Most of us are familiar with the idea of a mascot. It can represent a place or idea that we feel needs a physical representation in order to convey our thoughts and emotions to others. In a sense, it comes to the forefront of communication.
In this tutorial, I'll be showing you how to render your own little mascot, using an awesome sketch created by the ever-creative Monika Zagrobelna. This was a collaborative project, so you'll want to see how this little guy came into existence.
1. Creating a Body
First, we'll bring in our sketch. I'm working in Adobe Illustrator at a size of 11 x 8.5 inches for this specific project. I like to label this first layer as "Sketch" in order to lessen confusion. Another good idea is to immediately lock this layer to avoid accidentally deleting or moving your sketch.
Our sketch is brought to us from the mind of Monika Zagrobelna, and the idea for this little mascot stems from our own beloved Tuts+. From the colors of its fur to the mole on its pinch-able cheek, each element was painstakingly considered. Most mascots are not created overnight. They're a labor of love, and if you're creating it for the right reasons, you're creating it with quite a bit of patience and care. For more on the process, see Monika's tutorial on designing and drawing the mascot.
My intention was to stay as close to the original design as possible, so the colors are extremely close. In fact, I sampled the original colors using my Eyedropper Tool (I) to select my initial Fill and Stroke for our mascot's body.
Using our Pen Tool (P), we'll start to outline our little friend, giving him a 2 pt Stroke line. If you find yourself with any lines that look a bit too sharp, as I found with the end of his tail, I would advise you to smooth your edges by clicking Cap: Round Cap and Joint: Round Join in your Stroke settings.
Next, we can add wings and ears to our little animal. I've used a darker tone, to define them as separate features of the body.
Once we've accomplished this, we can add a Duplicate layer to each of our lighter colored body parts. I've used a lighter orange and our Feather effect at a Radius of 0.3 in for the head and body, while using a Radius of 0.2 in will give us a seamless surface, with just a hint of roundness and dimension.
As for the stomach and muzzle, I'll start with a light blue and a slightly darker blue for my Fill and Stroke. I've also gone ahead and created my other facial elements in the same color, but I can easily change these as I'm ready to work with them.
Once I create my stomach and muzzle, I can Duplicate these layers as well, and Feather them as we did previously with his body.
2. Adding Facial Features
Our next task is creating our character's eyes. The green color really helps our mascot to stand out. I'm using the same method, but with a 1.5 pt Stroke line.
At this stage, we've added black pupils and our first set of reflective marks to the eyes. We've also recolored his mole/beauty mark, nose, and mouth. He's beginning to look more like 'himself'.
We'll add an additional set of reflective marks to the pupils, but we'll give them a 50% Transparency.
I absolutely love these horns! As I said before, each element was carefully thought out when developing this little guy. His horns were fashioned to look like sharpened pencil tips, so we'll give them just as much attention as we gave his face.
You'll notice that the main part of his horns were treated in the same way as his stomach and muzzle. We're adding dimension to a flat character, so even this little bit is very noticeable against the dark, flat tips of his horns. Don't worry, we'll be working to bring these out as well.
You'll notice that I've added a little highlight to his nose and I've changed the color of his mouth again. It's a healthy magenta color that gives him a little more life. If we compared both versions, you'd see a difference. It seems to make him more approachable.
3. Adding Details
We can finally add in a bit of shine to our flat pencil tips. I've used a Linear Gradient of oranges, with one side brought to 0% Transparency. This allows me to create the illusion of dimension.
I can then use this technique on the main body of my horns for a subtle round quality.
Using a Radial Gradient, with one side brought to 0% Transparency, we'll start to form simplistic feathers on our mascot. Start with the longest back feathers and work your way up to the shorter feathers.
Once the feathers are complete, we can work in shadows behind the body, but in front of the wing itself. This separates our body parts and shows that everything isn't merged together.
Here, we can see a side by side of the original artwork and the work in progress. We're really starting to see this little guy coming into his own.
4. Creating Highlights and Shading
With many mascots, such as that of Mozilla's Firefox, you'll see highlights to the body. There's a warmth to the skin/coat and a glow that I'd like to recreate here with our own mascot. This is made again using a Radial Gradient, with one side brought to 0% Transparency. As you can see, I'm a huge fan of Radial Gradients and Transparencies.
Where there are highlights, there will also be low-lights and shadows. His sunny little disposition won't shine through without a little dark, so embolden his features.
He's coming along nicely. We'll take a moment to add fur tufts to the ears using the same Radial Gradient. To see another example of how this can be achieved, check out my Creating an Adorable Strawberry Tiger in Adobe Illustrator.
To make his eyes pop out more, we'll put a bit of dark behind them. This mimics the idea of eyes sitting inside a skull.
While we're adding highlights, we can add just a bit of light to his nose.
Using similar coloring from his nose, we'll add a bit of fur texture to his cheeks and other areas of his body.
We can't forget to add a bit of shading under his upper jaw and muzzle. Our intention is to make him feel as three-dimensional as possible while staying true to the original drawing.
Add a little feather fur above his eyes for a fully awake and alert appearance.
5. Finishing Your Mascot
By this step, we'll have a nearly complete mascot. He looks as if he's ready to leap off the screen.
Duplicate your entire mascot layer. Select all of the pieces and using our Pathfinder tab (Shift-Control-F9), we can Unite all of our pieces to form one body outline. We'll once again smooth out our pointy edges by clicking Cap: Round Cap and Joint: Round Join in our Stroke settings. I've increased our Stroke to 7 pt to make sure we won't lose him to any background he might be placed on later.
Huzzah! Your Mascot Is Ready to Represent!
Congratulations! After just a few steps and one afternoon, you should have your very own mascot, ready and raring to rumble. As this was a collaborative project, I encourage you to try different projects, not just by yourselves but with other art enthusiasts. Working with someone else gives you a whole new dynamic, and it can be quite a lot of fun creating the unexpected.
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