Using Gradients to Create a Slick & Fun Cartoon Worm in Adobe Illustrator

In this tutorial, I’ll be showing you how to draw a slick and funny worm character from rough sketch to the final illustration. I’ll be using various Adobe Illustrator tools and blending options. Let’s get started!


1. Create the Outline of the Worm from a Sketch Base

Step 1

I usually start my drawing with a rough sketch in Adobe Photoshop, scanned pencil doodle or directly in Adobe Illustrator. There is no need to add a lot of details, as we will add them later. Let’s create a New Document (File > New) about 600 x 600 pixels, RGB mode. File > Place your sketch image in the middle of the artboard and Lock the layer in order not to move the picture accidentally. Now Create New Layer and let’s start drawing the outline!

worm-placing-sketch

Step 2

We are going to use the Paintbrush Tool (B) and create our own brush for the outline of the worm. Grab the Ellipse Tool (L) and create a small extended ellipse with a black fill. Drag and drop it on the Brushes panel (Window > Brushes) and choose Art Brush in the pop-up window.

worm-creating-art-brush

Step 3

Choose Tints in Colorization Method in order to be able to recolor our brush strokes and leave other options as shown in the screen shot below.

worm-art-brush-settings

Step 4

Our brush is ready, so let’s start making a nice outline above the sketch. We can control the process and edit our line by moving anchor points with Direct Selection Tool (A) in order to make the line more smooth and neat. We can also vary the Stroke Weight from 1px to 0.25px, making some stokes thinner and thicker, showing the perspective and emphasizing the details.

worm-making-outline

Step 5

When the outline is finished, Select All (CTRL + A), go to Object >Expand Appearance and press OK in the pop-up window.

worm-expanding-outline

2. Color the Worm Using the Live Paint Bucket

Step 1

Now let’s apply basic colors to our worm using the Live Paint Bucket (K). Select All (CTRL + A), take the Live Paint Bucket (K), choose light-rose color and apply it to the head of our worm by clicking on it.

worm-live-paint-bucket-tool

Step 2

Continue coloring the worm by clicking on its parts. Notice that the strokes of our outline should overlap each other, creating a continuous closed line without any gaps.

worm-coloring-with-live-paint-bucket

Step 3

After finishing applying the colors, go to Object > Expand Appearance and press OK in the pop-up window.

worm-expanding-live-paint-bucket-coloring

3. Add Depth Using Gradients

Step 1

Our character looks rather flat at this stage. Let’s make it more realistic by using the Gradient Tool (G)! Choose a Radial Gradient in the Gradient panel (Window > Gradient) and apply it to the worm’s head using a transition of colors from light-yellow on his forehead to darker pink on his neck.

worm-using-radial-gradient-on-head

Step 2

Continue coloring other parts with the Gradient Tool (G), turning the darker point to the places, where shadows should be.

worm-using-linear-gradient-on-body

4. Use Blending Modes to Add Highlights & Shadows

Step 1

In this step we are going to add some highlights and shadows to our worm. I really love this part because the character literally becomes alive and more realistic! For this purpose we will use Blending Modes which you can find in a menu in Transparency panel (Window > Transparency). Draw a simple half-moon shape below the lower lip of our character using the Pen Tool (P) and fill it with linear gradient from light-brown to black. Now choose Screen in Transparency panel and our shape will turn into a highlight (the black part of the gradient becomes transparent).

worm-creating-highlight-with-screen

Step 2

Now let’s make a shadow in the eye. Draw a slightly arched shape across the eye-ball and apply a linear gradient from white to dark lilac color. Select the created shape and choose Multiply Blending Mode in the Transparency panel. The white area of the gradient will become transparent and our shape will look like a shadow under the upper eye-lid.

worm-creating-shadow-with-multiply

Step 3

Continue adding shapes on the eyes, applying Screen and Multiply Blending Modes to them, making the eyes more vivid, pop up, reflecting and realistic.

worm-highlights-and-shadows-in-eyes

5. Style the Eyebrows

Step 1

In the next step we are going to work with the eyebrows. Draw simple curved shapes using the Pen Tool (P), filled with black (or any other color) right above the brow. Select these shapes and the brow and click Divide in the Pathfinder panel (Window > Pathfinder). Grab the Direct Selection Tool (A) and select the pieces which are left outside the brow and delete them.

worm-pen-tool-shapes-on-brows

Step 2

Now add some colorful gradients to the newly created shapes using the same method with Screen and Multiply Blending Modes.

