How to Create Bender From Futurama With the New Puppet Warp Tool in Adobe Illustrator

In today’s tutorial, we’re going to be recreating one of my favorite cartoon characters of all time, Futurama’s one and only drunken robot, Bender. We’re going to base the entire process on simple geometric shapes combined with a few strokes here and there, and then use the new Puppet Warp Tool to quickly adjust his posture.

If you're looking to expand your character library, you can always head over to GraphicRiver, where you'll find a great selection of vector character assets just waiting to be clicked on.

That being said, grab a quick sip of that magic bean juice and let's get started!

1. How to Set Up a New Project File

Assuming you already have Illustrator up and running in the background, bring it up and let’s set up a New Document (File > New or Control-N) for our project using the following settings:

• Number of Artboards: 1
• Width: 360 px
• Height: 600 px
• Units: Pixels

• Color Mode: RGB
• Raster Effects: Screen (72ppi)
• Preview Mode: Default

2. How to Set Up a Custom Grid

Even though today we’re not working on icons, we’ll still want to create the character using a pixel-perfect workflow, so let's set up nice little grid so that we can have full control over our shapes.

Step 1

Go to the Edit > Preferences > Guides & Grid submenu, and adjust the following settings:

• Gridline every: 1 px
• Subdivisions: 1

Step 2

Once we’ve set up our custom grid, all we need to do in order to make sure our shapes look crisp is enable the Snap to Grid option found under the View menu (that’s if you're using an older version of Illustrator).

Now, if you’re new to the whole “pixel-perfect workflow”, I strongly recommend you go through my How to Create Pixel-Perfect Artwork tutorial, which will help you widen your technical skills in no time.

3. How to Set Up the Layers

Once we’ve finished setting up our project file, it would be a good idea to structure our document using a couple of layers, since this way we can maintain a steady workflow by focusing on one section of the illustration at a time.

That being said, bring up the Layers panel, and create a total of two layers, which we will rename as follows:

• layer 1: background
• layer 2: character

Quick tip: I’ve colored all of my layers using the same green value, since it’s the easiest one to view when used to highlight your selected shapes (whether they're closed or open paths).

4. How to Create the Background

We’re going to kick off the project by quickly creating the background, so make sure you’re on the right layer (that would be the first one), and then lock the other one so that we can get started.

Step 1

Create a 360 x 600 px rectangle, which we will color using #82A1AD and then center align to the underlying Artboard using the Align panel’s Horizontal and Vertical Align Center options.

Step 2

Lock the current layer using the Layers panel, and then move on up to the next one (that would be the second one), where we’ll start working on our crazy robot hero.

5. How to Create Bender’s Torso

Once we’ve finished working on the background, we can shift our focus over to Bender and gradually create him shape by shape, starting with his torso.

Step 1

Start working on his torso by creating an 86 x 16 px ellipse, which we will color using #A6C1D1 and then center align to the underlying Artboard, positioning it at a distance of 220 px from its bottom edge.

Step 2

Add an 86 x 112 px rectangle (#A6C1D1) on top of the previous shape’s top half, making sure to center align the two as seen in the reference image.

Step 3

Adjust the shape that we’ve just created by individually selecting its top anchor points using the Direct Selection Tool (A) and then pushing them to the outside by 8 px using the Move tool (right click > Transform > Move > Horizontal > +/- 8 px depending on which side you start with).

Step 4

Select both shapes, and then unite them into a single larger one using Pathfinder’s Unite Shape Mode.

Step 5

Give the resulting shape an outline using the Stroke method, by creating a copy of it (Control-C), which we will paste in front (Control-F) and then adjust by first changing its color to #282425 and then flipping its Fill with its Stroke (Shift-X). Set the resulting outline’s Weight to 2 px and its Corner to Round Join, selecting and grouping all of the current section’s composing shapes together afterwards using the Control-G keyboard shortcut.

Step 6

Start working on the torso’s upper section by creating a 102 x 24 px ellipse (#CCE5F2), which we will position as seen in the reference image.

Step 7

Remove the upper half of the shape that we’ve just created by selecting its top anchor point using the Direct Selection Tool (A) and then simply pressing Delete. Make sure you close up the resulting path using the Control-J keyboard shortcut, before moving on to the next step.

