This tutorial ‘Create a Simple Vector Creature in Illustrator’ was one of the biggest hits on my old blog over at blog.callumchapman.com – because of that, I’ve decided to post here at Circlebox Blog too! You’ll learn several different techniques and tools in this tutorial, and at the end of it should have a cute little creature that you can scale up and down to any size!
In this tutorial you’ll be making a ‘fluffy’ creature similar to that of above using several different Illustrator tools.
Step 1: I always find it best to sketch up your own ideas when following tutorials like this – that way you can really get stuck in, using techniques you learn on your own ideas. Scan or take a photo of your sketch and save it on your computer.
Step 2: Now it’s time to set up a new document. I used an A4 page (size doesn’t really matter as Illustrator works in vector images, allowing you to scale the image up and down), using RGB at 300dpi. After you’ve set up the file, place your scanned image into your document – if you double click on the layer, you can lower the transparency and lock the layer in one go, this’ll save you from accidentally clicking on your scanned image later on. As I want my creature to fit in a circle shape, I drew a couple of circles using the ellipse tool to work around later on.
Step 3: Before getting stuck in, I dragged a guide from the vertical ruler to the centre of the workspace. Now select the pen tool, and begin tracing round your monster. When tracing, I always find it easier to use a 1px black stroke. If your creature is symmetrical, start and end your line at the centre guideline.
Step 4: Once half your creature has been traced, copy the path and paste it in place. Flip (reflect) vertically, and nudge the path to the right to connect it to form the full body shape of your creature.
Step 5: You might notice that sharp corners are overlapping each other where you have joined your two paths. To fix this, select both of your paths and click the Round Cap option in the Stroke window – this will give the ends of your paths a round, smooth edge.
Step 6: The next job is to join your two paths together to create one shape. To do this, expand both the objects (Object > Expand). This makes them easier to work with, and allows us to merge the two shapes together. To do this, use the Merge tool in the Pathfinder window (Window > Pathfinder).
Step 7: Now we have the main shape of our creature created, we can begin making the objects/shapes to use as it’s features. Drag a guide from the horizontal ruler to the place where you want your eyes to sit (remember to make use of guides, they only take a second to create, but can help you out a lot when it comes to positioning objects). Draw a circle (hold the shift key to keep the circle in proportion) and place it on the guide you just made. Copy the circle and paste it in place, use the cursor keys (you can hold shift to nudge the object further) to place it in line with your other eye.
Step 8: I used the same technique as above to create the mouth, after drawing the circle, I stretched it sideways to make the circle into an oval shape (because we are working with vector images, stretching shapes you created in Illustrator will not become distorted).
Step 9: Drag some more guides out to determine where the top and bottom of the shoes are going to start and stop. Using the pen tool, start drawing one of the shoes, making sure you make good use of the shift key to produce straight lines and clean curves. Copy the single shoe and paste it in place, reflect it vertically and use the cursor keys to nudge the shoe next to the other.
Step 10: It’s now time to unlock the tracing layer, and either delete or move the contents. I tend to keep my sketch in the document for reference until my design is complete. Select the main outline of your monster and fill it with a colour or gradient of your choice. Make sure the outlined is aligned to the centre of your workspace, and temporarily group your eyes, mouth and shoes/feet to align them to the centre of the workspace, too.
Step 11: Once the basic shapes are in place, it’s time to start adding some detail. I made the eyes up from a number of different circles using the ellipse tool, and added a stroke to the eyes and mouth using a colour slightly darker than my creatures body colour.
Step 12: Change the colour or add a gradient to your creatures shoes (I used a dark grey to black gradient). Copy the shoes/feet, and paste them in place – change this pair of shoes to a slightly darker colour (I used black). Create a long oval shape over the base of the shoes, select it and the pair of shoes beneath and subtract the shape from the area using the ‘Subtract from shape area’ tool in the Pathfinder window. This should leave you with a ‘sole’ at the bottom of your shoes. To add a little more depth, use the pen tool to create some reflections at the top of the shoes.
Step 13: To jazz my creature up a little bit, I’ve decided to add some detail to it’s body. To do this I created several different circles. To apply them to the body, I moved his features aside and randomly placed the circles over his body. I changed the circles to white, and played around with their transparency and blending modes to get them how I wanted. Before placing my creatures features back to their correct position I changed a few bits, such as removing the main body stroke and replacing it with a bigger version of the main body by positioning it below all other objects – this allowed me to make my DIY ‘stroke’ thicker at the top than the bottom.
That’s it, my first Illustrator tutorial! My creatures name is called Frankie, kindly named by my Fiancée! Keep an eye open for creatures similar to Frankie, as I have an A3 page full of ideas that I’m planning in turning into a personal project called ‘Fluffballs’ – I’ll keep you updated!