In this tutorial we’ll be creating a cute cartoon Christmas deer and a full set of facial expressions. We’ll be modifying simple geometric shapes, working with the Arc Tool and the Pathfinder panel, and using various Stroke settings.
Such cartoon characters are great for mobile games and applications as they can be easily animated by moving their body parts and swapping the faces. If you want to take a closer look at how the elements are designed or you want to get this character in alternative colors, make sure you check out my Cute Deer Construction Kit on GraphicRiver.
And now let’s get started!
1. How to Draw the Head of the Cartoon Reindeer
Let’s start drawing the deer's head Use the Ellipse Tool (L) and hold Shift to make a 100 x 100 px circle. Fill it with bright blue color. Select its left and right anchor points with the Direct Selection Tool (A) and move the points a few pixels down.
Copy the circle and Paste in Back (Control-C > Control-B). Make the bottom copy a bit larger and darker, forming a shadow along the bottom edge of the head.
Copy the top circle again and Paste in Front (Control-C > Control-F). Shrink the top copy to 85 x 60 px and change its color to lighter blue, forming a flat highlight on top of the head.
Now let’s add the eyes. Make a 20 x 20 px white circle. Copy the circle and Paste in Back (Control-C > Control-B), making the copy a bit larger. Change its color to dark blue.
Add a 13 x 13 px circle of the same dark-blue color for the iris.
Group (Control-G) all elements of the eye and double-click the Reflect Tool (O) to open the options window. Flip the group over the Vertical Axis and click the Copy button to create a second eye.
Hold Shift and drag the eye horizontally to the opposite side of the face.
Continue using the Ellipse Tool (L) to form the red nose. Start from the largest and darkest circle of 27 x 27 px and gradually move to smaller circles, finishing up with a white highlight.
Finally, Copy the largest circle and Paste in Back (Control-C > Control-B). Move the bottom copy down a bit and change its Fill color to dark blue, making a simple flat shadow from the nose.
Take the Rounded Rectangle Tool and make a 10 x 7 px dark-blue shape for the eyebrow. Make the corners of the shape fully rounded either by using the Live Corners or by setting the Corner Radius to 3.5 px in the control panel on top.
Rotate the brow slightly and use the Reflect Tool (O) to add a second brow.
Add two pink ellipses on the cheeks, depicting a gentle blush.
Now we’ll add a mouth. Create a 23 x 23 px circle and this time set its Fill color to none and its Stroke to dark blue. Head to the Stroke panel (Window > Stroke), and set the Weight to 4 pt and Cap to Round Cap.
Take the Scissors Tool (S) and click both side anchor points of the circle to split it apart. Delete the top half of the shape, creating a smiling mouth.
Copy the mouth shape and Paste in Back. Move the copy a few pixels down and change its Stroke color to light blue, making a gentle highlight.
Let’s make the ears! Make a bright blue ellipse of 35 x 15 px. Select its top and bottom anchor points with the Direct Selection Tool (A) and move them a few pixels to the left, giving a proper form to the ear.
Add a larger dark-blue copy of the shape in the bottom and place a smaller pink ellipse on top.
Attach the ears to the head and add three small circles on top of the head, forming a tuft of hair.
Now let’s use the Arc Tool to form the antlers. Make an arc with dark-blue Stroke. Set the Stroke Weight to 4 pt and Cap to Round Cap. Add a few more arched elements to the antler and use the Reflect Tool (O) to add a mirrored copy. Select both antlers and Send to Back (Shift-Control-[), behind the head shape.
Great! The head of our cute deer is ready, so let’s move on to the body!
2. How to Create the Body of the Cartoon Deer
Take the Rounded Rectangle Tool and make a 70 x 75 px shape for the stylized body. Select both anchor points of the bottom left corner with the Direct Selection Tool (A) and move them a few pixels to the left. Do the same for the bottom right points, moving them in the opposite direction, thus making the bottom of the body slightly wider than its top.
Keeping the shape selected, press Shift-Control-[ to Send to Back.
Copy the body and Paste in Back. Make the bottom copy a bit larger and darker, making a gentle shadow.
Finish up with the body by adding a 50 x 50 px copy on top, filling it with bright pink color for the tummy.
Let’s add the arms. Use the Arc Tool again to make an arched Stroke and set its Weight to 15 pt, making a thick line.
Keeping the stroke selected, use the Width Tool (Shift-W) to make the top of the arm thinner.
Add a smaller stroke for the thumb and use the Ellipse Tool (L) to add a light-blue 10 x 13 px circle on top of the hand for a highlight.
Group (Control-G) all the elements of the arm and add a reflected copy to the opposite side of the body.
Let’s move on to the legs. Create another arc with 14 pt Stroke and Object > Expand the shape, turning it into a flat object.
Now let’s add the hooves. Make a 20 x 20 px dark-blue circle and place it above the leg, covering its bottom part. Select both the circle and the leg and take the Shape Builder Tool (Shift-M). Hold Alt and click the piece of circle that you want to delete. There we have it!
Use the Pen Tool (P) or the Polygon Tool to make a tiny triangle of any color. Place the triangle over the hoof as shown below and select all three shapes of the leg. Use the Shape Builder Tool (Shift-M) while holding Alt to cut out the triangle by selecting its entire shape.
Group (Control-G) all parts of the leg and use the Reflect Tool (O) to create a second leg.
There we have it! Our cute cartoon Christmas deer is ready! Let’s move on and create a variety of facial expressions to make our character more diverse.
3. How to Vary the Facial Expressions of the Cartoon Deer Character
Let’s change the default friendly face to a grumpy one. Turn the mouth of our deer upside down (don’t forget to fix the highlight) and use similar half-circle shapes for the closed eyelids. Rotate the brows in the opposite directions, making a frowning face.
Let’s move on to the next expression. Use our default face and replace one of the eyes with a semi-circle, depicting a blinking eye. Remove the mouth and let’s make a new one.
Make a 30 x 5 px dark-blue oval for the mouth. Select its left and right anchor points with the Direct Selection Tool (A) and use the Convert function in the control panel on top to Convert selected anchor points to corner, making the corners of the mouth pointed.
Drag the bottom anchor point further down to make the mouth more open.
Create a white ellipse for the teeth and make it overlap the top of the mouth. Select both shapes and use the Shape Builder Tool (Shift-M) while holding Alt to delete the unneeded piece of the white ellipse.
Add a small chip between the front teeth, using the same technique as we did for the hoof.
Add another overlapping oval for the tongue and cut off the unneeded part. Finish the mouth by adding a gentle shadow along the top lip and a highlight on the bottom lip.
Create another cheerful face from the one that we’ve just finished. Make the mouth more open and depict closed eyelids to make a laughing reindeer.
Turn a neutral facial expression into a surprised face by replacing a smile with a small circle, depicting an open mouth.
Don't forget to add shadows and a highlight around the mouth by making copies, as we did previously.
Replace the eyes with closed eyelids, making a cute sleepy face.
Finally, let’s use the grumpy face to make a funny angry expression by creating two narrow strokes for the eyes.
Our Cute Christmas Deer Construction Kit is Finished!
Great job! Now we have a full set of facial expressions that we can attach to the deer’s body, depicting any mood that we need.
If you would like to get a finished character from this tutorial for your game or other purposes and you want to have it in other formats and alternative colors, then check out this Deer Character Faces Construction Kit.
I hope you’ve enjoyed following this tutorial and discovered some useful tips and tricks that will help you to create more Christmas characters!
Have a very Merry Christmas!