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Design

How to Create a Minecraft Skin in Adobe Illustrator

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Difficulty:BeginnerLength:LongLanguages:
Final product image
What You'll Be Creating

Always wanted to create your very own Minecraft character skin, but never knew exactly where to start? Well, today it’s your lucky day since I’m going to give you an in-depth look at the entire process, showing you how to take a basic template and turn it into a finished usable product.

If that sounds interesting, quickly grab a fresh cup of coffee and let’s get crafty!

Before we start, I wanted to point out that the entire project is a follow-up to an older tutorial, where I showed you how to create an isometric Minecraft character using Affinity Designer’s powerful Isometric Grid.

Today, we’re going to switch things up by taking that finished character and translating it to Adobe Illustrator, using a custom template that I’ve put together.

At this point, some of you might point out that there are a bunch of online editors that allow you to achieve a similar result, but since I like to have full control over the creative process from start to finish, I took the time to put together a custom template that I’ve attached in order to make things easier.

If you wanted to recreate the tutorial in Affinity, don’t worry, since I’ve created a separate template for you too so that everybody can partake and enjoy themselves.

Also, don't forget you can always expand the project by heading over to GraphicRiver, where you'll find a great selection of vector pixel art.

That being said, let’s shift our focus back to the project and jump straight into it.

1. How to Load the Resource File

Before we start working on the actual skin, we have to take a couple of moments and prepare by loading the resource template.

So, assuming you've already downloaded it, open it up either by loading it from within Illustrator (File > Open and then going to the folder where you downloaded it) or by double-clicking directly on the file.

loading the custom template

As soon as the file is loaded, you’ll be able to see the actual template, which consists of a basic 64 x 64 px wireframe spread of the entire character’s body, which has been carefully labeled so that you know exactly what each shape is.

default template preview

2. How to Set Up a New Project File

Since we don’t want to alter the template file, we’re going to take a couple of moments and save it as a new project of its own (File > Save as), making sure to give it a custom name so that we can distinguish it later on from other designed skins.

saving the default template as a custom skin

3. How to Use Custom Layers

If you open up the Layers panel, you can see that I took the time to set up a few separate layers for each body section, which I’ve individually labeled so that you can easily use them to gradually build the character.

example of the custom layers found within the template

The guides layer itself has a few sub-layers that you can turn off and on in order to identify and isolate a specific section of the body, if you want to keep the design process as clean as possible.

expanded preview of the guides layer

When you start working on the actual project, I recommend you lock all the layers except the one that you’re currently on, in order to be able to focus on one section at a time, which will help streamline the entire design process.

That being said, let’s move on to the actual creative process, where we will see how easy it is to make a custom character skin using nothing more than a couple of simple rectangles.

example of locking the custom layers

4. How to Create the Main Body Shapes

As soon as our new project file is all set up, we can start working on the actual skin, and we will do so by laying out its main shapes.

Step 1

Select the Rectangle Tool (M) and, using #95693D as your Fill color, start drawing over each of the different guides, making sure to position the resulting shapes onto their respective layer.

drawing the main shapes of the skin

Step 2

Now, since I already have a character that I’ve created in Affinity Designer, I’m going to copy (Control-C) and paste (Control-F) the design into Illustrator, and then use the Eyedropper Tool (I) to pick and apply colors to the different body parts of the skin by holding down the Alt key and then simply clicking on them.

applying colors to the different sections of the skin

5. How to Add Details to the Character’s Head

Once we have all our body sections laid out, we can gradually add details to them, and we will do so starting with the head. So, assuming you’re on the right layer (that would be the seventh one), zoom in on the top section of the Artboard and let’s jump straight into it.

Step 1

Turn on Pixel Preview mode (Alt-Control-Y), and then draw the mouth using a 2 x 1 px rectangle which we will color using #BC9069 and then center align to the front face, positioning it at a distance of 1 px from its bottom edge.

creating the mouth of the character

Step 2

Add the right eye using two 1 x 1 px squares horizontally stacked next to one another, coloring the left one using #FFFFFF and the right one using #402C1B. Once you’re done, select and group the two together using the Control-G keyboard shortcut, positioning them as seen in the reference image.

creating the right eye of the character

Step 3

Create the left eye using a copy (Control-C > Control-F) of the one that we’ve just finished working on, which we will vertically reflect (right click > Transform > Reflect > Vertical) and then position on the opposite side of the face.

