Today we will create a portrait of an adorable cartoon polar bear. This tutorial is adapted for beginners, and it is very easy to follow. And, as always, we’ll use basic shapes and warp effects.
If you want any inspiration for your polar bear or for any added designs/decorations, then feel free to check GraphicRiver. You will find hundreds of illustrations there, all from different designers/illustrators. So grab your computer and a cup of coffee, and let’s get started!
1. How to Create the Polar Bear’s Head
Create a new document (File > New) with 850 px Width and 1000 px Height.
Let’s start with the head. Delete the stroke color and set the fill color as you see in the image below. Take the Ellipse Tool (L) and create a grey ellipse that almost resembles a circle.
Next, we will apply the Inflate effect to this ellipse. Go to Effect > Warp > Inflate. Enter the options you see below. Expand this shape (Object > Expand Appearance). You will end up with a very rounded trapezoid.
For the ears, let’s start by drawing another ellipse. Using the Direct Selection Tool (A), select the left and right anchor points of the oval and move them up. Make another copy of this shape (Control-C, Control-V), change it to a slightly darker color, make it a bit smaller, and place it inside the larger one. This will be his ear.
Place the whole ear on the left side of the head, and rotate it a little to the left. To place the ear behind the head, select the whole ear and press Control-X, and then Control-B.
Take the Reflect Tool (O) and, while holding down the Alt key, click on the forehead. In the new dialogue window, select Vertical, Angle 90 degrees and press Copy. You should now have two ears on the bear’s head.
For the eye, first create a grey oval (use the Ellipse Tool (L)). Then create a light grey oval in front of the grey one (use Control-C, Control-F). Rotate it slightly to the left.
Next, create a dark grey circle and place it in front of the white oval. To make an even circle, use the Ellipse Tool (L) while holding down the Shift key.
Finish the eye with a tiny white circle as the highlight. In the end, group the whole eye (right-click > Group).
Place the eye on the left side of the head, and rotate it a little to the left. Take the Reflect Tool (O) and, while holding down the Alt key, click the forehead. In the new dialogue window, select Vertical, Angle 90 degrees and press Copy. You should now have two eyes.
For the bear’s muzzle, create a horizontally aligned light grey oval. Using the Direct Selection Tool (A), move down the left and right anchor points of this oval. To add a nose, create a small dark oval and place it in front of the grey one. Using the Convert Anchor Point Tool (Shift-C), make the bottom point of the small oval sharp: while keeping the ellipse selected, click on the bottom anchor point—this point should be sharp now. The muzzle is ready!
Place the muzzle on the head. And now we have the head of our bear.
2. How to Create the Pullover of the Bear
Again, we will start with the Ellipse Tool (L) and create a red ellipse that almost resembles a circle. Next, we will apply the Inflate effect to this shape (just as we did for the head). Go to Effect > Warp > Inflate. Enter the options you see below. Expand this shape (Object > Expand Appearance). This will be the pullover’s basic shape.
Next, we will work on the decorative pattern on the bear’s warm pullover.
First, delete the fill color and set the stroke color. Draw a line using the Line Segment Tool (). To have a straight line, hold the Shift key while drawing the line.
Now we will modify this line; go to Effect > Distort & Transform > Zig Zag. In the Zig Zag options window, adjust the Size and Ridges per segment to achieve a similar zig-zag as in the image below. Don’t forget to select Points: Corner. For your convenience, select Preview while adjusting these options.
Hit the Polygon Tool and create a polygon with 6 sides (6 sides came by default). Keep it selected and go to Effect > Distort & Transform > Pucker & Bloat… In the new dialogue window, move your slider to the left end, to get -200%, and then press OK.
You should end up with a snowflake-like shape.
Create another copy of the snowflake and set it aside—you’ll need it later.
