How to create a Doodle Illustration in Adobe Illustrator

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In this tutorial you'll learn how to make an illustration that has no beginning or end. An illustration that flows and intertwines by layering separate elements; this gives it a fun and playful look.

Step 1

Set up a new document, in this case its 850 pixels (width) by 400 pixels (height). And let’s start by making a quick sketch, it doesn’t have to be perfect as long as you’ve got a basic idea of what you would like to create. You can make the sketch directly in illustrator or draw it out on paper and scan it, either way place the reference on a separate layer, click on the sketch and change the opacity to 50%. Double click on the layer and change the name to sketch, to keep track of the layers.


Step 2

Set the grid in the background by pressing Command+’ with this action raster will appear. The raster is used to determine if something is straight aligned, it makes it easier for the eye to create balanced illustration. Set the rulers by Command+R, determine the center and align the illustration, drag another ruler to the boarder(s). This makes it easier to determine where the illustration should end.


Step 3

Open a new layer and we will start with creating our first object. Don’t forget to name it, this is very important for keeping track of the separate elements. We start off with the mountain in the middle and from there on we’ll add more elements. Add a new layer, change the stroke to black and choose no fill. Select the Star Tool (underneath the rectangle tool) and draw a star, while drawing the star press down key to create a triangle. Adjust the size of the triangle to the size of the mountain.


Step 4

There are different ways to round the edges but we’re going to use Offset path, select the object and click on Object>Path>Offset Path. Select preview and, enter 10 pixels as the Offset value and select Round Joins, click on ok. Delete the inner triangle and you’ll have your rounded edges.


Step 5

To create the melted mountaintop, use the Pen Tool (shortcut P) to replicate the shape on top of the triangle. Select both shapes and click on the Shape Builder Tool or shortcut Shift+M, hold alt key and click on the areas you want to delete. Repeat this action with the second melted mountaintop layer. Select all the elements and press Command+G to group.


Step 6

Copy and paste the mountain upon a new layer behind the first layer and adjust the size to create a smaller mountain in the back. Keep track of the guides so that everything is straight aligned.


Step 7

As you can see in the sketch the first mountain is missing some ‘bites’ to create this effect we’re going to use the Pathfinder Tool. Select the first mountain layer and draw overlapping circles, shortcut L (Ellipse Tool). Draw the circles in different sizes to make the illustration more dynamic. Select the circles, click on Pathfinder>Unite, with this action you merge all the separate shapes into one.


Step 8

To take the circles out of the mountain, select the merged object and the mountain, click on the Shape Builder Tool, press Alt and delete the paths you want to discard.


Step 9

In-between the two mountains are 2 bushes, create a new layer, select the Ellipse Tool and draw overlapping circles in different sizes. Select the group of circles on the right and click on Pathfinder>Unite, do the same with the group on the left. Create a separate path with the Pen Tool to create a new shape that makes it seem as if bushes are placed behind the mountain. If the visibility isn’t clear, switch off a layer in the layer menu (Toggles Visibility).


Step 10

It’s time to create the monkey, this shape is a bit more complex especially because the right arm crosses over the mountain, so we first start out with the body and head. Create an oval shape for the head with the Ellipse Tool and draw the rest of the torso with the Pen Tool, merge these shapes with the Pathfinder Tool, select both shapes and click on Pathfinder>Unite. Draw the rest of the shapes out, don’t be afraid of letting the shape of the arm/banana end underneath the torso/head, when we add colors to the shapes you won’t be able to see that the shape actually starts underneath. Not to forget the belly, select the torso and belly and click on the Shape Builder Tool, press alt and delete the outer shapes.


Step 11

The face of the monkey exists out of some basic shapes, draw two overlapping ellipses to create the face with the Ellipse Tool, select them both click on Pathfinder>Unite. Draw another circle for the ear and draw a box on top of the circle with the Rectangle tool, shortcut Command+L, select both shapes and click on Pathfinder>Minus front.


Step 12

Open a new layer for the palm tree and plants, place it behind the layer mountain 2. Draw the palm tree completely out with the Pen tool. For the grass underneath the arm of the monkey, draw one blade of grass and copy and paste (Command+C, Command+V) to recreate the other blades. Make sure to change the size and angle of the blades individually to give it a more dynamic feel.


Step 13

In the same layer as the palm tree we’re going to make the leaves on the left. Start off with the Ellipse Tool and draw a long oval or click and enter 27px x 100px. Select the Direction Selection Tool (shortcut A), click on the upper anchor point and drag the handles to the middle to create a point. Copy and paste the leave and turn it into a 30-degree angle on both sides, align the bottom upon the other leave and repeat this step again but only with a 70-degree angle.


