Hello and welcome to dgtl Workshop! In this tutorial, I’ll be showing you how to draw a character in Adobe Illustrator. To do this, we’ll be learning how some essential tools function and how significant it is to organise your layers.
Why would you Draw a Character in Adobe Illustrator?
Adobe Illustrator is a fantastic piece of software that’s accessible to all users of varying skill.
As long as you have the knowledge and know-how, you can efficiently use all of the tools to produce whatever you can imagine. Another benefit of the software is that Illustrator creates its graphics using vectors instead of pixels – This allows for the artwork to be infinitely scaled and downscaled while maintaining quality and a small file size. There are some disadvantages to the software though. For example, the software suffers from a lack of image editing tools, filters and the ability to produce pixel art – This should be fine for us, as we will only be creating a simple character in this tutorial.
Before we start, launch Adobe Illustrator and create a new document. It can be whatever size you want it to be, as it all depends on how big you want to make your character. If you are someone who struggles with drawing, you can click this link here to download some character guidelines I’ve produced. They should help make the character creation process easier to do.
Here’s an example of a character created within the guidelines.
Drawing the Figure
With our document ready, the next thing you will want to do is to create your character’s figure. It would be something that show’s their size, height, the number of arms and legs they have, etc. For example, my character is going to be a human figure, so I‘m going to draw two arms, two legs, one torso and one head.
To do this, I will use the shape tool located on the left-hand side toolbar. If you press and hold with left click, you will see various shapes to choose from. For now, I am going to use the Rounded Rectangle Tool.
Once selected, I‘m going to start creating the general shape of my character.
Any misplaced shapes or shapes that need their size adjusted can be done so with the Selection Tool. Just head to the top left side of the toolbar and click on the black cursor. Once selected, you can click and drag any shapes to where you want them to be positioned. To adjust the size, click and pull on the white squares located at the sides and corners. If you make any mistakes, you can undo them using Control + Z (or Command + Z if you are on a Mac).
There we go. It only took a few minutes, and I now have a brief idea of what I want my character to be – They are quite tall, have average sized arms and legs with a somewhat round head.
So with my rough character figure sorted, I can move on to adding colour. To do this yourself, make sure you have a shape selected then just double-click on the coloured square to the left or use the colours shown in the swatches tab. The shape should change colour depending on which of those you do.
If you want to move any shapes behind or in front of others, merely select them with the Selection Tool and right click on them. Look for Arrange in the list and with the actions it shows; you can now move your shapes backwards and forth.
I want to make my character look like a teacher – so do to this, the colours I’m using will make them look like they are wearing a shirt, trousers and tie. To help make this more apparent, I can add more shapes and change their colours depending on what they represent.
Another cool feature you can do in Illustrator is that you can adjust the individual corners of a shape to have more or less curve. Just click on a shape with the Selection Tool, then click and drag on a circle next to a corner – If you wish only to change the curve of one edge, click on the circle, then click and drag. If you hold shift, then click on multiple circles, this will select them and allow you to adjust their curve by clicking and dragging.
After 20 mins of putting together some shapes, adjusting their size, curves and colours, I have now created a character that looks like a teacher. All I have left to do is organise the character’s layers and polish them off.
Organising the Layers
The first thing we’ll be doing to organise our layers is that we want to start grouping together our shapes. By doing this, it will allow us to move the character’s body parts around so that we can change their pose.
So using the Selection Tool, select multiple shapes and then right click on them. Look for Group within the list and then click on it. Do this for every individual body part of your character until they are all grouped. For example, group together the shapes that make their left arm and then do the same for their right, their left and right leg, torso, etc.
With all of the body parts grouped, head to the Layers panel to the right side of Illustrator. Open up your character’s layer, and you will see all of their body parts grouped. Double click on each layer and then give them a name depending on what body part they are. So for example, the body part is the character’s head, so name it’s layer “Head”.
Once you have named all of the layers, your layers panel will be clean and organised.
Layer organisation might not seem like a big deal, but it will make returning to an old project less confusing!
Polishing the Character
With the layers and overall character finished, all that’s left is to tidy up the character. For some, that might involve changing the shape of some shapes, adding extra details like a hat and so on forth. With mine, however, they only required a change of scenery and some new colours that better matched the scene.
So how did your character turn out? Are you happy or sad about the result? Feel free to let me know in the comments, and I might be able to help out with any problems you may have!
Just know that there is always room for improvement! As long as you keep on playing with the tools and making new creations, your work will get better over time!
Examples of other Characters
If you need some inspiration, here are a few more characters I’ve done in Adobe Illustrator:
Thanks for reading!
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