Step 8

Create a 102 x 18 px rectangle (#CCE5F2), which we will adjust by individually selecting and pushing its top anchor points to the inside by 23 px using the Move tool (right click > Transform > Move > Horizontal > +/- 23 px depending on which side you start with). Position the resulting shape on top of the ellipse’s bottom half, as seen in the reference image.

Step 9

Unite the two shapes into a single larger one using Pathfinder’s Unite Shape Mode, giving the resulting shape a 2 px thick outline (#282425). Once you’re done, select and group (Control-G) the two together, before moving on to the next step.

Step 10

Take a couple of moments and draw the front door using a 2 px thick Stroke (#282425), using the reference image as your main guide.

Step 11

Add the little handle using an 8 x 8 px circle with a 2 px Stroke (#282425), which we will position 8 px from the door’s right edge and 32 px from its top one. Once you’re done, select and group all of the torso’s composing shapes using the Control-G keyboard shortcut.

6. How to Create Bender’s Head

As soon as we’ve finished working on the hero’s torso, we can shift our focus towards his head.

Step 1

Start out by creating a 56 x 12 px ellipse, which we will color using #A6C1D1 and then position on the torso as seen in the reference image.

Step 2

Create a 56 x 110 px rectangle (#A6C1D1), which we will adjust by setting the Radius of its top corners to 28 px from within the Transform panel’s Rectangle Properties. Once you’re done, position the resulting shape on the upper half of the previously created ellipse.

Step 3

Unite the two shapes using Pathfinder’s Unite Shape Mode, giving the resulting head a 2 px thick outline (#282425). Once you’re done, select and group (Control-G) the two together before moving on to the next step.

Step 4

Start working on Bender’s visor by creating its outer shell using an 80 x 36 px rounded rectangle (#CCE5F2) with an 18 px Corner Radius, which we will center align to the head, positioning it 43 px from its top edge.

Step 5

Add the inner darker section using a 72 x 28 px rounded rectangle (#282425) with a 14 px Corner Radius, which we will center align to the shape from the previous step.

Step 6

Take a couple of moments and adjust the visor’s outer shell by adding a new anchor point to the center of its top edge using the Add Anchor Point Tool (+), and then repositioning and adjusting the corner ones using the reference image as your main guide.

Step 7

Give the resulting shape a 2 px thick Stroke (#282425), selecting and grouping the two together using the Control-G keyboard shortcut.

Step 8

Create the main shape for the left eye using a 28 x 28 px circle, which we will color using #FFFAC1 and then position on the inner section of the visor, 6 px from its left edge.

Step 9

Add the pupil using a 4 x 4 px square, which we will color using #282425 and then center align to the larger underlying circle, positioning it 10 px from its top edge. Once you’re done, select and group both shapes together using the Control-G keyboard shortcut.

Step 10

Create the right eye using a copy (Control-C > Control-F) of the one that we’ve just finished working on, which we will position on the opposite side of the visor, making sure to maintain the same 6 px gap.

Step 11

Using the Pen Tool (P), give the eyes an expression by drawing the down-facing shape #282425 from the reference image. Take your time, and once you’re done, move on to the next step.

Step 12

Select and group (Control-G) the two eyes and the shape from the previous step, masking them using a 68 x 24 px rounded rectangle with a 12 px Corner Radius (highlighted with red), by simply right clicking and then selecting Make Clipping Mask. Once you’re done, select and group all of the visor’s composing shapes using the Control-G keyboard shortcut.

Step 13

Start working on the mouth by drawing its main shape with the help of the Pen Tool (P), using #FFFAC1 as your Fill color. Use the reference image as your main guide, and then move on to the next step once you’re done.

Step 14

Add the digital teeth lines using a couple of vertical and horizontal 2 px thick Strokes (#282425), which we will mask using a copy (Control-C > Control-F) of the underlying mouth.

Step 15

Give the mouth a 2 px thick outline (#282425) using the Stroke method, selecting and grouping all its composing shapes afterwards using the Control-G keyboard shortcut.

