In this tutorial, we’re going to learn how to create a vector character based on the character “Angie 80” from the mini vinyl toy series “Heroes and Heartbreakers” designed by Bubnis” and made by Kidrobot“, and we’ll use Illustrator to do it.
First of all, we need an image of Angie 80 which we will use to trace over in Illustrator. As I own this particular toy myself, I’ve taken a photo of the character and uploaded it to Flickr, which you’re more than welcome to use for this tutorial. You can see it below…
The next step is of course to open up Illustrator. Create a new basic RGB document, using a 800×600 artboard size – the rest you can leave default. Go to File > Place to place your stock photograph of your character onto the artboard. Lock and dim the layer by double-clicking on the layers name – this will avoid us from touching the stock photograph whilst tracing it.
Create a new layer – this will be for our line work, so call it “Line Work” or something similar. Zoom into your photograph and select the Pen Tool – this is what we will be using to trace a lot of the shapes of our character. Make sure your Pen Tool has no fill, and a simple 1px black stroke.
We’re going to make our character fairly symmetrical (at least the body and legs). The best way to do this is to only trace half a shape at any one time, and then to duplicate it, flip it and merge it together to form the whole shape. Let’s start of by creating the main shape of Angie’s dress. Make sure you trace slightly over the half way point of the dress, as this makes it super easy to merge together later on.
Keep on tracing until you you have the whole left side of the dress…
With that done, you can now select the shape using the Selection Tool, and then copy and paste it in place by going to Edit > Copy and then Edit > Place In Front. Now go to Object > Transform > Reflect – select Vertical from the menu, and press OK. You should now have both sides of your dress.
Using the cursor keys, nudge your dress to the right until it neatly matches up with the other half. Select the two shapes, open up your Pathfinder panel (Window > Pathfinder) and select the Unite option to merge your two shapes together – please note that your two shapes should be slightly overlapping for this technique to work, which is why you must trace slightly over half of your shape.
With our dress’ outline now complete, we can move on to Angie’s head. You can use the exact same technique we used above for this – make sure you make a complete shape though, as we will be filling them with color later on in the tutorial!
Our next step is to create Angie’s legs and feet. We’re just going to create one leg, and then duplicate and reflect it to create the other. With the Pen Tool still selected, start tracing the several different shapes. I’ve separated them into: leg, white part of boot, grey part of boot, and individual wheels.
With all the shapes completed on our leg, it is now ready to duplicate them all so that we have two legs. The easiest way to do this is to select all of your shapes, and then go to Object > Group. You can now copy and paste them in front, reflect them and position them. You can then ungroup your shapes on both legs.
We’re now moving on to our characters arms. We want to create separate shapes for the arms, hands and lollypop as this will make it much easier to color later on.
To create the shapes for the arms, I used the Pen Tool for all of it other than the lollypop, where I used the Ellipse Tool.
Using the techniques we have been using throughout the tutorial so far, complete any other little shapes and lines. This is my final line work – all ready to start coloring and shading.
We’re now moving onto the fun part. Adding color to our line art will make our illustration come to life! We’re going to be using solid colors, gradient fills, and will also be creating the odd additional shape to create highlights and shadows. The first step is to go through all of our shapes and give them a basic fill. Some shapes we will not be able to fill as they are simply lines going through a shape, such as the hairline.
Leave these out for now, as we’ll move onto them next. You’ll also need to start rearranging your objects. You can do this by selecting a shape and then going to Object > Arrange to move them beneath or above other shapes.
At this point in time, the illustration looks very, very simple. Over the next few steps however we will be adding gradients and more custom shapes to produce highlights and shadows. First of all, we need to create some new shapes for Angie’s hair and white collar, as well as the white patches on her sleeves. Trace over these shapes once more with the Pen Tool, and then fill the shapes with the right color.
Make your stock image visible and move it to the side of your illustration as we’ll be using this to refer back to for our shading. You’re best to make it’s transparency 100% too so you can see the true colors.
The colors in our stock photo are quite vivid, which makes it easy to spot the shadows and highlights. Throughout this process we’re also going to be removing some of the strokes from our shapes which will help give our character illustration a much more three dimensional look. Let’s start off with Angie’s dress, as this is the simplest shape. Select the dress shape, and using the Gradient Panel apply a subtle black to dark grey gradient in the correct direction.
Repeat the step again, this time applying a subtle light grey to white gradient on the collar.
Select both shapes again, and remove the 1px black stroke that we applied to them earlier – you should end up with something like the following…
Using the same techniques again, apply some simple gradients to your characters skin; the face, hands and legs.
Remove the stroke from Angie’s face, as well as her ears, hands and legs.
Select Angie’s main head shape, and then go to Edit > Copy and then Edit > Paste In Front to duplicate it. Apply a gradient using a dark skin shade going to transparent, and set the angle to -90 degrees, as seen below. This will add a shadow-like effect to the bottom of the face.
You may want to lower the opacity of the shape a little, I lowered my gradient shape to 43%.
From doing something this quick and simple, we can already see that it is making a huge different to our character.
We’re now going to add some more details to Angie’s face before moving onto other areas. Grab the Pen Tool, and create a shape in the bottom right hand corner of the face, as seen below.
Fill the selection with white, and then lower the transparency down to around 35%.
Repeat the step on the other side of the face, this time using a darker color.
Duplicate your two main eye shapes, fill them with a light green and place them behind your black eye shapes after nudging them to the side. You should end up with something like this…
Use similar techniques to finish off any other little details on your characters face, including the hair and bow.
The next step is to add some highlights and shadowing to our characters arms/sleeves and improve the dress even further. Start off by creating some shapes on your dress and filling them white or black and then lowering the transparency, as we did earlier.
Change the color of your sleeves stroke to red, and decrease the size of it to 0.25px instead of 1px. Start adding some subtle gradients to your sleeves.
With that done, start adding some additional shading and highlights to your sleeves using the Pen Tool and either a low transparency black or white.
Our character is starting to look pretty sweet! Using the same colors to what you used for the shadows and highlights on your characters face, add some shadowing/highlights to Angie’s legs.
We’re very almost there; just two more main steps – the roller-boots and the lollypop! Next we’re going to be working on the boots. First of all, remove those strokes! Fill the white boots with a very light grey.
Zoom right into your boots, and using the Pen Tool, draw a shape round the side of your boots like below. Fill it with a darker grey. Duplicate it, reflect it and place it onto your other boot.
Keep repeating this to build up lots of shadowed/highlighted areas on your boots.
Start to swap all the colors around on our right shoe – so change the dark colors to light colors and the light colors to darker colors.
Finally, use the same technique for our pink wheels – this shouldn’t take as long!
Now it’s time to jazz up that lollypop! First of all, add a subtle gradient to both the lolly and the stick, and remove the strokes.
Grab the Pen Tool and create some additional highlights and shadows – keep them simple.
The next step is to draw a swirly pattern on our lollypop. The easiest way to do this is by freehand – I’ll be using a Wacom Bamboo tablet. Grab the Brush Tool and set the stroke settings to a dark blue at 0.1px. Using your pen or mouse, draw a swirl – it’s as simple as that… It may take a few attempts to get it how you like it.
And we’re done! I added a simple circle to the background of my illustration just to show it off a little more. Here is my final result in color, greyscale, and with a texture added to it.
You can download the final result in AI format right here:
I hope you liked this tutorial! Please take a minute to share your thoughts by leaving a comment below ;)