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How to Vector a Cartoon Hunting Dog in Adobe Illustrator

Final product image
What You'll Be Creating

In this tutorial we’ll go through the process of drawing a simple autumn scene with a cartoon-style hunting dog. We’ll be using the versatile drawing tools of Adobe Illustrator and custom artistic brushes to create a subtle textured effect on the fur of our spaniel, making it look more interesting and realistic. Let’s get started!

1. Draw the Basic Parts of the Dog

Step 1

Let’s start from the head of our dog by making an 80 x 80 px circle using the Ellipse Tool (L). Fill the circle with a bright beige color. 

Next we need to form the nose part. For this purpose, let’s use the Pencil Tool (N) to draw a simple arched shape, reminding us of a duck's beak.

make a head base and shape the nose

The Pencil Tool (N) is a very powerful drawing tool of Adobe Illustrator, with flexible settings. 

You can open the Options window by double-clicking the Pencil Tool (N) in the Tools panel. Here you can change the Fidelity, moving the slider either to the Accurate side if you wish the line to be more detailed and contain more anchor points, or to the Smooth side, which makes the line more flowing and smooth. 

The Pencil Tool (N) is very convenient to use for drawing, so you don’t necessarily need a graphics tablet—you may use your mouse instead.

pencil tool settings

Step 2

Select both shapes and use the Unite function of the Pathfinder panel to merge them into a single object.

Select the bottom anchor point and use the Convert selected anchor points to smooth function in the upper control panel to make the bottom part of the shape rounded. You can edit the position of the point and its anchor handles with the help of the Anchor Point Tool (Shift-C).

unite the shapes and edit the anchor point

Step 3

Select the upper anchor point with the Direct Selection Tool (A) and move it down a bit, making the top part of the head flat.

make the shape flat

Step 4

Take the Ellipse Tool (L) and attach a dark-brown circle to the head, forming the base of the ear. Use the Pencil Tool (N) to make a wavy shape, depicting a curled spaniel’s ear.

form the base of the ear and add wavy shape

Step 5

Unite both ear shapes in Pathfinder, forming a single shape.

unite the ear parts

Step 6

Let’s make the ear more detailed. First of all, take the Polygon Tool and make a three-sided shape. Then squash the shape, making a narrow, sharp triangle.

make a triangle with polygon tool

Step 7

Keeping the triangle selected, go to Effect > Warp > Arc and set the Vertical Bend value to about 25%, moving the slider to the right. Object > Expand Appearance to apply the effect. 

Keep an extra copy of the arched shape, as we’ll be using it several times during our tutorial.

apply warp arc effect to the triangle

Step 8

Now let’s place the arched triangle in the bottom part of the ear, making a notch. Make several copies (hold Alt and drag to copy the selected shape), placing them along the bottom part of the ear. Select all the triangle shapes, click the right mouse button and Make Compound Path, or press Control-8 to unite the separate parts into a single object.

Finally, select both the ear and the triangles, and click Minus Front in the Pathfinder panel to cut out the notches.

make a compound path and use minus front in pathfinder

Here is what you get after applying the Minus Front function.

cut out the notches

Step 9

Let’s move on and form our pet's body. Start by making a 190 x 95 px ellipse and go to Effect > Warp > Arc, setting the Vertical Bend value to 15%, making the shape look bulging.

make the body ellipse and apply warp arc effect

Step 10

Now we need to apply another warp effect, but keeping the first one applied as well. And here is the trick. Go to the Appearance panel (Window > Appearance). From here, select the Warp Arc effect that we’ve already applied, and click the Duplicate Selected Item button in the bottom of the Appearance panel to apply another Warp effect, without replacing the first one. 

Click the duplicated effect in the Appearance panel, and in the pop-up Options window change the settings to -30% Horizontal Bend, making the shape slightly arched.

add another warp effect in the appearance panel

Step 11

Object > Expand Appearance to apply both effects to the shape and squash the shape a bit, making it thinner. Attach the created element to the dog’s head, right click and Send to Back, or press Shift-Control-[ to move the body shape beneath all other elements.

attach the body to the head and send it to back

Step 12

Let’s move on and add paws to our dog. Arm yourself with the Pencil Tool (N) and draw a thin, stylized leg. Add some fur to the upper part of the leg, making it thicker.

draw a leg with the pencil tool

Step 13

Now let’s form the notches in the furry part of the leg in the same way as we did with the dog’s ear. Place several copies of the arched triangle above the fur, select all these copies, and press Control-8 to make a Compound Path.

