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Tutorial: Make a mole using Illustrator

06 March 20112 comments all, design, tutorials

Finally a new tutorial. I was kinda busy last weeks with my other work and the “Icon challenge”. But I decided to show you people how I made the mole that is currently used in 1 of my shirts :)

Click pictures in this page to zoom them :)
First of all we need to have a document. Lately I’m working more and more with 22.5 cm x 22.5 cm (shirt size for vector art) and 500×500 pixels (for my Icons). But this document will be made using the “standard” landscape A4 settings. But In this case I’ll be using 150 dpi (good for HD screens and Armo-led displays).

First of all we are going to use the “rounded rectangle” tool which can be found In the toolbox on the left side of your screen (I’m comfortable with the “painting” workspace).

Make a rounded rectangle like the picture above. You can give your rectangle more “rounding” by pressing up and down arrow keys while making the shape.
Give it a black color (not to black). Later on we are going to give the shape some “light and shade effects”.

Now create a small circle.
Select the circle tool (same submenu as rounded rectangle in toolbox). You can create an equal circle by holding shift while creating the shape.
Place the circle in the center of the object (with middle point on spot where rounding begins for the body-shape).

Copy ([ctrl]+[c]) the white circle and past it “in front” ([ctrl]+[f])
Make it a little bit smaller using the selection tool (push [alt] and [shift] while dragging to get an equal circle that was scaled from the center).
You can recycle the color you used to make the body shape by using the “Color guide” with shades (selectable from dropdown)
In this case I used black and a very dark brown as a gradient.

Select both shapes and group them (easier for selection) this can be done by pressing [ctrl]+[g] ungrouping can be done by pressing [shift]+[ctrl]+[g].

Select the grouped shape and drag it to the left wile pressing [alt] and [shift] to duplicate the eyes. Do the same for the right.

Make a new circle that comes from the center of the left eye. Give it a white border (for the time being).
In the picture above you see some guidelines. They can be made by dragging the “rulers” around your document (and they are a big help when you are looking for perfect positions).

Drag the shape you made to the right while pushing [alt] and [shift] on your keyboard (to duplicate again).
Get the center of the new duplicated shape in the center of the right eye.

Duplicate one of the pupils to the center between the 2 circles (yes you are making glasses).

Remove lowest anchor point of the nose bridge (jup the pupil becomes the nose bridge).
You can do this by selecting the direct selection tool (the white arrow in the toolbox or [a] on your keyboard). Select it and press [delete] or [<- backspace].

Select the “eyedropper tool” from your toolbox (or pres [i]) While having the nose bridge selected and eye-drop one of the glasses’ borders.

The glass-borders are still a bit thin. Select all the details of the glasses and make them a bit thicker by altering the stroke weight from stroke settings on the right side of your screen.

The stroke used as is still a little bit to big (it’s in the glasses’ area). We are going to do this using the pathfinder. But first of all expand the line to an object using “expand from the “Object menu” at the top of your screen.

Select both glasses. Copy them ([ctrl]+[c]) and past them in front ([ctrl]+[f]). When using the mainstream tools within pathfinder the 2 big circles will be consumed, and we don’t want to draw new ones :( . When you “duplicated” your circles change them to a compound path (they will identify themselves in pathfinder as 1 object) this can be done from Object–>Compound path–>Make ([ctrl]+[8].

When you duplicated and compound both objects use the pathfinder ([shift]+[ctrl]+[f9]) to cut the object. When you notice this is not working out the way you want, check if you expanded and compounded the paths the right way. Still not working? Use the 2nd tool (minus front) of the shape modes.

Now expand the 2 glasses to change the lines into shapes (many printing offices hate unexpanded lines with loads of information attached) like you did with the nose bridge.

Make 2 horizontal guidelines on the anchor points in the center of the nose bridge and make 2 eyeglass legs (don’t worry about the ends sticking out.

Copy the body shape [ctrl]+[c] and past it in front [ctrl]+[f].

Select both eyeglass legs and make a compound path from them [ctrl]+[8].
When you made the compound path, select both duplicated body shape and eyeglass legs. And apply pathfinders shape mode “intersect” to cut the loose ends of.

Make a line using the line-tool [\] give it some thickness and rounded edges using the stroke options.
When you finished doing that expand the line to an object.

When you expanded your object make a “arc lower” using Effects–>arc–>arc lower from the top menu.
Give it settings like I did or use your own by messing around a little bit.

When you completed your mouth expand it.
You can apply a nice gradient if you want. The gradient tool [g] let’s you choose where the gradient should be placed.

Well the mole is having a big neck right now (and more importantly, it’s hovering).
Create an oval using the oval tool [L].

There’s still a part of the body sticking from beneath the grass.
Duplicate the oval by copy [ctl]+[c] — past to front [ctrl]+[f]
When you did this select the lowest anchor point of the shape using direct selection tool [a] and drag it down.
Don’t do this by scaling the picture. This would ruin the rounding of the upper part of the oval.

Use the pathfinder tool (minus front) to remove the lower parts of the mole.

If you are doing it right. The original oval should still be there but every detail on the face is gone…
This is because Illustrator put the altered shape in front of everything. Right-click the object and select arrange–>send to back [ctrl]+[shift]+[[].

Make a second (little bit bigger) oval under the edges of the ground oval (spacecraft mole :) )
And use the option minus front to cut the oval to a nice half moon.

Finish you mole up with some light effects (gradients).
You got a mole.

This was my end result

This was my end result (on a shirt)
click here to check the shirt

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.

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  1. Andrew April 11, 2012

    Where I’m stuck is how to save the vector so that when you upload it to Spreadshirt and select 2 colors, Spreadshirt then allows you to actually select different colors for different aspects of the design. I’ve seen it done, I just can’t see to figure out how folks are doing it.

    • Amonfog April 11, 2012

      Here are some tips:
      Make sure all objects you draw are at least 5mm thick. Don’t use effects or stoke colors. Make it pure color objects. Then save it as an illustrator 7 eps or ai. Newer versions don’t work. You can do that by saving as, choosing a name and selecting older version in the last menu before the project is saved

      Then upload your design (you need an account). Spreadshirt will review it and add it to your library after 3 days or so. But remember: you can only have 3 designs in vector on your account after that you have to sell some before you upload new ones.

      Other thingy: saving as png with transparrent background is pretty good with spreadshirt as well. I’ve been having the owl shirt (png design) for a year now and after washing it for almost 90 times and my shirt is still in a very good state! actually the shirt itself starts decaying but the design is still perfect

      Good luck and thanks for replying


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