The connection between social media and politics fascinates me. There are two main reasons for this:

1. People are hilarious.
2. Social media has such a large impact on our society that it blows my mind.

For an undecided voter, Twitter or Facebook could quite possibly influence IF they’re going to vote, WHO they’re going to vote for, and WHY they decided to vote for that candidate. One could argue that the social media activity surrounding politics and political events, such as the Presidential debates, could be more influential than the actual debates themselves!

Speaking of which, lately I’ve found myself  wondering:

How boring were the Presidential debates before social media?!

They may not have been THAT boring, but they couldn’t have been as entertaining as they are now! Over the past few weeks my Twitter feed has come to life on debate nights. The tweets are coming so fast that by the time I catch up I’m 30 behind again! I can’t respond to people fast enough, I’m retweeting and favoriting like crazy, and I LOVE it. Why? Because these political tweets are entertaining.

Deciding who to vote for is a very serious matter. It’s a decision that should be made after thoroughly researching both candidates and their stances on the issues you care about–but that doesn’t mean you can’t take a 90-minute break every now and then!

Sit back, relax, and laugh at two politicians who are stuck in a room together pretending to be friends while simultaneously insulting each other. It’s the American way! You can make up your mind about which candidate you liked/hated more after everything is fact-checked. In the meantime, enjoy yourself and the hilarious tweets and Facebook statuses pouring through your social media feeds.

Confession time: This concept of this post wasn’t entirely my idea. It was actually inspired by a friend of mine who tweeted me on Monday, the night of the third (and final) Presidential debate:

My first reaction was to completely agree. This IS great theater. If it weren’t, websites like CNN, TIME, and The Huffington Post wouldn’t have articles dedicated to the funniest tweets of the debate. Some of which include:

From CNN:

From TIME (Note- This is a Barack Obama parody account):

From The Huffington Post:

My second reaction was to take in exactly what he said. “Twitter has revolutionized the debates.” That got me thinking: Not only are these hilarious political tweets great theater, they also have the potential to be very influential. Like my friend said, Twitter (along with other forms of social media) is revolutionizing these debates, and humor isn’t the only thing causing this revolution.

Another reason I love political tweets (aside from their entertainment value) is because they strengthen my political opinions. They make me proud to support a candidate that I believe in, and reaffirm that I’m happy with my decision. The influence social media has on me, a person who’s 100% sure of who she’s voting for, makes me question how much undecided voter can be influenced by an entertaining news feed or timeline.

The sheer number of political tweets that were sent during these debates shows the role social media plays in politics. According to Twitter, 6.5 million tweets were sent during the third Presidential debate. 7.2 million were sent during the second debate, and 10 million were sent during the first debate (a record for a U.S. political debate). Politico newspaper correspondent Tony Romm agrees that social media is an extremely important aspect of politics:

“There is a piece of information . . .and it begins to bounce around, essentially. It’s shared, it’s repeated. It reverberates . . . When a [social media] user shares a news story about something a candidate has done. And then, that begins to explode, eventually winding up in major newspapers, making major headlines across the country. So, it has a huge effect.”

How huge, exactly? A recent survey from Ask Your Target Market reported that 5% of potential voters said that their political opinions have been impacted very much by social media posts, and 21% said that their opinions have been somewhat impacted by social media. Those numbers aren’t HUGE, but they still exist, and with social media constantly growing those numbers are sure to increase in the next four years.

These Presidential debates have once again proven that social media is an incredibly powerful medium, and it’s continually increasing its impact on our society.

How Crowdsourcing Can Be a Powerful SEO Weapon (or Potentially Damage Your Brand Reputation)

The Golden Rule of SEO

“Think like your customer.” If your company has even the faintest working knowledge of SEO and its best practices, then you have probably heard this statement a thousand times before — and justly so. The key to breaking through to quality rankings in Google SERPs involves thinking like the customers do when they conduct a basic Internet search.

But sometimes thinking like the customer can be a difficult task, especially for those deeply involved in the business. While you may think it’s possible to rid yourself of any recollection of your business, sometimes you might not even be sure what your customers know and don’t know about your products or services. This can make customer engagement a challenging task and make it a lot more difficult to improve your SEO efforts. There are a number of things businesses can do in terms of influencing customer engagement for SEO purposes, but crowdsourcing can be a fun and exciting way to tap into the minds of your target market.

