How To Design a Wingless Bird Character in Adobe Illustrator
In this tutorial we’re going to be creating a character from the “Heroes and Heartbreakers” series using Adobe Illustrator and a handful of handy techniques.
If you’re interested in this, you might want to check out one of our previous tutorials where we discuss similar techniques: How To Design A Rollerskating Girl In Illustrator.
Open up Adobe Illustrator and create a new Basic RGB Document.
Place an image of the character into your document – you can use mine which can be found below. The size doesn’t matter as we’re working with vector images! The easiest way to place your file in is by either copying and pasting the image below, or by saving it and then going to File > Place.
With the image now place, double-click on the layer it is placed on, and change the settings; changing the name, dimming the image and locking the layer.
Select the Pen Tool. Using a 1 pixel black stroke, trace the left half of your characters main body shape – be sure to do this on a new layer.
The reason we’re only tracing half of the shape is because we’re going to reflect it and then join it to make sure our tutorial stays symmetrical. With the same Pen Tool settings, trace the left side of both the characters hat and beak.
It’s now time to duplicate and merge our left-sided shapes. Select all of them, and then go to Edit > Copy and then Edit > Paste in Front. With the selection still selected, go to Object > Reflect > Vertical and click OK.
Use the cursor keys to nudge your selection across so that your shapes match up.
You’ll notice that our beak hasn’t quite matched up – nudge these shapes together separately until they do. It doesn’t matter if it doesn’t end up centered, as we can do this later.
Select your two main body shapes, and then from the pathfinder palette (Window > Pathfinder) select the Unite option to merge the two shapes into one, creating a closed shape which we can now fill with color.
Repeat the step with your other shapes that are in two halves.
It’s time to move onto our characters legs. We’re going to create each individual ‘section‘ of the leg separately. Using the same settings for the Pen Tool that we have been using throughout the tutorial so far, start to produce your shapes.
Keep on repeating this until you get to the bottom of the leg, making sure each shape overlaps the other.
Start tracing your characters left foot – I’m starting on the spaces in between the toes, as seen below.
Complete the rest of the foot using the Pen Tool.
Select all of the shapes that make up your characters legs and then copy them, paste them in front, reflect them and position them into place.
It’s now time to move onto our eyes – instead of creating perfectly round circles, we’re just going to trace the shapes of our characters eye outlines. Do this using the Pen Tool with the same settings we have been using throughout the tutorial.
With that done, we can now fill the outline with a dark grey or black and remove the stroke.
Using the Ellipse Tool, drag out a circle whilst holding the shift-key to keep it in proportion. Select the new shape, and then select the black background shape at the same time by holding the shift-key. From the pathfinder window, select the Minus-Front option. This will cut a hole in the original shape we created, making it appear as an eyeball. We will be adding effects to it later on.
Duplicate and reflect your eye, and position it on the other side of your characters face. Using the Pen Tool, create some blue highlights and place them beneath your characters eyes. You’ll notice that I have now hidden the stock image of our character as we no longer need it!
It’s time to start adding some more color to our character. The first shape I’m going to fill is the characters main body shape – in this case, I’m using a very light gradient, going from 3% to 6% black.
Remove the strokes from your individual beak shapes and fill them with two different yellow colors.
Create a blue highlight beneath your beak using the Pen Tool.
Using the Pen Tool, create a DIY stroke through the middle of the characters beak.
Create a new shape overlapping the bottom half of your beak. Add a gradient to it, going from a dark yellow/green to transparent.
Lower the transparency of the new shape to 50%. Repeat the process for the top half of the beak.
Moving back onto the legs, go through one shape at a time and apply a yellow gradient to them, similar to the colors we used in our characters beak – you can also remove the strokes.
Keep on going through every shape that makes up your leg, and then repeat the process on your other leg.
Fill in the shapes that make up our characters feet. You may need to arrange the shapes by going to Object > Arrange.
It’s time to add a little more depth to our characters main body. Grab the Pen Tool and create a shape over the left side of the main body, as seen below.
Select the main body shape of your character, and duplicate it. Select both shapes, and from the pathfinder window select Intersect to make your new shape fit nicely. Position the new shape beneath any other shapes on top of the body.
Create a white shape using the Pen Tool at the top of your characters head, and fill it with white with no stroke.
Go to Effect > Blur > Gaussian Blur and blur your new shape by around 1.5 pixels.
Lower the transparency of the shape to around 80%, and position it above your characters main body shape, but beneath the grey shadow we created a few steps ago.
Keep repeating these steps to add some more depth to the body of your character, but don’t go overboard!
The next step is to move back onto the characters eyes. To make our eyes more ‘eye-like‘ we’re just going to add some shadowing around the edges. Our character doesn’t have any pupils, so we just want to make them look like they’re embossed from the characters face a little. Grab the Pen Tool and create some shapes around the outer section of the eye.
Create a white circle, and place it beneath all your other eye shapes. Fill your outer shape (my red shape) with a light(ish) grey.
Keep building up the amount of shapes in your eye until you have something similar to below.
With that done, copy and paste in front all of your new shapes, reflect them and position them into place on your characters right eye.
Using the techniques we have been using throughout the tutorial, add some teeth to your characters beak/mouth, some dots to it’s forehead, and finally the hat.
Apply a 3D Extrude & Bevel with 0pt depth to change the angle of your dots.
We’re all done!
Here’s my final result – show us yours by linking to in the comments below!
You can download the final result in AI format right here: