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How to Create a Set of X-Men Avatars in Adobe Illustrator

This post is part of a series called X-Men Week.
Colossus: How to Turn Skin to Metal in Adobe Photoshop
Final product image
What You'll Be Creating

Are you waiting for the new X-Men: Apocalypse movie as much as I am? Let’s get ready together and follow this tutorial to create flat, faceless X-Men avatars! We’ll discover some useful tips and tricks and learn simple techniques, while using basic shapes, the Pathfinder panel, the Shape Builder Tool and Clipping Masks.

X-Men are my favorite heroes from the whole Marvel universe, so I always wait for the new movies with impatience. However, this tutorial can be useful not only for X-Men fans! You can use the following techniques to create some superhero avatars, flat human portraits and any other kind of flat avatars! You can even use your own photo or any reference image from Envato Market to create a similar avatar for your social network profile. Let’s try it out!

1. Create Wolverine's Avatar

Step 1

Let’s shape Wolverine’s face, starting with his chin. Take the Rectangle Tool (M) and make a 100 x 60 px shape of pinky-beige skin-tone color. Keeping the shape selected, go to Object > Path > Add Anchor Points to add a point in the middle of each side.

create face from the rectangle 1

Step 2

Let’s form the chin. Select the bottom left anchor point with the Direct Selection Tool (A) and hit Enter to open the Move window. Set the Horizontal value to 20 px and Vertical to 0 px. Click OK to move our point 20 px to the right.

Repeat the same for the bottom right anchor point, but this time set the Horizontal value to -20 px in order to move the point in the opposite direction.

create face from the rectangle 2

Step 3

Now let’s make the shape of the chin more rounded and smooth with the help of the Live Corners function. Select all the anchor points except the top two with the Direct Selection Tool (A) and pull the circle markers of the Live Corners up, making the corners slightly rounded.

If you’re using earlier versions of Adobe Illustrator, which do not include this function, you can use Effect > Stylize > Round Corners instead. But notice that it will make all the corners rounded. In this case, use the Eraser Tool (Shift-E) while holding Alt to make the top of the shape straight and flat again.

make the chin rounded using live corners

Step 4

Now let’s shape the upper part of the face. Create a rectangle of 100 x 75 px. Go to Object > Path > Add Anchor Points.

shape the upper part of the face

Step 5

Let’s adjust the hairline a bit. Select the top central anchor point with the Direct Selection Tool (A) and move it 10 px down. Switch to the Anchor Point Tool (Shift-C) and drag the anchor handles of the selected point up, as shown in the image below. This way we form a gull-shaped hairline.

adjust the hairline

Step 6

Move the handles of the top left and right anchor points to make the hairline more flowing and curved.

make the hairline more flowing

Step 7

Let’s make sure that the parts of the face are perfectly aligned to each other. We’ll be using the same technique further on when we need to align the objects to each other.

Select both parts of the face with the Selection Tool (V) and click the upper shape once again to make it a Key Object. It will be indicated with a thicker selection around the shape. Now head to the Align panel and click Horizontal Align Center. This way we align the chin to the upper shape.

align the shapes to the center

Step 8

Move the top part of the face down, attaching it to the chin.

attach the parts of the face

Step 9

Use the Move function again to move the upper left and right corners a bit closer to each other, making the top of the shape narrower.

make the face narrower

Step 10

Now let’s draw Wolverine’s well-known hairdo! Arm yourself with the Pencil Tool (N) and draw the left part of the hair. Connect the extreme anchor points either with the Pencil Tool (N) or with the Pen Tool (P) to make the right edge of the shape straight and squared. 

draw hair with pencil tool

Step 11

Fill the shape with dark-grey color. And let’s flip the copy to the other side to make the second half of the hairdo. Double-click the Reflect Tool (O) to open the options window and select the Vertical Axis. Click Copy and attach the right part of the hairdo.

form the hairdo

Step 12

Now let’s add the ears. Take the Ellipse Tool (L) and make a 15 x 30 px oval. Attach the shape to the face, rotating it a bit. Add a second ear, using the Reflect Tool (O).

add the ears with ellipse tool

Step 13

Now let’s form Wolverine’s beard! First of all, Copy the face shape and Paste in Front (Control-C > Control-F). Use the Eyedropper Tool (I) to pick the color from the hair and apply it to the created copy.

Take the Ellipse Tool (L) and make a 125 x 130 px shape, placing it above the upper part of the face. Now you can see the beard has started showing up in the bottom of the face.

form the beard 1

Step 14

Add another ellipse of smaller size (60 x 45 px), partially covering the chin.

form the beard 2

Step 15

Select both ellipses and Unite them in Pathfinder, merging them into a single shape.

Unite the shapes in Pathfinder

Step 16

Now let’s cut out the ellipses, leaving only the dark-grey pieces for the beard. Select both the dark-grey shape and the merged ellipses and use the Minus Front function of Pathfinder to cut the shapes.

use minus front to cut out the beard

Step 17

Let’s add a couple of locks of hair to Wolverine’s forehead. Make a 60 x 5 px ellipse. Select its side anchor points with the Direct Selection Tool (A) and make the tips of the shape pointed, using the Convert selected anchor points to corner function on the control panel on top.

Keeping the shape selected, go to Effect > Warp > Arc. Set the Horizontal Bend value to 30% and Object > Expand Appearance to apply the effect.

form a hair lock from ellipse

Step 18

Attach the created hair lock to the hairline and add a smaller copy next to it.

Attach the created hair lock to the hairline

Step 19

Let’s add the neck. Make a 60 x 70 px rectangle of a darker skin tone color. Place the neck beneath the head by Moving it to Back (Shift-Control-[). Adjust the length of the neck by moving it up or down, hiding the unneeded part beneath the head.

Add another rectangle of 75 x 25 px for the collar and fill it with dark greyish-blue color.

add neck and collar from rectangles

Step 20

Let’s shape the torso. Make a 160 x 110 px rectangle of lighter greyish-blue color and place it right under the collar. Align all the shapes to the center, if needed.

Select the bottom left anchor point with the Direct Selection Tool (A) and press Enter to open the Move window. Move the point father left, setting the Horizontal Position value to -20 px.

Move the right anchor point in the opposite direction, making the bottom of the rectangle wider and forming a trapezium.

form a torso from rectangle

Step 21

Use the Live Corners feature (or the Round Corners effect) to make the shoulders of the torso rounded.

Let’s add a round X-Men emblem to the collar. Make a 28 x 28 px circle with the Ellipse Tool (L) with dark-grey Fill and thick yellow Stroke (set the Stroke Weight to 5 pt in the upper control panel).

Use the Line Segment Tool (\) to form two yellow 5 pt strokes for the X sign in the center.

make the X-Men round emblem

Step 22

Let’s add the base to our avatar. Make a 300 x 300 px yellow square and Send it to Back (Shift-Control-[), beneath the character. Group (Control-G) all parts of Wolverine and resize him to make the silhouette fit the square. You may leave the lower part of the torso outside the square, as in the screenshot below.

Copy the square and Bring to Front (Shift-Control-]), above all other objects.

Finally, select everything (Control-A), click the right mouse button and Make Clipping Mask, hiding the unwanted parts outside the square. Great!

make the base from square

Now we have our first X-Men avatar ready! Let’s move on to the next one.

wolverine avatar

2. Draw Mystique's Avatar

Step 1

Our second character will be marvelous Mystique.

Let’s start forming her face from the chin, as we did previously. Take Wolverine’s chin from our first avatar and modify it, making the corners more rounded with the help of the Live Corners feature. Select the bottom middle anchor point (the tip of the chin) and make it pointed by Converting it to Corner from the Convert menu on top.

form the chin

Step 2

Now let’s form the upper part of the face. Make a 100 x 60 px rectangle and Align it to the chin shape. Use the Direct Selection Tool (A) to select both top left and right anchor points and make the top of the shape fully rounded.

Use the Anchor Point Tool (Shift-C) to form the heart-shaped hairline by placing the anchor handles as shown in the image below.

form the hairline

Step 3

Attach the upper part of the face to the lower part and change the skin color to blue.

Let’s add a hairdo shape! Make a 100 x 80 px red rectangle and place it beneath the face in the upper part of the head. Make the top of the rectangle fully rounded.

Adjust the position of the shapes towards each other. In my case, I move the upper part of the face further down to make the face shorter and to reveal the hairdo a bit more.

recolor the skin and add hair

Step 4

Add the ears and neck to Mystique’s head. Form a trapezium for the torso and this time Unite the torso and the neck in Pathfinder.

add ears neck and torso

Step 5

Use the Direct Selection Tool (A) to select the anchor points at the bottom of the neck. Make them rounded, using the Live Corners feature. Make the shoulders rounded as well, forming a smooth, gentle silhouette.

make the silhouette rounded

Step 6

Use the Ellipse Tool (L) to make a 5 x 10 px ellipse of a slightly darker color than the face. Add some more spots to the face, varying their size and position.

add elliptical spots

Step 7

Finish up with Mystique’s avatar by adding some spots to her body and putting the character into a square mask with dark-blue background.

Mystique avatar

3. Render the Avatar of Magneto

Step 1

Let’s make the head and helmet for Magneto. Copy the base of the body from Wolverine and change the upper part of the head by replacing Wolverine’s face and hair with a 100 x 75 px rectangle. Make the top of the head fully rounded using the Live Corners function.

