13 December 2013

QQ, Illustrator, tutorial


This tutorial is a step-by-step guide on how to make a simple, cute and cartoon-like penguin using Adobe Illustrator. This tutorial also provides information and tips on how to use the different tools and functions when working with Illustrator. The penguin we are going to make is the logo of the very famous IM software in China, Tencent QQ (??). It has about 800 million users with a peak of about 175 million simultaneous online users. You can learn more about Tencent QQ, or just simply QQ, on their website.

We are going to create this:

Final Design of the Tutorial

Before getting to Illustrator, it is worth spending some time using just pen and paper to make some initial sketches. This can help you to visualize what kind of shapes and forms, or even colors you’ll be using. This way you can also come up with great new ideas. You are more likely to come up with great new ideas when just doodling and drawing a bit, rather than sitting in front of your computer and waiting for the idea to come – sketching works faster as well.

TIP: You can also scan or take a picture of the sketch / picture you want to create and re-draw it in Illustrator - using the sketch or picture as the base for your artwork. Choose a method that you feel most comfortable with and fit best to your project.

Below are my sketches for the logo. I will now start to create the logo with Illustrator from scratch. If you examine the sketches, you’ll notice that the logo consists mainly of a few round / oval shapes. This is good to know for the planning process before actually starting to create the logo in Illustrator.

sketches of penguin

1.) Open Illustrator and create a new document. The size is up to you. If you are looking at printing quality, use 300dpi and if it is just for practice, or for the web, 72dpi will work just fine.  Good thing with Illustrator is that it uses vectors; you can then come back later and resize your work anytime without losing out in quality (in comparison to pixel based graphics). I used an A4 sized landscape paper for creating this one.

2.) Create a round head shape using the Ellipse Tool.  You can start either with making the head shape or the body shape. Select the Ellipse Tool (you can select it quickly by hitting L). Create the shape by pressing Opt + Shift and then do a size that is big enough to include eyes and the nose. (Note: If you click Opt + Shift, the shape will size proportionately and will keep its round shape.). You don’t need to add color (fill) yet at this point, use only a simple thin black stroke, which should come by default. We can add more details later on, but first focus on constructing the main shapes of the penguin.

first head shape

3.) Create the main body part by scaling the head shape. You can make the round shaped body part using the same tactic as with the above when making the head, but just remember to make it a bit bigger. However, there is another useful tool to create the shape. Transform > Scale. Select the head shape you just made using the Selection Tool (V).  It is the black arrow that is first on the tools panel. Select the shape and then right click for options. Navigate to Transform and choose Scale. You will be prompt with more options. Tick preview box to see the changes. Decide how many percentages larger you want your new shape to be (larger than the head-shape). I used 135%. Change this in the correct section.  You want to keep the original head-shape, so click Copy instead of OK.

Now we have two shapes. We don’t want the body or head to be too round, so adjust the shapes either just by resizing them with the Selection Tool (V), or with the Direct Selection Tool (A) by dragging from the corners. I created a bit more oval kind of shape. Move the two shapes into a location that makes it look like the body of the penguin we are making.

Scale Tool

TIP:  You can use guides when building the penguin. This can help to align/position things in a good way. Hold on to left-click and drag the guides from the ruler.

Two shapes in form

5.) Create one of the hands with Pen Tool (P). Choose the Pen Tool from the tools bard, or just hit P, and draw a “hand”. I used the pen tool to draw a basic, a bit like an oval-shaped “hand”. I wasn’t completely satisfied with my drawing, so I made it a bit smoother with the Smooth Tool. You can find this tool from the tool bar on the left; it is together with the Pencil Tool and you can select it from the sub-menu. Adjust according to your needs.

hand created with the pen tool

TIP: You can also change the shape by using the Direct Selection Tool (A), by dragging from the anchor you want to change. You can also add more anchor points via the pen tool with + and  keys.

6.) Duplicate the hand. You don’t have to redo the whole thing again by drawing, you can just simply select the hand you’ve just created, right click, navigate to Transform and select Reflect. Choose Vertical, and click Copy, don’t click OK. (If you click copy, it will make a copy of the original shape, whereas clicking ok will only reflect the original shape). Then adjust accordingly. You should have a similar result as show below. Don’t be worried how the penguin looks at this point, we will go into more detail shortly.

