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By Lauren Harmon | Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Deke's Techniques: Drawing an Angry Birds-like character

Are you a fan of a particularly popular game featuring a group of agitated birds and noisy green pigs? Well, in this week’s installment of Deke’s Techniques, Deke McClelland shows you how to create your very own “grumpy bird” with Adobe Illustrator. Let’s get started.

Follow along with Deke in this week’s free video and use the companion text below to help with each step.

  1. First select the large red circle in the center of the composition and choose Effect > Warp > Shell Lower. Select Horizontal and change Bend to 4%. Change Vertical Distortion to 6%. Click OK. This warped shape will comprise the bird’s body.

Build the bird's body.

  1. Now select magenta ellipse, which is the starting shape for the feathers. Choose Effect > Distort & Transform > Transform. Dial in a Rotate value of -30% and click on the bottom-center point of the reference matrix in the dialog box. Change the Copies option to 3 to create three of these feathers. Click OK.

Create the feathers.

  1. To make the feathers look more feather-like, choose Effect > Warp > Shell Upper again. Change Bend to 5% and Vertical Distortion to 0%. Click OK.
  2. Choose Warp > Effect > Flag and if Illustrator asks you to confirm, choose Apply New Effect. Change Bend to 20% and Vertical Distortion to -10%. Click OK.

Make the feathers more realistic.

  1. Next select both the body and your feather shapes and choose Object > Group or use the keyboard shortcut Cmd+G (Mac) or Ctrl+G (Windows).
  2. Change the fill color of all the objects in your group to an appropriately “angry” color and then turn on the layer named rear. Click the meatball for rear.

Tip: The “meatball” is what Illustrator fans have termed the little circle to the right of the layer name. Among other things, it allows you to select everything on a layer.

Create the meatball.

  1. Change the blend mode of the rear layer to Screen. Then switch to the Appearance panel and change the blend mode of the same layer’s fill to Multiply.

In this step, you’re basically combining Multiply and Screen to create a custom effect.

Blend the layers.

  1. Return to the Layers panel and select the shad layer. Then choose Object > Ungroup. You’ll see this is a set of overlapping ellipses or circles. We want to cut the front ellipses from the back one.

Separate the overlapping ellipses.

  1. Open the Pathfinder panel. Hold down the Alt (Windows) or Option (Mac) key and click Minus Front to create a compound shape.
  2. Change the Opacity of the shad layer to 33%.
  3. Now we’ll add the corresponding highlights. Return to the Layers panel, select the high layer, click the meatball, and press Ctrl+Shift+G (Windows) or Cmd+Shift+G (Mac) to ungroup them.

  4. Open the Pathfinder panel. Hold down the Alt (Windows) or Option (Mac) key and click Minus Front to create another compound shape.

  5. Change the fill of these objects (the two ellipses) to the same color as the body and feathers of the bird. Change the blend mode of the entire layer to Screen.

Blend the highlights into the body and feathers.

  1. Choose the Direct Selection tool and press Ctrl+Y (Windows) or Cmd+Y (Mac) to switch to Preview mode. Alt-click or Option-click the narrow ellipse that represents the feathers. Press Ctrl+Y or Cmd+Y again to exit Preview mode.

Preview the feather outline.

  1. Create a copy of this path outline, open the topmost sublayer (another compound shape) in the bird layer, and click the meatball to target the bottom ellipse. Choose Edit > Paste in Front.

This pastes the ellipse—and all of its dynamic effects—into this compound shape.

  1. Open the Pathfinder panel and Alt-click or Option-click the Unite option. (You have to hold down Alt or Option because you’re working inside a compound shape.)
  2. Double-click the Direct Selection tool to open the Move dialog. Change Horizontal to –8 and Vertical to –1. Click Copy.
  3. Return to the Pathfinder panel. Once again, hold down the Alt (Windows) or Option (Mac) key and click Minus Front to create a compound shape.

  4. Switch to the Pen tool and draw a path outline around the extra triangular highlight on the left side of the bird. The path doesn’t have to be exact; just make sure you cover the highlight.

Create a compound shape.

  1. Switch to the Selection tool, select your new path outline, and choose Edit > Cut. Now return to the Layers panel, select the bottommost ellipse that we’ve been working with all along, and choose Edit > Paste in Front.
  2. Return to the Pathfinder panel. Once again, hold down the Alt (Windows) or Option (Mac) key and click Minus Front to create a compound shape.

  3. Twirl the compound shape layer closed and then target the bottommost sublayer of the bird layer by clicking on its meatball. Choose Edit > Copy. Now target the topmost sublayer of the bird layer and choose Edit > Paste in Front.

  4. With the current layer still targeted, choose Object > Expand Appearance to transform these dynamic effects into static path outlines.

  5. Return to the Pathfinder panel and choose Unite to fuse the outlines together.

  6. Now choose Edit > Cut and click the meatball for the bird layer itself.

  7. Open the Transparency panel and click Make Mask. This creates a black opacity mask thumbnail that indicates everything on the layer is now transparent.

Build the opacity mask.

  1. Click the opacity mask thumbnail and choose Edit > Paste in Front.
  2. Change the bird’s fill in the opacity mask to white using the Fill option in the Control panel.

Change the fill to white.

  1. Click the thumbnail next to the opacity mask to return to the composition in progress inside the Layers panel.
  2. Target the top sublayer of the bird layer again and choose Edit > Paste in Front. Change its Fill to None, change the Stroke to black, and increase the Line Weight to 6 points.

p style=”text-align: center;”>Add the outline stroke.

And that completes this week’s technique. The result is a volumetric cartoon body for your very own grumpy bird, complete with shadows and highlights, as built in Illustrator.

p style=”text-align: center;”>The final artwork.

If you’re a member of the lynda.com library, check out the two follow-up videos where Deke shows you how to create the character’s tail and then draw your bird’s snarling face.

Next week, Deke shows how to create a sunny and rather pastoral setting for your character. Stay tuned!

Learn more:

• The entire Deke’s Techniques collection • Photoshop CS6 One-on-One: Intermediate • Illustrator CS6 One-on-One: IntermediateStart a free trial membership at lynda.com

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