Illustrator Tutorial: Create Four Ninja Turtles Characters

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By: Bao Nguyen

In this tutorial, you will learn how to draw four ninja turtle characters in Adobe Illustrator. As usual, we will use basic tools and vector shape-building techniques to create the main shapes. You will also practice your drawing skills, apply gradients for more realism and use some basic effects. You can use these techniques and elements to create whatever character you want. Let’s start!

Create a New document

  1. Launch Illustrator and then press (Ctrl + N) to create a New Select Pixels from the Units drop-down menu, enter 760 in the width box and 750 in the height box then click on the Advanced button. Select RGB, Screen (72ppi) and make sure that the Align New Objects to Pixel Grid box is unchecked before you click OK.

Draw Michelangelo character with Orange Mask

2. Pick the Pen Tool (P) and create a black object like you see in the first image. Once your object is drawn, remove its stroke and fill this object with dark lime green (# 202c1d). Make a copy (Ctrl +C, Ctrl +F) of the newly created shape and then replace the existing fill color of the copy with very dark lime green (# 132613). Keep the resulting shape selected and go to the Effect > Texture > Craquelure… Follow the data as shown in the third image and click OK. Still having the resulting shape selected and go to the Effect > Stylize > Feather… Enter a 5px Radius and click OK. Next change the Blending Mode of the resulting shape to Darken and reduce its Opacity to 10%.

3. It’s time to draw the eyes. Pick the Pen Tool (P) and create a red object like you see in the first image. Once your object is drawn, replace the existing stroke color with very dark blue (# 00000a) and change the stroke weight to 3px. Then apply the Width Profile 5 for the resulting object. Keep the newly created object selected and make a copy (Ctrl +C, Ctrl +F) of it. Remove the stroke of this copy and then fill it with the radial gradient as shown in the third image. Make sure that the resulting shape is still selected and press (Ctrl +Left Square Bracket) to hide it behind the first object created in this step. Now focus on the last image, draw a slightly curved path with the Pencil Tool (N) and give it a 1px very dark blue stroke (# 0b141c) for the moment. Finally apply the Width Profile 5 for the resulting path.

4. Pick the Ellipse Tool (L) and create a 5 by 27.5px black ellipse, then place it to the position as shown in the first image. Change the stroke weight of the newly created ellipse to 2px and fill it with the radial gradient like you see in the second image. Keep working with the Ellipse Tool (L), create two ellipses as shown in the third and the fourth images. Now focus on the fifth image, draw some slightly curved paths with the Pencil Tool (N) and give them a 0.5px dark blue stroke (# 1d428d) for the moment. Once your paths are drawn, apply a 1px Gaussian Blur effect for them.

5. Select and group (Ctrl +G) all objects created in the step 4. Now reselect the second object created in the step 3 and make a copy (Ctrl +C, Ctrl +F) of it and then bring the copy to front (Ctrl +Shift +Right Square Bracket). Keep this copy selected, hold down the Shift and click on the group created in this step. Right click on the artboard and then select the Make Clipping Mask section from the drop-down menu. Next hide the clipping set behind the first object created in the step 3. Focus on the next to last image, pick the Ellipse Tool (L) and create a 5 by 2.5px white ellipse. Next apply a 1px Gaussian Blur effect for the newly created ellipse.

6. Select and group (Ctrl +G) all objects created from beginning step 3 to this time. Keep this group selected and go to the Object > Transform > Reflect… Set the Axis to Vertical and then click Copy. Drag the copy we have just created to the right. Don’t forget to hold the Shift key on the keyboard for straight dragging.

Create the Ninja Turtles Masks

7. Pick the Pen Tool (P) and create three objects like you see in the first and the second image. Once your objects are drawn, reselect them, then open the Pathfinder panel (Window > Pathfinder) and click on the Minus Front Remove the stroke of the newly created compound path and then fill it with very dark red (# 6a1d16). Finally hide the resulting compound path behind the first object created in the step 3. We are done with the main shape of the mask for the moment.

