Unlimited PS Actions, graphics, videos & courses! Unlimited asset downloads! From $16.50/m
  1. Design & Illustration
  2. Icon Design

How to Create Flat Profession Avatars in Adobe Illustrator

This post is part of a series called Learn Adobe Illustrator.
Create an Avocado With Only One Shape in Adobe Illustrator
Create a Christmas, Knitted Text Effect in Adobe Illustrator
Final product image
What You'll Be Creating

In this tutorial we’ll be making a set of flat-style portraits, depicting people of different professions and occupations. Such images can be used as avatars for social networks or as design elements for your website, depicting various categories. Or you can even draw yourself, using such flat-style portraits for your business card. 

The basic shapes and tools of Adobe Illustrator are great for creating flat vector graphics, and we’ll go through the full process, discovering new tips and tricks, using the Pathfinder panel, Clipping Masks and some other features and functions of Adobe Illustrator. You can follow this tutorial with ease even if you don’t use a graphics tablet. Let’s begin!

If you want to go further and make a larger set of professions or you need some other types of portraits, feel free to find your inspiration directly at Envato Market by browsing flat design avatars or flat design portraits. You can purchase this set, plus additional avatar options in my Flat Professions Avatars Set on GraphicRiver.

Icon set

 1. Make a Construction Worker Avatar

Step 1

We’ll start by making the head of our first character. Let’s take the Rectangle Tool (M) and make a 65 x 80 px shape of a light-pink skin tone. Keeping our shape selected, go to Object > Path > Add Anchor Points. You will notice additional anchor points appear in the middle of each side of the rectangle.

make a head from rectangle 1

Step 2

Go to Object > Path > Add Anchor Points again, adding two more points for each side. As a matter of fact, we don’t need all of the created anchor points, so let’s delete the unwanted ones. Take the Direct Selection Tool (A) and select three points on the left side of the rectangle and three on the right. Head to the control panel on top and click the Remove selected anchor points button.

Now let’s shape the face. Select two extreme anchor points in the bottom corners of the rectangle and click Enter to open the Move window. Set the Horizontal value to 0 px and Vertical to -25 px to move the anchor points 25 px up, shaping the chin. Click OK.

make a head from rectangle 2

Step 3

If you want to make the chin wider or narrower, select one of its anchor points and hit Enter again, opening the Move window and moving the point horizontally to the left or right. For example, move the right point to the left by setting the Horizontal value to -5 px and then move the left point to the right, setting the Horizontal value to 5 px. This way we've moved the points closer to each other.

Use the Live Corners feature to make the face a bit more smooth and rounded by selecting it with the Direct Selection Tool (A) and pulling any of the circle markers a bit closer to the center. 

If you’re using older versions of Adobe Illustrator, which don't have the Live Corners feature, that's totally fine! You can get the same result if you go to Effect > Stylize > Round Corners. The only difference is that you can't choose just one corner—it will make all the corners rounded. But you can always fix this with the Eraser Tool (Shift-E).

make the chin narrower

Step 4

Let’s add the nose! Take the Rectangle Tool (M) and make a 9 x 20 px pink shape. Make the corners rounded or use the Rounded Rectangle Tool to create the entire shape.

Let’s make sure that the nose is perfectly aligned to the face. Select both the face and the nose with the Selection Tool (V), hold Alt and click the face. You will see a thick selection stroke around it, indicating that this is now the Key Object, which means that all other objects will be aligned to it. Now head to the Align panel and click Horizontal Align Center. Awesome! Now the nose is right in the center of the face.

make a rounded nose and align it

Step 5

Let’s add a moustache. Make a brown rectangle of 30 x 10 px size, click it with the right mouse button and Arrange > Send Backward (Control-[), placing it beneath the nose.

make a mustache from rectangle 1

Step 6

Select the upper left anchor point of the brown rectangle, hit Enter and set the Horizontal value to 10 px and the Vertical value to 0 px in order to move the point closer to the nose. Repeat the same for the opposite side of the moustache, this time setting the Horizontal value to -10 px. Make the bottom part of the moustache slightly rounded with the Live Corners feature.

