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How to Create a Valentine's Day Cupid Illustration in Adobe Illustrator

This post is part of a series called Easy Character Design.
How to Create a Cute Monster Character in Adobe Illustrator
Final product image
What You'll Be Creating

In this tutorial, you will learn how to create a baby cupid angel with a cute bow and arrow, using primarily the Ellipse Tool. You will see how a complicated illustration can be composed of simple elements, without any pre-sketches.

1. Creating the Head and Face

Step 1

We will start with the head. Take the Ellipse Tool (L) and draw an ellipse, but not too long. Set its color to R=207 G=158 B=118. Take the Direct Selection Tool (A) and select the left and right anchor points, and then move them down.

creating the shape of the head

Step 2

Choose a brown fill color (R=87 G=28 B=31) and use the Ellipse Tool (L) to draw another ellipse. Create a small white circle as a highlight. Then create two eyes: select the whole eye and move it to the right while holding the Alt and Shift keys. Group these eyes for your convenience (right-click > Group).

creating the eyes

Step 3

Because the body and the head of the cupid are facing in different directions, place the eyes on the head and rotate them just a little bit to the left using the Selection Tool (V)

placing the eyes

Step 4

And now for the nose. Let's start with a long ellipse with fill color R=173 G=117 B=80. Keep it selected and, using the Convert Anchor Point Tool (Shift-C), click on the right and left anchor points to make them sharp. Still keep them selected and go to Effect > Warp > Arc. In the new window, adjust the options: Style Arc Horizontal, Bend 50%, Distortion Horizontal 0% and Vertical 0%. Click OK. Now expand this shape with Object > Expand Appearance.

creating the nose

Step 5

Put the nose on the face and rotate it in the same way as you did with the eyes.

placing the nose

Step 6

Now we will make the mouth from the nose. So select the nose and create a horizontal reflection with it (right-click > Transform > Reflect). In the new window, select Horizontal Axis of reflection and press Copy. Hold Alt (for making a copy) and Shift (for dragging the shape straight) together and drag this mouth shape down a little bit. You will get two identical shapes overlapping each other. 

Make another copy of your first shape which you made from the nose, before dragging it down (Control-C, Control-F). Keep this third copy selected, hold down the Shift key and select the copy you moved down. Now go to the Pathfinder panel and press the Minus Front button. Color this newest shape in a white color. You just created the teeth.

Image 2. Draw a white ellipse like in the image below, which overlaps the teeth. I marked the ellipse with a red stroke color for better visibility, but you need just a white fill color without any stroke color. Select the teeth and the white ellipse together (hold the Shift key to select two or more shapes together). On the Pathfinder panel, press Intersect. The teeth are done.

creating the mouth 1

Step 7

Let's add the tongue. Draw a pink ellipse over the bottom side of the mouth. Set its color to R=246 G=156 B=154. Make one more copy of the brown moon shape (Control-C, Control-F) and hold together the pink overlapping ellipse; now, press the Intersect button in Pathfinder.

creating the mouth 2

Step 8

Group the whole mouth (right-click > Group) and place it on the face. Rotate a little to the left, as you did with the eyes and the nose.

placing the mouth

Step 9

On to the cheek. Draw one ellipse, and using the Eyedropper Tool (I), take the same fill color as on the face of the cupid. Exactly in the middle of it, draw another small ellipse (with the help of the Eyedropper Tool (I), take the same fill color as the tongue). 

To align the two ovals, use the Align panel (Window > Align) and click the Horizontal Align Center and Vertical Align Center buttons. Select both of them and on the Tools panel (Window > Tools) click on the Blend Tool (W). After that, using this tool, click on one anchor point on the pink ellipse and one anchor point on the light brown ellipse.