8. Select the compound path created in the step 7 and make a copy (Ctrl +C, Ctrl +F) of it. Still having the copy selected and go to the Effect > Stylize > Drop Shadow… Follow the data as shown in the first image and click OK. Now select the shape with Craquelure effect applied in the step 2 and make a copy of it, then bring the copy to front (Ctrl +Shift +Right Square Bracket). Keep the copy selected, hold down the Shift and click on the compound path with shadow effect applied in this step. Right click on the artboard and then select the Make Clipping Mask section from the drop-down menu. Finally hide the clipping set behind the compound path created in the step 7.

9. With the help of the Pen Tool (P) and the Gradient Tool (G), create an orange shape like you see in the first and the second images. Once your shape is drawn, reselect it and apply a 5px Gaussian Blur effect for this shape. Now select the compound path created in the step 7 and make a copy (Ctrl +C, Ctrl +F) of it, then bring the copy to front (Ctrl +Shift +Right Square Bracket). Right click on the artboard and then select Make Clipping Mask section from the drop-down menu. Finally hide the clipping set behind the first object created in the step 3.

10. Select the compound path created in the step 7 and make a copy of it, then bring the copy to front (Ctrl +Shift +Right Square Bracket). Still having this copy selected and replace the existing fill color with very dark red (# 48201b). Keep the resulting compound path selected and go to the Effect > Sketch > Note Paper… Follow the data like you see in the second image and click OK. Next change the Blending Mode of the resulting compound path to Color Burn and reduce its Opacity to 10%. Finally hide the resulting compound path behind the first object created in the step 3.

11. Pick the Selection Tool (V), double-click on the compound path created in the step 7, then select the biggest shape and press (Ctrl +C) to copy it. Next double-click on the anywhere outside of the compound path and press (Ctrl +F) to paste the shape was copied in this step. Keep the newly created shape selected, swap the fill and stroke colors by clicking the bent double-headed arrow next to the Fill and Stroke color swatches in the Toolbox. Change the stroke weight of the resulting object to 3px and replace the existing stroke color with the linear gradient within stroke. Focus on the third image, select four anchor points highlighted with yellow and click on the “Cut path at selected anchor points” icon from the Properties This make the object becomes four paths. Select and remove the two shorter paths. Next replace the existing stroke color of the lower path with new linear gradient as shown in the last image. Finally apply the Width Profile 3 for the resulting path.

12. Pick the Pen Tool (P) and create two very dark red shapes (# 671c16) like you see in the first and the second images. Once your shapes are drawn, reselect them and apply a 4px Gaussian Blur effect for these shapes. Having the resulting shapes selected, press (Ctrl +X) to cut them. Then pick the Selection Tool (V), double-click on the clipping set created in the step 9 and press (Ctrl +F) to paste the shapes were cut in this step. Finally, double-click on the anywhere outside of the clipping set.

13. Pick the Pen Tool (P) and create two curved paths like you see in the first and the second image, with a 2px very dark red stroke (# 601d15). Then apply the Width Profile 5 for these newly created paths. Focus on the third and the fourth image, draw two curved paths and give them a 2px vivid orange stroke for the moment. Then apply the Width Profile 3 for the newly created paths. Continue draw two curved paths with the Pen Tool (P) as shown in the next to last image. Next give these paths a 3px strong orange stroke (# d05b1a) for the moment. Keep the resulting paths selected, apply the Width Profile 5 and a 2px Gaussian Blur effect for them.

14. At this point your illustration should look like in the next image:

15. Pick the Pencil Tool (N) and create a very dark green shape (# 48693a) like you see in the first image. Then apply a 6px Gaussian Blur effect for the newly created shape. With the help of the Pencil Tool (N) and the Gradient Tool (G), create a slightly green shape as shown in the third and the fourth image. Once your shape is drawn, reselect it and then apply a 12px Gaussian Blur effect for this shape.

