Blog.SpoonGraphics

Create a Vector Pirate Cartoon Character from a Hand Drawn Sketch

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This post was originally published in 2007
The tips and techniques explained may be outdated.

By firstly using the power of pen and paper a character design is created, which is then scanned into the computer to use as a base for tracing with Adobe Illustrator. The final outcome is a colourful cartoon character in vector format!

captain_black_spoon.jpg

The first step in the creation of the Pirate is to sketch out your ideas for the character onto paper, once you are happy with your design scan the page of your sketchbook into your computer. 150dpi resolution will suffice as the scan is used solely for reference.
Those who don't feel they are the best artists may want to simply save my sketch of Captain BlackSpoon to their computer for use with this tutorial.

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Open up Adobe Illustrator and place the scan onto the artboard (File > Place), set the opacity down to 20% or so and lock the layer.

Create a new layer and drag it below the scan layer. Use the Pen Tool to follow the outline of the sketch, then add a stroke of 8pt. When using the Pen Tool it is helpful to use the CTRL and ALT keys to toggle between different tools.

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Once the outline is complete, use a smaller 4pt stroke to trace the detail lines such as the edge of the hat, beard line, coat outline etc. Zoom right in to position the stroke to give a fluid line from the thicker outline.

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When you get to the arm, the character has a stylised hand, the simplest way to trace this is to draw two circles as shown, and draw the arm shape with the Pen Tool (complete the shape). Fill all these shapes with black, then use the Add To Shape Area within the Pathfinder window to join the shapes together. Swap the black fill to a 4pt outline.

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Create the shape of the eye patch and fill with black.

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Use an even smaller 2pt stroke to outline the finer details on the face such as eye and nose.

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Fill the eyeball black, then create a small white rectangle as the highlight. Give this a curved shape by heading to Object > Envelope Distort > Make With Warp and choose the settings; Arc, Vertical, -18%. With the object still selected head to Object > Expand and select the Object checkbox.
Scale the highlight and rotate into position.

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To draw the mouth, create a small black circle to the left of the mouth opening, then use the Direct Selection Tool to select the single point on the right. Drag this point to the opposite side of the mouth. Use the Envelope Distort function again to give a curved appearance, with the settings; Arc, Horizontal, 19%.

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Trace the rest of the finer details on the character with the 2pt stroke, including sword handle, pockets and boot. Add buttons to the coat with small black circles.

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Once the character has been fully traced uncheck the visibility of the sketch layer and make any adjustments you deem necessary, on my example I made the arm larger than the sketch and scaled down the boot slightly.

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Remove the square edges of some of the traced lines, such as on the feather and facial features by zooming in and selecting the stroke. Click Object > Expand and select Stroke, then use the Direct Selection Tool to nudge individual points into position to achieve a pointed shape.

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Create a new layer and position under the stack. Select a grey colour swatch and roughly follow the shape of the hat without straying from the black outlines.

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Repeat this process with the rest of the character, and fill each block with the appropriate colour.

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Zoom back to the hat and draw a shape outlining the stripe as shown. Fill this selection with a brown to white gradient then change the Transparency Mode to Multiply to render the white transparent.

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Go through each block of colour and add gradients to give depth to the character. Using the Gradient Tool and the Gradient Mesh tool from the toolbar can help at this stage.

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Add a final detail by downloading the SpoonGraphics Punk Vector Pack and copying the skull and crossbones graphic. Paste this graphic into your pirate and use the CTRL/CMD + [ and CTRL/CMD + ] shortcuts to arrange the graphic under the coat, but above the undershirt.

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Compose your final piece in Photoshop by pasting the complete vector character onto a background texture and giving him a mean and ruthless pirate name!

captain_black_spoon.jpg

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72 Comments

  1. Amber Yount says:

    Yaaarrrrr mateys!

    (0)
  2. Eli says:

    Beautiful outcome! I need to learn Illustrator :(

    (0)
  3. Ollybob says:

    Meow, nice tutorial!

    (0)
  4. ehliyet says:

    beatiful example,thanks.

    (0)
  5. Carithedas says:

    Amazing.

    (0)
  6. Be Bam Bam Bam! Very cool I think I have some homework now ;-)

    (0)
  7. Stephanie says:

    Great tutorial! I learned so much!
    Thank you!

    (0)
  8. Andrew Danger says:

    Thank you so much, really helped me with my character design skills and process! Shiver me timbers Great work!

