It’s time for another super-cute Ten Minute Tutorial! In this tutorial I’ll demonstrate a very quick and effective method I’ve been using lately in my (yet unpublished) recent work. It’s a great and easy method that will speed up symmetrical shapes that aren’t being created with default shape tools. Let’s make a web-ready panda cartoon in Adobe Illustrator : )
Using the Pen Tool (P) and a dark fill color, create half an outline for your adorable panda. Use the Convert Anchor Points tool (Shift + C) to create hard angles on your top and bottom inner anchors (circled in red in the image). This needs to be a flat edge to mirror our panda. Click the anchor point with the Convert Anchor Points tool and drag, holding shift, to a vertical position, then adjust the other handle bar to create the arches for the bottom and the top of the head.
To line them up (important!) use the Direct Selection Tool (A) to grab one of these leftmost points and hold shift to then grab the other one. Use the Align window (or align menu at the top of the screen) and select Horizontal Align Left. Our left edges must be clean to make this panda work!
Now, in the Layers panel, select the layer your panda silhouette is in. Head to the Appearance Panel and choose FX> Distort and Transform> Transform. Apply effect as shown. You should now get a full panda silhouette.
It is important to note in this step the object anchor points available. On the right side of the Transform Effect pop-up there is a set of nine squares you can set as the point of reference in your transformation. I have selected the leftmost center point to create this graphic. The reason for this is that it acts as though there is a mirror at that point since we have also selected Reflect X. This being applied to the layer rather than to the path means we do not have to adjust the Move slider. Essentially, it creates a center point for our picture out of the leftmost point of what we’ve actually drawn. What you draw is copied, flipped and moved an equal distance to the left as we are to the right of this new center. You will see this exemplified in Step 5 when you create the eye area. If you simply applied this transform effect to the eye both eyes would be touching. This way they are positioned where you find the eyes to look the most natural.
Using the same method with a lighter, nearly white fill color, create a white face for your panda friend. If you have applied the transformation from the last step to your layer as shown then your whole panda face should be filled. I have moved mine to another layer simply to illustrate and emphasize that we are only drawing half of the face, the rest will automatically fill in for us.
Use the Selection Tool (V) and grab your dark base shape and hold shift to add your white face to the active path selection and visit the Align window. Choose Horizontal Align Left to match up the left edges. I do this after each new shape to make sure they are all matched up.
Follow the same steps for the face to create a white belly.
Again using a dark fill color create your nose and mouth.
Visit the Ellipse tool (L) and using a dark fill (I’ve used the same dark grey as the body and nose/mouth) create an oblong shape/oval then use the bounding box (Shift + Ctrl + B) and the Selection Tool (V) to rotate it just a little.
Again with the Ellipse tool, this time holding shift and using a yet darker color, create little dark circles and position them to look like, well, eyes!
Our Panda is done. Except for that annoying stripe down the middle, right? I’ll be honest with you, I don’t know what that is. It has something to do with the back layer showing through in the reflection, but when you save for web/devices, it’s not there. I’ve blown my panda up to 800% and saved it as a .png and there is no line. I’ve checked it as .jpeg and .gif as well and there is no line. Just try to ignore it.
Have fun! and be creative! I’ve been using the method detailed in this tutorial quite frequently and I love how fast and easy it is.