Enter: Crowdsourcing

A fairly new concept in the online marketing world, crowdsourcing is the term to describe the act of reaching out to members of the Internet community to contribute to a campaign or project. Crowdsourcing involves appealing to a wider community whose advice and opinions matter most, and it is usually up to the party in question as to whether or not the consumer input is rewarded. Campaigns can take the form of a themed post, a custom landing page, a discussion board or any type of unique, shareable content that fosters a sense of community within the brand.

If this concept is still not ringing a bell, “My Starbucks Idea” is a great example of how crowdsourcing consumer information has produced an interesting marketing campaign.

In 2008, My Starbucks Idea started out as a community website intended to collect suggestions and product feedback from customers, but evolved into something much bigger than that. Unlike most crowdsourcing campaigns that are centered towards improving the business’s products and services, Starbucks created a campaign that instead focuses on the entire customer experience. Ideas have stretched way past the development of better products and entered into the realm of establishing and maintaining Starbucks’ corporate social responsibility. Users are heavily involved in the voting process and have put many well-known ideas into action. That plastic reusable cup you drink your frappe from once originated as a My Starbucks Idea back in 2008.

The power of the crowd is already being utilized by many businesses and is serving as an initiative to replace current customer service models. Crowdsourcing taps right into the core line of support and information for a business’s model: its market. The information can be perceived as honest and invaluable in terms of consumer engagement on a more personal level. And what can be better than getting feedback from the decision makers in your industry?

Okay, So What About SEO?

A recent SEO case study conducted by a photo identification products vendor, ID Wholesaler, took a glimpse into the world of crowdsourcing by creating a unique campaign intended to increase customer engagement for the B2B retailer. Their efforts didn’t stop there; the campaign also aimed at improving various SEO tasks that the company had yet to target including increasing their inbound links and Google SERP rankings.

So what did they do? A lanyard design contest prompted a niche target market (graphic artists, fashion designers, etc.) to submit design entries to a custom landing page that served as the central hub of the campaign efforts. Much like My Starbucks Idea, visitors could submit, view and vote for their favorite entries until a winning design was selected. ID Wholesaler received over 80 entries, 7,000 votes, and nearly 1,000 Facebook “likes” following the campaign launch.


Lanyard Design Contest Custom Landing Page – Source SEO Moz

Although they chose to pay the winning designer, the campaign proved to be well worth the investment. Because the campaign required some initial outreach, the company was able to dig deeper into social networking, an area of online marketing that proved to be an ongoing challenge for the B2B retailer. The campaign spurred a large volume of blog articles written about the contest, as well as a spike in social mentions and inbound links. Crowdsourcing has the potential to turn your online “focus group” into a great source of links back to your site.

Crowdsourcing campaigns can also help your website show an increase in non-paid traffic and rankings, which can be traced through Google Analytics. For ID Solutions, their results were quite eye opening and provided them with fresh information regarding keyword opportunities they were not previously targeting. Keyword variations for the term “lanyard” saw a 90% increase in non-paid traffic and the company jumped to the number 2 position in Google for the search term “ID badge lanyards.”

Ranking History – Source: SEOmoz

If creating a fresh campaign from scratch is too intimidating for you, crowdsourcing can also be as simple as creating an ongoing forum that could be promoted through social networks. A couple intriguing questions is all it takes for decision makers within your industry to want to respond, which can prompt relationship building with industry authority figures, a wider scope of input, more links, more site content and increased brand exposure. If you’re a small restaurateur, decision makers could include a food reviewer or even your local food distributor. Whatever the case, igniting the conversation within key influencers can set you up with the perfect opportunity to understand how viewers interact with your brand, and with a little testing, can point out flaws in your site’s usability and conversion data (Source: http://www.submitawebsite.com/blog/2010/03/crowdsourcing-websites-and-seo.html).

But Before You Go Crowdsourcing Crazy…

As with anything, there are advantages and disadvantages to crowdsourcing. I think this article from Mashable does a nice job of explaining some key tips for your next campaign, but here are the main things to be cautious of when it comes to crowdsourcing:

Understand that crowdsourcing campaigns involve some type of initial or post-investment.

    People want to be rewarded for good ideas. Don’t damage your brand reputation by just soliciting people for what you want – reward those ideas which you want to make use of!

Set Campaign Rules and Have Them Handy.

