape.
Select the shape and apply an Inner Shadow as shown, using a dark red colour.
Notice the Offset settings.
This shifts the effect towards the bottom or the indent.
Let’s move this shape in behind the shadow layer we created earlier.
Select the shape, and in the top tool shelf click either the first icon or the second icon as shown.
Either one will work here. Now notice how it looks correct with the dark shadow on top. The tongue is really looking like a tongue now. Just a few carefully placed highlights and we’ll be finished.
At the end of the tongue, I’d like to add a highlight to suggest that the tongue is curling up a bit here.
Create a shape similar to the one shown, and position it so the left side is along the centre of the tongue or the indent and the right side is hugging but not quite at the right edge.
Fill it with a bright yellowy white colour.
Add a 0.5 px Gaussian Blur and a transparent gradient with the Transparency Tool (Y). Note that the gradient has a centre Point added and is set to an Opacity of 28% and the two End Points are set to 0%.
By keeping the shape away from the right edge of the tongue, it now appears that the tongue has some thickness to it.
Let’s continue adding highlights to the tongue.
Create these two shapes in the same light highlight colour and reduce their Opacity to 45%.
Apply a 1.4 px Gaussian Blur and a similar transparency gradient setup with the Transparency Tool (Y) as the previous highlight.
This time I made the Centre Point opacity 53%.
Add one more single highlight with similar settings to the last two as shown.
Let’s add a nice bright highlight to the tip as it turns up at the end, using the same procedure as before.
Create a similar shape to the one shown, and add a 1.9 px Gaussian Blur and a three-point transparent gradient with the Transparency Tool (Y), setting the Centre Point on this one to 100% Opacity.
A couple more highlight tweaks and we’ll be finished with the tongue.
To add a bit of dimension to the inner tongue, create the following shape with the same light colour.
Set the shape's Opacity to 45%.
Apply a 9 px Gaussian Blur to it and a transparency gradient with the Transparency Tool (Y) as shown with the Centre Point set to 47%.
For the last highlight on the tongue, add a shape as shown, using a similar setup as before.
Fill with the same light colour with a 45% Opacity.
This time apply a 1.4 px Gaussian Blur and the same transparency gradient with the Transparency Tool (Y) as previously.
For the throat opening shape, this is just going to be a simple Colour Gradient.
Select the throat shape and then select the Fill Tool (G).
Click on the top part of the shape vertically down as shown.
On the bottom end point, apply a deep red colour.
Let's finish the mouth with the teeth.
Apply an Inner Shadow as shown on the front tooth with the same colour we used for the hat’s shadows.
This is a great example of the Offset function working perfectly for what we need here.
To do the back tooth, Copy the front tooth (Command-C), select the back tooth and Paste Style (Command-Shift-V).
As mentioned earlier—and it's worth saying twice in the same tutorial—this is a great way to transfer effects and colour that are the same to another shape or multiple selected shapes.
That’s the mouth done! We are getting close now. Just the handkerchief, neck and leaves to finish off.
10. Shading and Effects: The Handkerchief
Select the main section of the handkerchief and apply an Inner Shadow as shown, with the same colour as the teeth.
Let’s add a shadow under the jaw that falls onto the handkerchief.
Create a shape similar to the one shown, fill it with the dark almost black shadow colour used earlier, and adjust the Opacity to 35%.
Apply a transparency gradient with the Transparency Tool (Y) as shown.
For the top front knot in the handkerchief, let’s apply a Colour Gradient with the Fill Tool (G).
Then apply an Inner Shadow with the colour and settings as shown.
It's the same idea for the bottom knot. Apply a Colour Gradient with the Fill Tool (G) and an Inner Shadow with the colour and settings as shown.
For the actual round knot, apply an Inner Shadow as shown.
Apply a transparency gradient with the Transparency Tool (Y) to both folds as shown and make duplicate copies of each these fold shapes.
On the first fold, apply a Gaussian Blur of 23.5 px, and on the second fold apply a 16.5 px Gaussian Blur.
We are going to add a bit more depth to the shadows of these folds.
Make duplicate copies of each these fold shapes again—Copy (Command-C) and Paste (Command-V) (there should now be three copies in total on top of each other).
Remove the Gaussian Blurs of these latest copies by selecting each and deselecting the Gaussian Blurs in the Effects panel.
Change the colour to 40% Opacity of the dark shadow, almost black colour and set the mode to Multiply. Then apply transparency gradients with the Transparency Tool (Y) to each as shown.
