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Make a Fun Holiday Reindeer Illustration

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Read Time: 5 min

Take an in-depth look at the process of designing and illustrating a holiday reindeer illustration. This tutorial covers illustration style, color selection, shading and touches on typography. The process of adapting your illustration during creation is also covered. This tutorial is created by Jesse Hora and Darrin Higgins. Time for some holiday fun!

Step 1

First, make a refined sketch to work from.

Step 2

In the layers dialogue box select 'template' so the image becomes opaque and the layer is locked.

Step 3

Select the Pen Tool and begin tracing out the lines on your sketch.

Step 3b

Create a closed shape for each part as seen here.

Step 3c

Continue to trace the lines using the Pen Tool and creating closed shapes. Overlapping is fine (and encouraged!), this will allow the shapes to be more cohesive in the end.

Step 3d

Now that all of your lifework is done, turn off the template layer and check to see if all of the shapes work together.

Step 4

Begin choosing basic colors for your illustration. Remember to keep a similar tone in the colors and a simple color palette so the image does not become overwhelming.

Step 5

Use the Pathfinder Tool to get rid of excess shapes caused by overlap. Select two overlapping shapes and click 'divide' to separate the shapes. Delete the excess shape cutoff when using the divide tool. Apply this to the rest of the reindeer where needed.

Step 6

Select all of your bulbs on the antlers.

Step 6b

Make all of the bulbs a fill color with no stroke and make sure the bottom of each bulb overlaps with the light line.

Step 6c

Select the light line and select expand to convert them to fill shapes.

Step 6d

Select the lines individually and use the pathfinder to once again 'divide' the shapes. Change the overlapping ends of the light line to brown so it gives the effect that the line is wrapped around the antler. Also, apply the 'divide' to the bulb and the light line to give the appearance of the bulb being connected to the line.

Step 6e

After completing this process change some of the bulbs to another color to create color balance. Check the lines and bulbs closely to make sure they are all cohesive and wrap smoothly around the antlers.

Step 7

Along the way you will need to adapt your illustration. At this step in the process I see that we need a lighter background to fit with the color scheme and a light shade on the upper part of the face to give the feeling of depth. I have also applied stripes to the scarf to keep it cohesive with the light bulb colors. This was done using the 'divide' tool, as previously examined.

Step 8

After more adjustments I see that the eyes would work better as simple dots and the rosy cheek needs to be more defined and softer.

Step 8b

The mouth we had seemed to closed, so after experimentation I made an open mouth. To achieve this I cut out a shape using the 'divide' tool as previously explained.

Step 9

Now we need to think about shading the illustration to give it more dimension. I have selected the santa hat shape to work with first. I also have a vectorized found texture to work with. For shading it is best to have a texture with a flat edge that degrades.

Step 9b

The edge we want to apply the shadow to has a curve to it, so I want my texture to also have a bit of a curve in it's shape. I achieve this using the warp tool.

Step 9c

After the texture is warped select 'expand appearance' so that the warp is applied to the shape.

Step 9d

Rotate the texture and place it ON TOP of the shape. Be sure to cover an entire edge with no gaps.

Step 9e

With both items selected use the pathfinder tool. Select 'intersect' while holding down alt/option.

Step 9f

You now have a texture shape that fits within the santa hat shape.

Step 9g

Place the image on top of the original Santa hat and reduce the Opacity to give the piece some shading. Apply this technique where needed throughout the illustration, while carefully remembering where your light source is coming from so the shadows stay cohesive.

Step 10

To make the background more interesting I have decided to add a few found textures. On the right is a light swatch and in the middle are various dots that will be used to represent snowflakes. The color I chose for the textures are slight variations on the background color. This was so the background would be one even tone with variations as opposed to an overwhelming array of colors.

Step 10b

Place the background underneath the snow.

Step 10c

Place the swatch underneath the snow, but above the background.

Step 11

To create the text I have decided to use a banner shape, reflecting the wrapping on holiday presents. I created two rectangles slightly overlapping. The central rectangle will be where my text is placed. Using the Warp Tool give the rectangle a slight arc, giving it a loose ribbon feel.

Step 11b

Apply a negative warp to the left rectangle.

Step 11c

Using the pen tool draw a triangle in-between the rectangles to be used as a bend in the ribbon.

Step 11d

Place this triangle shape between the rectangles.

Step 11e

Copy the left side and flip it over to the other side so the ribbon is even.

Step 11f

Choose a typeface that reflects the style of the illustration and apply the previously used Warp Tool to fit on the ribbon.

Final Image

Now you have seen the process and techniques used to create this illustration. Be sure to remember that nothing is set in stone from the sketch and you are able to adapt and improve your illustration along the way to keep it cohesive.

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