Select both the fur shape and the notches and apply the Minus Front function of Pathfinder to cut out the pieces.

cut out the notcher with Minus Front function of Pathfinder

Step 14

Form the back leg of our spaniel using the Pencil Tool (N). Copy the created shape and Send it to Back (Shift-Control-[). Make the copy darker and move it to the left, forming the second back leg.

draw the back legs of the dog

Step 15

Draw out the second front leg with the Pencil Tool (N), making it bent and lifted. Place the leg beneath all other elements, making it a bit darker than the body. Place several triangle notches above the furry part of the leg and cut them out using the Minus Front function of Pathfinder.

draw the front leg and add notches

Step 16

Add some more fur to the chest, drawing a curved shape using the Pencil Tool (N) and cutting up a few notches.

add fur to the chest

Step 17

Now let’s form a tail to give our pet’s body a finished look. Make a dark-brown squashed ellipse with the Ellipse Tool (L). Go to Effect > Warp > Arc and set the Horizontal Bend value to -50%, making the shape arched.

form the tail from ellipse and apply warp arc effect

Step 18

Make the tip of the tail pointed by moving the anchor handles with the Anchor Point Tool (Shift-C).

Make the tip of the tail pointed with the Anchor Point Tool

Step 19

Place the triangle notches across the lower part of the tail, and cut them out using the Minus Front function of Pathfinder.

cut out the triangle notches with minus front

2. Add Minor Details and Apply Textures

Step 1

Now let’s move on to the facial details of our pet, starting with the nose. 

Take the Pencil Tool (N) and draw out a dark-brown nose with one nostril. If the created element overlaps the head shape, that’s totally fine. To fix this, select both the head and the nose, take the Shape Builder Tool (Shift-M), hold down Alt and click the unneeded pieces outside the head. This way you delete the unwanted part just in one click.

draw the nose and cut off the pieces with Shape Builder Tool

Step 2

Now let’s try out another Adobe Illustrator drawing tool. 

Select the Blob Brush Tool (Shift-B)—you can find it in the same drop-down menu as the Paintbrush Tool (B) in the Tools panel. 

Double-click the Blob Brush Tool (Shift-B) to access the Options window. Here you can vary the Fidelity of your brush, making the lines Accurate or Smooth. And you can change the shape of your brush as well. 

In our case, I leave the shape of the brush round, setting its size to 3 pt. You can increase or decrease the brush size, using the bracket keys ([ and ]) on your keyboard.

When you’ve set up your Blob Brush Tool (Shift-B), draw a wavy line, forming a smiling mouth. Delete the unwanted piece outside the head, using the Shape Builder Tool (Shift-M) while holding down Alt. Add a few round dots beneath the nose, making the face more detailed.

use the Blob Brush tool to form the mouth

Step 3

Add a spot of a lighter brown shade in the upper part of the head. Place a beige crescent-shaped eye above the spot using either the Pencil Tool (N) or the Blob Brush Tool (Shift-B), forming a closed eyelid.

add a spot and a closed eye

Step 4

Now let’s make some elements of our pet textured, giving them a furry and fancy look! 

Select the brown spot that we’ve created and head to the Brushes panel (Window > Brushes). Open the Brush Libraries Menu (a tiny bookshelf icon in the bottom left corner of the Brushes panel) and select Artistic > Artistic_ChalkCharcoalPencil. 

From here you can select any textured brush to your liking, applying it to the spot as a Stroke. In our case, let’s select the Charcoal – Thin brush.

apply textured brush stroke to the shape

Step 5

As you may notice, the stroke color seems to be a bit lighter than the color of the spot, even if we set one and the same color for both the Fill and the Stroke

To fix this, let’s Object > Expand Appearance of the shape. Now we have the textured outline as a separate object in the Layers panel. Select it, and pick and apply the dark-brown color from the spot, using the Eyedropper Tool (I), making the shapes fit each other seamlessly and look like a single shape.

expand the textured stroke and apple the same colors for both shapes

Step 6

Let’s form another spot on the back of the spaniel, filling it with the same color as the tail.

add a spot to the dogs back

Step 7

Add a few more spots to the body and apply Pencil – Thick Stroke from the same Artistic_ChalkCharcoalPencil brush set. 