Step 14

Open a new layer and place it behind the layer of the monkey. Create a shape behind the monkey that looks like a triangle, from there on we’re going to create the circles. Use the Ellipse Tool and create the first circle, draw another circle on top of that but draw it a bit bigger. Keep continuing until there are five different circles with an equal spacing in between.


Step 15

In the same layer as the circles we’re going to create the branch with the bird. To create the branch we’re going to use basic shapes, use the Rectangle Tool (shortcut M) to create the branch and twig. Then use the Ellipse Tool to create circles in different sizes to create the leaves, select all the circles and go to Pathfinder>Unite to merge everything into one object. Create the small leaf with the Ellipse Tool and use the Direct Selection Tool to drag the anchor point into a point, use the handles to turn it into a rounded point.


Step 16

Now it’s time for the bird, draw a small circle and drag one anchor point into a point with the Direction Selection Tool. Click on the anchor points on the side to drag them down a bit, so that the shape changes more into a drop. Turn the shape into a 50-degree angle, copy the shape, make it smaller and turn it into the wing. Draw a small circle that functions as an eye and draw a beak with the Pen Tool.

Step 17

Create a new layer for the clouds in the background. Use the Rectangle Tool (shortcut Command+M) to create rectangles that are the rough base for the clouds. Select the rectangles and click on Pathfinder>Unite, select the whole shape and click on Effect>Stylize>Round corners, fill in radius of 13 and press ok. Repeat these steps for creating the other clouds. The only thing that’s missing is the circle in the back behind the palm tree, we’re going to place it on the same layer. Draw a circle with the Ellipse Tool and place it on top of the cloud on the left, later on we’re going to arrange the elements separately.


Step 18

Create a new layer for the final elements and place it in front of all the other layers. Switch off the visibility of the other layers except the sketch. Use the Pen Tool for creating the wavy twig in the front. Change the stroke weight to 11, change the handles of the anchor points to make sure the beginning and ending of the stroke are aligned to the guide. Select the stroke and click on Object>Expand>Fill+Stroke>Ok.


Step 19

It’s time for the last element, the monkey arm. Use the Pen Tool to create the arm and hand. Turn all the layers on and the end result/line drawing should look more or less like this.


Step 20

This illustration is going to be in different tones of orange and blue. Make your own colorpallete by drawing squares and giving them a fill color, turn them into swatches for later use. Select the colorpallete and click on the fill swatches in the bar above, click on New Color Group. Place the colorpallete near the illustration so that you’re able to easily take samples. Fill the biggest elements by selecting them and using the Eyedropper Tool (shortcut I) on the color you would like to use. Some elements exist out of different components and those have to be filled in differently.


Step 21

To color the banana and the mountains, select the object and click on Live Paint Bucket Tool or shortcut K, select the first color from the swatch panel and fill the shape, use left/right key to switch colors. Repeat this step until everything is filled. When everything has a fill color, select all the objects and change the stroke color to transparent.


Step 22

To fill the circles with color, we need to arrange the sequence of the circles. Select the first circle and select the color with the Eyedropper Tool. As you continue doing this you’ll notice that some circles might block other circles out. To arrange them, click on one circle and hold Command+(Shift) + [/] to send them back or to the front. Another option is Right click>Arrange> send to back/front etc. This step depends on where you would like the shape to be. Use this to check every layer to see if the shapes are arranged correctly, the grass behind the monkey, the palm leaves, the branch etc.


Step 23

Select the circles and group them, Object>Group or Command+G. Draw a rectangle on top of all the shapes that stick out underneath the guideline (the circles and the white cloud on the right). Select all the shapes and select the Shape Builder Tool or shortcut Shift+M. Press alt and delete all the elements underneath the guideline.


Step 24

In the middle of the illustration you can see that the shapes go underneath the mountain. To fix this, use the Direct Selection Tool (shortcut A), click on the object, click on the anchor point that is sticking out and drag it underneath the shape. Drag the corner of the mountain underneath the vine.


Step 25

It’s time to add details to the illustration by drawing lines with the Pen Tool. Change the stroke weight to 1.5 or 2 and make sure to select the round cap and corner, Window>Stroke. Create simple stars by crossing the lines, changing the outline to blue and placing them in the background. Where you want to put the ‘highlights’ is completely up to you, keep in mind that you’re drawing more attention to certain objects, so choose wisely. Don’t forget to arrange the objects within the layers with Right click>Arrange, the leaves for example.


Step 26

The last step is to change minor things, to pull some shapes out/down/up etc. to change it to your own liking. In this case I’ve decided to make the top of the mountain a bit rounder by dragging the anchor points out and adjusting the handle. But from here on it’s all up to you!


Now you can show the world what you have learned.

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