How to design a cute alien character in Illustrator and Photoshop

First of all I’d like to wish you a happy and successful new year! May all your dreams come true. So what do I have in store for you this time? A nice little Illustrator and Photoshop tutorial.

The inspiration

Well to be honest with you this has nothing to do with what I originally planned, kind of a usual tendency in my case… I initially thought of drawing a nice vintage spaceship tutorial and while browsing the net for some inspiration I came upon flying saucers as well. If you think about it, it definitely makes sense as I was searching for, “SPACESHIPS”! Anyhow I jumped in Illustrator and started drawing up my superbly amazing awesome flying saucer… Now that I’m back on solid ground let’s call it my above average nonetheless intriguingly cool flying saucer… Once I was done I told myself: “Well this feels a little empty, I mean what’s the point of having an unoccupied UFO?”. That’s when I got the most original idea I’ve had all year: “Why don’t I add a alien occupant?”. Indulge me, it’s only January… After completing the design and adding the final touches I got my second most original idea of the year: “Let’s make this a tutorial and have everybody benefit from it!”. So now you know How I got to this point, let’s move along shall we?

Alien Character final illustration

Here is what we’ll be recreating, and we’ll be starting with Illustrator.

Step 1

Alien Character - step 1

Let’s open up Illustrator and create a new document that’s 1000px by 1000px (The dimensions you choose aren’t really important, however, make sure to apply the ones you do pick to the Photoshop document we’ll be creating afterwards). Grab the oval tool by pressing the [L] key. Draw an oval sensibly in the same proportions as the one above. Apply a three color radial gradient using the following color for the outer and inner colors: #808080. Use a darker gray, #333333, for the middle color. Give the inner color a slider position of 30% and the middle color a position of 65%.

Step 2

Alien Character - step 2

Select the circle you’ve just created and copy and paste it directly on top of the original by pressing [Ctrl + C] and [Ctrl + F]. Give it a fill color of #808080. Reduce it’s size and nudge it upwards. Now repeat the copy and paste process with the newly created circle and give it a linear gradient using the colors #1A1A1A and #FFFFFF.

Step 3

Alien Character - step 3

Copy and paste the mid circle using the [Ctrl + C] and [Ctrl + F] combo. Grab the direct selection tool, [Ctrl + A], and nudge the bottom anchor point down a bit. Now grab the handle bars and while holding the [Shift] key, drag out to the sides to alter the shapes initial curves. Select the object and send it backwards in the staking order by right clicking on it and choosing Arrange->Send Backwards.

Step 4

Alien Character - step 4

Give the shape a radial gradient using the following color for the inner part: #808080, and #333333 for the outer part. Give the inner color a slider position of 30% and the outer color a position of 65%. Adjust the gradient as shown in the illustration using the gradient tool.

Step 5

Alien Character - step 5

With the Pen Tool draw the glass cover and give it an opacity of 60%. Quick tip: anytime I have to draw a perfectly symmetrical object I use symmetry, logical right? Here’s what I mean: Just draw half of the object and copy and paste it using the [Ctrl + C] and [Ctrl + F] combo. Select the object and reflect it by right clicking on it and choosing Transform->Reflect. On the dialog box that will come up, select Vertical and press OK. Now all that’s left is to align it with the other object and unite the two objects by selecting them and, using the pathfinder tool, clicking on Unite.

Step 6

Alien Character - step 6

Let’s take care of the two shine effects on the glass cover. I tend ti recycle objects to a max when I’m working with Illustrator. For this shine effect we’re going to copy and paste the initial glass cover shape twice and subtly play around with their position and size. The two objects in question are highlighted here in magenta and green. You can actually distinguish the shape we’re aiming for just by seeing the magenta portion. All that’s left now is to select the two of them and, using the Pathfinder Tool, select Minus Front.

Step 7

Alien Character - step 7

Repeat this process for the bottom shape to give a result similar to what’s displayed in the image above. Now give them a fill color of #FFFFFF and the top shape an opacity of 50% and the bottom one an opacity of 25%.

Step 8

Alien Character - step 8

Copy and paste the underlying circle using [Ctrl + C] and [Ctrl + F]. Grab the direct selection tool, [Ctrl + A], and nudge the bottom anchor point down a bit. Now grab the handle bars and while holding the [Shift] key, drag out to the sides to alter the shapes initial curves. Select the object and send it backwards in the staking order by right clicking on it and choosing Arrange->Send Backwards.

Step 9

Alien Character - step 9

Give the shape a radial gradient using the following color for the inner part: #808080, and #1A1A1A for the outer part. Adjust the gradient as shown in the illustration using the gradient tool.

Step 10

Alien Character - step 10

With the Pen Tool draw the first part of the object that will constitute the left side strut. Give it a 135° linear gradient using #808080 for the top color, and #333333 for the bottom.