make a mustache from rectangle 2

Step 7

Use the Rounded Rectangle Tool to make a small shape for the lower lip, placing it beneath the moustache (Control-[). Align the lip horizontally to the face using the Align panel.

add the lower lip with Rounded Rectangle Tool

Step 8

Use the Ellipse Tool (L) to make an 8 x 8 px white circle for the eyeball and place a smaller (6 x 6 px) brown circle on top for the iris. Add a tiny white circle for the highlight and move both eyes to the proper position.

make the eye from circles

Step 9

Let’s render a helmet, which protects the worker’s head. Make a 65 x 19 px orange rectangle on top of the head. Select the upper anchor points with the Direct Selection Tool (A) and pull the Live Corners markers down, making the cap rounded.

make a rounded helmet

Step 10

Now let’s add the hair. Take the Rectangle Tool (M) and make a narrow vertical stripe at the left side of the face for the sideburn. Select the bottom right anchor point with the Direct Selection Tool (A) and make the corner rounded.

Keeping the sideburn selected, double-click the Reflect Tool (O) and flip the shape over the Vertical Axis. Click the copy button and stick the second sideburn to the right side of the face.

make side whiskers from rectangle

Step 11

Let’s modify the bottom side of the helmet, so that we’ll be able to add a peak. Find the spot where the sideburn crosses the bottom line of the helmet, and use the Pen Tool (P) to make a new anchor point. Do the same for the right sideburn. You can turn on the Smart Guides (View > Smart Guides), which will mark the intersection point. 

Finally, select both newly created anchor points with the Direct Selection Tool (A) and press Enter to open the Move window. Set the Horizontal value to 0 px and Vertical value to -5 px, moving the anchor points up.

add new anchor points and move them up

Step 12

Now let’s add a peak to the helmet. Make a lighter-orange narrow rectangle and attach its upper anchor points to the helmet. Smart Guides (View > Smart Guides) can be really helpful at this step. 

Select the bottom left anchor point and use the Move function to move it to the right by setting the Horizontal value to 10 px and Vertical value to 0 px. Repeat the same for the opposite bottom anchor point, but this time move it to the left. And finally, drag the bottom anchor points down a bit if you want to make the peak wider. Use the Live Corners feature to make the bottom corners slightly rounded.

make a peak from rectangle

Step 13

Take the Rounded Rectangle Tool and make a narrow vertical shape of 7 x 30 px on top of the helmet. Align it to the helmet, using the helmet as the Key Object.

Add two shorter stripes on both sides of the first stripe, and let’s use the Align panel to make the gaps between the stripes even. Select the stripes and click Align to Selection in the Align panel. Then click Horizontal Distribute Center, and there you have it!

add details to the helmet

Step 14

Take the Rounded Rectangle Tool, and this time let’s shape the ears. Make an 11 x 23 px pink shape at the left side of the head and Send it to Back (Shift-Control-[). Press Alt-Shift and drag the ear to the opposite side of the head, making a copy.

make the ears from rounded rectangle

Step 15

Make a 35 x 40 px rectangle for the neck, filling it with a slightly darker skin tone in order to separate it from the face. Make the bottom part of the neck a bit rounded.

And let’s start designing the clothes of the worker. Make a 90 x 70 px dark-blue rectangle for the shirt. Add two more anchor points at the spots where the neck crosses the shirt. Move the side anchor points of the rectangle down, holding Shift and pressing the down arrow key several times in order to form the shoulders.

make a neck and a shirt from the rectangles

Step 16

Let’s move on to the worker's uniform and place two narrow orange stripes above the shoulders. Group (Control-G) them and align the group to the dark-blue shirt, using the shirt as the Key Object. Add a rectangle above the chest and Unite all the orange parts in Pathfinder, merging them into a single shape.

Go to Object > Path > Add Anchor Points, and then select the new point in the middle of the neck area of the uniform and drag it down, making a V shape.

make a uniform from rectangles

Step 17

Use the Live Corners feature to make the corners of the uniform slightly rounded. Now we need to get rid of those pieces outside the shirt in order to make both shapes fit each other. Select both the shirt and the uniform and take the Shape Builder Tool (Shift-M). Hold down Alt and click the pieces outside the shirt which you need to delete. Add two lighter narrow stripes on both shoulders, depicting a reflective tape.

edit the uniform with the Shape Builder Tool

Step 18

Let’s give our icon a trendy flat-style look by darkening one of its sides. Select all the elements of the character (Control-A), Copy them and Paste in Front (Control-C > Control-F). Click the Unite function in the Pathfinder panel to merge the parts into a single silhouette.

make a merged silhouette in pathfinder

Step 19

Take the Line Segment Tool (\), hold Shift and make a vertical line across the silhouette. Select both the line and the silhouette and align them horizontally in the Align panel, using the silhouette as the Key Object.

