Create a Character Mascot with Adobe Illustrator CS4 – Colorburned
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Create a Character Mascot with Adobe Illustrator CS4

Mascots are becoming increasingly popular in web design. In this intermediate Illustrator tutorial we will show you how to create a vector character mascot from a sketch in Adobe Illustrator CS4. The techniques in this tutorial can easily be applied to other illustrations, icons, and design elements; as well as legacy versions of Illustrator.

Final Image

Below is the final illustration we will be working towards.

Final Image

Tutorial Details

  • Program: Adobe Illustrator
  • Version: CS4
  • Difficulty: Intermediate
  • Estimated Completion Time: 2 hours

Step 1

To start, create a sketch of your character. I like to use my Wacom pen tablet and Photoshop to create the sketch, but you can use whatever medium you choose. After creating the sketch, scan it (if you are using traditional media) and save it on you computer in an easily accessible spot.

Step 1

Step 2

Now to Illustrator. Create a new document and place you sketch in your new document by going File > Edit > Place. Find you sketch on your computer and center the image on your document.

Step 2

Step 3

Once placed, choose Template from the pop-up menu of the Layers panel, making it a little easier to trace the image in the following Steps.

Step 3

Step 4

Now that we have the sketch on a template layer we can create new layer to trace the sketch. To create a new layer, press the new layer button in the bottom right of the Layers panel. Creating multiple layers helps with organization and workflow. It is also a good idea to name the layer by double-clicking on the new layer and renaming it in the Layers Options dialog. Name the first layer Face.

Step 4

Step 5

With the Pen tool (P), start tracing the dominate shapes of the face, making sure you close the paths for easy filling, like the skin of the face and the hair. For some of the other face elements like the nose and mouth outlines, you can keep them as open paths. In the next Steps we are going to create a brush that make it easy to give the paths a tapped stroke look.

Step 5

Step 6

Now that we traced the shapes and lines of the face we can create the irises of the eyes with the Ellipse tool (L). Create three ellipses, one big, the second smaller and centered within the bigger one, and the third off to side of the centered ellipse.

Step 6

Step 7

Use the Ellipse tool (L) a create an oblong ellipse, considerably wider than it is tall. Drag the ellipse in the Brush panel and chose New Art Brush from the New Brush dialog. Once in the Art Brush Options dialog, change the Colorization to Tints, making it easy to change the color of the brush.

Step 7

Step 8

Select the open paths from your trace, and select the new brush form the Brush panel. You might have to change the Stroke Weight on some of the paths from the Stroke panel depending on if the stroke needs to be thicker or narrower.

Step 8

Step 9

Fill in the closed shapes with appropriate color and change the stroke color for the brushed paths.

Step 9

Step 10

Using gradients creates a sense of a light source. For this tutorial we are going to imagine the light source coming from the left side of the character. Start with the face shape, and create a linear gradient from the Gradient panel. Use your skin color for the left Color Stop and a darker skin color for the right Color Stop in the gradient. By default you gradient is probably already looking correct, but if not, use the Gradient tool (G) and adjust the gradient from left to right, making the lighter part of the gradient on the left of the face.

Step 10

Step 11

Go through the rest of you closed shapes and create linear gradient keeping in mind your light source. Also keep in mind you want smooth transition from shape to shape. A good example is the right ear shape. If you adjust the gradient so the lighter part of the gradient is on the left side, the ear will look funny. A simple fix is to reverse you gradient so the colors next to each other match. For the eye make the gradient vertical so the darker part of the gradient is at the top of the iris shape.

Step 11

Step 12

The face is starting to look pretty good, but let’s add some more shapes and gradients to give a little more depth and character. Start by creating an ellipse with the Ellipse tool (L). Make the ellipse about the size of an eye and place right below the right eye. Fill the ellipse with a radial gradient from the gradient panel. Change both of the Color Stops to a pink skin color. Then, change the Opacity in the Gradient panel of the second Color Stop to 0. Copy (Command + C) and Paste (Command + V) the ellipse and place under the opposite eye.

Step 12

Step 13

For the next shape, use the Pen tool (P) and create a shape that distinguishes the contour of the nose mouth and eyes. Next, select the main face shape, Copy (Command + C), and Paste in Front (Command + F ). Select the copy and the new face shape and press the Intersect button from the Pathfinder panel. FIll the intersected shape with the same gradient as the previous Step’s ellipses except make the gradient linear. Adjust the gradient with the Gradient Tool (G) and go Object > Arrange > Send Backward (Command + [) until the shape is arranged right after the face shape.

Step 13

Step 14

Create a new layer from the Layers panel and name it Body. In the Layers panel drag the Body layer below the Face layer.

Step 14

Step 15

In the new Body layer, trace the body of you character, like you did the head. Also trace the keyboard of the laptop, but not the screen.

Step 15

Step 16

Fill the shapes in with some basic color like with the face.