Step 11

Alien Character - step 11

Repeat this step for the second part of the object however this time the gradient will have an orientation of 90° and use #1A1A1A for the top color and #808080 for the bottom color. Give the inner color a slider position of 25% and the outer color a position of 75%.

Step 12

Alien Character - step 12

Copy and paste a copy of both objects to the other side of the saucer and reflect the both objects vertically by right clicking on it and choosing Transform->Reflect. On the dialog box that will come up, select Vertical and press OK.

Step 13

Alien Character - step 13

We’ll now focus on the center strut and apply the technique we’ve discussed in step 6 to draw half of the object and reflect it.

Step 14

Alien Character - step 14

Now that we’ve got our shape, let’s give it a gradient with an orientation of 90° and use three colors in the following order: #808080, #333333 and #808080. Adjust the colors’ positions so that the darker shade of gray aligns with the folded part of the strut.

Step 15

Alien Character - step 15

With the Pen Tool draw a shape to illustrate the connection between the strut and the saucer’s main body. Give it the same linear gradient we’ve used in the step above and adjust as necessary.

Step 16

Alien Character - step 16

What’s a UFO without lights? Granted that this design isn’t really as light intensive as most UFO illustrations out there but hey it’s got a couple… Nothing crazy here just a couple of ovals created with the Ellipse Tool using two different gradients. The underlying oval uses the colors #808080 and #1A1A1A, and has a slider position of 80% for the inner color and 100% for the outer color. The overlying oval uses #29ABE2 and #0071BC and the same slider positions for the inner and outer colors as the underlying oval. Once you’ve successfully applied the gradients you can rotate the ovals a tad to give the impression that they’re attached to the main body, then copy paste a copy of both ovals and position them to the left of the first.

Step 17

Alien Character - step 17

Select both lights and copy and paste a copy to the right part of the main body. Adjust it’s position as necessary.

Step 18

Alien Character - step 18

Now that we’re through with the flying saucer let’s get started on our funny looking and slightly overweight alien. This is an easy shape to recreate with the Pen Tool however just so that you know I actually started with a triangle on which I rounded the corners using Effect->Stylize->Round Corners. Then, using the direct selection tool, I played around with a few anchor points and handles to give that result. I kind of had the image of the alien in my head and didn’t really need a previous sketch or draft to get this done. This doesn’t mean that you can’t head over to scratch piece of paper to swiftly draw him up and scan him for easier reproduction in Illustrator (I’m actually incorporating this in a future tutorial if you’re interested). Once you’ve got a shape you’re happy with all you gotta do is give him a two color radial gradient with the color #22B573 for the lighter part and #006837 for the darker part. Adjust the gradient as needed with the gradient tool.

Step 19

Alien Character - step 19

In addition to the gradient we’re going to give the character a bit more depth by copying and pasting the initial shape using our famous [Ctrl + C] and [Ctrl + F] combo. Give it a fill color of #009245 and play around with the anchor points and handles as to give a little 3D effect on the left side. Select it and send it backwards in the staking order by right clicking on it and choosing Arrange->Send Backwards

Step 20

Alien Character - step 20

The eye is actually really simple to reproduce. It’s basically made up of 4 circles with different fills, 5 if you count the little shine effect as well. Start with the underlying circle and give it a fill color of #009245. Replicate it and nudge it right just a bit, don’t alter it’s size at all, we’re trying to create an inset effect here. Give this circle a fill color of #006837. Replicate it, nudge it right and this time reduce it’s size. Quick tip: When you’ve nudged it and while you’re resizing maintain the [Alt] and [Shift] key pressed down to restrain proportion and position around the origin, that’s just for the more novice users… Now give it a radial gradient with the central color being #FFFFFF and the outer color being #B3B3B3. Give the white a slider position of 75%. Replicate it once more and again reduce it’s size and nudge it to the right. Give it a four color radial gradient starting with black at the center with a slider position of 10%. The next color is #29ABE2 and has a position of 20%. Next is #1B1464 with a position of 65%. The last one is black and has a position of 100%. Add a small white circle at the northwestern corner of the pupil for that shine effect.

Step 21

Alien Character - step 21

The mouth is even simpler to recreate it basically consists of two overlying ovals. Give the underlying oval a fill color of #006837 and the other a two color radial gradient using black as the inner color and #006837 as the outer color. Give the black a slider position of 50%.

Step 22

Alien Character - step 22

Use the Pen Tool to draw the neck and apply the same two color gradient used on the face of our alien. Now adjust the gradient as needed with the Gradient Tool.