worm-coloring-brows

6. Add Details to the Body of the Worm

Step 1

Continue adding highlights and shadows to our worm, using Blending Modes and Linear Gradients.

worm-making-highlights-on-body

Step 2

Remember that we put the shapes with Screen Blending Mode on the brightest parts which are highlighted by the imaginary light source, while shapes with Multiply Blending Mode should be placed in the darkest areas, making shadows.

worm-more-highlights-and-shadows-on-body

Step 3

Don’t forget to add the rings to the body of our worm using the same method as we did with the eye-brows.

work-drawing-rings-on-body-with-pen-tool

Apply a Linear Gradient in Blending Mode Multiply to make the rings slightly darker than his skin tone.

worm-coloring-rings-on-body

7. Add a Quick Background

Step 1

Let’s finish by adding a simple but stylish background to our funny guy. Select All the pieces of our worm (CTRL + A) and go to Object > Offset Path.

worm-offset-path-menu

Choose OK in the pop-up window with 10px offset by default.

worm-offset-path-settings

Keeping the selection, click Unite in Pathfinder panel and move the newly created shape to the bottom of the layer, right under our worm (CTRL + SHIFT + [ ). Fill the shape with a white color.

worm-offset-path-unite

Step 2

Finish off by adding Ellipses (L) of various sizes in the background. Select them and apply a bright, colorful Linear Gradient.

worm-adding-background

Bravo! Your Worm Should Now Be Complete!

Here is the finished piece! Our cunning worm looks slick and attractive. I hope this tutorial will inspire you to create some new interesting characters using the same simple, but effective techniques! Good luck!

worm-final-image

View Tutorial: Using Gradients to Create a Slick & Fun Cartoon Worm in Adobe Illustrator

Using the Blend Tool to Create a Halftone Effect Portrait in Adobe Illustrator

The Blend Tool has been part of Adobe Illustrator for a long time and it’s very simple to work with. The tool creates objects that fill the space between two key objects. Let’s say we have a square as object A and a circle as object B; the Blend Tool will create intermediate figure shapes between these two objects. You can add how many steps you want and it remains editable until you expand it. We can use this tool to create many effects. In this tutorial I’ll show you how to use the Blend Tool to create semi-realistic halftones with lines.


1. Prepare Your Stock Image in Adobe Photoshop

Step 1

To create a semi realistic illustration, a good stock is essential. Let’s work with this image of this beautiful model. Another good point of this picture is the light source that creates dark shadows and visible halftones. This makes it easier to identity where our shading will be created.

Step 2

Our work will be done in black and white, using black lines as halftones. Therefore a basic image treatment will help us to see the tonal values of the image and translate them into an illustration. We can discard the colors of the image now. Open the image in Adobe Photoshop and change the colors from RGB to Grayscale by going to Menu > Image > Mode > Grayscale.

Step 3

Now, let’s increase the contrast between the blacks and whites. This will reveal the tonal variations even more. Go to Menu > Image > Adjustments > Brightness/Contrast and then enter the values Brightness: 40%, Contrast: 40%.

Step 4

To make the visualization of the halftones even easier, let’s apply the Posterize filter on the image by going to Menu > Image > Adjustments > Posterize and set the Levels to 10.

Step 5

Now we have our base image ready. Save this file (Menu > File > Save as… ) as “woman-grayscale.jpg” (Quality: 12). This way we keep the original picture and we have a copy to work from.


2. Place Your Saved Reference on Your Artboard in Adobe Illustrator

Open the “woman-grayscale.jpg” file in Adobe Illustrator. In the Layers panel, create two new layers (“Layer 2”, “Layer 3”). Select the image in “Layer 1” and set the Opacity to 70%. You can see now the darkest shadows in the source image. Lock this layer.


3. Create Your Base Shapes with the Pen Tool

Select “Layer 2”. With the Pen Tool (P) (or Pencil Tool (N) if you have a tablet), let’s draw the shadows of face, hair and shoulders. Be sure to have the color black selected in the Color panel. Use the picture as a guide to draw the shadows.


4. Draw Your Lines Ready to Create a Blend

Step 1

With the Pen Tool (P), let’s draw some lines to define the face features and body shape. Use a Stroke Weight of 2 pt for the external contours and main facial features (nose, mouth, eyes). Use thinner Stroke Weight for the internal lines which are more delicate.

