Explore the fundamental tools and methods for character design in Illustrator.
Colorful graphic of a woman's head on a bright pink background

From manga-style art and comic books to children’s books, many types of illustration utilize character design. Character design is typically a 2D character concept based on the description of a character. Using Illustrator, you can take a rough sketch or even a blank slate and turn it into a unique and compelling character in no time! 

Easily integrate artwork from other sources

You can easily base a new drawing off an existing piece of artwork by tracing it. If you sketch on paper, you can take a picture of it and import the image into Illustrator. Use Image Trace to quickly convert raster images (.JPEG, .PNG, .PSD, etc.) to vector artwork (shapes and paths) that you can edit and resize without losing crispness.

A hand with a pencil is drawing a scene on the right of a man chasing a ballon, and on the right side, the Image Trace properties are shown

Drawing tools that provide creative freedom and control

You can also use layers in the Layers panel to lock and dim the photo of your initial sketch and draw over the top using the Pen tool, Curvature tool, Paintbrush tool, or Pencil tool. The Paintbrush and Pencil tools can create more expressive lines and are similar to drawing on paper—perfect for inking or drawing over the pencil lines of your character.

Add unique shapes and textures to paths

To add more form or expression to your lines, perhaps with a taper, apply a brush either as you draw or to paths you’ve already created. Using the Brushes panel and built-in libraries, you can stylize your artwork in unique and creative ways.

A line drawing of a man's hair selected and the Brushes properties panel is open to Artistic_link brush options

Explore coloring options

When drawing paths for your character, you can colorize the open areas using the Live Paint Bucket tool. It’s like coloring on paper—if you edit the paths after coloring, Illustrator automatically reapplies the color to the new regions that are formed by the edited paths.

The color Swatches panel is open and being used with the Paint Bucket tool to add color to a line drawing of a man chasing a balloon

Editing paths for a unique look and feel

The Eraser and Blob Brush are a great set of tools for removing and adding to your artwork when creating outlines.

Experiment with poses for your characters

To give characters different poses, you can use the Puppet Warp tool in the toolbar to twist and distort parts of your artwork. You can add, move, and rotate pins to seamlessly transform your artwork into different variations that create nuance and even inject humor into your character design.

Colorful graphic of a man chasing a balloon with pins along his body indicating where movement will occur with the Puppet Warp tool
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