Step 23

Alien Character - step 23

Same deal here with the main body and right arm. Use the Pen Tool and apply the same two color gradient used on the neck of our alien. Now adjust the gradient as needed with the Gradient Tool and try to have the lighter shade cover the main part of the belly. You’ve probably noticed by now that I kind of opted for a light source coming in from the top right.

Step 24

Alien Character - step 24

As we did on the face, replicate a copy of the body using the [Ctrl + C] and [Ctrl + F] shortcuts. Give it a fill color of #009245 and play around with the anchor points and handles as we did before. Select it and send it backwards in the staking order by right clicking on it and choosing Arrange->Send Backwards

Step 25

Alien Characte - step 25

Let’s add the finishing touches on our belly. Start by drawing a little separation between the top of the belly and the bottom using the Pen Tool. I actually gave this shape a gradient, don’t know why but I did… You guys should be more than satisfied with a solid color of #006837. The belly button is a circle with a two color gradient using the same colors as the belly with a slider position of 50%. Nudge the gradient left to give a subtle 3D effect.

Step 26

Alien Character - step 26

Using our loyal and trustworthy Pen Tool, draw the alien’s right arm and give it the same gradient we’ve used on the body. Modify it using the Gradient Tool as needed to create a subtle illusion of depth by having the darker shades primarily on the top left corner of the arm.

Step 27

Alien Character - step 27

Finally select all the objects of our alien and group them using the shortcut [Ctrl + G] so that we can manipulate him and incorporate him in the flying saucer easily.

Step 28

Alien Character - step 28

Quickly draw out an abstract looking background using the Brush Tool. I used a Brush with a stroke setting of 150pt. Once you’ve obtained a shape you’re satisfied with, select all the strokes and expand their appearance by clicking on Object->Expand Appearance. Now we can apply a simple two color gradient using #00A99D as the central color and #000000 as the outer color.

Step 29

Alien Character - step 29

Incorporate the alien in the saucer and re-size or crop as needed.

Step 30

Alien Character - step 30

Position the shape in the background. Select all the objects and group them so that we only have one object to copy over to Photoshop.

Step 31

Alien Character - step 31

Time to switch over to Photoshop! Jump in and create a new canvas with the same dimensions as your Illustrator art board. Grab the Rectangle Tool by pressing the [U] key on your keyboard. Draw out a rectangle to entirely fill the canvas and apply a pattern overlay effect by selecting Layer->Layer Style->Pattern Overlay. I actually used a custom pattern for this so you can click here to download it. All you have to do to install it is place it in your C:\Program Files\Adobe\Adobe Photoshop CS4\Presets\Patterns directory.

Step 32

Alien Character - step 32

Quickly jump back to Illustrator to grab a copy of our illustration and paste it onto the canvas. Make sure to paste it as a smart object so that we can alter it in any we’d like afterwards, just a smart little backup.

Step 33

Alien Character - step 33

Select the layer and while holding the [Alt] key pressed down, drag it upwards. This will create a copy of the smart object. We don’t want to keep it that way as we’re going to want to alter it with the eraser tool afterwards so go to Layer->Rasterize->Smart Object. Finally give the layer a Linear Burn blending mode in the drop-down selection box in the layers window.

Step 34

Alien Character - step 34

Go grab a copy of this unbelievably useful “Subtle Grunge Brush set” and install them by placing the brushes in your C:\Program Files\Adobe\Adobe Photoshop CS4\Presets\Brushes directory. Jump back in Photoshop and, using the Eraser Tool, start munching away the sides of our illustration with really subtle touches to enhance that subtle grunge effect we’re aiming.

Step 35

Alien Character - step 35

The fact that we changed the layers blending mode resulted in loss of overall color vibrancy so let’s use some curves to remedy the situation. Create the curve adjustment layer and link directly with the underlying layer by clicking between the two layers while holding your [Alt] key down. Adjust both sliders as necessary in an effort to recuperate a bit of vibrancy in the colors, nothing too complex here.

Step 36

alien Character - step 36

I’m going to give you absolute freedom here for the little caption on the bottom left corner. Just for your information I used the “PR8 Charade Police” found here. I simply gave it a 8px stroke with the following color #336666, a light yellow fill color and a simple shadow effect.

Here is the final result

Alien Character final illustration

For those of you interested I’ve included the Illustrator source file to use to your heart’s content, however make sure you follow the “Terms and conditions” in order for all files distributed on this site.

Download the .EPS file

Well I hope you had fun reproducing our fellow alien here and again let me wish you a happy new year 2012. By the way don’t forget to share this post if you truly enjoyed it ;-D .

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2 Comments.

  • Thx man ! Hope there’s some Photoshop tutorials coming soon !

    • I’ve got a few more Illustrator tuts in store, however that definitely doesn’t exclude the possibility of throwing in a few Photoshop tuts as well when I’ve got the time!

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