Skip to content

Tutorial: Make a Smiley in Illustrator

21 November 20106 comments all, design, tutorials

Today we’re going to focus on making a funny smiley in Illustrator.
during the tutorial You learn to work with various “basic functions” in the Program.

  • colors and color libraries
  • basic shapes
  • pathfinder
  • advanced transparency effects
  • anchorpoints

Lets check the end first:
Smiley for tutorial by peter


Open up Adobe illustrator and make a new document (file -> New or [ctrl]+[n])
The document should have these specs:
smiley tut
In other words A4 format (just easy) and  in the advanced tap RGB @ 300 DPI (dots per inch).

Ok basic lesson here:
RGB (Red, Green, Blue) is the colour setting for anything presented on a screen, just take a magnifying glass and take a look at your screen. See?
CMYK (Cyan, magenta, Yellow and Black) are the colours in professional printers.
Everything that goes to the web should be between 72 and 150 DPI, everything going to a professional printer minimal 300 DPI
But we’re going to make the illustrator file 300 Dpi, simply because I just never touch that setting in this menu (since the same question get’s asked when you Export your work).

Ok first of all we need some colours. You can actually use the colourbooks provided by Adobe Illustrator or by using the colour sliders but we’re going to use some nice colours from
Ill be using this Pallete:

Just create an account and click the ai button under Download options on the right (don’t open it)
You can download it by clicking this link to (without the registration part)… just do that it’s far more easy.

Now I need to make sure your looking to the same screen as me… go to Illustrator and in the menu panel click the menu screen (or venster in dutch) and get your mouse to WorkSpace (werkruimte). an additional menu will popup click [illustration].

Ok before we’re going to paste these new colours in our “stage” we need to clear the pre-installed from our colour library (not the colour-guide but the colour library!) this to prevent using 101 wrong colours.
Don’t worry, the colour settings only apply for the document. Illustrator will include them again in a new document.

Simply, click the first red colour in the stage market as SMYK-RED (the first 2 can’t be removed, and white and black are  always handy) and while you hold [SHIFT] down click the last colour (the purple one), then release shift (after you released your mouse!). you should see borders around your selection now click the bin at the bottom of the colour library. Jippey you removed all unnecessary colours!!

This is always a good step when you start making an illustration.

Now we’re going to import our colours into the stage. Click on the first button in the same row as the bin you clicked (marked as menu-colour library).
In this menu you can select colour settings from different printers and settings. But in this case we’re going to use the option “other library…”
Now just navigate to the file you downloaded (the colour AI) and open it. (note the time in the bottom of the screenshot).

When you open up your new colour library you should get an additional library filled with the colours we want. Just drag them to the “documents-library” using your mouse.

Save your stuff

Ok first of all we need to save our stuff. Just save it as in your documents folder (or something like that).
Note: Never work directly on usb-flash drives. Those small devices will just damage when Illustrator shadow-copies all your changes while you work (when your computer fails you can recover the unsaved document). Other reason is because a flash drive is nothing more than a transport-device. Did you ever see a factory, making it’s products directly in the truck?

Other tip: [ctrl]+[z] undo’s the last thing you did (wrong), you can get back 20 “misstakes”.
when you undo something on accident (or you go to many steps back while undoing) you can [ctrl][shift][z] (shift on non-mouse actions mostly causes the reverse function of something you do ([ctrl]+[a] selects all [ctrl][shift][a] clears all selections)

so whenever you make a misstake don’t hesitate to push that key-comby.
(the [ctrl], [shift], and [z] button on my new laptop are kinda worn-out already, and thats not only caused by playing maplestory :) )

Time for some Design!

Long-click the “rectangle-tool” on the “tool-box” at the left side of your stage. This will show more options, including “circle-tool” click it.

Note: you see an (m) behind the rectangle description an (L) after the circle and an (\) after the line tool. This means that, when you push one of these buttons on your keyboard you will load the specific tool without having to look for it.
So in other words to get the circle tool you can just pres [L] on your keyboard.

Your mouse-cursor suddenly becomes a cross air this means that the tool is ready to be used.
When the cursor is different make sure [caps lock] is turned of.
Still not working? Go to the layers-library (right side again). And make sure it looks something like this:

(got a lock? Click it do “unlock” your layer) the eye means that the layer is visible (we need the layer to be visible).

Ok back to the job. Click [shift] on your keyboard and drag your mouse over the stage (while clicked). When you think your circle is good let go of the mouse and then of the shift button.
Note: With shift pushed you create an equalled side circle.

Now push [v] on your keyboard or click the black selection tool from the toolbox. When you accidentally deselected your circle (no blue border aroud it anymore) just click it once to reselect it.
Give your smiley a nice yellow colour from the library.
At the toolbox click the black line under the colour you selected to bring it to front then click the white colour with the red line trough it from your library. This means you do not want any border colour.

Reselect the yellow colour block (at the toolbox) to start working on the filling again
Open the panel “gradient” (located near your colour library) and drag the yellow colour to the beginning of the line (replacing white) then drag the orange colour to the right side (replacing black)

Notice your circle changing colour.

Now push [ctrl]+[C] on your keyboard (like you do in Microsoft word, etc.).
In simple programs you can paste using [ctrl]+[V] but Illustrator has some additional tricks.
ctrl]+[V] past = to the centre of your screen
[ctrl]+[B] past = exactly behind the object you [ctrl]+[C]’d
[ctrl]+[F] past = exactly in front of the object you [ctrl]+[C]’d.

