turning sketch to vector title

Turning Your Sketch into a Vector Graphic

Adobe Illustrator is a powerful program for designers. It’s one of the best ways to turn a pencil and paper sketch into a refined vector illustration. Turning a good concept into a vector definitely gives it a professional feel and the potential colors chosen can really make it stand out. It’s also a good stepping stone for some great character designing as well! This tutorial will show you how I make characters from sketch to vector and maybe you can learn something new along the way.


Lets start with opening up a new document in Illustrator.


paste your scanned sketch

Baseball season is upon us and I thought I would turn this sketch of a little league baseball kid into a finished vector image. You can go about putting the sketch in your file in a couple different ways.

First you can Copy and Paste your sketch onto the artboard or you can Go into File > Place and find your image on your computer.

turn down opacity and lock layer

Once your file is on the artboard, adjust the size and position of the image as needed. Then drop the Opacity down to 20-30% and lock your sketch layer. This will be your guide layer. Next add a new layer for your outline area. I’ve named my layers for better organization.

add new layer and start creating simple shapes

Now it’s time to add in the outlines of this little guy. Use simple shapes and your Pen Tool to get the shapes you need. The Scissors Tool is also another wonderful tool to remove unneeded parts of the simple shapes.

use scissor tool

Go on to keep outlining your sketch. A nice tip for beginners when using the Pen Tool that will save you LOADS of time is press Enter every time you want to create a new line somewhere else.

expand your stroke

Now that the sketch is outlined it’s time to expand those strokes. Go into Object>Expand and Check the Fill and Stroke fields.

adjust lines to give lines more dimension

If you like the uniform line look you can skip this part, but if you want to adjust line thickness along the outline use your Direct Selection Tool to select vector points and move them around to get the look you are looking for.

create a new layer for colors

Once you have adjusted your line thickness. Lock your outline area layer and create a new layer under your outline layer. This will be the layer where you will add in colors.

add color using pen tool

Use your Pen Tool and select any Color Fill you want. Start clicking around the outline and you will notice the color is filling up the areas you are working on. Continue to do that with each area you want to see color in.



get the main fill in there

Now that your character is colored, Lock your color layer and add in a couple new layers for your shadows and highlights. I find that if I don’t like how the image is highlighted I can just delete the highlight layer and not worry about ruining the rest of the image.

add in your shadow

Let’s start with the shadows. I changed my Fill Color to black and dropped the Opacity down to 20. Take your Pen Tool and start creating points.

go around and get shows in areas

A little bit of shadow goes a long ways so be a little sparing and don’t over do it. The results make your image look more interesting with the added implied depth.

add in your highlights

Just like shadows, highlights are the same way. Be sparing. Change your fill color to white and drop the Opacity down to about 40% or so.

before and after!

And here we have it! A little leaguer cartoon! You can add in your own background or throw him in Photoshop to add in textures or stick him in a photo scene.


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