In today’s tutorial I'm going to show you how to create a cute character illustration, using some of Illustrator’s most basic shapes and tools, combined with the power of Blending Modes.
Let’s get started!
1. Set Up a New Document
As always, with each and every project, the first thing we need to set up is the document. Go to File > New or use the Control-N keyboard shortcut and create an 800 x 600 px file, using the following settings:
- Number of Artboards: 1
- Units: Pixels
And from the Advanced tab:
- Color Mode: RGB
- Raster Effects: Screen (72 ppi)
- Align New Objects to Pixel Grid: checked
Quick tip: since we’re going to be creating the illustration using a pixel-perfect workflow, I recommend you take a couple of moments and read my in-depth tutorial on how to create pixel-perfect artwork, which should get you going in no time.
Name the file however you want, and then let’s move on to the next step.
2. Layer the Project
No matter the project you’re working on, you should always try and use layers since they can help a lot when it comes to creating and structuring your design, letting you focus on one section at a time, without the fear that you’ve accidentally moved or misplaced a shape.
So, assuming you already know how to use the Layers panel, create three layers and name them as follows:
- Layer one: phone character
- Layer two: side symbols
- Layer three: gradient overlay
3. Create the Cute Character
Will begin the project by working on the cute little iPhone character, which will actually be a really easy process, as you will see in the following moments.
Position yourself onto the first layer, and then
using the Rounded Rectangle Tool,
create a 168 x 314 px shape with a 20 px Corner Radius, which we will
#64c4f1 and then align towards the center of our Artboard.
Give the shape an outline, by selecting it and then going over to Object > Path > Offset Path and entering 6 px into the Offset value field. Leave all the other settings as they are and hit OK.
Color the outline using a darker hue (
#1b456b) so that it can stand out
from the main shape.
Using the Rectangle
Tool (M), create a 230 x 140 px shape
#659def) which will act as the display, and give it a nice 6 px thick outline (
and position the two shapes towards the center of the phone’s body, leaving a 38 px gap
between them and the larger outline.
Start adding details by creating the top section sensors (
side buttons (
#1b456b) and the iconic bottom round button (outline:
#1b456b; fill color:
Using the Ellipse Tool (L), start working on the
character’s face by creating two 18 x
18 px circles (
#1b456b), positioned 60
px from one another, which will act as the eyes.
Then, add another 28 x 28 px circle, which we will need to turn into a mouth, by flipping its fill with its stroke (select the shape > Shift-X) and cutting it in half, giving it a thickness of 6 px.
Position the mouth right underneath the eyes, and then group (Control-G) and position the face towards the center of the screen.
Add a pair of flushed cheeks, by creating two 20 x 20 px circles, which we will color using
#4f8bd3 and then
position underneath the eyes, a few pixels towards the outside.
Since the phone is pretty much done, we can now focus on adding little details such as highlights and shadows to its body and the screen.
Start by selecting the phone’s main shape, which we will duplicate (Control-C > Control-F) and then use to create an inner offset by going to Object > Path > Offset Path and entering -4 px into the value field.
Then, select both the duplicate and the offset, and use Pathfinder’s Minus Front to create a cutout, which we will turn into an
all-around ring highlight, by setting its color to white (
#FFFFFF), its Blending Mode to Soft Light and its Opacity
Using the same values used for the previous step, add two vertical highlights towards the right section of the phone, and another one just under the bottom section of the screen’s outline, maintaining the same 4 px thickness when possible.
Start adding some shadows over the screen and the round button, using
#000000) for the color and 14%
for the Opacity.
Finish off the detailing
process by adding the diagonal highlights that go over the screen (Color: white
#FFFFFF; Blending Mode: Soft Light; Opacity:
30%), and the two star-shaped twinkles from the phone’s top left corner (Color: white
#FFFFFF; Blending Mode: Soft Light; Opacity:
Then select and group all the shapes together using the Control-G keyboard shortcut.
Add a 144 x 10 px ellipse
underneath the main illustration, setting its color to black (
lowering its Opacity level to 20%.
Since at this point we’re pretty much done with the main section of our illustration, we can move on to the second layer, and start working on the little side patterns that will give it a nice, even balance.
4. Create the Side Patterns
This part is actually easy and really fun, since you’ll have to create a bunch of shapes, from squares to circles, plus signs, triangles, and diamonds, which you will then scatter around on each side in order to get a nice-looking pattern.
Use 4 px thick strokes (
to create the shapes, and take your time to make sure it ends up looking not
only playful but also organic and spontaneous.
5. Add the Finishing Touches
Once we’ve added the side patterns, we can then move on to the last part of the creative process, which will involve creating and overlaying a gradient in order to give our illustration a nice color pop.
Create a copy of the phone’s main shapes (its outline and the side buttons) and a copy of the side patterns (which you will need to expand by going over to Object > Expand > Fill and Stroke), and paste them onto the third layer.
Then, select all the shapes, and go to Object > Compound Path and hit Make. This will basically make all your shapes act as one larger piece, which is exactly what we want since we’re going to be applying a gradient over them in the following step.
Select the compound path that we’ve just created, and create a linear
#0000ff for the left color and
#00ffff for the right one,
making sure to set the angle at 90°.
Finally, adjust the gradient, by setting its Blending Mode to Hard Light and lowering its Opacity to 28%.
We Did It!
There you have it, a really easy way to create a cute little character using a bunch of shapes and some little tricks involving Gradients and Blending Modes.
I hope you’ve managed to learn some new tricks along the way, and as always I'm looking forward to seeing what you’ve managed to create.