16. Now, follow the sequence of images and repeat the same process as the step 15 to draw two more shapes similar to the ones from below. Continue with the Pen Tool (P), create a curved path like you see in the next to last image, with a 20pxsoft green stroke and no fill. Then apply the Width Profile 2 and a 6px Gaussian Blur effect for the newly created path.

17. Select all objects created from beginning step 15 to this time and press (Ctrl +X) to cut them. Then pick the Selection Tool (V), double-click on the clipping set created in the step 8 and press (Ctrl +F) to paste the objects were cut in this step. Finally, double-click on the anywhere outside of the clipping set.

18. Next comes the mouth. Pick the Pen Tool (P) and create a very dark yellow shape (# 020201) like you see in the first image. Once your shape is drawn, reselect it and make a copy (Ctrl +C, Ctrl +F) of this shape. Keep the copy selected, swap the fill and stroke colors by clicking the bent double-headed arrow next to the Fill and Stroke color swatches in the Toolbox. Change the stroke weight of the resulting object to 2px and replace the existing stroke color with very dark green (# 161f11). Still having the resulting object selected and make a copy of it. Change the stroke weight of the copy to 3px and replace the existing stroke color with the linear gradient within stroke as shown in the third image. Make sure that the resulting object is still selected, apply the Width Profile 1 for it. Now focus on the next to last image, select the two anchor points highlighted with yellow and click on the “Cut path at selected anchor points” icon from the Properties This make the object becomes two paths. Select and remove the upper path.

19. We will continue with the teeth. Pick the Pen Tool (P) and create two dark grayish orange shapes (# 888681) like you see in the first image. Once your shapes are drawn, reselect them and make a copy (Ctrl +C, Ctrl +F) of these shapes. Then replace the existing fill color of the copies with grayish yellow (# d0d1c6). Still having the resulting shape selected and apply a 5px Feather effect for it. Continue with the Pen Tool (P), create two very dark green shapes (# 272725) like you see in the next to last image. Next apply a 3px Feather effect for the newly created shapes. Finally select all shapes created in this step and hide them behind the second object created in the step 18.

20. Now select and group (Ctrl +G) all objects created from beginning step 2 to this time. At this point your Michelangelo character should look like in the next image:

Draw Leonardo character with Blue Mask

21. Select the Michelangelo character and go to the Object > Transform > Reflect… Check the Vertical and click Copy, then place the newly created group to new position. Still having this group selected and press (Ctrl +Shift +G) to ungroup it. Now select the main shape of the mask and replace the existing fill color with dark blue (# 1049a8). Continue select the shape as shown in the last image and then replace the existing fill color with new radial gradient.

22. Now, follow the sequence of images and repeat the same process as the previous steps to replace the colors of the remaining objects of the mask.

23. Select and group (Ctrl +G) all objects created from beginning step 21 to this time. In the end your Leonardo character should look like the image shown.

 Draw Rafael character with Red Mask

24. Select the Michelangelo character and make a copy (Ctrl +C, Ctrl +F) of it, then place the newly created group to new position. Before you continue, reselect the newly created group and press (Ctrl +Shift +G) to ungroup it. Next select and remove some objects of the mask. You should end up with something like in the second image. Now double-click on the main shape of the mask and then reduce the sizes of the two small objects. After you are done adjusting the shape of these two objects, double-click on the anywhere outside of the compound path. In the end your new compound path should look like the fourth image shown. Keep this compound path selected, replace the existing fill color with very dark red (# 721724). Finally select the two curved paths as shown in the last two images and then replace the existing stroke colors with new linear gradients within stroke.

25. With the help of the Pencil Tool (N) and the Gradient Tool (G), create a strong red shape like you see in the first and the second image. Once your shape is drawn, reselect it and apply a 5px Gaussian Blur effect for this shape. Now select the main shape of the mask and make a copy (Ctrl +C, Ctrl +F) of it, then bring the copy to front (Ctrl +Shift +Right Square Bracket). Keep this copy selected, hold down the Shift and click on the shape with blur effect applied in this step. Right click on the artboard and then select Make Clipping Mask section from the drop-down menu.