creating the left eye

Step 4

Using a couple of #4D3723 colored rectangles, draw the front section of the hair, following the reference image as your main guide. Take your time, and once you’re done, select and group (Control-G) all of the front face’s composing shapes together before moving on to the next one.

creating the front section of the hair

Step 5

Move on to the left section of the head, and create the little earring using a 1 x 1 px rectangle which we will color using #E09A50 and then position at a distance of 3 px from the larger square’s left edge and 2 px from its bottom one.

adding the earring to the side section of the head

Step 6

Add the back hair segment to the bottom section of the head using an 8 x 4 px rectangle (#402C1B), on top of which we will add a smaller 4 x 2 px one (#95693D), which we will group (Control-G) and then position as seen in the reference image. Once you’re done, select and group (Control-G) all of the current section’s shapes together, doing the same for the entire head afterwards.

adding the hair segment from underneath the head

Quick note: this step is kind of optional if you’re dealing with characters that have short hair, since when you load the skin within the game and move the head around, it doesn’t look weird as it would if you’re dealing with longer hair.

6. How to Add Details to the Character’s Torso

Once we’ve finished adding details to the head, we can move down a layer and focus on the torso, which we will gradually refine one section at a time.

Step 1

Start working on the top section of the torso by adding the back section of the blouse’s neck using a 4 x 1 px rectangle, which we will color using #BF522E and then center align to the underlying shape’s top edge.

adding the blouse neck segment to the upper section of the torso

Step 2

Add the hair segments using two 2 x 4 px rectangles (#4D3723), which we will position onto the sides as seen in the reference image. Once you’re done, select and group (Control-G) all of the current section’s composing shapes together before moving on to the next one.

adding the hair segments to the upper section of the torso

Step 3

Move down to the front section of the torso, and create the neck cutout using a 4 x 2 px rectangle (#95693D) vertically stacked on top of a smaller 2 x 1 px one (#95693D), which we will group (Control-G) and then center align to the underlying shape’s top edge.

adding the neck cutout to the front section of the torso

Step 4

Quickly draw the necklace using a couple of #E09A50 colored rectangles, which we will group (Control-G) and position onto the neck cutout as seen in the reference image.

adding the necklace to the neck cutout

Step 5

Add the hair segments using two 2 x 4 px rectangles (#4D3723) vertically stacked on top of two smaller 1 x 2 px ones (#4D3723), which we will individually group (Control-G) and then position onto the sides of the neck cutout. Once you have the shapes in place, select and group (Control-G) all of them together before moving on to the next section.

adding the hair segments to the front section of the torso

Step 6

Move over to the back section of the torso, and then quickly add the hair segments using three 1 px tall rectangles which we will color using #4D3723 and then position as seen in the reference image. Once you’re done, make sure you select and group (Control-G) all three of them together, doing the same for the entire section afterwards.

adding the hair segments to the back of the torso

Step 7

Finish off the current section by adding the belt using a 24 x 1 px rectangle, which we will color using #37404D and then position at a distance of 1 px from the torso’s bottom edge.

adding the belt to the torso

7. How to Add Details to the Character’s Arms

Now that we’ve finished working to the torso, we can move on down to the next layer (that would be the fourth one) and gradually add details to the arms, starting with the right one.

Step 1

Create the outer side section of the blouse’s sleeve using a 4 x 8 px rectangle, which we will color using #BF522E and then align to the underlying shape’s top edge, making sure to select and group (Control-G) the two together afterwards.

adding the outer side section to the right sleeve

Step 2

Draw the front section of the sleeve using a larger 4 x 6 px rectangle (#E37047) followed by two smaller ones (#E37047), which we will group (Control-G) and then position as seen in the reference image. Once you’re done, select and group all of the current side’s composing shapes using the Control-G keyboard shortcut.

adding the front section of the right sleeve

Step 3

Add the inner side section of the sleeve using a 4 x 6 px rectangle, which we will color using #BF522E and then align to the underlying shape’s top edge, making sure to select and group (Control-G) them together afterwards.

adding the inner side section of the right sleeve

Step 4

Create the back section of the sleeve using a copy (Control-C > Control-F) of the front, which we will vertically reflect (right click > Transform > Reflect > Vertical) and then position onto the corresponding arm section, making sure to delete the underlying shapes afterwards.

adding the back segment to the right sleeve

Step 5

Since we now have a finished version of the right arm, we can quickly create the left one using a copy (Control-C) of it, which we will paste (Control-F) onto the fifth layer and then adjust by double-clicking on it to enter Isolation Mode and then swapping the different sides as seen in the reference image. Once you’re done, exit Isolation Mode by pressing Escape, making sure to remove the shapes underneath before moving on to the next step.

