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How to Create a Cozy Winter Character in Adobe Illustrator

Difficulty:BeginnerLength:MediumLanguages:

Funny warm beanies, pretty mittens, warm chocolate beverages, and a Christmas mood—it's all about December.

Today we’re going to create a cozy character design illustration using simple shapes and various tools of Illustrator. For example, we’ll work with the Shape Builder Tool, the Pathfinder panel, Zig Zag effect, and more.

So make yourself a cup of hot cocoa, throw a bunch of marshmallows into it, and let's start.

If you're looking for winter inspiration, pop on over to GraphicRiver where you can find thousands of winter-themed vectors.

1. How to Prepare a Document and Make a Background

Step 1

First, set up a New Document (File > New) following these settings:

• Number of Artboards: 1
• Width: 800 px
• Height: 600 px
• Units: Pixels
• Color Mode: RGB

With the help of the Rectangle Tool (M), make an 800 x 600 px rectangle and color it in light beige (#e8dcc5).

Also, turn Smart Guides on (View > Smart Guides).

Step 2

Create a navy blue (#134854) circle by using the Ellipse Tool (L) and align it to the Artboard with the help of the upper Align panel.

Our background is done! Now let's make a cute character.

2. How to Make a Girl's Face

Step 1

Create a yellow (#f9ba48) 100 x 115 px rectangle by using the Rectangle Tool (M) and round both bottom corners to the maximum.

Make two orange (#f68b1e) 30 x 30 px circles and place them on the face as cheeks.

Step 2

Then, a nose and a mouth.

Make a small 20 x 15 px oval of the same color as the cheeks (pick the color with the Eye Dropper Tool (I)). Add two smaller dark brown (#2f2920) ovals under it as nostrils.

Place the nose on the face.

With the help of the Pen Tool (P) or the Line Segment Tool (\), make a 30 px width burgundy (#d3370d) line. Set 4 pt Stroke and Round Cap in the Stroke panel (Window > Stroke). Drag the middle of the line a bit down with the help of the Anchor Point Tool (Shift-C).

Make a 30 x 30 px red (#f15a2a) circle and place it beneath the line. Select both the line and the circle, choose the Shape Builder Tool (Shift-M), and click on the unnecessary bottom part of the circle while holding Alt. Place the mouth on the face.

Step 3

And now we're going to make ears.

Create a 35 x 35 px orange (#f68b1e) circle and place a small burgundy (#d3370d) circle with no Fill and 1 pt Stroke on it.

Group them (Command-G) for your convenience. Paste one ear from one side of the head and one from the other.

3. How to Create a Beanie Hat

Step 1

To make a beanie, create a blue (#80b5c5) 45 x 45 px rectangle with corners rounded to 5 px.

Create a 70 x 55 px beige rectangle (pick the color from the background) and round its upper corners to the maximum.

Place the blue one on the beige (on its lower side) to form a hat.

Step 2

Start with an 80 x 80 px blue circle (pick the color from the hat). Make a smaller 15 x 15 px one and place it on the top of the big circle.

Select the small circle, choose the Rotation Tool (R), and click on the middle of the big circle while holding Alt

In the pop-up Rotate panel, set Angle: 360/20 (where 20 is the desired amount of small circles) and click Copy.

Then, Command-D as many times as needed to repeat your last action.

Step 3

Select all the small circles and merge them using the Unite option in the Pathfinder panel.

Copy the resulting shape, delete its inner part (by clicking on any anchor point and pressing the Delete key on your keyboard), and set a 1 pt light blue (#b0cdcc) stroke. Make this element smaller and place it on the pompom. Place two more smaller copies on the pompom.

Add our newly made pompom at the top of our hat base.

Step 4

Add a small light blue vertical line on the blue stripe on the hat. Go to Effect > Distort & Transform > Zig Zag. In the Zig Zag menu, set 4% size, Relative, 4 Ridges per segment, Smooth points, and click OK.

Copy this curved line and paste the copied one on the other side of the blue shape.

Select the Blend Tool (W) and click on both lines. Then, click twice on the Blend Tool thumbnail and set Specified Steps: 10.

Well then, now that we have a pretty knitted ornament on the beanie, let's put it on our character's head. We all know that it’s better to cover your ears in winter, but her ears are too awesome for it, aren’t they?

4. How to Make a Scarf and a Coat

Step 1

Start with a 260 x 90 px blue rectangle (the same color as the hat) and round its corners to 15 px. Turn the shape a bit, copy it, and paste the copied one in the same place (Command-Shift-V).

Move the copied rectangle beneath the original (you can press Command-[), color it in a darker blue shade, and Reflect it Vertical. Delete the unnecessary parts of the bottom shape by using the Shape Builder Tool (Shift-M).

