With this tutorial I will show you how to create a cute bunny with Illustrator. The character is perfect to start the year because the 2011 is the Year of the Rabbit in the Chinese calendar. If you are not bunny lover don’t worry! The same technique could be useful to reproduce any other character or vector element you may want to do.
This tutorial is of intermediate level. Technique used is not really difficult but the complete process is long. That’s why it will require about 4-5 hours to be accomplished.
We will divide the tutorial in two parts: one about the bunny characters the other about the 2011 writing.
You may be interested in the following tutorials related articles as well.
Please feel free to join us and you are always welcome to share your thoughts even if you have more tips related to other tutorials that our readers may like.
Let’s see what you will be creating in this tutorial. You may click on the image to see the full scale version.
Program: Adobe Illustrator CS4
Topics Covered: Pen Tool, Gradient Tool, 3D effect, Warp Tool
Estimated Completion Time: 3 – 4 hours
The article is composed of two parts: this first one is about 2011 writing. The second part is about creating the bunny character.
Open Illustrator and create a new document. Select the Rectangular Tool, draw a rectangular and fill in with a gradient. Here below you can find the color palette which I’ve used.
Select the Type Tool and select an appropriate font. Start to write the number “2” as first element for our 2011 writing.
Go to the Effects menu and select the 3D Extrude&Bevel effect. I’ve left the default color because the clear blue is perfect with our greenish background gradient. Active the preview option so that you can see what you are doing and how your choices affect the number aspect. You can try to experiment by yourself the different options or, if you prefer, you may choose the options here below.
By repeating the step 2, write the number “0”. Apply again the 3D effect to get the same result as the number 2. Change a little the options applied so that you create dynamism in the writing.
Now we have to write the double “1” BUT, because we are celebrating the Chinese Year of the Rabbit, we want to give to the number 11 a funny carrot shape.
Select the Pen Tool and start to draw the path which builds up the first of the two 1 shape. Remember at the end of the tracing to adjust the anchor points by giving them roundness.
Again apply the 3D effect. This time click on More Option button. The window will show you some additional parameters that you can manage.
Do not apply any Bevel to this shape in order to avoid unpleasant hard angles.
Change the default shading color as Plastic Shading Surface. Customize that color by choosing a warm brown to make a better carrot shadow.
Select the object. We are going now to use the Expanding object option.
If the object has appearance attributes applied to it, as in that case which has the 3D effect on, the Object > Expand command is not immediately available. Go to Object > Expand Appearance.
Expanding the appearance of your object or brush work is very helpful because enables you to divide a single object into multiple objects getting paths from your shapes. This means that, for example, if you have a circle shape filled red and its stroke of solid green, using expand you will get two divided objects. This will work even with more complicated object filled with patterns or, as in our number 1, with applied effects. Expanding such complex artwork it will be divided in several distinct paths.
Expanding an object will prevent problem in scaling the artwork and even in printing operations.
After you have expanded the appearance of the complex object the simpler option Expand becomes available. Choose Object > Expand.
Now that we have the clean shape of the carrot and all component elements are defined by themselves, we have to make the carrot more rough and real by adding a little of texture.
Select the front plain shape, digit the keyword CTRL + C to copy and CTRL + F to paste in front.
Go then to Effect > Sketch > Graphic Pen and change options. A high stroke length will ensure thin lines whilst a low light/dark balance will limit the darkness exceeding. Maintain Right Diagonal stroke direction.
Open the Transparency palette and select from the drop down menu a Multiply blending mode with a low Opacity strength of 10.
The carrot surface now looks rough.
Open the Brushes palette and chose a sketch brush. Draw some lines here and there.
Select all of theme and go again to the Transparency palette. Chose again Multiply and decrease opacity to 65.
Let’s do the carrot green top. Select again the Pen Tool and draw an irregular shape. Fill it in with a green color. Always adjust the path as you wish using the Direct Selection Tool (the white arrow).
Select the object and go to Effects menu and select the 3D Bevel and Extrude effect. As we have seen for the number “1”, enable more options. Do not apply any Bevel and maintain a medium Extrude depth value.
Change the default shading color as Plastic Shading Surface. Customize that color by choosing a dark green to make a better shadow for the carrot leaves.
Let’s make the second number “1” carrot. Select the just finished carrot and duplicate it in a new layer. To do that just copy the object with CTRL+ C, create a new layer by clicking the New Layer icon in the Layers palette and past there with CTRL + V.
Select this new carrot and move it nearby the first one so that you get a nice 2011 writing.
To make some small changes, and give the image little extra personality, we are going to use the Warp Tool.
Double clicking the Warp Tool button the Warp Tool Options dialog box will open.
Select a medium-high brush size and not too high details value. A high details value will multiply the number of anchor points making your shape complex and heavy and this is what we want to avoid.
Start to move all around the carrot paying attention not to create empty areas between the elements.
Rotate and position the object as necessary.
This is our final result.