    Be very clear about what you’re looking for from your visitors, the time period of the campaign and how/when you will select winners. And make sure to have these rules posted on your site to prevent any disasters from occurring.

Keep It Professional.

    Some call crowdsourcing “a solicitation for free ideas.” However, if you keep your campaign professional and rules clear, there is no reason why your brand cannot foster some interesting conversations to produce a change for a mutual benefit. Your consumers are telling you what they want… what could be easier than that?

Has your company had any experience with a crowdsourcing, or have you participated in one? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

Let’s talk about Pinterest. Why? Oh, I don’t know. Maybe because:

1. Pinterest sends more referral traffic than Google+, YouTube, and LinkedIn combined.
2. Pinterest is the 3rd most visited social media site behind Facebook and Twitter.
3. Pinterest referral traffic is less than 0.10% away from overtaking Yahoo! organic traffic.
4. Pinterest has grown 4377% since last year.
5. Pinterest buyers spend more money, more often, and on more items than any of the other top 5 social media sites.

(Sources: Shareaholic, comScore)

And that’s all within two years. So why exactly is Pinterest so great for companies, and why should your company have a Pinterest account (other than because of those impressive stats I just mentioned)? Let’s see:

Popularity: Visits –> Time Spent  –> Engagement  –> E-commerce revenue

As mentioned above, Pinterest is extremely popular with social media users. In March, Pinterest was reported to be the fastest growing social media site in both unique visitors and clicks on search engines.

Not only are tons of people visiting Pinterest, they’re spending a decent amount of time on it every time they visit. The average Pinterest user spends 89 minutes a month on Pinterest, while the average Twitter user only spends 21 minutes a month on Twitter.

The engagement level for Pinterest is also impressive. It’s been reported that people are most likely to engage with branded content on social media that contains pictures. Want proof? Pinterest is retaining and engaging users 2-3 times as efficiently as Twitter did when they were the same age Pinterest is now.

Followers, brand awareness, and social engagement is great, but what about the money? In just one year Pinterest has increased their social media revenue for e-commerce sites by 16.2%.  Even better? Pinterest beat both Twitter (by over 400%) and Facebook (by 27%) for the most ‘First Touch’ revenue per click basis.

(Sources: comScore, Forbes, Performics, RJ Metrics, Convertro)

Sharing Capabilities

Pinterest offers businesses three ways to promote their Pinterest account and encourage readers to pin their content.

1. “Follow Button”: Like Facebook, Twitter, and all the rest, Pinterest’s “Follow Button” allows anyone who visits your site to see that you’re on Pinterest, and that they should follow you.

2. “Pin It” button for websites: Again like Facebook and Twitter, this button makes it extremely easy for your readers to pin an image or article that you have on your website.

3. Pinterest artwork: If you have a particularly successful Pinterest account, or are looking to gain followers, you can download the Pinterest logo or badge to link back to your account.

 

TIP: Businesses can also check out who has pinned their product from their website by typing in: http://www.pinterest.com/source/[insertwebsitehere]

 

Freedom to Express (Brand) Yourself

One of the most awesome things about Pinterest is that it lets you define and/or show off your personality. You can make as many boards as want, you can categorize your boards however you want, you can pin whatever you want (within Pinterest’s guidelines) and you can caption your pins with whatever you want. This freedom allows you to define how you want to brand yourself or your company on Pinterest.  Your company website may be all business, but your Pinterest account can show off your fun side.

Pinterest advice: Don’t be all work and no play

A huge mistake companies make on Pinterest is creating boards that show off their products and services—and that’s it.

Pinterest gives you the opportunity to show your customers — and potential customers — that you’re not a bunch of robots sitting behind a computer screen; you’re actual people. You have personalities, senses of humor, likes, dislikes, etcetera. Your boards on Pinterest make you seem more relatable to your customers.

So yes, create some professional boards that feature your products, services and past work, but also create boards that show your clients who you are on a personal level.

Let’s look at some examples.

The 1825 Inn

The 1825 Inn in Hershey, Pa has a few boards showing off their business, but they also include boards that are useful for their visitors such as “Harrisburg Attractions,” and “Hershey Restaurants.” It’s important to show your clients that you care about what they need beyond what you can offer them.

The Today Show

The Today Show offers a fun “Anchor Antics” board that gives their fans a behind-the-scenes feel. The board features everything from screenshots of on-air bloopers to funny photoshopped pictures, like Matt Lauer’s face on Michael Jordan’s body.