adding the blouse sleeve to the left arm

Step 6

Add the hair segment to the top section of the left sleeve (the shoulder) using a 1 x 4 px rectangle, which we will color using #6D4B31 and then position on its left edge, making sure to select and group the two together afterwards using the Control-G keyboard shortcut.

adding the hair segment to the left shoulder

Step 7

Finish off the current body part by adding the hair segment to the front of the sleeve using a 1 x 2 px rectangle (#4D3723), which we will position as seen in the reference image. Once you’re done, select and group all of the shapes together using the Control-G keyboard shortcut.

adding the hair segment to the front of the left sleeve

8. How to Add Details to the Character’s Legs

Once we’ve finished adding details to the character’s arms, we can move on to the third layer, where we will focus on refining the legs, starting with the left one.

Step 1

Create the boot’s inner side section using a 4 x 5 px rectangle, which we will color using #37404D and then bottom align to the underlying shape, making sure to select and group (Control-G) the two together afterwards.

adding the inner side section of the left boot

Step 2

Draw the front section of the boot using a couple of #37404D colored rectangles, which we will group (Control-G) and position as seen in the reference image.

adding the front section of the left boot

Step 3

Add the little corner of the blouse using a 2 x 1 px rectangle (#E37047) vertically stacked on top of a smaller 1 x 1 px one (#E37047), which we will group (Control-G) and then align to the underlying shape’s top-right corner. Once you’re done, select and group (Control-G) all of the current section’s composing shapes before moving on to the next one.

adding the front blouse segment to the left leg

Step 4

Add the outer side section of the boot using a 4 x 5 px rectangle (#37404D), which we will center align to the larger shape’s bottom edge, making sure to group (Control-G) the two together afterwards.

adding the outer side section of the left boot

Step 5

Create the side segment of the blouse’s lower corner using a 4 x 2 px rectangle, which we will color using #E37047 and then align to the top edge of the larger underlying shape. Once you’re done, select and group (Control-G) all of the current section’s composing shapes before moving on to the next one.

adding the blouse segment to the side of the left leg

Step 6

Add the back details to the leg using a copy (Control-C > Control-F) of the front one, which we will position on the right and then adjust as seen in the reference image. Once you’re done, select and group (Control-G) all of the leg’s composing sections before moving on to the next step.

adding the details to the back section of the left boot

Step 7

Finish off the skin by adding the details to the right leg using a copy (Control-C) of the one that we’ve just finished working on, which we will paste (Control-F) onto the appropriate layer (that would be the second one) and then adjust by swapping out its sections as seen in the reference image. Once you’re done, don’t forget to remove the underlying shapes before hitting that save button.

finishing off the illustration

9. How to Export the Skin

Okay, so we now have a fully working skin, which means that all we need to do is export it so that we can then bring it into Minecraft.

Step 1

Before you create the actual export, you’ll have to open the Layers panel and hide the guides layer, otherwise your skin will end up having impurities.

example of hiding the guides layer

Step 2

As soon as the guides are hidden, you can easily export the final design by going to File > Export > Save for Web (or by using the Alt-Shift-Control-S keyboard shortcut), where we will want to set the File Format to PNG-24, making sure to check the Transparency option.

exporting the skin using the save for web option

10. How to Import the Skin Into Minecraft

Now that we have our exported design, all we need to do is launch the game and upload this pretty gal!

Step 1

Once the game has finished loading, click on the little hanger icon found within the bottom-right section of the main window, right underneath your user name and character preview.

using the hanger button to upload the skin

Step 2

A new window should pop up, giving you the option of choosing a new skin.

choosing the new skin in minecraft

Step 3

Navigate to the folder where you exported the skin and then simply double click on it in order to upload it within the game.

navigating to the the saved skin

Step 4

The game will then ask you to choose the correct model type for your skin, which in our case is the one on the right with the thicker arms.

choosing the correct model type for the skin

Step 5

After that, all you need to do is click on the Confirm button, and then you can start playing with your custom made skin that you put together.

in game skin example

It’s a Wrap!

There you have it, fellow Minecraft players, a nice and easy tutorial on how to create your very own custom skin, using nothing more than a few rectangles.

As always, I hope you had fun working on the project, and most importantly learned something new and useful along the way.

If you have any questions, feel free to post them within the comments area and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can!

finished project preview
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