While holding the Shift and Alt keys, drag the snowflake to the right. This way, you’ll create a second copy of the snowflake, which will be horizontally aligned. While the newly created snowflake is selected, press Control-D a few more times to repeat the previous step and create a group of snowflakes exactly the same distance from each other. Group them for your convenience (right-click > Group).
Now we will continue by making the decorations for the pullover.
First, draw a thick line using the Line Segment Tool (), using the red stroke color and no fill color. You probably remember that to have a straight line, you have to hold the Shift key while drawing the line. While creating your pattern, you can use your imagination and make a decoration you like. The dotted line is created using the method as the snowflake decoration, just by using circles instead of snowflakes.
As you can see, I made my decorations in a slightly rounded shape. You don’t have to worry about making yours like this (but you can if you want to), because we will be trimming it later on.
Now group the entire decorative pattern (right-click > Group) and place it in front of the pullover’s base shape. Next, while keeping the grouped decoration selected, go to Effect > Warp > Arc. In the new window, adjust the options you can see in the image below.
Be sure your transformed decoration is wider than the pullover’s base shape. Then expand this decoration (Object > Expand Appearance). Now it is very important to expand one more time, but this time go to Object > Expand, and then OK.
Now we need to cut off the unnecessary parts of the decoration. Make a copy of the pullover’s base shape in front (Control-C, Control-F), cut it off (Control-X), and place it in front of everything (Control-F). Here’s a little help: when you create a copy in front of the pullover’s basic shape, this copy will appear just in front of the pullover’s base shape, not in front of the decoration which we created.
Then we need to cut off the copy and place it in front of everything, but this time in front of the pullover’s base shape and ornamental decoration.
While keeping this copy in front and the ornament selected, press Crop in the Pathfinder panel (Window > Pathfinder). You will end up with the pullover’s base shape with a resized piece of decoration on it.
Place the decorated pullover behind the head of our bear. Make sure you grouped the entire polar bear (right-click > Group).
3. How to Create the Background
Using the Rectangle Tool (M), create an 850 x 1000 px rectangle with no stroke and the fill color presented below.
Create an oval in the middle.
Place the bear on the background as shown in the image below. Notice that the bear’s bottom part should be below the oval.
Next, select the darker blue oval and make a copy of it in front of the bear (Control-C, Control-F), cut it off (Control-X), and place it in front of everything (Control-F).
After that, select the bear and the front copy of the oval and go to Object > Clipping Mask > Make (Control-7). This action will hide the part of the bear’s body beyond the oval, making it look like a portrait.
4. How to Create the Spruce Frame
Delete the fill color for this oval and set the stroke color that you see in the image below. Create an oval, which is almost the same size as the blue oval from the background. Draw a few more of these ovals. Make sure that they are a bit uneven.
Using the Arc Tool (), add a few curves to these ovals.
Now use the Line Segment Tool () to draw the spruce needles. Lower the stroke Weight on the Stroke panel, set a green stroke color, and add a lot of small needles on the branches.
Set a lighter stroke color and add more needles to our spruce. Make sure that your final design is nice and full.
Two different circles placed as in the image below will make up the berry. Notice how the smaller circle is darker than the bigger one—that’s what you want to get.
Now, create a couple more copies of that berry. For your convenience, group the whole berry together. Now arrange the berries on the spruce branches. To make your design more realistic, place a couple of the berries close together, instead of them being scattered throughout. You can follow the image below or create it as you want!
Remember how you set aside one of the snowflakes? Take it now, change its fill color to white, and make a couple more copies of it. Now scatter these pretty randomly over the whole illustration to add a little bit of magic.
Select all the snowflakes (Select > Same > Appearance), and on the Transparency panel, change its Opacity to Soft Light, because you want to make them transparent.
You are done!
Hopefully you learned some useful tips and tricks by following this tutorial. I also really hope that I made it clear enough so you can understand it well. I think this design turned out pretty full, but of course, if you want any more ideas—for example, more decoration—go over to GraphicRiver and find some more inspiration. Well, that’s it! I would love to see your work and your style! See you next time!