Vector superhero tutorial

When you’re starting to work in digital media, some things are a little bit difficult to translate for the analogical style to the vectorial and bitmap fields. Usually doing things like smooth gradients, using the pen’s hardness to define volume and more manual techniques are difficult to adapt at first to the graphic interfaces of programs such as Illustrator and Photoshop. Today we are about to take a lesson like the ones you took when you were at design school, you’re going to learn how to create the basic character design for an illustration.

1. Set up your workspace

The first thing you need to do is go to File>new and setup your canvas, we defined a 650 X 400 px document and color mode set to RGB while resolution has been adjusted to 72 dpi, these last two are specifically design for working on digital designs (not going to be printed). characterh01

2. Starting to work

OK, the first thing we need to do is the trunk, select the pen tool to draw the basic body shape. characterh02 And with the basic shape you can determine if our character is going to be slim, fat or standard. characterh03 And we can fill it with any color we want, remember that we’re doing a generic character. We decided to use a blue gradient on this case. characterh04 characterh05 And now we proceed by making the muscles, which are going to be created individually. characterh02 characterh06 Radial gradients can help generate volumes easily and using only two basic colors, remember that if you want to change the gradient’s position you can always hit the G letter in your keyboard. characterh07 Now the next muscle, similar to the previous one. characterh10 characterh09 Continue with the next abdominal muscle, select your pen tool and draw it. characterh02 characterh11 The gradient will remain the same across all the muscles, what will change are the angle and aspect radio values of each object. characterh12 For the upcoming set of muscles (deltoid), we will make use of the mesh tool, which is an awesome way of working with volume, first of all draw the muscle’s shape with the pen tool. characterh02 characterh13 Now select the mesh tool and by clicking on the extremes make the following. characterh14 characterh15 Using the Mesh tool click over each one of the handlers and give them a black fill. characterh16 And now click over the middle handler and switch its filling for a blue tone. characterh17 And finally switch the blending mode of the object to screen. characterh18 Copy paste (Ctrl + C, Ctrl + F) the muscle and paste it on the left arm, you won’t need to repeat the whole mesh process. characterh19 For the pectorals we will do the following: characterh02 characterh20 And then copy paste it (Ctrl + C, Ctrl + F) so you can reflect it after that. characterh21 And now another mesh, just like before, take your pen tool and draw the initial shape. characterh02 characterh22 And once again, you need to make use of the mesh tool to develop the following structure: characterh14 characterh23 And from this point is exactly the same, black on the extreme handlers, blue in the middle and finally switch the blending mode to screen. characterh24 Duplicate the muscle and you will be done with this part of our character’s body. characterh25 There’s no gradient on the next object, just a plain solid color. characterh02 characterh26 On top of that it goes the first revealing skin, draw it using your pen tool. characterh02 characterh27 characterh28 It’s time to go for the neck, so let’s make it. characterh02 characterh29 characterh30 Additional color details come at next, copy paste the neck (Ctrl + C, Ctrl + F) and you will work directly with the duplicate. characterh31 characterh32 Usually when you see a person’s neck, you can notice the sternocleidomastoid, and our character won’t be the exception. characterh02 characterh33 characterh34 To add some texture, let’s add a similar shape inside this last one we did. characterh02 characterh35 characterh36 We can start insinuating the presence of our guy’s face. characterh02 characterh37 characterh38 We can start with the face from this moment, it’s not difficult if you pay attention to each step of this tutorial. characterh02 characterh39 characterh40 Keep adding shapes, you can achieve nice volumes by placing shape after shape and making a proper gradient management. characterh02 characterh41 characterh42 He can’t  hear anything, I think we should give our guy a couple of ears :). characterh02 characterh43 characterh44 The inner part of the ear goes like this: characterh02 characterh45 characterh46 Select the two last elements to duplicate the whole ear and then reflect it to save you from having to draw the second ear too. characterh47 Time to add some highlights, on this case the chosen spot is going to be the forehead. characterh02 The first object has a reduced opacity of 50 %. characterh48 characterh49 On top of this we draw a smaller object with the following properties: characterh02 characterh50 characterh51 And the last object of this highlight goes like this: characterh02 characterh52 characterh53 More highlights, this time we will be working with the nose. characterh02 characterh54 characterh55 On top of this highlight we’re going to place another shape. characterh02 characterh56 characterh57 More details, in any moment you will be surprise that the face is complete. characterh02 characterh58 characterh59 That was the nose, a couple of pixels down and we will be at the mouth’s location. characterh02 characterh60 characterh61 Proceed by adding details