Adobe Illustrator Tutorial: How to Draw Characters

In this tutorial, you can follow the step by step process of creating a female character. We’ll guide you through everything from rough sketch to finished vector illustration. You can find out, which are the important things when creating a memorable and an easy to recognize character.

Difficulty: Intermediate

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Tools: Adobe Illustrator CS6, Wacom graphic tablet, and creativity

illustrator tutorial

Step 1:

I’m starting with a fast sketch of construction lines, trying to define the position and the proportions of the character. You can try more than one until you’re satisfied with the result. On this stage, you should only add the axes, which show the movement of the body and the general forms. I’m going to use rounded shapes with sharp and thin ends. Using similar forms is what makes the character memorable and customized.

illustrator tutorial

illustrator tutorial

Step 2:

It’s time to put in some details. The hair blown by the wind adds a dynamic feel to the composition. The purpose of the sketch is to make the process of digitalizing easier, so do not put in too many details.

illustrator tutorial

Step 3:

Create a new document in Illustrator CS6. I’ll use a canvas with an A4 size, CMYK Color Mode, and 72 dpi Raster Effects.

illustrator tutorial

Step 4:

Import the picture in Illustrator CS6. Make a new layer and move the sketch on it. Reduce the opacity of the sketch layer to 20-30%. Lock the layer so you won’t be able to select or move it by mistake.

illustrator tutorial

Step 5:

Now you are ready to start vectorizing. You can draw the main shapes with the pen tool or with a brush if you feel more comfortable.

I’ll use a calligraphic brush with size 3 and pressure 3. The screenshots below will help you create a new customized brush.

In case you don’t see the brush panel, you can find it in Window-> Brushes.

illustrator tutorial

illustrator tutorial



It’s easier to draw fluid lines without edges, using a brush. The disadvantage is that you sometimes get too many anchor points, which you can easily remove with the smooth tool.

illustrator tutorial

I’m trying to draw continuous lines because later I will unite them to create closed shapes. If you are working with the pen tool, you should make sure all the paths are closed. It’s important to curve the lines where necessary, so you end up with beautiful, smooth lines when you fill the shape.

illustrator tutorial

illustrator tutorial

Step 6:

Once I made the general shapes and forms, I start filling them in with colors. I’m using a darker nuance for the distanced objects and a lighter nuance for  closer ones, such as the example below.

You can try a variety of color combinations if you aren’t satisfied with the first choice. I’m going to use pastel nuances, to create a uniform range of colors.illustrator tutorial

Step 7:

Adding lights and shadows gives the character some volume, so it’s an important stage of the process.  I’m going to use a warm yellow nuance for the light and a variety of purple colors for the shadows.

illustrator tutorial


A fast method to add lights and shadows is by copying the shape in front, changing it’s color tone and simply deleting the portion you don’t need with the eraser tool.

Step 8:

To make it playful and more attractive, I’m going to draw some more details, like a belt, a cute dotted-heart pattern on the top, and a seam on her pants. To make it even more dynamic, I drew some random locks of hair.

So this is how the character looks.

illustrator tutorial


To highlight the movement of the hair and to give a stronger sensation of windy weather, I decided to put some leaves around the character. Do you observe how the green circle used as background makes the colors even brighter? The shadow below her feet positions the character in space.

illustrator tutorial

What do you think about the tutorial? Tell us in the comment section below how it helped you draw your characters.

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36 Comments Adobe Illustrator Tutorial: How to Draw Characters

  1. Akash Oct 3, 2020 at 13:07

    very informative post.thank you.

  2. Bappy Aug 30, 2021 at 05:32

    Nice blog! I read this blog carefully and learned many of this from this blog. I think the photoshop beginner can learn a lot of things here. I really appreciate this blog. Thanks for sharing a nice idea.

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