Learning a few creativity techniques can be a good idea if the creation process is something you are not comfortable with. It's my goal to show you how to create a nice cartoon character while giving you a few insights on the creation process.
To do so, I have created a project which involves a fictional client who is requesting a cartoon tomato for a website selling recipes. The client needs a cute character that is colorful, happy and friendly. This character will be used to create the logo of the site.
The first step is obviously to create a simple tomato. I could start right away with a head, a body, arms and legs, but I think it's more relevant to come up with the shape of the tomato first.
Since a tomato is similar to an apple, I need to get the shape right.
Of course, this shape will be modified later when other details are added. If necessary, I can come back later once the appropriate illustration is selected to make sure that the final shape is similar to this one.
As you can see, the shape of the tomato is already not the same as the one above. Don't worry, it's all part of the creation process! Since the client wants a happy character, I think it could be a good idea to create a large smile and show a few teeth.
My cartoon tomato is still quite simple, but for now I can create a few variations and see how it looks! I like the round eyes, but maybe it could be great to test a few different shapes!
For this version, the eyes are made with oval shapes and the smile is even more visible than it was before. The oval eyes are not bad, but the smile is definitely distracting. Although it could be a great character for a comic strip, this is not relevant with the demands of my virtual client.
Learning a few creativity techniques also means trying a lot of different stuff. Sometimes, even if I'm 100% sure that adding a new element won't work, I will give it a try anyway. It could lead to something unexpected.
Eyebrows can play an important role when defining whether a character is happy or not. Obviously it works great for this character, but the bottom part of the eyes (the flat part) doesn't add anything essential. In fact, I think it's too distracting.
The smile is good compared to the two previous drawings, but once again, I am not sure that I should keep a large smile like this one on my cartoon character.
Closed eyes are good when expressing happiness. With a smile like that, no doubt that the tomato is extremely happy. The smile is similar to the one used previously, but it's more efficient here. Still, I am not convinced that closed eyes are my best choice.
I need to create something more surprising and maybe this could lead to a new idea. Let's move on with the next illustration to learn new creativity techniques.
Sometimes I come up with ideas that seem pretty good in my mind. Once I apply these new ideas, things don't look so good anymore. This was the case here. The character is good, but this cartoon tomato looks more sleepy than happy.
The smile is not large enough and the eyes are not very convincing. It's now time to move on and try something different and more creative!
Since I feel like I am not progressing enough, I think I will try something completely different. Smaller eyes, a long nose and a good set of teeth. That is part of my new attempt. This cartoon tomato is great, but is it really what I need?
Once again, I am not convinced that this is the best character for this project. Maybe a simple smile (you know, just a straight line) would be better. I need to make more sketches to come up with new ideas.
As soon as this drawing was finished, I knew I wasn't on the right track. The dots that illustrate the eyes are too small, the mouth is too large and the shape of the tomato is kind of strange.
The mouth is definitely not a good idea, but maybe I could do something nice with the eyes. They just need to be bigger and rounder. Maybe I should create more sketches... again...
I went for a similar character, but this time the eyes are more polished, more pleasant to look at. The body is perfect and the smile is nice. No teeth are visible. Did I find the perfect cartoon tomato?
Maybe, but personally, I really like when cartoon characters are created with a big round eye with a pupil in it. In this case, I think it could be better to remove the dots and go back to the previous set of eyes that I was using in the first step of these creativity techniques.
One thing is now clear: teeth are not necessarily the best choice to depict a smiling cartoon character. I am also pretty sure that keeping these big round eyes can make the character more lovable, more enjoyable.
The open mouth is nice, but maybe it's a little bit too much for the emotion needed here. After all, the cartoon character needs to be happy, not super excited! Maybe a simple curved line could do the job.
Since I am still looking for the best tomato possible, I tried to draw a few more illustrations. In this case, I went for a character with eyes that were separated.
I also kept the mouth slightly opened. This new subtle smile does look great, but I am still convinced that a curved line would be enough. Don't worry, we are getting close! These creativity techniques are getting even more interesting now!
This attempt is not very good. Separate eyes are not working great in this case and the addition of a nose simply confirms that this one won't be needed in the final illustration.
Sure, this funny tomato looks quite happy, but I don't think that this character is cute enough to be selected as the best tomato I have done so far. It could work in other circumstances, but not for this project.
Now that I know that the eyes should be round and filled with pupils, I decided to try one more thing: smaller eyes that are almost touching each other. Once again, this character is not bad, but it's not what I am looking for.
I have made up my mind. I want a cute character with big round eyes, a simple line to create the smile and no nose. I just need to find the right posture and a good balance between the size of the eyes and the rest of the body.
One thing I did not try so far was adding legs and arms to the cartoon tomato. Although it would make the character even more adorable and fun, since my client wants a logo for a website that sells recipe, is it really relevant?
I don't think so. It could be a great character for a website aimed at children, but for this project, this type of illustration is not recommended.
These new attempts below are designed to help me figure out a few things. Should I keep a round body? Should I create a character looking on the side? Should the eyes be touching each other or not?
Should the eyes fill a bigger space on the face? Should I create one large eye and a small one? Should I keep the eyebrows or not? So many questions when trying a few creativity techniques!
The answers can be found below!
Of course, these are not absolute rules, but only the ones that I need to create the perfect character for this particular project. As you can see, there are a lot of things that needs to be considered when creating a single cartoon character.
This cute tomato! Simple, made with nice circular shapes. In my opinion, this character represents exactly what the client wants.
No need to come up with something complex, filled with hundreds lines to create the desired emotion... only a simple circle filled with simple shapes. But the project is not over yet!
Now I need to create a vector version out of it! Don't worry! The toughest part about learning a few creativity techniques is now over!
Now that the sketching part is over, we need to create a colorful vector illustration using the appropriated software. Since vector file are easy to create and modified, we can test a few alternatives later on and see what fits better. It's time to use these creativity techniques to our advantage.
Great! The result is exactly what I expected! The character is simple, adorable and perfect to be used for a logo or a brand. Now I need to make sure that the design and style of the character are suitable for the website of my client.
The great thing with vector illustrations is that you can easily add simple shadows to come up with something more realistic and professional. Let's use the gradient tool and see how it goes!
Indeed, the result is already more convincing. Plain characters are great, but maybe more appropriated for website dedicated to children. In this case, I want a cute character, but also an image that doesn't look like something made for a baby's brand or something.
However, it's now great enough yet. Dark outlines are nice, but you can also create a cute cartoon character using no outlines at all. Let's move on to the final chapter of our creativity techniques.
This illustration is perfect! See how the absence of outlines, the subtle shadows and the addition of a few shapes to create more depth can make a huge difference! You don't need to come up with original creativity techniques to reach your goal. Just a simple character well-executed can be perfect!