Keeping both shapes selected, use the Divide function of Pathfinder to split the silhouette into two equal halves.

divide the shapes in the pathfinder

Step 20

Delete the left half and switch the remaining half to Multiply Blending Mode in the Transparency panel to make it semi-transparent. You can adjust the color of the shadow, making it lighter or darker in the Color panel, or by changing its Opacity in the Transparency panel.

make a shadow in multiply mode

Step 21

Oops, looks as if we forgot the eyebrows. Let’s go back to the face. Make a circle around the eye and set the Stroke color to dark brown in the Color panel. Take the Scissors Tool (C) and click the side anchor points to split the circle apart. Delete the lower part. 

Head to the Stroke panel and increase the thickness of the brow by setting the Weight value to 2 pt. Switch the Cap and Corner to middle positions, making the shape rounded.

make a brow from a circle 1

Step 22

Keeping the brow selected, take the Eraser Tool (Shift-E), hold Alt and drag the selection rectangle over the bottom part of the brow to erase the ends, making the arch a bit shorter.

Copy the shape, forming a second eyebrow.

make a brow from a circle 2

Step 23

Select the upper side anchor points of the dark-blue shirt and use Live Corners to make the shoulders a bit smoother.

make the shoulders rounded

Step 24

The main element of our first avatar is ready, so now we need to give it a completed look by forming a background. Use the Ellipse Tool (L) to make a 180 x 180 px circle. Fill it with bright turquoise color, copy it and Bring the copy to Front (Shift-Control-]).

Finally, select everything, click the right mouse button and Make Clipping Mask. Awesome! Now we have a tidy circle avatar! 

You can still edit the image if you double-click it and enter Isolation Mode.

make a circle icon base and clipping mask

Step 25

And the last stroke here will be a long, flat-style shadow! Take the Rectangle Tool (M) and make a large rectangle. Switch it to Multiply mode or lower the Opacity to make the shapes beneath it visible. Hold Shift and rotate the shape 45 degrees.

Now you need to make the rectangle fit the silhouette of our worker. Stick its anchor points to the edges of the character. Make additional anchor points with the Pen Tool (P) and move them with the Direct Selection Tool (A), hiding the unneeded parts of the rectangle inside the man’s figure.

When you’re happy with the result, place the shadow inside the Clipping Mask, hiding it beneath the worker (use the Layers panel to drag the shape inside the Mask).

make a flat long shadow

Finally, apply a linear gradient from turquoise to white to the shadow and place it diagonally, using the Gradient Tool (G). Switch the shadow to Multiply mode, making it blend with the background.

And done! Our first profession avatar is ready! Let’s move to the next one!

apply a gradient to the shadow

2. Create a Surgeon Avatar

Step 1

Our next avatar will be a portrait of a surgeon with dark skin tone. We’ll be using the avatar of the worker as a base for the second portrait, so let’s duplicate it, right click and Release Clipping Mask.

Delete the helmet, moustache and the orange worker’s uniform, and recolor the icon base and shadow to yellow colors. Proceed with recoloring the elements, changing the color of the clothes to turquoise and the skin tone to a darker chocolate color. Change the color of the hair and eyebrows to darker brown as well.

recolor the base of the new avatar

Step 2

Let’s add a medical hat to our surgeon. Use the Rectangle Tool (M) to make a 40 x 24 px rectangle. Move the upper side anchor points a bit closer to each other, using the arrow keys of your keyboard and making the top of the hat a bit narrower. Use the Live Corners feature to make the upper corners rounded.

make a surgeon hat

Step 3

Let’s create a simple surgeon’s mask. Make a 33 x 20 px rectangle. Add a group of darker horizontal stripes above the mask, making it more detailed. And, finally, place a narrow string at the top of the mask and Send it to Back (Shift-Control-[).

make a surgeon mask

Step 4

Now place the mask above the surgeon’s face and let’s hide the unneeded pieces. Duplicate the base of the face and Bring it to Front (Shift-Control-]), placing it above the mask (you may need to drag the copy outside the face group if you’ve grouped the face previously). Select both the face copy and the mask, right click and Make Clipping Mask.