Step 16

Step 17

Also just like the face, fill the shapes in with gradients and draw extra shapes to create more depth. Great places to do this are in the clothing and skin.

Step 17

Step 18

Create a new Layer and name it Computer.

Step 18

Step 19

Trace the laptop screen with the Pen tool (P) like you have previously done.

Step 19

Step 20

Again, fill it in with some basic color, add some gradients to create some depth, and finish it up with some extra Pen tool (P) drawn shapes. Use the technique in Step 13 to Intersect the new shapes so they align with the object below.

Step 20

Step 21

Create a new Layer and call it Background. Arrange the Background layer in the Layers panel so it is behind all layers except the Template layer.

Step 21

Step 22

To create the background shapes, first create an oblong ellipse with the Ellipse tool (L). With the Selection tool (V) rotate the ellipse slightly to the right. Copy (Command + C) the ellipse and Paste in Back (Command + B). With the copy selected, scale it slightly with the Selection tool (V). To scale it proportionally from the center, hold down Command + Option/ Alt + Shift. while scaling.

Step 22

Step 23

Hold down the Option/Alt key and drag out a copy of the original ellipse to the bottom right side of the other two ellipses. Copy (Command + C) the original ellipse and Paste in Front (Command + F). Select the copy and offset copy and press the Intersect button in the Pathfinder panel.

Step 23

Step 24

Fill the first two ellipse with a light blue-green and a dark blue-green. For the offset ellipse, fill it with a radial gradient with the first Color Stop a light green-blue and the second a darker blue-green color.

Step 24

Step 25

We are pretty much done, but we can customize it more by adding a logo to the t-shirt and computer screen. For this tutorial, Grant was kind enough to let me use the Colorburned logo. No matter what logo you are using, place a copy on the Body and Computer Layer.

Step 25

Step 26

After placing the logos, we want to make sure that the look like they have the correct perspective. For both logos we can get away with just rotating them slightly to the left. For some logos you might have to alter them considerable more. I suggest using the Transform tool. With the Transform tool (E), click and hold an anchor point, then press the Command Key (Ctrl for Windows), and adjust accordingly. Make sure you click and hold on the anchor before you press the Command Key, or else it will not work.

Step 26

Step 27

For the logo on the t-shirt, we are going to keep the Colorburned branding color, but for the logo on the computer, we are going to make it look like it is stamped into the laptop. To start fill the computer logo with a gradient similar to the lightest gradient in your computer, but with both Color Stops lighter. Adjust the Gradient so the darker color is at the bottom of the logo. With the logo still selected, go Object > Path > Offset. In the Offset dialog, change the Offset to 3 px (this can change depending on the dimensions of your illustration) and choose Round from the Joins drop-down menu. Fill the offset shape with a linear gradient with the first Color Stop white and the second Color Stop a dark computer color. Adjust the gradient so the darker part of the gradient is at the top of the offset.

Step 27

Step 28

Now all that is left to do, is press the visibility icon in the layers panel for the Template layer and you are done!

Step 28

Final Image

Again is the final character illustration.


You may download the source file for this tutorial below.  The contents of the download however are for educational purposes only and cannot be used for personal or commercial use, sold, or redistributed without the expressed consent of Colorburned Creative. The perfect hosting for all your apps, files, website, design hosting needs.

File type: .ai
Compatibility: Adobe Illustrator
Size: 170 KB

Download this file!

Ryan Putnam

Ryan Putnam (Rype) runs <a href=""></a>, a site dedicated to Illustrator tips, tricks, and tutorials. In addition, he run the small design studio <a href="">Rype Arts</a>, he's a contributing author and artist to the Adobe Illustrator WOW! CS4 and CS5 books, and writes for many vector and Illustrator related blogs. You can find him on Twitter <a href="">@Vectips</a> and <a href="">@RypeArts.</a>

  • Tim Smith

    Cool Tut! I really like the outcome and it was very easy to follow. Thanks Rype!
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  • Brett

    Awesome tutorial! Thank You! I will for sure put to use. The sketch makes it a lot easier than free hand in illustrator.

  • Pip

    Hello, great tutorial! Thanks! Sorry for this weird question, but I’m new to Illustrator,… Can it be done even in CS3 version of Illustrator?

  • Grant Friedman

    Pip, you should be able to do this in CS3 although some things might be a bit different like the way CS4 handles gradients.

  • John Campbell

    Great tutorial. I have been trying to do all of these I can recently to try and buff up my skills. Thanks!

    – J

  • Ryan

    That is absolute artistic brilliance. Such a talented guy.

  • Patternhead

    Great tut Grant.

    It’s always interesting to see how other illustrators work.
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  • Shane – Inspiring Your Success

    VERY impressive tutorial!! I always struggle with this, but I suppose it is because I do not draw it on paper first.
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  • joyoge designers’ bookmark

    nice tutorial, thanks..
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  • Johnson Koh

    Very professional! I learnt several new tips here. Thanks Rype!
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  • e11world

    This is very helpful for me right now. Thanks!