    (0)
  9. Abhijit V. Chaore says:

    It is a nice tutorial. I learnt how to trace a scanned image in Illustrator using pen tool and color it. Tanks for this valuable tutorial. your site design is also very good….congrats…

    (0)
  10. [...] Create a Vector Pirate Cartoon Character from a Hand Drawn Sketch Mándalo a tu Twitter: :: temas que pueden estar relacionados :: Imagen bitmap en Illustrator con transparenciaTutorial de Illustrator para crear una imagen al estilo Scanner DarklyTutorial para crear un Poster con Illustrator y Photoshop [...]

  11. Ken Galbin says:

    Thankyou that was great gave me a better understand of basic character design, big help

    (0)
  12. Jesse says:

    Awesome tutorial, I do this exact method except my drawings are way too much, I love this one you did! :)

    Only question I wonder is if there is a way to live paint the areas since you don’t connect that hat as one object, I’ve honestly never used live paint XD

    -Jesse

    (0)
  13. [...] By firstly using the power of pen and paper a character design is created, which is then scanned int… [...]

  14. [...] By firstly using the power of pen and paper a character design is created, which is then scanned into the computer to use as a base for tracing with Adobe Illustrator. The final outcome is a colourful cartoon character in vector format!..more [...]

  15. anaiuli says:

    waw..great

    (0)
  16. Raza says:

    This is simply a great tutorial. I love it. But you could have told us more about the gradient mesh thing.

    (0)
  17. wow badass’ness great tutorial!

    (0)
  18. [...] Create a Vector Pirate Cartoon Character from a Hand Drawn Sketch By firstly using the power of pen and paper a character design is created, which is then scanned into the computer to use as a base for tracing with Adobe Illustrator. The final outcome is a colourful cartoon character in vector format! (tags: art design illustrator howto guides) [...]

  19. [...] Create a Vector Pirate Cartoon Character from a Hand Drawn Sketch (en inglés) Comparte el artículo:Estos íconos enlazan con webs de marcadores sociales que permiten a los [...]

  20. CHELSEA says:

    Plain sailing

    (0)
  21. Xstamper says:

    Argh…nice bit of knowledge thar matey!

    (0)
  22. shebeeb says:

    it’s good but sketching is not fair

    (0)
  23. Scott says:

    Live paint anyone?

    i think there would have been some problems with the gradients though, how would you get around that issue?

    Im new to your site, but ive plowed straigt through BittBox’s site, and both of you guys have some great lessons! i love these little comic guys! eventually i would like to make a blog myself on how to apply all this fun stuff to architecture (since thats what i do).

    (0)
  24. lida says:

    this is really amazing…i must learn this

    (0)
  25. Owens says:

    That is a cool little vector character tutorial. I like a good cartoon style to things.

    (0)
  26. Sean Hodge says:

    There is a post over on Illcraft that you might find interesting. It discusses some issues with line quality in Illustrator vs. Photoshop for cartooning. http://www.briandenham.com/2008/01/20/whats-the-vector-victor/

    (0)
  27. David Horne says:

    Thanks I really like it! I like how you went from sketch to vector instead of vectoring something already on the web. I have a similiar post to this but its on drawing cartman from southpark.
    http://solidtutorials.com/vector-art-drawing-cartman-in-vector-part-1.html

    I must say though yours has a lot more detail :D

    Great tutorial!

    (0)
  28. please, could you have told us more about the gradient mesh thing.

    (0)
  29. [...] Pirate cartoon tutorialLearn how to create a vector pirate cartoon character from a hand-drawn sketch. [...]

  30. [...] Pirate cartoon tutorial Learn how to create a vector pirate cartoon character from a hand-drawn sketch. [...]

  31. VamoTamo says:

    Holly cr … man this is good!

    (0)
  32. Cem says:

    Nice tutorial. I am a new user on illustrator. Very helpful this tutorial for me. Thank you :)

    (0)
  33. [...] Create a Vector Pirate Cartoon Character (tags: illustrator) [...]

  34. [...] of the most popular articles here on Blog.SpoonGraphics is how to create a vector cartoon character from a hand drawn sketch, an Adobe Illustrator tutorial covering the process of creating Captain Blackspoon. Using similar [...]

  35. youtube says:

    Nice very nice thank you very much

    (0)
  36. web sitesi says:

    great tutorial for create movies or cartoons with animation characters.

    thank you.

    ps. : i am new on illustrator but i want to be a professional.

