Design a Product Mascot using Illustrator

The Michelin Man

The Michelin Man has accompanied
the tyre company since 1894

Mascots have become hugely popular across the web. Although they feel more like a 50’s TV-era invention to me, they actually have their origins in a much earlier time than you’d guess.

It was way back in the 1870’s that Quaker Oats trademarked ‘a man in Quaker garb’. Later in the 1890’s, Michelin introduced ‘Bibendu’, the Michelin Man who is still the public face of the company over 120 years later.

Mascots can help establish a brand by giving it a more friendly, warm and inviting look. Since we use the social parts of our brain to assess characters — instead of our analytical language centers — a successful mascot can evoke a more emotional response than a standard logotype.

Mascots are certainly an effective way of quickly setting a site mood. Moreover, a strong character helps visitors to connect more easily with your site by making it more memorable. It serves as a brand identity that people can relate to.

Today I am going to show you how to create your own effective mascot in Adobe Illustrator. While you would presumably want to create your own original design, the basic techniques we’re using should form a great base for you to take off in your own direction.

Before we start, there are few things that should be considered while designing a mascot:

Be Versatile

Your mascot should be versatile as its going to be used throughout your branding campaign, emails, business cards, letters and packaging.

Keep it Simple

Use a minimalist approach while designing your mascot that help people identify with them easily.

Make it Evergreen

Establishing a brand takes lot of efforts and time. Try to make your mascot timeless as its going to represent your company for years to come.

But perhaps you’re thinking ‘Aren’t product mascots an old-fashioned idea better suited to sugary breakfasts than modern web practices?

If so, feast your eyes on a few of these inspiring examples of characters in web design.

4 website screenshots with characters

Four different approaches to web mascots Silverback app, Designzillas , Four Informant , Moourl

Keeping all the basics in mind now I’ll show you how to create a simple but effective character in illustrator.

Before we get started, let’s have a peek at the final artwork so we know where we’re heading.

Final result:

The Final result: A one-eyed blue monster

Step 1:

Create a new file

Create a new document in illustrator with 500px width and 400px height.

Step 2:

You can choose any color you want your character to be. I used #1B75BB fill color. Now pick the Rounded Rectangle Tool and click the canvas to view options window. Enter 135px for width, 106px for height and 80px for corner radius to draw the shape as mine.

Now pick the Rounded Rectangle Tool

Step 3:

Select this shape by clicking the ring-shaped target present at right side of respective layer and go to “Effect”> “Stylize”> “Inner Glow”. Apply given settings here.

Apply style effects

Step 4:

Now create a new layer by clicking the icon of “Create New Layer” present at the bottom of layers panel and pick the Pen Tool (“P”) to draw two spiky projections as shown below. You can try projections of various types to make a unique character.

Adding spikey appendages

Next, we’ll copy this shape for the right side of character. To do so, select the shape and go to “Object”> “Transform”> “Reflect”. Now choose vertical axis and press “Copy”. Position the copy over the right side. After that, select both sides’ shapes and press “Unite” shape mode in the pathfinder panel (“Shift + Ctrl + F9”).

Copy this shape for the right side of character

You can make these spikes by drawing a triangle using Pen Tool (“P”). Now click the center of top border using Pen Tool (“P”) to add an anchor point and hit the option of “Convert selected anchor points to smooth” in the top control bar.

Now use Direct Selection Tool (“A”) to drag this anchor point upwards to make it curve. Similarly, add an anchor point along the lower border and curve it upwards.

Use Direct Selection Tool

Step 5:

NowCreate a new layer below rest of the shapes and draw few hair spikes using Pen Tool (“P”). Select them and apply given settings for Inner Glow.

Step 6:

Next, we’ll draw our character’s arm. Pick the Rounded Rectangle Tool and draw a rectangle of 18px width, 97px height. Corner radius should be 80px. After that, select the Direct Selection Tool (“A”) and click and drag the top two anchor points inwards a bit as shown below. Now select the shape and go to “Object”> “Transform”> “Rotate”. Enter “-30” for the angle to rotate it. Once again, select the arm and go to “Effect”> “Warp”> “Arc”, apply given settings here. Once you are done, go to “Object”> “Expand Appearance” to modify the shape.