to our character’s mouth. characterh02 characterh62 characterh63 As usual, a smaller shape goes on top of the last one we did. characterh02 characterh64 characterh65 The lips are necessary to define every mouth’s contour, and that’s exactly what we will draw now. characterh02 characterh66 characterh67 Don’t forget to save often your progress, you will not know when the light will go off or your Illustrator will stop working, let’s make the next shape. characterh02 characterh68 characterh69 The chin’s highlight is also made out of 3 different elements, the first and larger one goes like this: characterh02 characterh70 characterh71 The middle highlight will have the following filling values: characterh02 characterh72 characterh73 Finally the little highlight that goes on top of the other two. characterh02 characterh74 characterh75 Our character is doing awesome this far, let’s zoom out and take a look and then we can proceed with the next element. characterh76 If you want him to be bald that’s fine, but we want to see him with hair. characterh02 characterh77 characterh78 characterh79 You think that haircut is sexy?, well yeah but he can’t look himself at the mirror, he should have eyes. characterh02 characterh80 characterh81 Making eyes is something that requires plenty of details and careful to achieve a truly expression and just a plain sketch. characterh02 characterh82 characterh83 You’re doing great, don’t forget to eat for being entertained with this tutorial. characterh02 characterh84 characterh85 Copy paste (Ctrl + C, Ctrl + F) the first object that we made of our eye, make sure that it gets in top of the rest. characterh86 Let’s add a subtle detail at the bottom of the eye. characterh02 characterh87 characterh88 The white part of the eye is easy, it will take you not more than a minute. characterh02 characterh89 characterh90 Using the ellipse tool we will create the pupil, just 3 ellipses and you’re almost done with the eye. characterh91 characterh92 characterh93 characterh94 characterh95 As you can see the pupil is falling out of the eye’s area, to fix this you need to copy paste the white area and paste it on top, then select it along with the pupil and go to Object>Clipping Mask>Make. characterh96 characterh97 And our eye is complete, now you only need to duplicate it and reflect it to save a lot of time. characterh98 The basic design is ready, now we just need to work on the highlights and shadows, like the next one: characterh02 characterh99 characterh100 Duplicate the shape but do not place it exactly in front of the original to avoid our character of looking extremely symmetrical. characterh101 The cheeks require some highlights to provide some texture to our character’s face, so we will repeat the 3 objects formula. characterh02 characterh102 characterh103 Now the middle shape, you know what to do. characterh02 characterh104 characterh105 characterh107 Then we select the 3 objects and duplicate them to reflect them and put them in front of the left cheek. characterh108 Maybe a little highlight above the mouth will look good. characterh02 characterh109 characterh110 As usual, just duplicate them and reflect them to save time. characterh111 We need our stylist to help us beautify our character’s hair, he needs a lot of highlights to gain volume. characterh02 characterh112 characterh113 Our stylist is suggesting us to add many highlights and play with the opacity values in the meantime. characterh02 characterh114 characterh115 You can fly solo on this part, just let your imagination take over and add as many highlights as you want. characterh116 Some highlights at the sides of the neck will be a great idea. characterh02 characterh117 Duplicate and reflect it and you’re done with that part. characterh118 You could add some extra highlights to the hair, let’s see how that looks. characterh02 characterh119 characterh120 And now repeat the formula across the whole hair, I can assure you that it will look really cool. characterh121 So far our character is looking really great, we only need to add a few more details and we’re done. characterh122 Some shadows need to be added below the chest, because it’s looking a little strange without them. We are about to add a 5 shape shadow to our character’s chest. characterh02 characterh123 characterh124 characterh02 characterh125 characterh126 characterh02 characterh127 characterh02 characterh128 characterh02 characterh129 Now something simple, copy paste (Ctrl + C, Ctrl + F) this 5 shape shadow and resize it to fit over the abs, then group the 5 objects by hitting Ctrl + G and reduce the whole group’s opacity to 50 %. characterh130 Awesome, we’re just a couple of steps away, draw the following shape in front of the chest and turn it into a mesh, you know how to do it. characterh02 characterh14 characterh131 Fill all the mesh with black but the center, which must be filled using white. characterh132 Finally switch the blending mode to screen and reduce the opacity to 55 %. characterh133 And you’re done, duplicate the object to place it on the other side of the chest and our character has been completed, just add a subtle shadow to give it some ground and then let’s take a look at it. characterh134 Having this basic character design you can easily generate awesome designs such as the latest Iconshock set featuring social networks and classic superheroes, we hope that you have enjoyed this tutorial and feel ready to start making your own designs, see you on our next tutorial. characterh00

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