Step 16

Start working on the antenna by creating its base using a 16 x 8 px ellipse (#CCE5F2) with a 2 px thick outline (#282425), which we will group (Control-G) and then position on the head, 32 px from the visor’s top edge.

Step 17

Create the lower section of the antenna’s main body using an 8 x 4 px ellipse, which we will color using #7EA6C4, and then center align to the larger base’s top edge.

Step 18

Create an 8 x 28 px rectangle (#7EA6C4), which we will adjust by individually selecting and pushing its top anchor points to the inside by 2 px (right click > Transform > Move > Horizontal > +/- 2 px depending on which side you start with). Once you’re done, position the resulting shape on the upper half of the smaller ellipse.

Step 19

Combine the two shapes into a single larger one using Pathfinder’s Unite Shape Mode, giving the resulting shape a 2 px thick outline (#282425). Then, select and group (Control-G) the two shapes together before moving on to the next step.

Step 20

Add the antenna’s tip by creating an 8 x 8 px circle (#A6C1D1) with a 2 px thick outline (#282425), which we will group (Control-G) and then position as seen in the reference image. Before you move on to the next step, make sure you select and group (Control-G) all of the current section’s composing shapes, doing the same for the entire head afterwards.

7. How to Create Bender’s Arms

Next, we’re going take a few moments and work on the character’s arms, which as you’ll see are really easy to create.

Step 1

Start working on the robot’s left arm by creating his shoulder joint using a 20 x 32 px ellipse (#CCE5F2) with a 2 px thick outline (#282425), which we will group (Control-G) and then position underneath the larger torso (right click > Arrange > Send to Back).

Step 2

Select the Pen Tool (P), and using a 14 px thick Stroke (#8DA9BF) with a Round Cap, draw the hand following the example from the reference image.

Quick tip: you might have noticed that we’ve used regular shapes for the fills, and strokes for the outlines for all of our other sections, but went down another path when it came to the hand. Well that’s because the Puppet Warp Tool handles round corners differently when you use open paths instead of closed ones, which we will see in just a few moments.

Step 3

Give the arm a 2 px thick outline (#282425) using a copy (Control-C > Control-B) of it which we will adjust by increasing its Weight from 14 px to 18 px. Once you’re done, select and group (Control-G) the two of them together, making sure to position them underneath the shoulder (right click > Arrange > Send to Back).

Step 4

Select the Pen Tool (P), and quickly draw the ring segments using a 2 px thick Stroke (#282425), grouping (Control-G) and then masking them using an expanded (Object > Expand > Fill and Stroke) copy (Control-C > Control-F) of the arm’s outline.

Step 5

Take a few moments and draw the palm using #CCE5F2 as your Fill color. Once you’re done, give the resulting shape a 2 px thick outline (#282425), grouping (Control-G) and then positioning the two as seen in the reference image.

Step 6

Add the three fingers following the same process used for drawing the robot’s arm. Take your time, and once you’re done, select and group (Control-G) all of the palm’s composing shapes, doing the same for the entire arm (except for the shoulder joint).

Step 7

Create the right arm using a copy (Control-C > Control-F) of the one that we’ve just finished working on, which we will position on the opposite side of the larger torso.

8. How to Create Bender’s Legs

With the hands in place, we can shift our focus to the lower section of his body, where we will gradually build his legs.

Step 1

Start working on the left leg by drawing its main body using a 14 px thick Stroke (#8DA9BF) with a Round Cap for the fill shape, giving it an outline (#282425) using an 18 px thick copy (Control-C > Control-B). Once you’re done, select and group (Control-G) the two together, positioning them as seen in the reference image.

Step 2

As we did with arms, add the ring segments using a couple of 2 px thick Stroke lines (#282425), making sure to group (Control-G) and mask them afterwards using an expanded copy (Control-C > Control-F) of the larger outline (right click > Make Clipping Mask).

Step 3

Add the foot section using a 56 x 12 px ellipse (#CCE5F2), which we will adjust by selecting and pushing its top anchor point to the outside by 16 px using the Move Tool (right click > Transform > Move > Vertical > - 16 px). Adjust the roundness of the resulting shape, and then give it a 2 px thick outline (#282425), grouping (Control-G) and then positioning the two as seen in the reference image.