26. Pick the Pen Tool (P) and create two very dark red shapes (# 580408) like you see in the first image. Once your shapes are drawn, reselect them and apply a 4px Gaussian Blur effect for these shapes. Having the resulting shapes selected, press (Ctrl +X) to cut them. Then pick the Selection Tool (V), double-click on the clipping set created in the step 25 and press (Ctrl +F) to paste the shapes were cut in this step. Next, double-click on the anywhere outside of the clipping set. Keep working with the Selection Tool (V), double-click on the main shape of the mask. Select the two small shapes and press (Ctrl +C) to copy them. Next, double-click on the anywhere outside of the clipping set and press (Ctrl +F) to paste the two shapes were copied in this step. Keep these shapes selected, swap the fill and stroke colors by clicking the bent double-headed arrow next to the Fill and Stroke color swatches in the Toolbox. Change the stroke weight of the resulting objects to 3px and replace the existing stroke color with black (# 00000a). Finally apply the Width Profile 5 for the resulting objects.

27. Pick the Pen Tool (P) and create two curved paths like you see in the first and the second image, with a 2px vivid red stroke. Then apply the Width Profile 3 for these newly created paths. Focus on the third image, draw two curved paths and give them a 2px dark red stroke (# 8f1016) for the moment. Then apply the Width Profile 5 for the newly created paths. Continue draw two curved paths with the Pen Tool (P) as shown in the next to last image. Next give these paths a 3px strong red stroke (# c9362f) for the moment. Keep the resulting paths selected, apply the Width Profile 5 and a 2px Gaussian Blur effect for them.

28. Before you continue, select all objects of the mouth and remove them. Next select the two shapes like you see in the third image and remove them.

29. With the help of the Pencil Tool (N) and the Gradient Tool (G), create a shape like you see in the first and the second image. Then apply a 7px Gaussian Blur effect for the newly created shape. Having the resulting shape selected, press (Ctrl +X) to cut it. Then pick the Selection Tool (V), double-click on the clipping set contain highlights and press (Ctrl +F) to paste the shape was cut in this step. Finally, double-click on the anywhere outside of the clipping set.

30. Using the Pencil Tool (N) create a slightly curved path, with a 2px very dark green stroke (# 121a0f) and no fill. Then apply the Width Profile 3 for the newly created path. Likewise, repeat the same process as the previous steps to draw two more curved paths. Once your paths are drawn, reselect the last path created in this step and apply a 2px Gaussian Blur effect for it.

31. Select and group (Ctrl +G) all objects created from beginning step 24 to this time. In the end your Rafael character should look like the image shown.

Draw Donatello character with Purple Mask

32. Select the Rafael character and make a copy (Ctrl +C, Ctrl +F) of it, then place the newly created group to new position. Before you continue, reselect the newly created group and press (Ctrl +Shift +G) to ungroup it. Now select the main shape of the mask and replace the existing fill color with very dark violet (# 4b266c). Next select the shape as shown in the third image and then replace the existing fill color with new radial gradient. Continue select the two curved paths as shown in the last two images and then replace the existing stroke colors with new linear gradients within stroke.

33. Now, follow the sequence of images and repeat the same process as the previous steps to replace the colors of the remaining objects of the mask.

34. Select and group (Ctrl +G) all objects created from beginning step 32 to this time. In the end your Donatello character should look like the image shown.

35. At this point your characters should look like in the next image:

Create the Two Ends of the Mask

36. First of all, we’ll create the first end of Michelangelo’s mask. With the help of the Pencil Tool (N) and the Gradient Tool (G), create an orange shape like you see in the first and the second image. Keep working with the Pencil Tool (N), create a strong orange shape (# c24d19) as shown in the third image. Once your shape is drawn, reselect it and apply a 5px Gaussian Blur effect for this shape. Continue create a vivid orange shape (# e4791f) like you see in the next to last image. Next apply a 3px Gaussian Blur effect for the newly created shape. Now select the first shape created in this step and make a copy (Ctrl +C, Ctrl +F) of it, then bring the copy to front (Ctrl +Shift +Right Square Bracket). Still having this copy selected, hold down the Shift and click on the two shapes with blur effects applied in this step. Right-click on the artboard and then select Make Clipping Mask section from the drop-down menu.