Great! Now it fits the face perfectly.

add mask to the surgeon

Step 5

Let’s finish up with the surgeon’s avatar by adding a final detail to his uniform. Use the Polygon Tool to make a triangle and rotate it, turning the shape upside down. Fill the shape with light-grey color. Select both the turquoise shirt and the white triangle and use the Shape Builder Tool (Shift-M) while holding Alt to delete the pieces outside the body, forming a nice V-shaped neck-band.

Darken the right part of the character with the help of a semi-transparent shape in Multiply mode, and hide all parts inside a round Clipping Mask.

We’re ready to move on!

add elements to the uniform of the surgeon

3. Draw a Flight Attendant Avatar       

Step 1

Now it's time to draw a flight attendant portrait! We won’t be making it from scratch, so let’s transform the first figure instead. Duplicate the worker’s icon and make the base for our future avatar by releasing the Clipping Mask and deleting all the unneeded elements. Recolor the circle icon base to a gentle red color.

The shape of the face seems to be too angled for our new character, so let’s make a new one. Make a 40 x 55 px rectangle and use the Live Corners feature to make the corners fully rounded.

transform the face making it more female

Step 2

Let’s make the nose shape thinner. Select the two side anchor points at the upper part of the nose and delete them using the Remove selected anchor points function in the upper control panel. This will make the upper part of the nose look more delicate.

delete the anchor points on the nose

Step 3

Now let’s move on to the lips. Go to Object > Path > Add Anchor Points. Select the new anchor point in the middle of the upper lip and drag it down using the Direct Selection Tool (A). Use the Live Corners feature to make the shape of the lips more flowing and smooth. And split the lips apart, using the Scissors Tool (C) by clicking the side anchor points.

edit the lips making them feminine

Step 4

Make the lips brighter, increasing the saturation of the pink color, and let’s make the shape slightly arched. Group (Control-G) both halves of the lips and go to Effect > Warp > Arch. Set the Horizontal Bend value to -30%. Click OK and Object > Expand Appearance to apply the effect, making the mouth smiling. You can also make the upper lip a bit darker in order to separate it from the lower lip, making the mouth more true to life.

make the lips arched and bright

Step 5

We’re going to make our woman blonde, so let’s recolor her eyes and brows accordingly. We can also add a thin arched stroke for the eyelashes, making it the same way as we made the brows.

recolor her eyes and brows

Now let’s form a neat hairdo. Take the Ellipse Tool (L) and place two ellipses above the forehead, making them overlap. Unite the ellipses in the Pathfinder. Use the Shape Builder Tool (Shift-M) to delete the unneeded piece above the head, making the hair slick and tidy.

make the hair

In order to make the character look more subtle, let’s make the neck thinner and more rounded. And we can also modify the face a bit by making it thinner and adding a gentle round blush on the cheeks.

add details to the face

Step 6

Now let’s render the uniform of our flight attendant! We’ll be using the dark-blue shirt base that we already have and just adding more distinctive details. Let’s turn the shirt into a stylish jacket.

Take the Rectangle Tool (M) and make a 33 x 45 px stripe. Rotate it to about 45 degrees and let’s make a cutout notch closer to its top. Place a tiny triangle, overlapping the main shape. Use the Shape Builder Tool (Shift-M) while holding down Alt to cut out the triangle.

Use the Reflect Tool (O) to make a mirrored copy of the created shape, forming a lapel. You can erase the unneeded pieces in the bottom part using the Eraser Tool (Shift-E) or the Shape Builder Tool (Shift-M) after you place it above the jacket.

make a lapel of the jacket from rectangles 

Step 7

Form a collar of the white shirt, combining three triangles and making one of the corners of each shape slightly rounded.

make a collar from triangles

Step 8

Now we need to render a small red tie, making a distinctive mark of the airlines. Start by making a small 8 x 7.5 px rectangle. Move its bottom anchor points closer to each other, using the arrow keys and making the bottom of the shape narrower. Make those bottom corners rounded, forming the knot of our tie.