Reflect in Ilustratorbasic shape

7.) Create the “legs” with the Ellipse Tool. Make two oval shapes using the ellipse tool. One small one and one larger and the move them on top of each other.

two oval shapes for legs

Next step is to Unite them with the Pathfinder tool. This will make the feet look more like ones from a cartoon character. After the two oval shapes are on top of each other in a place where you want them to stay, check that both of them are selected and navigate to the Pathfinder tool (if it isn’t visible, set it visible from Window > Pathfinder panel on the top.) and use the first option, Unite.

pathfinder tool

This is the result after hitting unite.

after unite function

Now, do again the same steps as you did earlier with the hands. Copy it via Transform > Reflect. Now the basic shape has been created and your image should look like this:

basic shape has been created

8.) Create the white inner stomach part. Click the main body part, and select Transform > Scale, like we did in step 3. Adjust the shape according to your needs. I made the circle a bit more thinner. Apply white fill, but without a stroke.

adding more

9.) Unite the two hands and the main body. Use again pathfinder with unite to combine hands and the body (NOTE: don't select the head or the white stomach part). Fill with black and without a stroke. If you wish to use different colors for the any of the parts, you can skip the unite step and leave them independent. Fill the head-shape with black and without a stroke as well.

adding more to the shape

black shape

TIP: If you have layers on top of each other and you need an easy way to send them to back or to front, you can use Command + Shift + ] to send items to absolute front, or Command + Shift + [ to send objects to absolute back. Sending objects back or front just one layer works the same way without using the Shift key.

10. Add details to the face. Create two round shapes with the Ellipse Tool – these will be the eyes. When you’ve created the shape you like, click the shape while holding option key and drag to a new location, this will make an exact copy of the shape. You can also use the basic (copy + paste). Add more details with the pen tool, such as a wink to make it look like an eye.  Create a third, more longer oval shape that will be used as the nose. You can use orange for the fill. Adjust as you see fit.

The nose has a line for a smile. I created this by first making one side using the Arc Tool and the making a copy of it, then I chose both shapes, moved them together, right clicked and chose Join to merge them as one. Go to the Stroke properties and make the line about 6pt (depending on your document), and change the profile to the same as the picture below)


picture so far

12. Create the scarf. I created the scarf with the pen tool. Fill it with a rather darker red color and place it so that there is a little black space under the smile line / nose.


scarf attached

Add also another piece of the scarf that would come after the scarf has been put around your neck. I did this with the pen tool as well, it is a bit like a square shape with round corners.

scarf in more details

13.) Colour the “legs”. Apply a brown color with about 3pt stroke and the same orange colour you used for the nose.

legs coloured

Almost there! The penguin is already looking pretty nice, but we want to make it even better and add some shadows and more colors to bring out some more shapes in the penguin.

14.) Adding shadows and more shape. We begin with adjusting the shadows in the scarf. Copy the scarf, then paste it in front of the current one, change the color fill into a more darker red and send behind the scarf object we currently have, then move the new dark red layer down a notch so it barely makes a line beneath the scarf. Then copy again the newly made layer and send it behind the dark red layer. You can fill this newest layer with grey/black, then add Drop Shadow from the Effects panel. You can adjust it according to your picture, mine barely comes out below the dark red layer. Do the same for the upper part of the scarf, but instead of using a darker shadows, use a more lighter colour, such as light yellow. You can add even more details or lines to the scarf if you feel it'll make it look even better.


lighter dropshadow

15.) Create shadow to the white stomach. Copy the white fill layer and paste it in front of the original white layer. Apply a radial gradient as shown below. You should adjust the opacity and position for the gradient, as well as opacity for the shape according to your image.

radial gradient

radial gradient

16.) Add a little bit of 3D effect to the feet. Use the effect 3D > Extrude and Bevel to add a bit of shape to the foot. I will copy again one feet and make adjustments to that. After you have made some changes in the effect section (below), place the feet back to the main body, over the original shape. Do the same for the other foot as well.

Extrude and bevel 3D

3D feet

17.) Add shadow under the penguin. Create a shape that mimics the feet section of the penguin using the pen tool and add the Drop Shadow effect. Now, after you’ve added the shadow, place it just around the legs and send to back, adjust accordingly so just the shadow comes out.


Done! This is what it looks like after these 17 steps:


You can still add more details, such as rework on the scarf, change colors, add more shadows, new lines and so on. You can also take it to Photoshop and add more, even better effects.

Hopefully this tutorial has helped you to familiarize yourself with some of the most commonly used tools with Illustrator.

Any feedback is always welcomed.

This tutorial was made using Adobe Illustrator CS5, but you should be able to do the same work in older or newer versions of the software as well.