Posted by in Design, How-To, Illustrator.

It’s always harder than it seems when it comes to creating illustrated cartoon characters in softwares like Adobe Illustrator and Adobe Photoshop. And so I have created this guide to share with you my method.

Step 1: Find A Reference Image

All creations start from somewhere and I love to start by first deciding the subject of my creation. After which I will Google for reference images.

Here’s the reference image I got from www.emperor-penguin.com:
How to Illustrate a Simple Cartoon Penguin in Illustrator

Step 2: Sketch the Image

Next I will pencil sketch the reference image. You can choose to do it on paper and scan it (like what I did), or choose to sketch it directly on Illustrator.

Here’s the pencil sketch of the penguin that I will use for this guide.
How to Illustrate a Simple Cartoon Penguin in Illustrator

Step 3: Place Image on Your Artboard

Now, create a New Document in your Illustrator, and place the scanned pencil sketch in Illustrator. To place your scanned pencil sketch, Go to File and select Place.
How to Illustrate a Cartoon Penguin in Illustrator

A pop-up dialog will appear for you to locate your file. Click Place.
How to Illustrate a Simple Cartoon Penguin in Illustrator

Here’s how the scanned image will be placed on the artboard:
How to Illustrate a Simple Cartoon Penguin in Illustrator

Step 4: Create and Rename Layers

Next, Toggles Lock the layer with the scanned image and rename it to ‘Reference’. By enabling Toggles Lock, the locked layer will not be editable.
How to Illustrate a Simple Cartoon Penguin in Illustrator

How to Illustrate a Simple Cartoon Penguin in Illustrator

Then create a new layer by selecting the button Create New Layer.
How to Illustrate a Simple Cartoon Penguin in Illustrator

Rename the layer ‘outline’.
How to Illustrate a Simple Cartoon Penguin in Illustrator

Step 5: Illustrating Outline

Now, select the Pen Tool from the Tool Palette or access it with the shortcut tool by pressing the letter P on your keyboard (For more keyboard shortcuts for Illustrator, check out Illustrator Keyboard Shortcuts).
How to Illustrate a Simple Cartoon Penguin in Illustrator

Now, trace your scanned sketch with the selected Pen Tool.
How to Illustrate a Simple Cartoon Penguin in Illustrator

Once you are done tracing, you can hide the reference layer by toggling the Eye Icon on the Layer Palette.
How to Illustrate a Simple Cartoon Penguin in Illustrator

Here’s how my completed outline of the penguin looks like.
How to Illustrate a Simple Cartoon Penguin in Illustrator

Step 6: Coloring the Illustrated Penguin

Let’s first create a new layer by selecting the button Create New Layer and rename it ‘Color’.
How to Illustrate a Simple Cartoon Penguin in Illustrator

Next, select the Pen Tool from the Tools Palette and start going over the outlines. In the image below, I started with the penguin’s left foot.
How to Illustrate a Simple Cartoon Penguin in Illustrator

After which select the most appropriate color and fill it in.
How to Illustrate a Simple Cartoon Penguin in Illustrator

Here’s my colored illustrated penguin. Now, the next step is optional, I will be adding simple shadows to this cutie. However, if you are satisfied with the look now, you can just save and do whatever you want to this cutie.
How to Illustrate a Simple Cartoon Penguin in Illustrator

Step 7: Going the Extra Mile

Create a new layer by selecting the button Create New Layer and rename it Highlights.
How to Illustrate a Simple Cartoon Penguin in Illustrator

Now, remember to lock all other layers so that you do not accidentally paint or delete elements from other layers.
How to Illustrate a Simple Cartoon Penguin in Illustrator

By adding a small portion of darker color, you are creating tones and giving depth to this little cutie!
How to Illustrate a Simple Cartoon Penguin in Illustrator

Now, add a little small white dot on each of his eyes to enhance him with life.
How to Illustrate a Simple Cartoon Penguin in Illustrator

And there you go, your very own illustrated cartoon penguin! Isn’t he such a cutie pie?
How to Illustrate a Simple Cartoon Penguin in Illustrator

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