    (0)
  37. [...] karakterin nasıl illustrator da nasıl oluşturulduğu ve renklendirildiği burada [...]

  38. [...] of the most popular articles here on Blog.SpoonGraphics is how to create a vector cartoon character from a hand drawn sketch, an Adobe Illustrator tutorial covering the process of creating Captain Blackspoon. Using similar [...]

  39. [...] ayer fue el día en el que me decidí a empezar con algún tutorial, y me gustó bastante este para dibujar un pirata en Adobe Illustrator, muy fácil de seguir para los que [...]

  40. [...] (CTRL/CMD + ] and CTRL/CMD + [). For more information on this technique take a look at my previous Pirate Tutorial. On Frankenspoon, I also change the colour of some of the detailing lines to blend in with the [...]

  41. amy says:

    Great work!

    (0)
  42. Julio S. says:

    very nice cartoon :D
    i just starting to use Illustrator
    normaly i use Photoshop , but is time to learn Illustrator :))

    (0)
  43. Omid says:

    Oh , really expert tutorial , thanks to share your idea with others :) . Your tutorial gave me a good idea to design my new website header with this great technique .

    (0)
  44. [...] Pirate cartoon tutorial Learn how to create a vector pirate cartoon character from a hand-drawn sketch. [...]

  45. Great tracing job. Looks good.

    (0)
  46. whoobay says:

    nice work. thanks

    (0)
  47. [...] Colours. 22. How to do pop art portraits. 23. Glossy Vector Web 2.0 Logo Text in 5 Easy Steps. 24. Create a Vector Pirate Cartoon Character from a Hand Drawn Sketch. 25. Vector effects. Read more articles from the Graphic Design, Tutorial, Vector blog topic. [...]

  48. [...] Pirate cartoon tutorial Learn how to create a vector pirate cartoon character from a hand-drawn sketch. [...]

  49. Gluid says:

    Hi All,

    just wanna add, that instead placing the scanned image and setting the opacity to 20%, you can also place it as a template, you just have to tick the box in the browsing window, when looking for the image. It does the same job straight away.

    (0)
  50. David Smith says:

    Wow just amazing. Please do more of this type of tutorial

    (0)
  51. Tammie says:

    I am a beginner at vector drawing. Your tutorial looks great. I have been looking into a good vector program. I like the work you have done with Illustrator.

    (0)
  52. [...] los queremos pero muchos no tienen el tiempo o talvez la creatividad para hacerlo, pues bien en Spoon Graphics me he encontrado un tutorial para crear una caricatura vectorizada de un pirata apartir de un [...]

  53. [...] Create a Vector Pirate Cartoon Character from a Hand Drawn Sketch [...]

  54. Q8iEnG says:

    Awesome Awesome Awesome xD

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  55. TEmelie says:

    Very nice tip , thanks for sharing with us.
    The process couldn’t be easier if we were to use a graphic table ?

    (0)
  56. [...] Create a Vector Pirate Cartoon Character from a Hand Drawn Sketch [...]

  57. [...] an amazing designer. I’m a big fan of his blog, especially his tutorials (my favorite is the vector pirate tutorial). Chris’ screenshots are always full of vector goodness and he is a great contributor to the [...]

  58. [...] it’s about time for another Illustrator character tutorial. Previous versions saw the creation of Captain BlackSpoon and Freddy the Fish which seemed pretty popular, not to mention the quick and simple monster [...]

  59. prefabrik says:

    this good project its very good.

    (0)
  60. konteyner says:

    Wow! its amazing.

    (0)
  61. [...] it’s about time for another Illustrator character tutorial. Previous versions saw the creation of Captain BlackSpoon and Freddy the Fish which seemed pretty popular, not to mention the quick and simple monster [...]

  62. [...] it’s about time for another Illustrator character tutorial. Previous versions saw the creation of Captain BlackSpoon and Freddy the Fish which seemed pretty popular, not to mention the quick and simple monster [...]

  63. [...] personaje de dibujos animados One of the most popular articles here on Blog.SpoonGraphics is how to create a vector cartoon character from a hand drawn sketch, an Adobe Illustrator tutorial covering the process of creating Captain Blackspoon. Using similar [...]

  64. [...] Create a Vector Pirate Cartoon Character from a Hand Drawn Sketch [...]

  65. [...] 23. Create a Vector Pirate Cartoon Character from a Hand Drawn Sketch [...]

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