As first step to build the Rabbit character the best to do is having a model. If you are able with the old-fashion pencil just make a drawing and acquire it with the scanner. Again, don’t worry if you are not good with pencils and paper. You may also use a photo as template and re-construct the character on it just using a little of imagination.
Once you have your model, sketch or picture doesn’t matter we can start.
Create a new document. Go to File > Place, search the folders and place the model in the new document. You can also just drag and drop the image in the new document to get the same result.
Go to the Layer Panel Options and select Template. This will transform that level in a locked one making the image a little faded as if you have covered it with a translucent paper.
By double-clicking the level you will open the Layer Options dialog box. Rename the layer calling it “bunny template”.
Press the Create New Layer button from the Layers panel and rename it “Shape”.
This is the Bunny creation part. At this stage having a drawing tablet could be useful to make drawing easier. By the way, if you have not a tablet you can do the same just using the mouse.
Select the Pen Tool and start to follow the template shape to construct the digital image. Zoom in and out to do better and use the tool to create the basic shapes. You don’t need to draw perfectly the 100% lines of your sketch here. The sketch is just a guideline and you can modify it anytime.
From the view menu choose Outline so that you can see just the trace of the path.
A good start for your outline is avoiding angled shapes. That’s why illustrator tends to add crispy angle to close or adapt the path. Better is to trace single elements when is not possible to compact the whole shape. In my example I’ve left apart the bunny head, hears, body, tails, creating them separately.
This is about what you should get.
By going again to View > Outline you will see all paths filled. See the example below.
As you can see you have, until here, just created the rough draft of the bunny. It is very important bring back and in front in the right way all single elements.
Send all those elements that are not on the forward on the backward level just right-clicking the mouse, opening the dialog box and choosing Arrange.
The head has to be in front so chose Arrange > Bring to Front.
Other elements, such as pawns, hear, tail, have to be send to back. So chose Arrange > Send to Back.
This is what you should get.
You can take your time to refine some lines by using the Direct Selection Tool to select every single anchor point that you may want to modify. In my example I’ve decided to smooth some anchor points by selecting them and then using the Convert Select Anchor Point to Smooth tool.
Go again to View > Outline and add now all missing components. Draw its nose, eyes, eyebrows and a few other lines.
Again, come back to the normal view, move all those elements that have not to be forward by sending them to the backward level. To do that right-click the mouse, open the dialog box and choose Arrange > Send to Back.
To proper create the eyes make two drops shape with the Pen Tool, then select the Ellipse Tool and create some nested ellipses filling them with different colors as in the example.
Select all those line which are not a closed path and give them a round ending point by selecting Round Cap from the Stroke menu. Leave the fill in color empty and the stroke color black for these lines.
Let’s add colors and shadows now.
We can start from the interior side of the big hears.
Create two pink colors, one darker than the other. Make them Global by checking the appropriate check box. This could be useful to create different intensity colors from the same tints.
Select the Gradient Tool and apply the two colors as shown for the first hear.
Repeat with the second one by varying a little the gradient angle.
Do the same with the nose.
We have to color the whole bunny now. To do that, we are going to use again the gradient tool.
Select the object that you want to fill in with a gradient then select the Gradient Tool. I’ve started again from first hear.
Apply a light gray color. I’ve used RGB 230,231,232. Adjust the gradient by varying the angle as shown.
You have to do the same with the other hear by varying the angle to adapt the light source.
Apply this technique also to the head but by changing the type of gradient in radial. It is also better to add a new gradient point filled with white to give more contrast to the light/shadow.
Repeat again for the body by varying the location of the second point.
Do the same with the eyes and with the back pawn.
By selecting the object that you want to fill in and then selecting the Eyedropper Tool you can copy and paste the filling options to the destination object as I did with the other pawn and the tail.
You have now filled in the bunny. We can still add a new shape with a linear gradient on the bigger hears.
This will make it looking better.
Apply to this detail a Hard Light blending and 66% Opacity from the Transparency palette.
Hide the template level once you finished.
This is the final image of the bunny character.
We still have to do some minor adjustment that will be useful for our further steps. With the Direct Selection Tool select those anchor points near the rabbit’s neck and modify them so that they match with the bottom of the head.
Select all elements of the bunny file and copy everything into the 2011 file, creating a new layer called “Rabbit”.
Note that we have not drawn the mouth because we want the green top of the carrot be in front of the bunny head. To get that result select the front pawn, the body and the two details as shown below.
Copy and paste them in a new layer called “Rabbit front body”. Move carrots to suite as you wish with the rabbit.
We can still add a simple light flow effect creating a single wave path by using the Pen Tool.
Create it in a new layer called “Light Flow”.
Use a Charcoal brush sized 2. Apply a Color Doge transparency effect with 66% of Opacity.
Duplicate the layer calling it “Light Flow 2″ and move this new layer below to make it visible behind some of the other objects, such as the 0 and the second carrot.
Now just select numbers 2 and 0 and go and click on Object > Expand Appearance. As we have already seen this will avoid problems in font or 3D effects interpretation.
This is the very last image. Have a great Rabbit Year!