In any vector software, the gradient vector tool is probably the most simple and effective tool to create shadows on a character or an object! However, this simple tool, if not used properly, can create some ugly cartoon images! When mixed with other shadows or textures, some colors will become very difficult to see!
On the images below, I will show you some examples of what you should and should not do with the gradient tool in order to create a great cartoon character!
Note: This tutorial was made using Xara vector application. Some effects might not be available in your software.
In this image, the first character is filled with plain colors. No gradient effects, no shadows or useless lighting effects! The second character is filled using the gradient tool. However, I created a shadow that is long and visible on most of the character's surface.
The third image is also filled using the gradient tool, but this time, the shadow is small and very subtle. Much better than image #2! On the fourth image, only the orientation of the gradient effect has been changed. The light seems to come from the right side of the character instead from the top.
You can also apply some different filters when working with the gradient tool. In this example, the first image was made using a circular effect while the second was made using three colors instead of two.
The third image was created with fractal clouds while the fourth is done using a conical effect! Notice that even if all these effects are great, they are not really relevant with the character used for this tutorial!
A simple cartoon will always be more effective than a complex one created with multiple shadows and lighting effects! Combining textures, shadows and colors is not an easy task!
Here, the first image is done without any effect while #2 and #3 are made with simple, but different shadow effects. However, when combining these two drawings together, the character becomes harder to read and not interesting to look at.
Using only one technique to create shadows might be a better solution to create nice and clean characters!
That's it for this gradient vector tool tutorial!