    Excellent tutorial, may take a few tries for me to get this one right.
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  • TutsKing

    From what seems like a shaky sketch to a excellent website mascot. I’m impressed!

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  • Robert

    Cool. As a mere code monkey, it’s always stunning for me to see how visual artists achieve their results.

  • g3niuz

    this mascot looks so nice..

    the tutorial rocks it all ;D
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  • Doug Greathouse

    Awesome tutorial! We recently created a few Super Hero characters that represent our staff. This tutorial would have come in handy.
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  • Sun

    That really detailed! awesome..! thanks for sharing..:)
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  • Ifeanyi

    Great tutorial but this would take me way longer than 2 hours

  • sasdaman

    Great tut. Been looking at making a vector person/face for a while. Whilst this tut is a cartoon like character I think the methods can be easily used for making a more life like person! Great post!

  • T-Law

    Brilliant tutorial. Thanks.

  • Dale

    I like it, all except the shadow that you added to the face. I don’t really feel that it adds very much, in fact I feel that it detracts greatly. This illustration is going for a very friendly feel, but putting the face half in shadow tends to give an ominous effect. There are other lighting issues, but that’s the only one that really affects it so strongly. If the light is truly coming from the left then the left side of the face would not be so dark compared to the right. But great beginners guide to illustrating characters for sure.

  • Mahadev

    Thank you! very good!

  • Ryan

    Excellent tutorials with easy to follow instructions, I love this!
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  • Jeremy Davis

    Thanks for the tutorial. It would have come in handy a month back while I was working on my site’s mascot.

    I like the way you presented the post also, I want to do a similar post about how I made my mascot so don’t be surprised if I use a similar way to write my post.
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  • tasarhane

    thanks for the nice vector tut..

  • Klaus Kanh

    Good tips,

    I discovered a new service called thats great and they offer free samples.


  • Luke Snowden

    Hi, tut looks brilliant but I’m having trouble as i am new to CS4.
    I cannot create the new art brush. ‘I cannot find any art brush options or anything to do with an art brush apart from Art History Brush. Is there any chance you can help?

  • Grant Friedman

    Luke, open the Brush Palette by going to Window > Brushes. Once the brush palette is open create a path as shown in the tutorial. Then select the path and click the new brush icon or drag the path into the brush palette. Then select new art brush and follow the instructions as laid out in the tutorial. Hope this helps!

  • Luke Snowden

    Thank you very much for your reply (hoping this wasn’t a dead post). I have created a new brush as instructed but fail to find the “new art brush”. Further help would be much appreciated.

    – Luke Snowden

  • Grant Friedman

    Luke, once you create the new art brush it will be available in your brush palette. You may have trouble identifying it because Illustrator will stretch the brush to the width of the palette. You might try naming the brush to help you locate it. The brush name will show up in the palette as a tool tip as you mouse over.

  • Tanaka13 – Créations du Net

    very nice and useful tutorial!
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  • Luke Snowden

    ah, i see my problem. A google search lead me to this page, lol, I thought it was a tut for adobe photoshop CS4.. I will install illustrator now :-)

  • Luke Snowden

    Ah-ha! i am on track now! Will let you see the outcome! many thanks.

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  • Laura


    Been wanting to try my hand at making my own mascot… this will be a great starting point!

    Thank you =D

    Beautiful style btw

  • Alex

    Hello, helpful tutorial. Great work!

    I waiting your visit on my website to se my works:

    Regards from Spain!
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  • Zeb

    Nice tut ! thx

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  • Mark

    Great tutorial! I did something similar a long time ago but with a tiger. You can see it on my portfolio at

    Keep the great tutorials coming!

  • Piyush Agarwal

    This post will prove a big help for me in creating the much-required and awaited mascot for my site.. Thanks a lot!! :)

  • Asmaa

    Oh this is a cool one!

  • Design Wannabe

    This is one of the better mascot tuts I have seen. Vectips is a really nice resource.

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  • Sam The Bright

    That’s really good tutor for someone to learn, I bookmark it whatever someone ask for my tips, it would be your!
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  • Ansh

    When I use the pen tool on the face the eyes got vanished, what to do, please help..
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  • Kalpesh Ajugia

    I’d always wondered how difficult it would be to create a mascot for my site. This tutorial give such a nice explanation. Obviously I can’t make it the same but this is a good inspiration.

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  • Graham

    Very nice tutorial – thanks Rype!
    I will be sure to give it a try.

    Thanks again :^)

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  • http://http// Chris

    Very very nice!!! Thanks so much!

  • haberler

    very nice job. Helpful article thanks

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  • Web Design Singapore

    Nick work. But i think it might be faster to draw it on paper, scan in the high resolution and then touch up with adobe photoshop again.

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