The Herald News

The Herald News created a “Meet the Press” board with headshots and a short bio of each member of their staff. This is a great idea for companies who talk to their customers primarily through email or over the phone because customers are able to match a face with the name.

WebpageFX

Last but not least, we at WebpageFX have a “Funny Bone” board! Humor boards are a great idea for everyone; they add some fun to your Pinterest account and make you more seem more relatable. Plus, who doesn’t like to laugh?

So what are you waiting for? Get on Pinterest and get pinning! And don’t forget to follow us! http://pinterest.com/webpagefx/

Google Plus

The biggest Social Media news of the past week is Google+. The “Facebook Killer,” “Buzz Part II” and “Google’s Global Takeover Part XXII” is getting a lot of press, and for good reason: it is a social network that aims to contend with Facebook. It intends to do so with some initial features including group video chat capabilities, group texting (Huddles) and enhanced privacy options (via Circles).

After finally receiving an invite and elaborating on my Google profile (I’ve been a Gmail user for quite a while), there was nothing to do but wait for my friends to get my invites and join. I now have about 10 connections on Google+. So, my Circles are pretty thin. Decidedly, the only way I’ll use Google+ as my go-to social network is if everyone, or at least a majority, makes the transition—and soon. This is as important to me personally as it is to businesses and brands, as they want to be present where their customers are.

The dilemma this “friend overlap” causes right now is deciding which social network to post to (as if there weren’t enough choices already). Can’t my 10 Google+ friends just read what I post to Facebook, along with the rest of my hundreds of Facebook friends? Why double post?

The positive: I can start over with adding people to Google+. I was a freshman in college when I signed up for Facebook; there are some friends I don’t need updates from anymore. Perhaps this could be my adult version of Facebook. (Then again, I’m interested in gaining more Google+ connections, so I’d pretty much accept anyone at this point).

I love the Circles idea. I’m glad Google wants to learn from Facebook’s biggest mistakes, particularly in the area of privacy. Of course, will anything be private from Google now?

I commend Google+ for their “invite-only” launch technique, which is something many new sites are opting for. The invite-only makes it feel exclusive and is becoming the way to entice new users in a world where there is an overwhelming list of social networking sites.

In my opinion, to ensure Google+ doesn’t become defunct, 750 million people need to jump on the bandwagon. That means 750 million people need to abandon their comfortable Facebook personas and habits and learn an entirely new interface, albeit very similar to Facebook. They need to download a new app, add all of their friends and start +1-ing all the content they previously “liked”. These are some major hurdles to ask of people before they know whether or not it’s here to stay.

The bottom line is: I like Google+. I think it’ll thrive, only in a smaller social space. For now at least, it is certainly being used by a pretty niche group.

Our office has been a-“Buzz” over Google+, so we decided to ask a few members of the WebpageFX team to speculate on where Google’s latest endeavor is going to go:

Where do you see Google+ in 3 years?

Trevin: Three years seems like a lifetime in “Internet years” so it is very tough to say, especially this early on. They have had their misses, but most of the time Google’s side projects turn to gold, so I’d wager it will be extremely popular and still pushing the social media envelope in three years.

Saurav: As social is becoming more and more effective, in three years’ time, I see Google + becoming one of the social forces competing against the likes of Facebook.

Bill: I see it having 10% to 15% of social market share.

How do you think Google+ will affect SEO?

Mary: It already is. I can easily +1 any article I read or website I land on with simple click of a button. Then those in my Circles will see my partiality reflected in their own search results. Marketing professionals and business owners alike need to be aware of the huge potential here. Google provides personalized results whenever feasible, and that component is only sure to evolve.”

Bill: Massively – data they collect will greatly influence search results – especially “real-time” searches!

Xander: Well, the whole reason they launched this venture was to get Facebook’s content recommendation data without dealing with Facebook. Google wanted to create an ecosystem where shares, like, and comments were completely accessible to them so they can parlay that data into their search algorithm and promote worthy content. Up until now, they had no reliable way of determining the “social value” of a page. If Google+ takes off, they will.”

Are you, or do you, plan to use Google+ personally?

Trevin: Yes, I’ve been using it daily for a few weeks. I jumped in with both feet!

Saurav: I haven’t had the chance to fully utilize it just yet. But, it’s simple really; you create your profile and connect with others.”

