What’s tastier than an iced doughnut with sprinkles? A whole plate of yummy cakes, that’s what. If you’re looking to create a series of characters based on a theme, what better one to sample than one of Aaron Miller’s delightful confections?
You’ll learn how to create the characters from scratch, including the thought processes and sketching help, as well as developing your own ideas. You’ll also learn some creative techniques in Illustrator to help give your characters some distinguishing attributes, as well as gaining new confidence with its much-feared Pen tool and the Pathfinder palette to create shapes.
You’ll need a scanner and a graphics tablet to do this tutorial but with a splash of imagination and a pinch of creativity you can cook up your very own delicious characters.
You also might just need to put a padlock on your biscuit tin for a while...
Time to complete
Click here to download this tutorial's project files
First, decide on a theme for your characters; it can be as simple or as unusual as you like. Most characters benefit from having a history and a personality, so name your character and think about its lifestyle. For example, the character I have drawn here is called Mr Sprinkles. Scan in your sketch at 300dpi and place it in a new Illustrator document (
File > Place). Dim the image to 50% and lock this layer.
On a new layer, using the Pen tool (
P) start tracing the outline of your character; mastering the Pen tool within Illustrator is essential as it’s the most important tool. Draw a rough icing shape that is overlapping your doughnut, select them both and click on Edit > Copy then Edit > Paste in Front or ( Cmd/Ctrl + F). Select Divide in the Pathfinder Palette, to delete the unwanted areas.
We need to create the middle of our doughnut. Draw the centre part of the doughnut and copy this. Using the Selection tool (
V), select the main doughnut and the hole and subtract from shape area in the Pathfinder ( Alt + Click). Repeat this step for the icing.
Select the Pen tool and ensure there is no fill but add a stroke width of around 2pt and click on Round Cap from the Stroke Palette. Now draw half of your character’s smile. Copy and paste in front, then right click and go to
Transform > Reflect and select Vertical from the menu that appears. Adjust the two shapes and then with both selected, go to Object > Path > Outline Stroke.
Select the Ellipse tool (
L) and draw the eye. Start with the pupil, set to black fill and no stroke. Copy and paste this shape behind ( Cmd/Ctrl + B). Using the Selection tool ( V), press Shift and drag this shape larger and add a white fill. Draw another circle for a highlight and copy and paste the eye to adjust it according to your sketch.
Draw the rest of your character using the Pen tool (
P). Draw one arm and then copy/paste/reflect as we did in step 4. Give these the same fill the doughnut shape, using the Eye Dropper tool ( I). Now copy and paste your doughnut in front and move it so it overlaps with the arm shape, then press Alt +Click to select interest shape area.
Repeat this process to create the legs. Apply a Multiply blend mode to them with a15% Opacity. Select the legs, then go to
Effect > Blur > Gaussian Blur. This helps blend the shadows to stop them looking so harsh. This is a great way of blending colours without using a gradient, since they can be a little hard to control at times.
To make the doughnut look more realistic we can draw another shape on top of the icing to make it look like it’s dripping around the centre part. Copy the icing shape and paste this behind your new shape using the pathfinder palette to delete the unwanted areas.
If your shapes are a little rough and in need of some tweaking, use the Smooth tool, located in the Pencil tool (
N) drop-down palette. Click and hold to make this menu appear, then simply drag the tool over your shapes to smooth out unwanted anchor points.
At the moment, Mr Sprinkles looks a little flat so we need to add some definition to his body. We can do this with an inner glow. Select the centre of the doughnut and the main body and go to
Effect > Stylize > Inner Glow. Experiment with the settings here, depending on your canvas size.
To add a highlight to the character, draw a circle using the Ellipse Tool (
L) and another, much larger one and overlap them both. Ensuring the large one is on top of the smaller one, hit Alt + Click to subtract from shape area. Copy this shape and reflect it vertically, resizing it slightly. Change them both to white and add a Gaussian blur of around 8.8pt, then lower the opacity.
Using the Rounded rectangle tool in the Rectangle tool menu (
M), draw some sugar strands of varying size. These will be our hundred and thousands. Once you’re happy with the size and colours, drag each strand into the symbol palette, naming them as you go.
Now you have a series of different size and colour symbols stored, select the Symbol Sprayer tool (Shift+S). Spray your symbols at random to help with the unique aspect of the design. I also used the Symbol Spinner tool found in the flyout part of the menu.
Select the sugar strands layer and copy them onto a new separate layer. Then hit
Object > Expand, ensuring object and fill are checked and press ok. Each coloured symbol is on its own layer so press Cmd/Ctrl + Shift + G about ten times to ungroup these and make them all separate objects. Here you can move or delete any unwanted symbols.
Our design is really coming together but it looks a little dull and needs some colour. Think about the types of doughnut you can buy in the bakery and experiment with some new colour schemes. For me, the chocolate colour works best.
Adjust any colours to suit the new chocolate fondant icing cover; I have changed the mouth and eye colour and added a dark inner glow to the icing. Now, using these techniques you can add other characters based on the sweet theme, such as Simon Swiss Roll. Bon appetit!