How to Draw a Retro Mascot Character Design in Illustrator

Hello everyone this is Chris from Spoon Graphics back with another video tutorial for Adobe Illustrator Today we're going to have some fun creating a retro mascot character design of a hot dog, using inspiration from the classic cartoon style of the 1930s known as "rubber hose"

Imagine the early Disney or Fleischer Studios characters with their bendy limbs, pie-shaded eyes and three-fingered hands in white gloves We'll use a combination of the brush and blob tools to construct the illustration from scratch, then incorporate a limited colour palette and subtle texturing to suit the retro look I'll show you some of my favourite illustrating techniques and brush settings to help you draw your own fun character designs The idea for this character came from a couple of signs outside a general store full of vintage memorabilia that I visited during my recent trip to America The signs seemed to be from an old movie theatre and featured a soda cup and hot dog turned into cartoon characters with chubby smiles, walking along in a happy pose

I've since seen loads of other great examples of similar mascots via Pinterest and Google, featuring all kinds of anthropomorphic objects, all with cute facial expressions and gleeful mannerisms Check out my Showcase of Character Illustrations Inspired by 1930s Cartoons over at Spoon Graphics as a starting point to gather some inspiration To create your own retro hot dog character, begin by opening Adobe Illustrator and create a new document The size doesn't really matter, because the artwork will be in scalable vectors, so I prefer to simply go to View > Hide Artboards to give myself a nice large work area Select the Blob Brush, then double click the tool to edit its settings

Move the slider to maximum smoothness, then bump the size to around 100pt If the Pressure option is set, change it to Fixed Draw three slightly curved lines to represent the sausage and bun, making all three roughly the same curvature, but the middle one slightly longer It can take a few attempts to find the perfect stroke, so use the CMD (or CTRL key on Windows) + Z shortcut to Undo and try again Give the two outer shapes a colour fill to represent the bun, then the middle one a swatch that represents the sausage

Move the shapes into place, overlapping them slightly It's best to use basic shapes to construct the main body wherever possible, but to illustrate the face and hands, some freehand drawing is necessary Create a new layer, then lock the original to avoid accidentally selecting it Bring up the Layers panel via the View menu if it isn't visible already I've always had mine placed in the bottom left, but it might be hiding elsewhere in a different workspace layout

Select the regular brush tool, then reset the default black stroke and clear out any fill Choose a rough brush tip, such as Charcoal, just to make these sketch lines feel more organic, then reduce the opacity of the brush in the top toolbar to around 10% Begin sketching out the eyes, nose, cheeks and mouth to form a face If you're using a Pen tablet loosely sketching these elements feels quite natural, but it is possible to draw with a mouse Taking inspiration from existing cartoons can help you achieve the simplified art style

One advantage to sketching in Illustrator is your brush strokes are all saved as individual paths, which means you can easily move them around or alter the size to perfect the appearance Loosely drawing a basic shape such as a circle, then building up the details with darker lines is a really useful technique Make any tweaks to the layout of the sketch lines, then lock the layer and create a new layer for inking A great way to achieve a realistic inked style with tapered lines is to create a new brush Select the Ellipse tool and draw a short and wide shape

Click the new icon at the bottom of the Brushes panel, then select New Art Brush OK the settings then delete this shape Use this new brush to trace the sketch with neatly drawn lines The thickness of the lines can be adjusted by altering the weight of the stroke To draw the arms, switch over to the Blob Brush

Double click the tool to edit its settings and bring the size back down Trace the sketch lines with a thick stroke Use the Brush tool again to trace the linework of the hands Use the Direct Selection tool to tweak the paths once they have been drawn Repeat the process to draw the legs and feet, using the Blob brush to create the thick monoweight lines, then the brush tool with the tapered brush tip to ink the rough sketch

There are some other areas that need blacking out, namely the eyes and mouth Change the Blob brush setting to enable Pressure, then trace and fill the pupils of the eyes and mouth Use the square bracket keys to alter the size of the brush tip to accurately stay within the lines To create the classic pie-eye shape, use the Pen tool to draw a triangle that overlaps the pupil Switch back to the Move tool and hold the ALT key while dragging the shape to make a duplicate

Select both the triangle shape and the pupil shape while holding the Shift key, then click the Minus Front button in the Pathfinder panel to cut the shape out Once the inking is complete, draw a selection around all the paths and press CMD+X to cut the artwork Turn off the visibility of the Sketch layer and unlock the original artwork layer Press CMD+F to Paste the linework back in place Make selections of the legs and the arm in the background, then right click and choose Arrange > Send to Back

Those coloured shapes currently don't have a black outline Select each one in turn and press CMD+C and CMD+F to Copy and Paste in Front Replace the coloured fill with a black stroke, then apply the tapered brush and bump up the stroke weight as appropriate If you want to adjust where the taper starts and ends, use the Scissors tool to clip the path Use the Blob brush tool to fill in any other areas that require a fill colour, such as white for the eyes

Alter the stacking order by repeatedly pressing the CMD+[ shortcut until the white shapes sit below the black outlines The same method can be used to fill the overlap where the facial features extend beyond the edge of the sausage Don't forget to paint in a shape to fill the white gloves It can be difficult to see when they're placed against a white background, so temporarily turn the Artboards back on under the View menu, then move the artwork over the grey background Send these shapes to the back so they sit underneath the black linework, then turn the Artboards back off

Restricting the illustration to a limited colour palette is a good way to tap in to the retro style Use the existing colours to make fill shapes for other areas of the illustration Subtle details like highlight lines are the finishing touches that can bring an illustration to life Draw simple strokes with the Blob brush with a white fill A shadow can help ground the character

Draw an ellipse with a black fill, then send it to the back Draw a rectangle over the entire illustration and choose a neutral colour as the fill Send this element to the bottom of the stack to act as a background One last touch is to add a subtle texture overlay Download and open one of my Photocopy textures in Photoshop

The texture first needs inverting so its black on white Use the CMD+I shortcut, then Copy and Paste the texture into Illustrator Scale the texture to fit over the background rectangle, then change the blending mode to Multiply to apply the grainy details to the illustration The final result is a fun mascot character in a retro style The simple shapes, bold outlines and traits of 1930s cartoons all add to the classic illustration style, which is enhanced with the limited colour palette and the addition of a subtle texture overlay

If you enjoyed this tutorial or learnt any new illustration tips or tricks, a thumbs up on the video to help spread the word would be really appreciated Subscribe to my channel to stick around for more, and join my mailing list over at Spoon Graphics to get your hands on more of my free design resources As always thank you very much for watching, and I'll see you in the next one

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