Ellie's Adventure

I've used Illustrator before but I haven't created work to the degree I'm going to attempt to replicate Ellies Adventure, by Rogie King. Which is pretty amazing work! I chose this piece for it's great colors, shapes and story.  As Ellie heads out on her adventures across the world, so will I with illustration!

I went to school for art, aquiring a BFA, but I ended up being a self taught web developer. I've worked for a couple companies and even freelanced a bit over the years, but this year has changed that. This year provided me with the opportunity to create a couple sets of wedding invitations, logos and other design work. Doing those projects reignited my passion for drawing, illustration and handcrafted works.

Web development will remain in my repitoire of skills. Though it's focus will be shifted to personal works and assisting others.

Those sketchbooks on the shelf remained dormant for a quite some time. But now they are being filled with logos, hand lettering and even an illustration or two.

Now, onto that homework assignment!

Here We Go!

I decided I would start my shape building by working from the background to the foreground. I created layers in my file to reflect this. Going from top to bottom, the layers I have are Type, Ellie, Clouds, Mesa, Mountains, Background and then a layer to hold the Source file. You can see this reflected in the first screenshot below.


After creating a simple blue background I started work on the Mountains. I know the project guide suggests working out the basic shapes and leave details, textures etc. until later, but after studying the mountains I figured I would just go for it.

The mountains are quite interesting. The feature here that made them a challenge, at least for me, was the shadow.  Without the shadow there would be two colors, white and brown.  With the shadow we end up doubling the colors, two white and two brown.  If you follow the contour of the shadow you'll see that sometines it overlaps the snow caps or runs along the edge instead. Basically, from my perspective, you end up with all these different colors and shapes having to share the same edges. Focus on the far right peak and you'll see what I mean.

With that I knew I'd be dealing with numerous steps. Having a little experience with Illustrator I knew the Shape modes would be my friend here with Minus Front or Intersect doing some work.

I attempted to construct the mountains three ways:

  1. Create a base shape, a silhouette of the mountains.  Then duplicated it once for each of the four colors (Ctrl+C, Ctrl+F).  Then use a process of subtraction.
  2. Use Clipping Masks. I've used these a few times before and I figured it might be easier to create a rectangle shape for each color and create a mask for each color.  This, I thought at the time, would make it a little more modifiable if need be.
  3. Similar to my first approach, instead of creating a silhouette of the whole range I would create each mountain individually and hopefully most of the shadow work would take care of itself once combined.

I ended up going with solution #3. Solution #1 didn't work too bad. The main drawback was the use of larger shapes. Solution #3 provided a smaller canvas and was easier to work with.

I created the shapes with the Pen Tool. Plotting out all the points first then coming back and adding in the curves using the Convert Anchor Point Tool (Shift+C, or Hold Alt when using Pen Tool). I mostly used the Pathfinder. Within that tool I used a mix of the Shape Modes and primarily used Divide from the Pathfinder options. The Divide option seems to work very similarly to the Shape Builder Tool (Shift+M) that Brad mentions in the Building With Shapes video.

- a shot of the individual mountains

Solution #2 just got too messy. If I was a pro this might have been a lot easier.  

During my work on the mountains I tried to do it with two colors and then create a shape for the shadow and set it's blending mode to Multiply. Multiply usually makes the colors behind it darker. I had some success with this but all those edges and my lack of experience hindered the final result.


Now that the mountains are finished I moved on to the mesa or whatever you want to call the landscape between Ellie and the mountains.

Straightforward Pen Tool here. Unlike the mountains I'm going to leave the details of the rockface for later. I'll clean up that green bit on the far left later as well.


The clouds were fairly simple so I did them in their entirety like the mountains. Pen Tool again on these babies. The line at the base of the clouds I did two different ways.

  1. Use Pen Tool creating a single line and change the profile width like Brad did in the Strokes and Lines video. I used Expand (Object > Expand) to make it a shape and adjusted as needed.
  2. Use Pen Tool but click and drag on the two end points of the line, creating handles, then closing the path. You end up with two lines, like and out and back, then adjusted the handles to get the shape I needed.

- example of solution #2

Solution #2 seems like it's the same thing as solution #1. It's just another way of getting there. I prefer solution #2.

The shadows on the clouds were simple. Created the basic shape of the cloud with the Pen Tool. Pen Tool for the shadows, I removed the overlap of the shadow after using the Shape Builder Tool.

- removal of unwanted shape area with Shape Builder Tool.


I'm going to build Ellie up bit by bit. I've decided I'll start with her skin as there are a number of objects that will overlap, like her clothing.

- Ellie's skin!

I extended the skin at the arms, neck and top of the head to prevent gaps between shapes.

When you have to create areas of artwork like Ellie's left hand that holds the scope, you have to plan it out. I created multiple copies of the same shapes, at times they look like on shape, but in reality they're just stacked on top of one another in a seamless way.

- a shot of layered shapes, the fingers are layered above the scope handle like I did with the thumb above.

I supposed you could take a cookie cutter approach, but I think the layered shapes approach is more flexible. For example, if I decided I wanted to adjust the placement of the scope handle, by layering the shapes I can easily scoot the scope handle up and down behind the fingers. If the fingers were cut out of the scope handle and I scoot the scope handle up or down I would be lengthening or shorting the fingers (and possibly distorting them), which would need to be fixed, creating more work.

I've only watched the videos through section #2 Form Building of the Project Guide so far, so if I'm doing something "wrong" or the "hardway" bare with me!

Ellie's outfit is another one of those areas that becomes quite complicated once you try and reproduce it. You have multiple "layered" shapes: collar on top of collar on top of right suit on top of left suit on top of the back collor etc. etc. Plus there's all those small shadows the suit casts, which will be added at a later time. But here's what I've got so far.

the suit without and with the outlines.

Sometimes I wonder what the pros do to get multiple shapes share the same line or curve. Do they have a "master" shape that they use to add, subtract or whatever they need to do? The belt for the suit wasn't hard, I used the Shape Builder Tool. Without that beauty I'm sure I would have been duplicating a lot of shapes and using the Pathfinder tool a lot.

- belt before the Shape Builder Tool

- belt post Shape Builder Tool

Ellie's hair was primarily to large "ribbons." To create them I made one large shape, duplicating it and slicing the top layer of the two duplicate shapes. The top layer was the lighter color and the bottom layer was the darker color. I used the Knife Tool to divide the top layer.

- primary shape, bottom layer of duplicate layers

- primary shape duplicated and color adjusted. Top layer of duplicate layers. Cut into thirds with Knife Tool where the bottom layer will show through.

After dividing the top layer I added and removed anchor points with the Pen Tool. At times it is helpfull to have the Smart Guides (Ctrl+U) on to help make sure the anchor point you are moving is lined up with the edge of the layer below it. At other times it gets in the way as too muching "snapping" is occuring and you cannot do some of the fine-tuning that is required.

- all the hair shapes

There is a total of 10 shapes that make up the hair. 3 shapes around the face, 4 shapes for the top layer "thin ribbon" of hair and 3 shapes for the bottom layer "large ribbon" of har.

Shadows and lines will come later.

Additional Elements

Here's the last couple of elements before I reveal my complete composition of shapes; helmet, airplane and Ellie's telescope.

- just the helmet, looking groovy

- airplane and telescope

I'll get the swooshes for the airplane later.

"Basic" Composition of Shapes

- basic composition of shapes before additional details, textures and typography


Please sign in or sign up to comment.