Try to create your lines using as few points as possible when using the Pen Tool (P). Create curves and make your lines look better!

Step 2

The interesting part of the drawing starts now! Let’s do the halftones. Let’s start in the girl’s face. Draw a line (2pt Stroke Weight) close to the girl’s shadow on the side of her face.

Step 3

Select and duplicate this line and place it parallel to the original line.

Step 4

Using the original picture as guide for the shading and then adjust the duplicated line to follow the shading. Use a Stroke Weight of 0.1pt.


5. Use the Blend Tool to Add Contouring

Step 1

Now go to the Blend Tool (W) or double click on the Blend Tool symbol on the Tool panel. In the Blend Options window, select Specified Steps set the Spacing to 20, click OK.

Step 2

With the Blend Tool (W) click on the thinner line (0.1pt) and then click in the second line (1pt). You will fill the space between these two lines with lines. See the thickness gradually changes, giving the halftone effect.

Step 3

It’s important to keep aligned the key points of the two lines, this way you can get a smoother shading transition. You can see a problem with the halftone in the region near the girl’s mouth. To adjust these problems is just select some points and modify the curve. Automatically you’ll be modifying the shading.

Step 4

This is the basic way that the Blend Tool works, now we can do the other parts of the face: the nose, eyes etc… Always keep the thicker line near the shadows and use the picture as a guide to draw the shading.

Sometimes you need to change the steps of the Blend Tool to adjust the halftone to smaller areas. To do that, select the blend object (the pair of lines) and double click on the Blend Tool icon on the Tool panel. Just change the Specified Steps value.

Step 5

Still adding the shading. The effect is like an old illustrated book.


6. Create Deeper Shadows with Cross Hatched Blends

Step 1

I had to edit some points at the neck, to adjust the blending a bit more. Here, many points will create a texture that doesn’t work when creating a soft skin effect.

Step 2

You can use some crossed blended objects to create another halftone. At the neck and shoulders the crossed blend effect was useful to create deeper halftones.


7. Use Blends to Create Natural Movement in the Hair

The hair is a group of blended lines. You can play with these groups to create the hair texture and give it a natural movement. The Blend Tool is very efficient here.


8. Position Your Illustration

This is the illustration almost done. We can play with the negative spaces and add blended white lines in the dark shadows. It adds to the illustration some extra details that make it even more interesting. Some of these details are not, in fact, in the original picture, but, since we are “translating” the picture into the illustration, it’s valid.


9. Add Further Blends to the Hair to Refine the Effect

Step 1

You can get a nice flowing effect by crossing some the two lines of the blend.

Step 2

This is the final look of the drawing, with all the shading done with blend, crossing lines and white lines (with blend) over black.


10. Add Blends to the Background to Finish off Your Composition

Step 1

Now, with the same technique of blends, let’s add some texture to the background. You can get some real nice effects by crossing the lines of the blending objects.

For the background, we can use this same object, duplicated and distorted, to create a texture of lines. This is the final look of the work. A bit messed up, but let’s crop.

Step 2

With the Rectangle Tool (M) draw a rectangle, over the picture. You can follow the same crop of the source image, if you want.

With the rectangle selected, go to Menu > Object > Crop Area > Make.


Well Done, You’re Now Finished!

The Blend Tool is a simple but powerful tool in Illustrator. We saw that it’s not so difficult to create complex shading and texture just using lines. With good references and creativity, it’s possible to go further. Another good point of the Blend Tool is that you don’t use much of computer memory; you get files with few megabytes even in highest resolutions.

View Tutorial: Using the Blend Tool to Create a Halftone Effect Portrait in Adobe Illustrator

Improve Your Layouts by Working With Columns in Adobe InDesign

There are many great features for improving your typography in Adobe InDesign when you are using columns. In this tutorial Martin Perhiniak will share his features like Balance columns, Optical Margin Alignment, Span and Split columns, Keep options, etc. Let’s get started and create some cool columns.

View Tutorial: Improve Your Layouts by Working With Columns in Adobe InDesign

Quick Tip: Learn How to Create Corner Tiles for Pattern Brushes in Adobe Illustrator

A Pattern Brush is more than a repeating shape. It can have inner and outer corners, plus starting and ending shapes. In this Quick Tip, see how to deconstruct an exiting Pattern Brush and create your own.

View Tutorial: Quick Tip: Learn How to Create Corner Tiles for Pattern Brushes in Adobe Illustrator