Creating a Character in Adobe Illustrator

In this brief tutorial, Canadian illustrator Scott Martin—also known as Burnt Toast Creative—shows us how he takes a quick pencil sketch into Adobe Illustrator CC and turns it into a polished vector image.

Martin’s final character illustration, created in Adobe Illustrator CC.


Click on the images to watch brief videos of Martin’s desktop. 

First, import your drawing: scan your character sketch and open it in Illustrator (you can do this easily by dragging the image file onto the Ai icon—an artboard with your sketch will open).

Now it’s time to prepare your workspace: Size the artboard to fit your sketch. You can also crop the image file if needed, using the Crop Image button at the top of the work area. Set the layer’s opacity to about 25 percent. Give the layer a descriptive name (such as “Sketch”) and lock it. Then create a new layer and give it a descriptive name.


On your new layer, using a black stroke (and no fill), begin to draw a clean line with the Pen tool. Use your locked sketch layer as reference. The curvature tool can be really helpful here. (Learn more about using the Pen tool and the Curvature tool.)


With a thinner line width, use the Pen tool again to draw secondary lines that will define shaded areas. (Remember to choose a light source and stay true to it.)


To add color to your character, select all and activate Live Paint (command-option-K). (Learn more about using Live Paint.)

Fill each space with color. Once your character is colored in, expand the Live Paint function (Object > Live Paint > Expand).

To finish up, delete the sketch layer to reduce the file size. Then you can delete the thinner lines that delineate the shadow areas (choose Select > Same > Stroke Width, and then delete) and add shines and background colors.

Now you give it a try!

Download Adobe Illustrator CC to get started.


November 13, 2018