Draw our character’s arm

Warp the arm

Step 7:

Select the arm and apply given settings for Inner Glow. And reflect it around a vertical axis as we reflected the body spikes in step4. Make sure to hit the “Copy” and drag it towards right side.

character7

Step 8:

Next, we’ll draw its leg using Pen Tool (“P”). Select the shape and apply same settings for Inner Glow as applied for the arm and reflect its copy. Drag and position the copy over the right side as shown below.

Create legs

Step 9:

To draw the eye, pick #58585B fill color and select the Ellipse Tool (“L”). Click the canvas to view the ellipse window and enter 51px for width and 55px for height. Now click and drag the top anchor point downwards using Direct Selection Tool (“A”). Label it as “Base”.

character9

Step 10:

Select the base and go to “Object”> “Path”> “Offset Path” and offset the path by 3px. Now change the new path fill color #146093, select it and go to “Effect”> “Blur”> “Gaussian Blur”. Apply 8px Gaussian blur effect on it.

character10

Step 11:

Once again, select the base shape and offset it by -1px. Drag it one-step downwards. Change its fill color to white and give it a 0.5pt dark gray stroke.

character11

Select the shape and go to “Window”> “Appearance” (Shift + F6). Select the Fill attribute and click on the icon of “Duplicate Selected Item” at the bottom of appearance panel. Pick black & white gradient as the 2nd fill and decrease its opacity to 20%.

character11b

Step 12:

To make the shadow over the eyeball, select the base shape; press Ctrl + “C” to copy it and then press Ctrl+ “F” twice to make two copies in front. Now drag the top most copy 4-5 steps downwards, select both the copies and hit “Minus Front” in the pathfinder panel. Once you are done, apply 4px Gaussian blur effect on it and decrease its opacity to 40%.

character12

To make highlights draw a curve path using Pen Tool (“P”), make fill to “none” and pick white stroke (1pt). Make sure to choose “width profile 1” for the stroke. Reflect the highlight for the other side.

character12b

Step 13:

Pick #27A9E1 fill color with a black stroke (Stroke weight: 1pt) and draw a small ellipse using Ellipse Tool. Select the ellipse and apply given settings for the Inner Glow.

character13

Draw two more ellipses as shown below.

character13b

Step 14:

Next, select the blue ellipse and go to “Distort & Transform”> “Pucker & Bloat” and apply given settings here. After that, go to “Distort & Transform”> “Roughen” and use following settings.

character14

Step 15:

Now we’ll illustrate its mouth. Pick #564D49 fill color and #404041 color for the stroke and draw two ellipses as shown below. Select them and hit “Minus Front” in the Pathfinder panel. After that, select the mouth and apply given values for Inner Glow.

character15

Select the mouth shape and offset it by 4px. After that, change its fill color to #2E8DCC, make stroke to “none” and apply 8x Gaussian blur effect on it.

character15b

Step 16:

Next, draw a curve using Pen Tool (“P”) with #404041 stroke (1pt). After that, draw the tongue and teeth and apply given Inner Glow settings on them. You can try more pointy or rectangular teeth if you like.

character16

For the shading, draw a small ellipse using #58585B fill color and make its reflected copy. Select both ellipses and apply 16px Gaussian blur effect on it.

character16b

Step 17:

Now create highlights over the eye and tongue and shading over the body using the same technique as explained in step16. However, use “Overlay” blending mode for the shading shapes over the body with 40-60% opacity.

character17

Step 18:

Next, make two curves over each other as shown below and apply 5px Gaussian blur effect on it.

character18

Step 19:

Duplicate the curves formed in step18 and position them below the eye ball.

character19

Step 20:

Next, draw a shape roughly below the rest of the layers to make shadow with black fill color and apply 14px Gaussian blur effect on it.

character20

The Final result: A one-eyed blue monster

So, there it is!

Now obviously you’ll want to create your own unique design, but using these simple tips and techniques you can easily create your very own character.

I would love to see your results!

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  • Kalpesh Singh

    Hi Anum,

    Amazing tutorial.

    I loved this single eye character. Have you named it? LOL

  • tfwebdesign Cape Town

    Honestly Anum…it is a great post for graphic lovers….+1 to you…. keep sharing.. :)

  • http://www.designfacet.com/ Sean Jamshidi

    Very cute and entertaining :)

  • http://writingaproposal.net/ Pamela Hacks

    This is a great tutorial. I especially loved learning how to make cartoon eyes.