How to Draw a Vector Character in Adobe Illustrator

December 17, 2009 in Featured, Illustrator by admin

Draw a character in Adobe Illustrator

In this tutorial we’ll learn how to create vector characters in Adobe Illustrator from sketch. First thing we need is to have the idea. Think about something that is nice to draw yourself. I’ve chosen a Turkish Ice Cream Guy named Meresh, living under the sea, who is an octopus.

Author: Samet Cicek

Samet Cicek is a graphic designer, an illustrator and a photographer based in Istanbul. He is a world-wide freelancer currently working at Microsoft as online marketing specialist.


Tutorial Details

  • Program: Adobe Illustrator
  • Version: CS3
  • Difficulty: Beginner


Step 1: Draw a sketch!

Use your creativity! Think about it! Maybe something you like, maybe something you hate. Just take the pencil/pen on paper and start. Once I sketched on a moleskine, I put the better on A4 paper.

Step 2: Scan the paper and open in Illustrator

Scan the big paper with the highest resolution available. Do not scan less than 300dpi. The higher resolution you have, more chance to work in details. After you scan the file, simply drag and drop it to the AI icon. Voila! Let’s get this party started!

Step 3: Setting the pen tool

Stroke width should be as thin as possible for precise tracing. Pen’s fill should be blank. I choose the color red as stroke color but you can choose any different color you want.

Step 4 – Tracing the edges

When tracing, think of image as separate layers. Start from the layer at the bottom, then come forward one by one. No need to fill the layers with color, you need to see every layer behind. Go with the basic outlines first. We’ll put the shadows and details later.

Tip: If you don’t want to select the scanned image accidentally, you can lock the image. First select the image and press [Cmd + 2] on keyboard or Object > Lock. To unlock: [Cmd + Alt + 2] or Object > Unlock

Step 5 – Coloring

Specify the color of your character and it’s accessories. Since it’s an undersea creature, I’ll choose blue. A red ‘Fes’ and orange vest. Ice cream cones will be pink. You can hide the scanned image since you’re done with it (Cmd + 3) I’d rather not to delete, in case I might need it later.

Tip: Leave the stroke color blank while coloring, it’s easier to handle the edges without strokes.

Step 6 – Adding shadows

To add shadow on a path, simply duplicate the path with Copy [Cmd + C] and Paste in Front [Cmd + F]. Then use the ‘Knife Tool’ and slice the area you want to add shadow.

When you slice the path into two pieces use the ‘Direct Selection Tool’ (A) and delete the path you don’t need. After deleting the unnecessary part, you can darken the image and use it as a shadow.

Step 7 – Glows

Draw the shape you want to glow and fill it with lighter color.

Final – Vector Character

There you have it! The finishing touches have been made to “Meresh” and he’s ready to be seen by the world. I hope you enjoyed this tutorial!