Create a rectangle on top (slightly larger than the head) and make its top part rounded as well. This will be Magneto’s helmet.

At this stage I also remove the ears and set the Fill color of the helmet to None in order to see the head clearly.

make Magnetos helmet from rectangle

Step 2

Now let’s form the facial parts of the helmet. If you remember the X-Men movies, Magneto had a large cut-out for eyes, nose and mouth.

Make a small ellipse and place it in the eye-area on the left, as shown in the image below. Use the Reflect Tool (O) to create a second ellipse. Add a vertical stripe, combining it with the eye-holes. Finally, select the created ellipses and the stripe and Unite them in Pathfinder.

make the elements of the helmet 1

Step 3

Switch the Fill color of the helmet to dark purple and the central shape to any contrast color, for example, yellow. Keeping the yellow shape selected, go to Object > Path > Offset Path and set the Offset value to 5 px, creating a larger shape.

make the elements of the helmet 2

Step 4

Select the helmet and the smaller yellow shape. Use the Minus Front function of Pathfinder to cut the shape out.

Now we have the darker yellow-shape and a helmet with a hole in the center.

Use the Minus Front function

Step 5

Keeping both shapes selected, arm yourself with the Shape Builder Tool (Shift-M), hold down Alt and click the middle of the dark-yellow shape that we need to delete. Great! Now we can see the face.

use the Shape Builder Tool

Step 6

Change the dark-yellow color to light-purple to make it blend with the helmet. And let’s add a thin 5 px stripe in the bottom of the helmet as well. Use the Shape Builder Tool (Shift-M) again to delete the unneeded pieces of the stripe outside the helmet.

complete the helmet

Step 7

Let’s work at Magneto’s suit a bit. Make it darker, changing the Fill color to dark greyish-purple. Add a thin line right in the center of the suit, depicting a stylized zip fastener.

And let’s darken the shoulders. Take the Line Segment Tool (\) and draw two diagonal lines across the shoulders. Select both the lines and the torso and use the Shape Builder Tool (Shift-M) to click the shoulder pieces that we need to cut. Wonderful—now the shoulder parts are divided from the rest of the torso and we can make them darker.

Don’t forget to delete the pieces of the line that we don’t need.

add details to the suite

Step 8

Make a light-purple avatar base and use the Clipping Mask to form the composition.

Finally, use the Convert function to make the outer corners of the eye-holes a bit pointed. Edit the shapes with the Direct Selection Tool (A).

make the eyes pointed

Great! Magneto’s avatar is ready. We have the last one to go!

The Magnetos avatar is ready

4. Draw the Avatar of Rogue

Step 1

Our final avatar is going to be pretty young Rogue.

Let’s duplicate the whole of Mystique’s silhouette and use it as a base for Rogue’s avatar by recoloring the skin and removing the spots from the body.

duplicate Mystiques body

Step 2

Select the central point of the hairline with the Direct Selection Tool (A) and move it to the right a bit, changing the shape of the hairline.

Now grab the Pencil Tool (N) and make a slightly curved stroke for the hair lock of the bang.

change the hair

Step 3

Let’s modify the bang. Switch the Stroke color to pale-grey. Head to the Stroke panel (Window > Stroke) and set the Weight to 16 pt, making the bang much thicker.

Set the Cap and Corner to middle positions to make the tips of the stroke rounded.

Finally, change the Profile to Width Profile 5 (one of the default profiles in the drop-down menu) and use the Flip Along button next to it to change the direction of the stroke line. Great work!

Add a light-beige vertical stroke on top of the dark hair for the parting. Set its Stroke Weight to 1.5 pt and the Profile to Width Profile 1.

make a bang from a stroke

Step 4

Add another lock at the opposite side of the face and use similar settings as in the previous step. You can use the Eyedropper Tool (I) to pick the appearance from the previous lock and apply it to the new one, reducing the Weight to 12 pt.

Copy the collar from Wolverine’s avatar and place it on Rogue’s neck.

add a second lock the the hair

Step 5

Let’s dress our character up. Select the body shape and use the Knife tool to split the shape into two parts. Fill the torso with dark-grey color, depicting the X-Men suit.

add a dark suite

Step 6

Add a zip fastener and the X-Men logo to Rogue’s suit.

add details to the suit

Step 7

Finish up the avatar by adding a green square base and putting the objects into a Clipping Mask.

Avatar of Rogue

Marvelous! Our X-Men Flat Avatars Are Finished!

We’ve done a fantastic job! You can continue tweaking the avatars and adding minor details to your liking. What is more, you can use these simple techniques to create the whole X-Men team, including both the good guys and the villains!

Have fun!

X-men flat avatars are finished
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