Now take the Ellipse Tool (L), make a squashed shape and rotate it about 45 degrees. Select the bottom anchor point, head to the upper control panel and click the Convert selected anchor points to corner button, making the shape pointed. Flip the copy of the shape to the opposite side, making the tie look complete.

make a red tie

Step 9

Let’s move to the next element of the flight attendant’s uniform: the cap. Make an 18 x 18 px square of the same dark-blue color as the jacket. Rotate it 45 degrees and squash it a bit, making a diamond shape. Make the corners rounded with the Live Corners feature.

Make a darker blue stripe with rounded corners and attach it to the left side of the first shape. Use the Reflect Tool (O) to flip the copy of the shape horizontally, forming the folding of the cap.

make a stewardess cap

Step 10

Shape a golden airlines emblem, depicting a winged medal from a 4 x 4 px circle, and a group of rounded rectangles for the feathers. Attach the emblem to the cap, aligning it to the center.

add the emblem to the cap

Step 11

Finally, dress up our flight attendant and finish the icon by adding a gentle shadow and hiding everything with a round clipping mask.

dress up our stewardess and finish up with the icon

4. Create a Police Officer

Step 1

We’ll be using the base of our stewardess avatar, changing her skin tone to a nice chocolate color and the hair to dark brown. Let’s also switch the color of the icon base to bright green.

use the base of previous icon

Step 2

Let’s flip the hair horizontally to make it differ from the previous avatar. And let’s form a short haircut. Make a 45 x 53 px rectangle of a darker brown color and place it beneath the head. Select the upper side anchor points and make the top of the shape fully rounded. 

Now let’s depict separate hair locks in the bottom. Form a few tiny triangles and place them at the bottom of the hairdo, making the shapes overlap. Use the Shape Builder Tool (Shift-M), holding down Alt to cut out the triangles.

Add a simple V-shaped collar for our shirt, forming it from two narrow rectangles.

make a short haircut

Step 3

Now let’s create the hat of our police officer. Use the Polygon Tool to make a 7-sided shape about 45 x 45 px size. Squash the shape and modify its bottom part by moving the anchor points farther from each other and making the corners a bit rounded. Move the bottom points of the shape up a bit, making the bottom side flat.

make a police officer hat

Step 4

Add a narrow horizontal peak to the hat, using the Rectangle Tool (M) and making its bottom corners rounded. 

Let’s make the peak glossy by adding a stylized highlight. Make two narrow stripes, rotate them 45 degrees and place them above the peak. Use the Shape Builder Tool (Shift-M) to delete the unwanted pieces outside the peak.

add a peak to the police officer hat

Step 5

Let’s make the most important element of every police officer: the badge! Make a 10 x 13 px rectangle of a bright-yellow color. Go to Object > Path > Add Anchor Points. Select the bottom side anchor points and move them up, making the shape pointed and looking like a shield.

Use the Live Corners feature to make the sides of the shape smooth. We can also make the top of the shape slightly bend, using the Curvature Tool (Shift-‘).

Finish up with the badge by placing a star above it, using the Star Tool.

make the police officer badge

Step 6

Dress up our friendly police officer, adding a dark-grey tie and some additional details to the uniform. You can go even further and create some additional accessories, for example, bright trendy glasses, formed from two ellipses with a blue stroke.

finish up with the police officer

Congratulations! Our Set of Profession Avatars Is Ready!

Great job! We’ve successfully created four portraits of people of different occupations that can be used either as avatars or as icons or for any other design project. 

If you want to create more professions or to inspect the original file of this tutorial and see how the separate elements were made, then go ahead and get the full set of Flat Professions Avatars with 12 different occupations, each in two skin tones.

I really hope that this tutorial was helpful and you’ve discovered some new tips and tricks that will speed up your work, making it more comfortable.

Have fun and stay tuned for more!

flat professions avatars icons with portraits of people of different occupations
Looking for something to help kick start your next project?
Envato Market has a range of items for sale to help get you started.