If you have a hard time using the Blend Tool, you can use a Radial Gradient for the cheek.

creating the cheek

Step 10

Make two cheeks by copying and pasting, and place them where they should be. Rotate the left cheek a little to the left, and the right cheek to the right (both of them are rotated with the mouse).

placing the cheeks

2. Creating the Ears

Two identical ellipses will make the ears. The fill color should be like the fill color of the face.

creating and placing the ears

3. Creating the Hair

Step 1

Set the fill color at R=242 G=225 B=139 and draw many, many circles to create the hair. Remember to hold the Shift button to create equal circles. Please notice that some of them need to be behind the head, so put them behind with Control-X, Control-B.

creating the hair 1

Step 2

Make the fill color lighter (R=245 G=232 B=167) and draw a few more circles in the hair.

creating the hair 2

Step 3

Select a few circles like in the image below. Keep them selected and go to Object > Path > Offset Path. In the dialogue window, enter Offset: 10 px, Joins: Miter, Miter Limit: 4, OK. Keep it selected and, using the Eyedropper Tool (I), take the same fill color as on the nose of the cupid. Still keeping the circles selected, on the Pathfinder panel press the Unite button. You will get something like a caterpillar. Then you need to press right-click > Arrange > Send Backward a few times to see the bangs of the hair.

Create another copy of the head (Control-C, Control-F). Select the caterpillar shape together with the new copy of the head and press the Intersect button in the Pathfinder. You get a shadow which divides the face from the hair.

creating the shadow under the hair

4. Creating the Body

Step 1

Make the fill color the same as the face, and draw an ellipse. Rotate it using the Selection Tool (V). After that take the Direct Selection Tool (A) and move the handles to create the shape as in the image below.

creating the body shape

Step 2

Now we will create a shadow on the body. Draw an overlapping ellipse which is marked in the image below with a red stroke, but actually the stroke and fill don't matter. Make another copy of the body (Control-C, Control-F); keeping it selected along with the red stroke ellipse, press Minus Front in Pathfinder. Fill the resulting shape with darker color R=201 G=150 B=111. Group the body and shadow together so that they don't move separately (right-click > Group).

creating the shadow on the body

Step 3

Put it under the head (Control-X, Control-B).

placing the body

5. Creating the Right Arm

Step 1

Now we will create the upper part of the arm. Again, draw an ellipse (the same fill color as the face). With the help of the Direct Selection Tool (A), move the handles to achieve the shape shown in the image below.

creating the right arm

Step 2

Let's create the hand. Again, use the same fill color and a slightly more rounded ellipse. Move the handles to get the shape shown below. Hold the Alt key while moving the handles on the thumb.

creating the right hand

Step 3

Put together the upper part of the arm with the hand.

composing the whole right arm

Step 4

Make a copy of the upper arm (Control-C, Control-B) and fill it with color R=193 G=140 B=101. Shift the new darker copy down a little. We do this to divide the arm from the body and make it more visible. Group the whole arm.

creating the shadow under the right arm

Step 5

Place the arm on the body.

placing the right arm

6. Creating the Left Arm

Step 1

The left arm is just a darker copy of the right arm (same fill color, R=193 G=140 B=101, as the shadow under the bang on the face). Just add an ellipse like in the image below to show that the hand is holding something. Set the fill color at R=207 G=158 B=118 for this ellipse.

creating the left arm

Step 2

Place the left arm behind the body.

placing the left arm

7. Creating the Right Leg

Step 1

Keep the same fill color as in the previous step and draw an ellipse. Take the Direct Selection Tool (A), select the left and right anchor points and move them up.

creating the right leg 1

Step 2

Create a copy of the shape made in the previous step, and then make it narrower, but not too much, because we want to create a chubby cupid. Compose two ellipses as shown below.

creating the right leg 2

Step 3

Now we will create the foot. Draw a little oval and move the handles to achieve the result shown in the second image. After that, add five tiny ovals—these are the toes.

creating the right foot

Step 4

Place the foot on the leg. Group the whole leg.

composing the right leg

Step 5

Put the right leg on the body.

placing the right leg

8. Creating the Left Leg

The left leg is a copy of the right leg, but with a darker color. So make a copy of the right leg, take the Eyedropper Tool (I), and take the same fill color as on the left arm. Then put the left leg behind the body.

creating and placing the left leg

9. Creating the Briefs

Step 1

Now you know how to move the handles of some shapes, so draw a pink ellipse (R=248 G=175 B=174). Move the handles as shown in the image below to cover the bottom of the cupid.

