I’m a great fan of the artistic skill used to create engaging characters in children’s books and television programmes and I’ve long wanted to have a go at creating some of my own. The animation techniques of the past have been tricky to replicate but the recent trend to use vector graphics in cartoons is changing all that. CBeebies series such as Bing, Boj and most recently of all Hey Duggee all have characters that can be recreated with free software, albeit some amount of practice.
For this first tutorial I’m looking at the style of characters using in Hey Duggee, which is a brand new series using brightly coloured and pleasing simple designs. To have a go yourself you’ll need a vector graphics software package. Although the industry standard is Adobe Illustrator, there’s something for all budgets. On Mac for instance, there’s Inkscape which is free or Pixelmator for around £10, which offers both vector and photo editing.
Drawing a cartoon lion
This guide takes you through the steps to make a lion character, although you’ll need to know how to use whichever vector software package you’re using.
1. First create your workspace. Vector graphics can be scaled up so the most important thing is to think about what you’ll be doing with the image. This lion is standing so it’s portrait format and is being used on this blog, so it uses settings for the web.
2. Let’s start with the lion’s body. I used a rounded rectangle, which I tapered at the top of using the direct selection tool on the top two anchor points. I moved each inwards a little by the same amount.
3. In a new layer behind the body draw a circle for the lion’s mane and position it behind the lion’s head. Try different sizes to see what works. I’ve filled the mane using a radial gradient for effect.
4. Next add the face details. You can just use black circles for the eyes or add whites too as I have done. For the nose use an oval and flatten one side. The lion’s muzzle is drawn using two ovals. The mouth is a simple curved path drawn with the pen tool.
5. Now it’s time to dress the lion. I used the ‘Draw Inside’ function, drawing a rectangle over the lion’s torso. Using the pathfinder tool I cut an oval shape from the top to give a fitted look to the lion’s clothes.
6. Draw arms and legs using rounded rectangles. I’ve drawn shoes using more rounded rectangles with less of a bevel. Hand colour has been added using rectangles and the draw inside tool.
7. Finally add any further details you like. I’ve made the lion a businessperson with a shirt and tie.
And you’re done. You can now use your character to delight your children in any number of ways – posters, cards, games, you like it. It’s also easy to make an outline colour-in version from your drawing.