Simple shapes can build cute creatures when you design characters in Adobe Illustrator. Today, let’s create a cute penguin character comprised of circles, ellipses, and rounded rectangles! If you want to take your character design to the next level, check out all the amazing character design classes available with a Skillshare membership.
Begin with the Ellipse Tool (L) and draw a large, dark blue circle. This will form the head. For the face, draw two ellipses, side by side (both the same size) covering most of the lower half of the face. Use a light color such as white or cream for the face.
A. Draw a third ellipse for the face. This one will be Horizontal and cover the lower portion of the head.
B. & C. Select all three face pieces and Unite them in the Pathfinder panel.
D. & E. Select the head and the newly united face shape and use the Shape Builder Tool (Shift – M) to delete the section of the face that does not intersect with the head. Do this by selecting the non-intersecting shape with the tool, deselecting all shapes, and deleting the extraneous object. Group (Control – G) everything together.
For the facial features, you’ll mainly use the Ellipse Tool again.
A. Draw two small horizontal ellipses in bright pink on the lower half of the face. These are the penguin’s rosy cheeks.
B. Draw two dark blue circles for the eyes. Make sure they’re above the cheeks in the Layers panel.
C. Using the Pen Tool (P), draw two half circles above the eyes. Make sure the fill color is set to null and the stroke is 1pt – 2pt weight and dark blue (same color as the head and eyes). You can adjust a line’s weight in the Stroke panel.
D. For the beak, draw a horizontal ellipse in orange.
E. Use the Direct Selection Tool (A) to pull the bottom anchor point downward.
F. When the beak’s bottom anchor point is at a level you like, use the Convert Anchor Point Tool (Shift – C) to bring the anchor point to a point (instead of a curve).
G. Place the beak on the face.
H. Use the Pen Tool to draw a slight curve on the beak, from end to end. Much like the eyebrows, make sure the fill color is set to null and the stroke color is dark blue with a weight of 1pt. Group the head and face components together.
A. For the body, use the Rounded Rectangle Tool in order to draw a rounded rectangle in dark blue. Place this object below the head group in the Layers panel.
B. For the penguin’s flippers, draw a circle using the Ellipse Tool
C. Use the Direct Selection Tool, pull the left anchor point to the left, creating an egg-like shape.
D. With the Direct Selection Tool, manipulate the anchor point’s handles in order to create a curving flipper shape (see below).
E. Copy (Control – C) and Paste (Control – V) the flipper so you have two of them. Reflect the copied flipper over a Vertical Axis and place each flipper on either side of the body, but beaneath the head group in the Layers panel.
For the white area (or light area, in this case) on the penguin’s body, draw an ellipse that is 3/4 of the width of the body. Align it to the center of the body (in the Align panel), and use the Shape Builder Tool in order to delete the extraneous component of the ellipse’s shape from the body (as done in the second part of Step 1).
A. The feet are fairly simple. Draw a small orange circle using the Ellipse Tool. Much like with the beak and flipper, use the Direct Selection Tool in order to pull the left anchor point outward.
B. Rotate this carrot-like shape so it’s pointing downward a bit. Copy, Paste, and Scale the copied carrot shapes down and place them on top of each other so they form the penguin’s foot (see below).
C. Group together the foot shapes, Copy, Paste, and Reflect the copied foot over a Vertical Axis so you have two feet formed. Place them beneath the body in the Layers panel.
Finally, let’s give your simple penguin character a thick outline. Make sure the character and all of its components are Grouped together. Copy and Paste the penguin group and Unite the copied group in the Pathfinder panel. Apply a thick stroke weight in the Stroke panel of 5 – 8pts. Make sure the Cap and Corner of the stroke are set to Rounded (the center option). Align the outline shape and the penguin group together.
Great job, You’re Done!
With a simple set of shapes, you’ve created a cute character perfect for animation projects, accessory designs, or to be used as a logo mascot. It’s with simple shapes (ellipses, rectangles, triangles, etc) that all characters, objects, and figure drawings are formed. Start with something cute and work your way to complex designs and ideas by building these shapes on top of each other.
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Tutorial by Mary Winkler.