creating the briefs

Step 2

Create a few lighter (R=250 G=193 B=192) circles as ruffles. After you finish the ruffles, place the briefs over them (Control-X, Control-F).

creating the ruffles of the briefs 1

Step 3

Now for the last part of the traditional cupid's outfit: the ruffles on the left leg. Draw a few more circles (R=239 G=156 B=156) on the left leg, and then put the briefs and ruffles on the right leg over it. For this, you need to select the briefs and ruffles on the right leg and click Control-X, Control-F.

creating the ruffles of the briefs 2

Step 4

A few light pink ellipses will make the wing. It doesn't matter how many ellipses you use for this. Set the fill color at R=251 G=210 B=209. Group the wing so that it doesn't move separately.

creating the wing

Step 5

Place the wing on the back of the cupid. We will assume that the second wing is not visible.

placing the wing

10. Creating the Bow

Step 1

Draw a brown ellipse (R=87 G=28 B=31). Keep it selected and go to Object > Path > Offset Path. In a new dialogue window enter Offset: -10 px, Joins: Miter, Miter limit: 4, OK. You will get two ellipses, which you need to select and then go to Pathfinder panel and press the Exclude button.

creating the bow 1

Step 2

Did you notice that we are almost at the end of the tutorial and we still are using just the Ellipse Tool? You created a person using just one basic shape!

But be patient! Now we need to divide the ellipse we created in the previous step, and for this we will use the Rectangle Tool (M). Draw a long, narrow rectangle in the middle of this ellipse. The rectangle needs to be longer than the ellipse. Select the two shapes together and press Minus Front in Pathfinder. Ungroup the divided ellipse (right-click > Ungroup) and delete the unnecessary left part. Draw the long, narrow rectangle again, as in the image below. Add two tiny circles. Now the bow is ready.

creating the bow 2

Step 3

We will create the tip of the arrow now. Keep the same fill color and draw one more ellipse, and move up the left and right anchor points.

creating the tip of the arrow 1

Step 4

Rotate to the left and then right-click your mouse. In the pop-up window, select Transform > Reflect. Then in the new dialogue window, enter Axis Vertical, Angle 90 degrees, Copy. Shift the new shape to the right. Select the two shapes and press the Unite button in Pathfinder. Hit the Convert Anchor Point Tool (Shift-C) and click on the lowest anchor point of the resulting shape. You will get a sharp corner for the tip of the arrow. Now make one more copy of this heart, and drag it somewhere on your artboard to keep it for later.

And the last step: move down this sharp corner of the tip using the Direct Selection Tool (A) to show how sharp an arrow of love can be!

creating the tip of the arrow 2

Step 5

Using the Rectangle Tool (M), create a long rectangle and put the tip of the arrow on it.

placing the tip on the arrow

Step 6

Draw another rectangle, take the Direct Selection Tool (A) and move the two upper anchor points to the left. You will get a parallel piped shape. Keep this hard-to-say shape selected, and right-click > Transform > Reflect. Enter Axis Horizontal, Angle 0 degrees, and press Copy. Move it down as shown in the image below.

creating the last part of the arrow

Step 7

Compose the whole arrow. Also you can add a white circle as a highlight.

composing the arrow

Step 8

Give the weapons of love to the cupid. Be careful with the arms: the right arm must be over the bow and the arrow, and the "fingers" of the left arm as well.

placing the arrow and bow

11. Creating the Background

Step 1

Create a blue (R=184 G=223 B=255) square behind the cupid, 600 px width and height.

creating the background

Step 2

Change the color to R=221 G=242 B=245 and use circles to draw clouds. Then change the color to R=232 G=247 B=249 and draw a few more circles over the clouds, just as you did for the hair of the cupid. Group every cloud separately.

creating the clouds

Step 3

Put the clouds behind the cupid, but in front of the background.

placing the clouds

Step 4

Remember that copy of the heart which you saved for later? Now is the time! Change the fill color to R=131 G=185 B=231 and spread them around by copying and pasting. Place one heart (fill color R=251 G=210 B=209) on the briefs of the cupid.

spreading the hearts


Congrats, your cupid illustration is ready! Now you can confess your love to your crush this Valentine's Day!

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