Add two more vertical copies of the first rectangle, color them in darker shades of blue, and place them as scarf edges.

Step 2

And now we're going to quickly apply a basic dots pattern.

Just Copy the upper part of the scarf and paste in the same place. Then, go to the Swatches panel and click twice on the Swatch Libraries menu > Patterns > Basic Graphics > Basic Graphic Dots. Choose the 6 dpi 10% pattern. Once you click on its thumbnail, the pattern will fill the shape.

Step 3

Let's make the pattern a bit bigger. Go to Object > Transform > Scale. Choose Uniform: 150% and click OK. Also set up Overlay blending mode and 15% Opacity in the Transparency panel.

Now you just need to create a copied layer for other parts of the scarf and copy this pattern fill by using the Eye Dropper Tool (I).

Step 4

Create a 190 x 200 px red (#f15a2a) rectangle—it'll be the body. Add a forearm by using a 60 x 170 px red rectangle. Select its bottom right anchor, choose the Free Transform Tool (E), and drag the anchor a bit to the left while holding Command-Alt-Shift. As you can see, it's an easy way to move two anchors symmetrically.

Rotate the forearm a bit and place it next to the body.

Step 5

Let's continue with the arm.

Make another, thinner rectangle and color it in light red (#fc6e47). Round its upper corners to the maximum and connect it with the first part of the arm.

Step 6

And mittens!

Start with a 25 x 45 px blue rectangle with corners rounded to 5 px. Also make a 70 x 55 px rectangle colored in beige and round its corners to 10 px. Place them next to each other.

Make a 35 px height burgundy line with 4 pt stroke. Form a snowflake by using four copies of this line. Place the snowflake on the mittens.

Step 7

Add the mittens to the arm and copy all their parts. Group them (Command-G), Reflect Vertically, and place on the other side of the body.

5. How to Make Hair and a Cup of Cocoa

Step 1

Well then, our girl is waiting for a cup of hot cocoa (she’s also waiting for hair, but let’s make the cup first).

Make a 90 x 90 px light grey (#f2f2f2) rectangle, and round its bottom corners to 20 px. Then make an 80 x 50 px oval with 10 px light grey Stroke and light blue Fill. Place this oval on the rectangle base to form a cup. Go to Object > Expand to expand the oval.

Step 2

Create a 1 pt light brown (#493d38) line and place it between the Stroke and the Fill of the oval. Go to Effect > Distort & Transform > Zig Zag. Set 4% size, Relative, 4 Ridges per segment, and Smooth. Make two more copies of the line and place them under the first.

A small piece of the last line goes over the edge of the oval's stroke, so delete it by using the Shape Builder Tool (Shift-M) as we did before with the scarf.

Step 3

Copy the blue oval, paste in the same place, and recolor it in dark brown (#2f2920). Select the upper line and the dark brown oval and then delete the unnecessary upper part of the oval by using the Shape Builder Tool (Shift-M).

Make the handle of the mug from a 45 x 45 px light grey circle with 10 pt Stroke and no Fill.

Place the mug into the hands of the girl.

Step 4

And hair!

Make bangs from three 45 x 45 px dark brown circles. Then, form hair from a bunch of 55 x 55 px dark brown circles on the left side. Use Alt-Drag to make copies of circles quickly.

Make a shape inside the circles to fill the hole. Unite all the parts by using the Pathfinder panel.

Step 5

Copy the hair shape, make the copied one smaller, and set 1 pt light brown Stroke and make no Fill. You may quickly copy these stroke settings from the cup’s light brown lines by using the Eyedropper Tool (I). Place two of these shapes on the hair to give it a more interesting and ornate look.

Copy the hair and Reflect it Vertically.

6. How to Insert the Character on the Background

Step 1

Select all the parts of our character and place them on the big navy blue circle.

Then, select only the body of the girl and the big circle. Delete the unnecessary part of the body by using the Shape Builder Tool (Shift-M).

Step 2

Make a simple shiny star from a 10 x 10 px yellow circle and a 30 x 30 px bright yellow (#ffde1a) circle with 10% Opacity. Group (Command-G) them and spread them around the girl. All the stars should be on one layer.

Step 3

Finally, we’re going to make a Clipping Mask

Create a copy of the big navy blue circle and paste it in the same place. Select the layer with the stars and the copied circle. Right-click and choose Make Clipping Mask.

We're done!

What a Warm, Cozy Mood!

We all did a good job. So I hope that it was as funny and joyful a process for you as it was for me.

Share your results in the comments. I’m always happy to see them. And feel free to experiment with colors and details.