How To Draw A Cartoon In Illustrator

1. The Subject

The topic I’ve chosen for my cartoon relates to a recent discovery. For the first time, we’ve picked up a signal caused by gravitational waves. Albert Einstein first theorized the existence of gravitational waves in 1918. Exciting!

So, what better topic for my cartoon?

2. The Character

The character I’ll draw, then, is Einstein.

Open Adobe Illustrator.

Insert the file I’ve provided in Illustrator by going to “File” → “Place.”

Now, adjust the artboard by going to “Object” → “Artboards” → “Fit to Artwork Bounds.” The dimensions of your artboard should now match the file you’ve just inserted: 2305 × 3250 pixels.

Block the layer where you’ve just put the file. Double-click on the layer’s name and rename it “Sketch.”

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Create another layer above the “Sketch” layer by hitting Command + L on a Mac or Control + L on Windows, and call it “Lines.”

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Now, we need to trace the image with the Pen tool (P), similar to how I showed you in my previous tutorial.

What we are going to learn here is not the mere tracing of shapes, but rather how to trace the black outline of a drawing.

We do this because we are drawing a cartoon, and cartoons usually have this black outline around the shapes to distinguish them.

Double-click on the stroke’s color, and set the hexadecimal value to #FF06A0.

We use this color to distinguish our lines on the artboards. We will change it later.

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Zoom into the drawing at 200%, and begin to draw the face outline with the Pen Tool (P).

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Do this until you’ve drawn the top of the head.

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Once you’ve finished drawing the head’s outline, draw the internal outline.

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Now, select both outlines you’ve created, the external and internal one, and click on the Shape Builder tool (Shift + M).

Go to the button to swap the fill and stroke color (Shift + X), and click on that little arrow. The stroke’s color should now be changed to the fill’s color.

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Now, enable the Shape Builder tool (Shift + M), and put the cursor in the empty space between the two outlines we created before. You will see something like a transparent background, which indicates the space where the Shape Builder tool will create a shape.

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Just click and you will see the selected area be given the fill color.

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Thus, we’ve created a fill-colored outline for our cartoon.

Now, let’s repeat the same action with the other body parts: mustache, eyes, ears, nose, hair and so on.

For the little shapes, like the forehead wrinkles, you can just draw a closed shape and then swap the stroke with the fill.

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For shapes like the eyes, use the Ellipse Tool (L) and set the stroke weight to 8 points.

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This is our work so far. Notice how I’ve closed the paths, even if they cover the face. I did that because we will be able to fill the shape with color with just a click, simply by creating a closed path.

Then, we will hide some parts, positioning one part over another. But we will see that later.

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It’s a little different for the hand holding the old phone. Here, you have to draw the hand in two shapes: the fingers and the palm. Do it using Pencil Tool (N).

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Et voilà! Here is our drawing:

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Hide the “Sketch” layer, and you will see your clean vector.

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Now, double-click on the Magic Wand tool (Y), and select “Fill Color” in the popup window, setting the tolerance to 20.

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After you’ve set the tool this way, it will select all objects with the same fill color. Just click on your work to see it in action.

After you’ve selected them, double-click on the fill color and set it to #000000. Your image should look like this:

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Double-click again on the Magic Wand Tool (Y) and select “Stroke Color,” setting the tolerance to 20. Click on your image, and all strokes with the same color will be selected now. Set the color to #000000.

Now, our image will have all black outlines.

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Let’s color Einstein.

Set the skin color to a hexadecimal value of #FBD2B7.

Select the head with the Selection tool (V), and then click on Live Paint Bucket (K). Click on the face to fill it with the selected color.

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Do the same with the other shapes, giving them the same color: ears, chin, neck, hands. Remember that you have to select a group of objects first and then color them with the Live Paint Bucket (K), or else it won’t work.

Note: If you are not able to color something with the Live Paint Bucket (K), it probably means your object has open paths. It happened to me with the fingers:

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In this case, you can use the Blob Brush tool (Shift + B) to color the internal shape of the fingers. Set the color to #FBD2B7, set the brush’s weight to 30 points, and fill the fingers and other shapes that have open paths.

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When you color in this way, the color is positioned above the path. To move it under the path, just select the color shape and hit  and [ to move it down.

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If other objects are overlying the fingers, select them and move them down the same way you did for the fingers’ color. Or you can right-click and select “Arrange” → “Send Backward” to send them back.

Go on coloring with these two methods.

Note how the path under Einstein’s mustache disappears when you fill the mustache with color:

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Remember that you can move objects forward (right-click → “Arrange” → “Bring Forward” or ⌘ + ] ) or backwards (right-click → “Arrange” → “Send Backward” or ⌘ + [ ) to find their right position.

Here’s our Einstein colored in.

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We still have to correct something. The antique phone’s handset is divided into pieces because of our previous tracing:

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We have to unify these pieces into one. With the handset selected, enable the Shape Builder tool (Shift + M) and drag on the objects we need to unify:

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Now, we have to get rid of that line under Einstein’s ear:

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