We are going to past in front (ctrl+F)
Note: on a mac use [cmnd] instead of [ctrl]

Now reverse the colour of your newly pasted object by clicking the reverse button on the gradient library

Here comes a tricky one:

Select the selection tool (the black cursor in the toolbox) (or [v] on your keyboard)
Hold down [alt]+[Shift] while dragging one of the corners of the circle more to the middle
Release the mouse when your satisfied and then release [alt]+[shift]
Note: with alt selected objects are being scaled and created from a central point (instead as from a corner)

Congratulations: you created dept.

Now to make sure we don’t incidentally change the circle, we are going to lock these 2 created objects.
Go to the layers menu and put a lock on layer 1
Then create a new layer an make sure it’s selected (blue hovered)

Now click [L] on your keyboard to select the circle tool again
Make a perfect circle at the right top in the circle you made and give it a white colour.

Pres [v] on your keyboard to reactivate the selection tool
[ctrl]+[C] and then [ctrl]+[F] your object.
Make it smaller (with [shift]+[alt]) and give it a blue colour
Repeat this with the blue circle not the white one to make a black circle within the blue circle.

When working in detail you can use the Zoom-tool to zoom in.
Pressing [alt] and [scrolling] with your scroll wheel should work better (and can be done in any situation without needing to select the “zoom (z)” tool)

Now create a perfect circle like in the picture and give it a white colour

While you keep the circle selected go to the transparency library and select “soft light” from the drop-down menu (as indicated above).
Hint: cant find the transparency menu? press [shift]+[ctrl]+[F10] on your keyboard to reveal it (replace [ctrl] with [cmnd] on a mac)

Your eye has some nice detail now.

Press [v] on your keyboard to get back to the selection tool.
now drag from bottom-left beneath the object to top right (creating a rectangle with a dotted line) release mouse and notice you selected everything.

Now press[alt] and drag the eye some to the right (click in the centre of the eye) .
Notice you copied the object and moved it to the right spot immediately. (this is caused by pressing [alt])

Make the eye a little bit bigger by pressing shift (and optional alt to) while dragging one of the corners of the selection area. Then short-click the space around the eyes to stop your selection
This should result in something like above.

Now we’re going to make the mouth
Press [L] on your keyboard again and make a circle. Make it black.

Press [a] on your keyboard (or the white cursor in the tool-box)
And select the highest points of the circle.

Now click [del] or [<--Backspace] on your keyboard to remove the detail from the circle. Leaving a half circle behind.

Since we removed the detail. the path (object) is no longer closed draw a selection rectangle around the now formed highest point (while still working in the white cursor tool) (selected points become filled while non-selected points keep a white centre)(those points are called anchor-points.
Then go to the menu:
Object –> path –> connect (or just press [ctrl]+[J] on your keyboard).

Now long-press the rectangle tool and select the “rounded rectangle” tool
Make some teeth (like in the picture)
While making (dragging) you can press the arrow-keys on your keyboard to alter the rounding percentage. When you made the first you can copy the second like you did with the eyes.

Now select the black mouth and [ctrl]+[c] then [ctrl]+[F] it.
Press [ctrl]+[shift]+[F9] to reveal the Pathfinder menu.
Select the black mouth-copy and while pressing [shift] quick-pres one of the teeth to select both mouth and teeth (in this case a selection of 2 objects is a maximum don’t select both teeth).
In the pathfinder menu click the third option to keep the part of the teeth in the mouth only (the copy of the mouth will be consumed in the process so that’s why you made a copy)

Repeat the process for the second tooth…

When you finished save your work again.
Now you can export it:
Go to File –> export and select 72 DPI
Save it as a JPG (will have a white background) or PNG (has a transparent background)

You’re done!
Smiley for tutorial by peter

About the Author

My name is Peter van der Meulen, I'm 21 years old, love computing, drawing, surfing (reallife), And i'm completely blown away by people who make good design (including me :p) I study Graphic Design @ ROC Friese Poort Drachten, and as a freelancer I create all kinds of stuff for my customers.

Spread The Love, Share my Article

  • Delicious
  • Digg
  • Newsvine
  • RSS
  • StumbleUpon
  • Technorati
  • Twitter


  1. ArturMiyami November 28, 2010

    Дисней и Пиксар отдыхают!
    Скоро ожидается пресс-конференция компании Д3 Медиа групп, где нам покажут
    до чего доросла российская анимация и что мы все-таки что-то можем.
    В планах, насколько я знаю, показать целых 2 анимационных полных метра. Один из них
    сделан по «Мастеру и Маргарите» Булгакова. Думаю, интересно взглянуть какого
    плана получатся фильмы, по Мастеру и Маргарите, на мой взгляд, пока не было
    хорошей визуализации.

  2. Amonfog November 28, 2010

    Ah cool your going public at E3 :)
    but yeah the project about Monsters Inc in my portfolio is actually a simple schoolproject. of course we couldn’t just borrow their Computer-Farm to render this movie. it was made in adobe flash and put together in MovieMaker :)

    but thanks for your reply.
    PS: this is a blog with mostly just Dutch and English people. please translate your own posts in a proper way. not anyone will take the time to translate so much text.

  3. best registry cleaner December 2, 2010

    Of course, what a great site and informative posts, I will add backlink – bookmark this site? Regards, Reader.

  4. Swiss Ball Exercises December 2, 2010

    found your site on today and really liked it.. i bookmarked it and will be back to check it out some more later

  5. maria andros December 7, 2010

    Really nice post,thank you, best website ever

  6. home health December 10, 2010

    Nice site, nice and easy on the eyes and great content too.


There are no trackbacks on this entry.

Add a Comment