In this tutorial you will learn how to create an adorable sloth illustration in Adobe Illustrator.
We will be using simple shapes and different tools and effects such as the Warp Tool, Width Tool, Smooth Tool, and Warp Effects to create it. This tutorial is actually a collaboration with Monika Zagrobelna, where she teaches how to draw a sloth step by step. So check her tutorial out!
Let's get started!
1. How to Create the Sloth's Body
Create a new document with 800 px Width and Height.
First, we will start to create our sloth's body. For the body we will use an ellipse, which will be further modified. First, delete the stroke color and set the fill color as in the image below. Then hit the Ellipse Tool (L) and draw an ellipse. While keeping it selected, go to Effect > Warp > Arc and enter the options you see below. Don't forget to expand this shape: Object > Expand Appearance.
Add a small circle on the left side of the warped ellipse; this will be the head. To make an even circle, use the Ellipse Tool (L) while holding down the Shift key.
Let's make a smooth transition from the head to the body. Select the two shapes and press Unite in Pathfinder panel (Window > Pathfinder). Keep the new shape selected, and hit the Smooth Tool (click and hold the Pencil Tool (N), and you will see the Smooth Tool) and move it over the outlines to smooth it out. At the end, you will have something like a reclining letter C. Now we have the body!
2. How to Create the Sloth's Arm
Now, delete the fill color and set the same stroke color as you used for the fill: click on the Swap Fill and Stroke button on the Tools panel (Shift-X). Check Round Cap and make a very thick stroke on the Stroke panel. Using the Arc Tool, draw an arc.
To make it more arm-like, let's make one end thicker. For this, take the Width Tool (Shift-W) and stretch this end of the arc we just created.
To create a claw, we will use the same operations as for the arm. Draw a light brown arc with the necessary Weight (should be thinner than the arm) and with Round Cap selected. Next, change the thickness on both sides of this arc. Just select the Width Tool (Shift-W) and move the handles to make the upper part of the claw thinner and the bottom a bit thicker.
Place the claw behind the arm. To do so, select the claw and hit Control-X, Control-B. To show the separation of the claws, make a copy of the first one behind (Control-C, Control-B), shift it just a little bit to the right, and make it darker.
Next, make a copy of them behind (the claw and the darker copy) and shift them to the right.
And finally, create the third claw as you did with the previous one.
Attach the arm to the body.
3. How to Create the Branch
For the branch, we will use a light brown rectangle, which you should create using the Rectangle Tool (M). Now, using the Bulge effect, we will slightly deform this rectangle. Select the rectangle and go to Effect > Warp > Bulge. In the new window, adjust the presented options. Expand this shape (Object > Expand Appearance).
Now slightly rotate the branch and place it behind (Control-X, Control-B) the sloth’s arm as shown below.
To make the branch look more realistic and not so perfectly straight, we will roughen its surface with the Warp Tool. Double-click on the Warp Tool (Shift-R) and enter the options as in the image below. It is very important to select the object before you use the Warp Tool (Shift-R), otherwise you will affect other objects surrounding it. Move your mouse over the branch to roughen its shape.
Let’s continue making the branch more realistic. Grab the Pencil Tool (N), delete the fill color, and make the stroke color a little darker. Make sure to check Round Cap on the Stroke panel. Draw lines and curves on top of the branch.
To avoid drawing on top of the sloth’s arm, you can move the branch away from the sloth and add all the lines. Once you finish, group the whole branch with the lines (right-click > Group) and place the branch behind the arm again.
4. How to Create the Sloth's Second Arm
For the second arm, we will use a copy of the first one, which we created earlier in this tutorial. Make a copy of it. Take the Direct Selection Tool
(A) and move the handles of the anchor points to achieve the result you
see in the image below.
To create the claws of the second arm, make a reflected copy of the claw with the shading from the first arm. To do so, select it, right-click your mouse and select Transform > Reflect. In the dialogue box that appears, select Axis Vertical, Angle 90 degrees, and hit Copy. Place this claw on top of the second arm, as shown in the image. And finally, make two more copies of it behind each other.
Place the second arm behind the sloth’s body and behind the tree.
5. How to Create the Sloth's Legs
For the first leg, make a copy of the first arm. Place it where the leg should be.