Bill: Yep – since it’s going to be a ranking factor, I will have to use it.

Mary: Definitely, I already prefer it over Facebook – it’s more organized, less confusing and further personalized.

So far, what do you like about Google+?

Trevin: There are a lot of features I like. Circles is a pretty well-thought out way of dealing with sharing among your friends. (Facebook always had the same functionality, but it is a lot clumsier in lists). Some of my friends love when I share Battlestar Galactica videos, but others just find it weird. This is a nice way to break everybody into clusters, which is how we all socialize and interact in real life.

 

I also love being able to add writers and pundits whom I enjoy to my “following” circle. It’s far more efficient than following their fan page on Facebook and getting slammed with promotional junk. The following circle is like being Facebook friends with somebody you don’t really know without the awkwardness. My favorite feature, though, is Hangouts. Group video chat is awesome and I have pretty much already ditched Skype for video calling.

Bill: Video chat – and circles is a cool concept!

What do you dislike about Google+ so far?

Trevin: It still feels unfinished, which it is of course, so I don’t have any big worries. There are a bunch of little things missing … collapsing comments and posts, notifications are slow, no iPhone app, etc. I would also like to see some sort of groups feature where a bunch of my friends who share a common interest can join and everybody can share information amongst the group, rather than in all of our different Circles.

Bill: It feels like Google is a monopoly and controls too much of the Internet already.

Mary: I actually don’t like the idea of leaving people out at the beginning, even if it has worked well in the past. I think the real push for Google+ will be once everyone is on it. The only reason I would choose Facebook over Google+ is because everyone I know is on Facebook, I can’t say the same for Google+. And unfortunately, a lot of people I have invited probably won’t jump on the bandwagon until everyone else has. I think it will end up the way Twitter has, continue to grow as people realize it really is here to stay.

Do you believe Google+ has a chance to take Facebook’s place as the #1 social networking site?

Trevin: Google certainly has a much better chance of taking down Facebook than Diaspora or Virb or anybody else that has to build from the ground up. Everybody already knows and (mostly) trusts Google. Google also has a massive user base already, which is their biggest advantage. Around 200 million people already have Gmail accounts. I’d guess around 300-400 million people have Google accounts. With the way Google+ is built in to the new black Google bar, nearly all of these people are guaranteed to check it out, at the very least. The people will come, it is just a matter of how good the product will be and I haven’t seen anything so far to suggest that it won’t be excellent.

Bill: No – Facebook has too much of a head start and most users aren’t going to switch.

Xander: Facebook has a 750 million people head start, so it will at least take some time. They are positioning themselves to be a legit player though. The private invites promote exclusivity and that worked for Gmail and Facebook at the beginning. They also have a massive pool of people to pull from—not only everyone with a Google account, but also anyone who visits a Google search property somewhere down the line. I would suspect that they have opened it up to early adopters here to work out the kinks, and then once it’s really ready to go, they’ll roll it out to the world.

Mary: It’s hard to say. It could go either way, though Facebook will be stiff competition, and they are sure to pull out all the stops by adding as many features as possible. Personally, I hope it does in fact outdo Facebook – still, if it does, it will be a slow transition and nothing immediate because there are so many avid Facebook users who will probably refuse to convert for at least a while. I predict it will be like that of Twitter – but a bit more rapid since millions of users already seem to trust Google with their lives.

As you can see, opinions of Google+ certainly vary, especially among leaders in the industry. It’s time to sit back and see what happens!

Photo by Someecards

Create a Clean and Modern Web Design in Photoshop

Preview

First, take a peek at what we’ll be creating together by clicking the preview image below to enlarge.

Resources

Step 1: Setting up a new document

In order to keep everything aligned and well-organized, we’ll be using the 960 Grid System: Download it here.

Once downloaded, open the Photoshop document called “960_grid_24_col". That document is the 24-column grid layout template of the 960 GS.

Hide the layer group called “24 Col Grid”.

Hide a layers group

Since we’ll be using guides a lot in this tutorial, our Rulers have to be turned on. Go to View > Rulers or press Ctrl/Cmd + R if your rulers are turned off.

View Rulers

We also need to make sure that guides are turned on. So go to View > Extras.

View extras

Let’s make our canvas a bit taller. Go to Image > Canvas Size and enter 1400 for the Height option. Press OK when you’re done.

