Copying A Cartoon To Illustrator


I was busy playing about in Illustrator this afternoon, and I wanted to share a technique on how to transfer a cartoon or drawing into Illustrator to make it into a vector illustration. Its pretty simple to do and can produce amazing results. You will only need the basic tools and a draw (you can use mine). It doesn't take long to complete. This can be done in Photoshop or similar if you are so inclined. All the images can be clicked to see the full versions.

Step 1The first step is usually the easiest. Create your canvas. Chose a size that is in proportion with what you are copying. If you have a massive art piece make a large canvas and vice versa. I've chosen 100px x 1000px.

Step 2The next step is to scan you art work into you computer. Use a high resolution setting and on greyscale. You want to capture a lot of quality. It helps later on when you are tracing the image.

Step 3 The next step is to add you art work to the canvas. Go File > Place. Find you file and press ok. Move you image (V) and scale as necessary. When you are done in the layers pallet (Window > Layers) lock the layer. This it to stop the layer being altered. You can if you want rename the layer to something more suitable.

Step 4You can now begin drawing the outline. On a new layer set the pen stroke to black and the thickness to about 5. Make sure you have no fill. Go around the main outline

Step 5You should have something that looks like this. If you want to make the spikes on the hair spikes, click the pen point that you create. This stops a curve being made when you next click. Use the direct selection tool (A) to refine the points and curves. The more time you spend the better the image.

Step 6Do the inside lines using a pen stoke of 3px. It doesn't matter it you don't complete the paths.

Step 7At this point you have to option to colour in your work. You can use the pen tool or the pencil tool. I am going to do the pencil tool. The pencil tool involves outline shapes, it is a lot easier to do the curves. The pen tool is best for the stright edges but is a bit harder to do the curves.

If you want to use the pencil tool set the Fidelity and the smoothness to about halfway. You can at a later stage change these options it they don't produce the options you want.

Step 8You can now begin to colour. Pick a nice vibrant colour it use. Create a new layer under the outline and lock the outline layer. Using the pen or pencil create a path underneath the outline. If you have the pencil tool (which I reccommend) set the stroke to nothing and the fill to your colour. Apply the same options if you have the pen tool.
Outline the first shape.

Step 9You now have to option into the level of detail. You can either pick 3 or 5 colour shadow/highlights. The more colours you use the better the image will look but the longer it will take. I've chosen 3 because I was short on time. Use the pencil or pen tool to draw over the layer in a darker colour. If you go to badly out of the lines use the eraser (Shift + E) to erase the paths to modify the shape. Create a nice smooth shadow as shown below.

Step 10Apply the same effect for the highlight. You don't have to be too precise with the edges.

Step 11Complete for the rest of the colours. Add each one on a new layer so you can easily keep track of them.
Click for fullsize.

I think the colours are great and vibrant. The only problem is I don't like the eyes. Everything seems fine. Please leave a comment with what you think and your creations.


Tomos said...

Hey, thanks for the tutorial. So far I've done the outline fine but I'm having trouble with the colouring. When I colour the hair for example, do I have to follow the run the pencil over the outline perfectly or is there some way I can easily fill it in using the pre-existing pen path.

Only started using Illustrator yesterday, still trying to get to grips with the tools.

Thanks in advance,

James Powell said...

You can use an existing path by selecting it, copying it to the fill layer and then setting the stroke to 0 and the fill to your fill colour.

If you want to use the pencil you don't have to be perfect, you just need to make sure that you don't leave any white.

Hope this helps.

Anonymous said...

When I want to colorize a drawing made from unfilled paths, I simply: "Select All" and then go to Object - Path - Outline Stroke. I then place a colored box behind the drawing. Then, "Select All" again and using the Pathfinder pallete, choose Merge. Now you should be able to use the direct select arrow to select individual sections of the illustration and give them color...and you can click and delete the portion of the colored box you drew that is outside of the illustration. Hope that makes sense.

James Powell said...

Sort of does. Thanks for the tip.

Anonymous said...

This is a good tutorial for Peeps who have to redraw for screening, I use these methods allot. Although i will say the "Place" Command if not used right can cause diffuculties. Just open your image in Illustrator you will be discarding it anyways.

Juan Moraga said...

Nice Tutorial!

(Bueno el gustó)