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How to Create an Owl Character Using a Circular Grid in Adobe Illustrator

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

In this tutorial I will show you, step by step, how to create a circular grid, align it perfectly and design a cute owl character. Hopefully, you’ll learn how to use circles to create other characters on your own.

1. Create Circles

Step 1 

Go to View > Show Grid.

show grid

Using the Ellipse Tool (L), create a 165 x 165 px circle. This will be the head. Then, create another 147 x 147 px circle for the body. Select both circles, click twice on the first one to make it active and, using the Align panel, click on Horizontal align center and Vertical align center.

Align center

Step 2

For an eye, create a 45 x 45 px circle. This time, align it with Vertical distribute center, placing it to the left like this:

one eye

Create a 173 x 173 px circle and a 147 x 147 px circle and align them as before. Hit Control-R to bring up the ruler. Then click on the ruler and use the mouse to place it in the center. Position both circles as shown in the picture.

owls beak

The overlap between the two large circles gives your owl a beak.

Step 3

Create three circles (red): 293 x 293 px, 208 x 208 px and 173 x 173 px. Position them as shown in the picture below. All the circles must be centered.

red circles

Create the final three circles (purple): 237 x 237 px, 293 x 293 px and 117 x 117 px. Place them as shown in the picture below. The small circles are shown for guidance only.

purple circles

Step 4

Now select all circles, except for the first two we created. Press Control-G to group them. Right click on the mouse, and choose Transform, then Reflect. Select Vertically and click on Copy.

transform and reflect
reflect vertically

Use the red circles and guide to align the group in the middle. 

Select everything, Control-C, lock the layer and create a new one. Shift-Control-V to copy circles in place.

With everything selected, delete the stroke and fill with any color. Using the Pathfinder panel, click on Divide.

divide shapes

Step 5

Delete the shapes you no longer need. Now you can add strokes so you can see it better. 

2. Coloring

Step 1

Using the Direct Selection Tool (A), select shapes and color them one by one. 

colored owl
  • Blue shades: #577895#BBC6CF#365775 
  • Orange shades: #D17028#E18E4A 
  • Brown shades: #555557#797B7C#8C8C8C

Step 2

For the eyes, create a 35 x 35 px (#848484) and a 28 x 28 px (#444444) circle.

For the reflection, create two 10 x 10 px circles (I used the same light blue color as for the owl). Overlap them and, using the Pathfinder panel, click on Minus Front.

eye reflection

Create a 3 x 3 px circle and place it at the bottom of the pupil. Group the eye and duplicate it by holding down the Alt key and dragging the mouse.

3. Cleaning Up

Using the Direct Selection Tool (A), select everything in one color and click Unite in the Pathfinder panel.

Pathfinder unite

Repeat for all colors.

Awesome Work—You’re Done!

This technique is all about accuracy and detail. The more accurately you align the circles, the less work you’ll have to do in the end. I hope you enjoyed this tutorial and will be able to create something different on your own!

Finished owl
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