Let’s add one more shadow to the handkerchief just under the knot area before moving on.
Select the main handkerchief shape and Copy (Command-C) and Paste (Command-V) to duplicate it in place.
Fill with the same dark shadow colour and set to 57% Opacity and Multiply mode.
Apply a transparency gradient with the Transparency Tool (Y) as shown.
Let's continue with the neck.
11. Shading and Effects: The Neck
Select the neck shape and apply an Inner Shadow with the dark shadow colour as shown.
Because the neck shape was drawn close the edge of the handkerchief, the Inner Shadow will make a nice drop shadow for the handkerchief.
To fade the neck into the background for the final look, let’s add a transparency gradient with the Transparency Tool (Y) to the bottom of the neck shape as shown.
12. Shading and Effects: The Laurel Leaves and Branch
Select the top leaf and Copy Drag using the Command Key to make a duplicate off to the side, leaving the original leaf in place.
We are going to cut this new leaf in two halves so we can shade each side according to the lighting we’ve established.
Note: This process will be repeated for all of the leaves. Although I will demonstrate the process on one leaf, the steps are the same for each leaf.
Once you have a duplicate copy of the leaf off to the side, create a path that we will use to cut the leaf roughly down its centre. Usually this would be a slight curve as opposed to a dead straight line.
Let's cut the leaf in half. Select both the duplicated leaf and the new shape and apply a Boolean Divide function from the top Tool Shelf as shown.
Delete the extra piece and drag the leaf shapes back on top of the original leaf.
Select the right half shape and fill with a light green colour.
Apply a transparent gradient with the Transparency Tool (Y) as shown, keeping in mind the light source direction, which, as mentioned earlier, is coming from the upper left and down to the lower right.
Using the same colour, apply a similar transparent gradient with the Transparency Tool (Y) to the left-hand leaf shape.
Repeat these steps for the remaining leaves, keeping in mind the light direction.
When they are all complete, we will add an Inner Shadow to the branch and then Copy Drag and Flip Horizontal all of the leaves to complete the laurel branches setup.
Let's add an Inner Shadow to the selected branch as shown.
Now we will select all of the leaves and branch, Copy Drag out duplicate copies and then in the Tool Shelf locate the Flip Horizontal icon and press to Flip the selection.
Drag into position to roughly mirror the left-hand leaf position.
We’ll want to put these on their own Layer, so before deselecting them, Right Click and select Cut from the Menu, and then go to your Layers panel and select the Leaves Right Layer.
Go back to the document window, Right Click again and choose Paste.
The leaves will be pasted exactly in the same place, except now they will be on the correct layer.
While it’s not exactly necessary to do that last step, it’s good practice to keep everything on its own layer.
The last thing to do on this group of leaves is to update the light direction of the new leaves.
Since we flipped them all horizontally, the light directions will need to be adjusted as well.
I’d like to adjust the centre oval a bit because I am finding it a little flat and dark.
Let's change the colour and add an Inner Shadow to give it some dimension to match the branches.
Now let’s add a subtle shadow to the inside shape to make it appear to be sitting back and inside the outer oval.
13. Finishing Up
For the finale and to pull everything together visually, let’s add an oval in behind everything in a complementary light purple to frame our friendly fellow and put a lid on this long tutorial.
On the Background Layer, create a large oval using the Oval Tool (L).
I am filling mine with a soft gradient of light blue to light mauve (purple) colour using the Fill Tool (G).
Apply a 43 px Gaussian Blur to the oval to soften the edges and push forward the sharper contours of the character.
Awesome Work, You're Done!
Well, that is going to be a wrap on this Canine Character tutorial.
I hope you enjoyed this tutorial and have picked up some pointers or learned something new along the way. Thanks for hanging in to the end—it was a long tutorial but worth it I hope.
We learned how to place a sketch into the document, organize a layer structure to keep our project manageable, how to wield the mighty Pen Tool and make use of some of the basic shape tools to create shapes and elements, how to concentrate on one stage at a time going forward, and how to block in a carefully chosen colour scheme.
We also learned that by using and repeating just a few key techniques and effects, we are able to create almost any kind of visual element we require.
Here is a final “post finish” screenshot of some tweaks I made to push the image little further.
With all of the ground we covered in the tutorial, perhaps you could add these adjustments or some tweaks of your own to your final image?
Good luck, and happy Affinity designing!!
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