Expand the first leg: select the part of the leg without claws, and hit Object > Expand. Next, while keeping the
expanded part of the leg and body selected, unite them by pressing the Unite
button on the Pathfinder panel (Window > Pathfinder).
Let’s smooth out the transition between the leg and the body. While keeping these two parts selected, hit the Smooth Tool and move it over the outlines to smooth it out.
For the second leg, create a copy of the second arm and place it behind the body and the tree.
6. How to Create the Face of a Sloth
Let’s create that funny, smiley sloth’s face. Using the Ellipse Tool (L),
draw a light brown oval. Create a copy of this oval: while holding the Alt
and Shift buttons, move the oval to the right. This action will create a
copy of the original oval, horizontally aligned.
Unite these ovals by selecting them and hitting the Unite button on the Pathfinder panel. Then remove the bottom anchor point located between the two ovals. To remove the anchor point, you need to use the Delete Anchor Point Tool (-).
Make a copy of the light brown shape in front of the original one (Control-C, Control-F), and make it a little smaller and darker. For further changes, select the darker shape, go to Effect > Warp > Arch, and enter the options shown. Expand this shape (Object > Expand Appearance).
For the eye, create an even circle: use the Ellipse Tool (L) while holding down the Shift key. Then add a smaller, darker circle (Control-C, Control-F) inside the first circle. Add a tiny white circle to brighten the eye. For your convenience, group the eye elements together (right-click > Group). Place the eye in its place.
While holding the Shift and Alt
keys, move this eye to the right. You will get another copy of the eye
to complete the eyes.
To add other details for the face, create an ellipse using the Ellipse Tool (L). Next, warp this ellipse by using the Flag effect. Go to Effect > Warp > Flag. Enter the options you see below.
Place the new shape behind the left eye.
To complete the look, make a copy of this shape: right-click your mouse and select Transform > Reflect. Once you get a dialogue box, choose Axis Vertical, Angle 90 degrees, and press Copy. Move the newly created shape to the right and place it behind the right eye.
For the nose, let’s start by creating another light brown ellipse.
Using the Direct Selection Tool (A), select the left and right anchor points
of the ellipse, and move them down. Place this shape in the middle of
the face, as shown below. To place it exactly in the middle of the face, check View > Smart Guides (Control-U).
Continue to make the nose. In front of this shape, add a small, brown rounded rectangle. To get a rounded rectangle with very round corners, create a small rounded rectangle first, and then make it larger. For later versions of Illustrator, you can also go to View > Show Corner Widget and modify the corners by dragging them inside.
Finally, add two small dark circles (Ellipse Tool (L) + Shift key) and place them in front of the rounded rectangle.
Create a light brown circle and ellipse, intersected as presented below. Select the circle and go to Effect > Warp > Inflate. In the window that appears, enter Bend -20%. Then select the horizontal ellipse, and now enter Bend -30%.
Expand (Object > Expand Appearance) and unite (Unite in Pathfinder) both shapes.
Make sure you have checked View > Show Corner Widget, and select the sharp corners by dragging them out to make them smooth.
Place the newly created shape in its place on the sloth’s face, behind the nose.
Now our sloth needs a smile! Make it using a dark brown arc with thin Weight, and select Round Cap on the Stroke panel. Optionally, you can add a smaller light arc for the chin.
To finalize this part, place this happy face on the sloth’s head.
7. How to Create the Sloth's Fur
To add the fur, use the Pencil Tool (N) with no fill color, and with the stroke color presented below, and check Round Cap. Draw short lines and curves over the whole body, except the left arm and leg.
For the fur of the left arm and leg, use a different color of stroke. As they are behind, the fur color should be a little darker.
8. How to Create the Background
Let’s make a background for our illustration. Create a light green square behind the sloth, 850 px Width and Height, by using the Rectangle Tool (M).
It will be nice to add some leaves to our illustration. The leaves presented below can be easily created by following a few steps from my previous tutorial. Once you've created the leaves, place them behind the sloth and the branch.
Our sloth is done!
Awesome Work, You're Done!
And we are done! I hope you've enjoyed this tutorial and learned some
useful ways to create your future illustrations. I am looking forward to seeing your
results. If you have any questions or comments, please join the
Here is Monika's result:
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