Adjust canvas size

Using the Rectangular Marquee Tool (M), create a selection over the whole canvas (or press Ctrl/Cmd + A to create the selection around the canvas automatically).

Create a new layer, set your Foreground and Background color to #f5f5f5 and press Shift + Backspace to open up the Fill dialog box. Fill the selected area (the entire canvas) with the chosen color.

Fill background selection

Step 2: Creating the navigation bar background

With the Rounded Rectangle Tool (U), create a rectangle of 950x60px with Radius set at 5px. Align the rounded rectangle shape using the 960 GS guides.

Create navigation bar background

Give the shape a Drop Shadow and Gradient Overlay layer style.

Navigation bar background layer style

Step 3: Adding website name and navigation text

Using the Horizontal Type Tool (T), write your website’s name on the left side of navigation bar.

I used the following settings:

  • Font Family: Rockwell
  • Font size: 50px
  • Font weight: Bold
  • Anti-aliasing setting: Smooth
  • Color: #ce133f

Website title character settings

Write the text for your menu links.

I used the following settings:

  • Font Family: Arial
  • Font size: 15px
  • Font weight: Regular
  • Anti-aliasing setting: Smooth
  • Color: White (#ffffff) and pink (#d3123f)

Navigation text character settings

Let’s make the active menu item. Using the Rectangular Marquee Tool (M), create a selection of about 60x60px around the first link item ("Home") and fill it with a very dark (almost black) gray color (#0f0f0f).

Name this layer “hover” to keep our work tidy.

Create hover selection

Add an Inner Shadow the "hover" layer.

Add inner shadow

Select the “hover” layer and click on the Add layer mask button (it’s at the bottom of the Layers Panel).

Using the Gradient Tool (G), drag from the bottom to the top of the active menu link with the Black, White linear gradient preset.

Add layer mask to hover layer

Step 4: Creating search bar

Set your Foreground color to a gray color (#dadada).

Using the Rounded Rectangle Tool (U), create a rectangle with dimensions of 185x25px and Radius set at 5px.

Give the new rounded rectangle shape an Inner Shadow.

Create the search bar background

Write the word “search…” inside the search bar
with the Horizontal Type Tool (T).

Here are the settings I used:

  • Font Family: Arial
  • Font size: 15px
  • Font weight: Regular
  • Anti-aliasing setting: Smooth
  • Color: #1b1b1b

Search word character settings

Use the Custom Shape Tool (U) to create an arrow. Under the Shape options in the Options Bar of the Custom Shape Tool, look for the shape called "Arrow 2" or use a shape that you prefer. Set your Foreground color to our pink color (#d3123f) before drawing the shape. Create the arrow shape on the right side of the search bar.

Give the arrow a Stroke layer style.

Search arrow

Always make sure to keep your document tidy by organizing your layers and giving them meaningful names.

Organize the header layers

Step 5: Creating the sub-navigation bar

Set your Foreground color to a light gray color (#e5e5e5). With the Rounded Rectangle Tool (U), go ahead and create a rectangle below our main navigation/header sized at 490x40px with Radius at 5px.

Add a Drop Shadow layer style to the sub-navigation bar.

Create the sub-navigation bar background

Write some text in your sub-navigation bar using the Horizontal Type Tool (T) that will serve as your sub-navigation links.

I used the following font options:

  • Font Family: Arial
  • Font size: 13px
  • Font weight: Regular
  • Anti-aliasing setting: Smooth
  • Color: #1b1b1b

Sub-navigation text character settings

We will now create vertical dividers to separate our sub-navigation text. Use the Rectangular Marquee Tool (M) to create two vertical lines 1px apart from each other.

Fill (Shift + F5 or Edit > Fill) the 1px marquee selection. Use white (#ffffff) for the left selection, and then a gray color (#bbbbbb) for the right one.

Create separating line

Duplicate this separator twice by selecting its layer in the Layers Panel and pressing Ctrl/Cmd + J twice.

Use the Move Tool (V) to move the duplicated layers to the right side of the other sub-navigation links.

Duplicate sub-navigation separating line

Check back to your Layers Panel and make sure that you have your layers organized.

Organize the sub-navigation layers

Step 6: Creating the featured area background

We’ll start by dragging a new horizontal guide from the top ruler to about 25px below the sub-navigation.

Drag new horizontal guide

Create a new layer. Create a selection of 1020x350px and fill the selection with a gray color (#d0d0d0).
Call this layer “featured_bg”.

