Illustration tutorial: Creating convincing characters

Step 12
Once the shading is complete it’s time to think about colour: when choosing colour, think of the type of scene and the characters’ personalities, and how colour will communicate this. Since this scene has a serene environment, a cooler palette is needed. Start by choosing a main colour (in this instance a greenish hue), select a few harmonious colours and work within this range.

Step 13
Gradients are a great way of emphasizing colour and tone, although they’re best used sparingly. Select the rectangle that represents the sky, and select your main hue to colour it. Click the Gradient swatch in the Colour palette and set to 90º. It is greyscale by default, so in the Colour palette drag the small swatch that shows your original colour into both ends of the slider, now lighten one side to a complementary light green or yellow.

Step 14
Select the clouds shape and repeat Step 13, this time setting the gradient orientation to -90º and setting the opacity to around 40 per cent; set the blending mode to Screen in the Opacity palette. Repeat this process for the lake beneath to create a reflection effect, further reducing the opacity.

Step 15
To add extra pop to the image and emphasize the key character, choose a range of colours that, while complementing the scene, really stand out. For the character I have coloured the hair pink: not only is this relevant to the look of the character, it also makes her stand out. Remember, stronger colours bring things forward, and cooler colours send things back positionally.

Who: Alexis West is a freelance illustrator who specializes in character-based work. His projects have included record covers for Atlantic Records and Sony BMG; he also produces limited-edition prints and even a figurine featuring his characters, which can be seen at his Web site. “After getting a great taste for the creative industries, I decided to put together a Web site for my foremost passion – character art,” he says.
Software: Adobe Illustrator
Time to complete: 3-4 hours
Download: All files for this tutorial can be downloaded here.

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