Step 4

Finish off the robot by adding his right leg using a copy (Control-C > Control-F) of the one that we’ve just finished working on, which we will position on the opposite side of the torso.

Step 5

Add the circular shadow using a 180 x 32 px ellipse (#698791) with a 2 px thick outline (#282425), which we will group (Control-G) and then position underneath (right click > Arrange > Send to Back) our drunken hero, as seen in the reference image.

9. How to Adjust the Posture of the Character Using the Puppet Warp Tool

So we’ve gone through the process of illustrating our robot hero, but what if we decided that we want to adjust his posture by repositioning his hands or legs?

Well, following the latest Illustrator update, Adobe has introduced a new tool called the Puppet Warp Tool, which allows you to do just that by “twisting and distorting parts of your artwork”. This is a really helpful addition to the field of character design, since it allows us to quickly adjust the posture of our subject using just a couple of clicks.

The way it works is actually really simple, since it uses what Adobe calls “pins” to adjust or anchor certain sections of your artwork.

That being said, let’s jump in and see exactly how it behaves by playing with our little robot friend.

Step 1

Let’s say that we want to position part of his left arm behind his body, to make it look as if he has something dangerous hidden behind him.

To do that, we’ll first select the arm section that we’re going to be adjusting, and then grab the Puppet Warp Tool and position it above the area that we want to pivot, which in our case is the Stroke’s top anchor point.

Step 2

As soon as you click to add the pin, you’ll notice that you now have a black ring with a dotted circle around it, which is going to act as our anchor pin.

Step 3

Add a second pin over the wrist area, where the palm meets the arm, which we’re going to be using in order to make the adjustment.

Quick tip: Adobe recommends you use at least three pins to get good results, but it depends on what you want to achieve. In our case, we don't need to add an elbow pin since we can make the arm adjustment using the bottom one.

Step 4

With the pins in place, we can now hover over the second one and reposition the arm by clicking and dragging it behind the robot’s torso.

Now if you did that, you might have noticed something go a little bit wrong, since the ring segments have partially separated themselves from the arm’s path.

Some of you might think, "Well, you should have used a closed path shape instead of strokes for the arms.”

If you know me, then you probably know that I did my research and I found that most of the time when dealing with shapes that have rounded corners, the result varies from good to bad, since they can end up being distorted as you can see in the reference image.

I believe this is due to the complexity of your composition (the number of shapes and the complexity of their paths in combination with the clipping mask), which for now might be difficult for the software to handle.

In our case, we could use closed path shapes instead of Strokes if we position the arms behind the torso, but I believe a better way would be to mask the ring segments using an expanded version of the adjusted arm.

Step 5

So we’ve managed to position Bender’s hand behind his back to make him look more forceful, but let’s say we want to do something with his right leg to make him look as if he’s moving towards us. To do that, simply add a pin to its top section and another one to his ankle, followed by a third one where his knee would be, and then simply drag it to the outside to change his posture as seen in the reference image.

Step 6

Tweak his leg a little bit more by selecting the bottom pin, and then slightly rotating his ankle counterclockwise with the help of the dotted circle.

Step 7

Now this is looking a lot better! Let’s continue adjusting his posture by doing something with his right arm, making sure to mask the ring segments again afterwards.

Step 8

Raise his left leg and position it slightly towards the outside by adding two warp pins to its top and bottom anchor points, and then selecting and dragging the bottom one as seen in the reference image.

Now, some of you might be wondering why I didn’t just group the entire character, and then add pins to all the sections that I’ve just adjusted. Well, it seems that with some compositions, doing that gives you all sort of shape distortions as you can see, which is why sometimes it might be better to do them locally instead of globally.

That being said, we’re all done, so you can select and group (Control-G) all of the character’s composing shapes together before hitting that save button.

It’s a Wrap!

Even though it was a long one, we’ve managed to learn how to create one of TV’s funniest characters and use the awesome Puppet Warp Tool to adjust his posture on the fly.

As always, I hope you’ve managed to follow each and every step, and if you have any questions, post them in the comments section and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can!

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