37. Select the first shape created in the step 36 and make a copy of it, then bring the copy to front (Ctrl +Shift +Right Square Bracket). Keep the newly created shape selected and replace the existing fill color with very dark red (# 48201b). Still having the resulting shape selected and go to the Effect > Sketch > Note Paper… Follow the data like you see in the second image and click OK. Apply a 3px Feather effect for the resulting shape, then change the Blending Mode to Color Burn and reduce its Opacity to 10%. Finally select and group (Ctrl +G) all objects created from beginning step 36 to this time.

38. Draw the other end of Michelangelo’s mask. With the help of the Pencil Tool (N) and the Gradient Tool (G), create a dark red shape (# 802618) like you see in the first and the second image. Keep working with the Pencil Tool (N), create a strong orange shape (# c04d19) as shown in the third image. Once your shape is drawn, reselect it and apply a 4px Gaussian Blur effect for this shape. Continue create another strong orange shape (# d8671d) like you see in the fifth image. Next apply a 3px Gaussian Blur effect for the newly created shape. Now select the first shape created in this step and make a copy (Ctrl +C, Ctrl +F) of it, then bring the copy to front (Ctrl +Shift +Right Square Bracket). Still having this copy selected, hold down the Shift and click on the two shapes with blur effects applied in this step. Right-click on the artboard and then select Make Clipping Mask section from the drop-down menu.

39. Select the first shape created in the step 38 and make a copy of it, then bring the copy to front (Ctrl +Shift +Right Square Bracket). Make sure that this copy is still selected, pick the Eyedropper Tool (I) and click on the shape with Note Paper effect applied in the step 37. Now select and group (Ctrl +G) all objects of the two ends of the Michelangelo’s mask and then send this group to back (Ctrl +Shift +Left Square Bracket).

40. Next come the two ends of the Leonardo’s mask. First, select the two ends of the Michelangelo’s mask and go to the Object > Transform > Reflect… Check the Vertical and click Copy, then place the copy to position like you see in the last image.

41. Before you continue, select the two new groups created in the step 40 and press (Ctrl +Shift +G) to ungroup them. Select the main shape of the first end of the mask and replace the existing fill color with new linear gradient as shown in the first image. With the help of the Selection Tool (V), double-click on the clipping set of the first end of the mask. Select the bigger shape and replace the existing fill color with strong blue (# 2275c5). Continue select the remaining shape and replace the existing fill color with bright blue (# 3ba4ed). Next double-click on the anywhere outside of the clipping set. Likewise, repeat the same process as the previous steps for other end of the mask.

42. Now select and group (Ctrl +G) all objects of the two ends of the Leonardo’s mask and then send this group to back (Ctrl +Shift +Left Square Bracket).

43. We are done with the ninja turtles characters for the moment.

Create the Background

44. Pick the Rectangle Tool (M) and create a 380 by 374px black rectangle. Make three copies of the newly created rectangle, then place these copies to the positions like you see in the second image. Now reselect the first rectangle created in this step, remove its stroke and fill this object with the radial gradient as shown in the third image. Finally select the remaining three black rectangles, then pick the Eyedropper Tool (I) and click on the green rectangle created in this step.

45. Using the Line Segment Tool (\)create a vertical line of length 746px, with a 3px very dark green stroke (# 3f6232) and no fill. Then place the newly created line to the position like you see in the first image. Still having this line selected and go to the Object > Transform > Rotate… Enter a 90 degrees Angle and click Copy. The last thing to do is place your characters into the newly created background.

Here is what the completed design looks like.

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