To make the illustration even more interesting, you can apply a different brush to every spot, making each one look unique. Object > Expand Appearance of the spots and make the colors match.

apply textured strokes to the spots and expand them

Step 8

Select the overlapping shapes and use the Shape Builder Tool (Shift-M) while holding down Alt to cut off the unneeded pieces outside the body. You can Unite the texture and the spot in Pathfinder to make it more convenient to work with.

delete the unwanted parts with Shape Builder Tool

Step 9

Let’s finish up our dog by adding a few more spots here and there to your liking. For example, apart from the spots on the body, I place two more spots on the legs, apply textures, and use the Shape Builder Tool (Shift-M) to cut off the unwanted parts.

Great work! Now we can move on and create a simple background.

add more textured spots to the dog

3. Render a Conceptual Background

Step 1

To make our illustration look balanced and complete, let’s put our dog on some kind of ground, filling our image with autumn spirit. Use the Ellipse Tool (L) to place a greyish-brown shape beneath the dog.

Select both side anchor points with the Direct Selection Tool (A) and drag the points down, forming a kind of bump or small hill.

form a ground from the ellipse

Step 2

Now arm yourself with the Paintbrush Tool (B), select one of the Artistic brushes from the list that we’ve already used, for example Charcoal – Pencil, and make a few strokes on the ground, depicting the grass. 

Vary the brushes, the length of the grass blades and their colors to make the grass look more realistic. A grungy pencil texture here helps to increase the fancy cartoon effect of our illustration.

use the paintbrush tool to draw the grass

Step 3

Switch to the Pencil Tool (N) and start drawing a wavy surface beneath the hill. Fill the created shape with the same color as the ground, using the Eyedropper Tool (I), making the shapes merge with each other.

draw a wavy shape with the Pencil Tool

Step 4

Use the Direct Selection Tool (A) and the Anchor Point Tool (Shift-C) to move the anchor points and their handles, making the shapes more rounded and smooth. You may need to add some extra anchor points with the Add Anchor Point Tool (+) or, on the other hand, to delete the unneeded points with the Delete Anchor Point Tool (-).

edit the shapes to make them more rounded and smooth

Step 5

Switch the Fill color to greyish-blue and start drawing another wavy, curved shape, using the Pencil Tool (N). Finish drawing the shape and Send it to Back (Shift-Control-[), beneath the ground, forming a stylized water surface.

draw a wavy blue shape for the water

Step 6

Edit the curves of the water surface by moving the anchor points and their handles, as we did previously. Add a few minor pieces of the ground and water, making the illustration more detailed.

edit the shapes and add minor parts

Step 7

Now let’s make an 800 x 600 px rectangle using the Rectangle Tool (M) and fill it with a very light-yellow color, filling our image with autumn atmosphere. Place the created shape in the background, so that the main elements of our composition remain in the center.

add a light-yellow rectangle for the background

Step 8

Let’s finish up our illustration by adding a few minor details. 

Take the Pencil Tool (N) and draw a fluffy curved shape, forming a cartoon cloud. You don’t need to make the path closed—just start from the left and move to the right, finishing at the right point. This way, after applying white Fill color, we will get a straight horizontal line in the bottom of our cloud, just as we need.

draw a cloud with the Pencil Tool

Step 9

Draw some more clouds of different shapes and spread them here and there on the sky, above the dog’s head.

add more clouds

Woof! Our Hunting Dog Illustration Is Finished!

Great job! We’ve filled our image with warm autumn spirit and successfully finished our fancy cartoon character. 

I hope you’ve enjoyed playing around with those versatile drawing tools of Adobe Illustrator and learned some new tips and tricks about applying textures and using brushes in your artwork. Have fun, and don’t forget to share your art with us!

cartoon hunting spaniel dog textured illustration is finished
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