Create a selection for featured area background

Add a layer mask to the “featured_bg” layer, set your gradient to the Black, White linear gradient preset, and start dragging from the bottom to the top of your document.

Add layer mask to featured background layer

How the background looks

Step 7: Creating the featured area shadow

Using the Rectangular Marquee Tool (M), put a selection sized at 1020x15px below the sub-navigation. Fill the selection with a dark gray color (#404040).
Name this new layer as “shadow”.

Create selection for the featured area shadow

Let’s make it a bit blurry! Go to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur, set the Radius to 5px and then press OK to apply the filter.

Apply gaussian blur to shadow layer

With the “shadow” layer as the active layer in the Layers Panel, use the Rectangular Marquee Tool (M) to create a selection over the lower part of our blurry shadow. Then hit Delete to remove the unwanted area.

Delete the lower part of the shadow

Set the Opacity of the “shadow” layer to 50% to make it blend into the background better.

Reduce shadow layer opacity

Use the Line Tool (U) to create a white (#ffffff), 2px line.

Note: The layer of this line has to be on top of the rest of the featured area layers.

Create a 2px line

Step 8: Adding an image of a featured design

We’ll start this step by dragging a new horizontal guide 25px below our first horizontal guide.

Drag a new guide after 25px

Pick up your Rounded Rectangle Tool (U), set its Radius to 5px and choose Paths as the drawing option.

Create a square rounded rectangle shape sized at 280x280px and place it on the right edge of our layout.

Right-click on the path and choose Make Selection from the contextual menu that appears.

Make selection for an image of a featured design

Choose the Rectangular Marquee Tool (M) with its selection type set to Subtract from selection to put a selection over the lower part of our previous selection. This removes that portion of the selection, giving the bottom of our selection non-rounded corners.

Subtract a part from selection

Fill (Shift + F5) your selection with any color.

Next, add an Inner Shadow and Stroke layer style.
Namel this layer “image_holder”.

Featured design image layer style

Place any image of your choosing (preferably an image that you’re proud of featuring) in this area. Put the image’s layer right above the “image_holder” layer.

Right-click on the image layer and choose Create Clipping Mask; this will remove excess parts of the image you chose so that it doesn’t spill outside the "image_holder" layer.

Create clipping mask

Ctrl/Cmd + click on the "image_holder" layer to make a selection around it. Use the Polygonal Lasso Tool (L) while holding down Alt/Option to subtract a diagonal triangle from the bottom right of the original selection.

Fill the triangular selection with white (#ffffff) on a new layer and also reduce the layer’s Opacity to 10%.

Add galre effect

Step 8: Adding a smaller featured design’s image

Drag a new horizontal guide 40px below the last one we made.

Drag a new horizontal guide after 40px

Add a smaller image of another featured design using the same techniques explained in the previous step.

Add a smaller image of another featured design

Step 9: Adding a tagline

Write your site’s tagline using the Horizontal Type Tool (T). For the purpose of this tutorial, this tagline is just the word "Awesome" in all-caps.

You can use the following font settings:

  • Font Family: Rockwell
  • Font size: 100px
  • Font weight: Bold
  • Anti-aliasing setting: Sharp
  • Color: #ce1340

Welcome text character settings

With the tagline’s text layer selected in the Layers Panel, click on the Add a layer mask icon to make a layer mask.

Add layer mask to text layer

Create a selection over the lower part of your text using the Rectangular Marquee Tool (M) and then press Shift + Backspace to open the Fill dialog window. Fill the layer’s mask with black (#000000). This will result in the lower portion of our tagline being hidden.

Fill selection with black

Write another word
below the "Awesome" text.

The settings used for this new text is:

  • Font Family: Rockwell
  • Font size: 50px
  • Font weight: Bold
  • Anti-aliasing setting: Sharp
  • Color: #1b1b1b

Welcome text character settings

Step 11: Creating the "See More!" button

Select the Rounded Rectangle Tool (U) and create a 205x45px rounded rectangle with 5px Radius.

The color of the shape should be pink ( #c9103b).

Create see more button bacground

Create a selection on the top part of the button using similar techniques we’ve done. Fill the selection with a lighter shade of pink (#da1543).

Create a selection and fill it

Write the words “See More!” with the Horizontal Type Tool (T) on top of the rounded rectangle shape we just created.

Here are the settings for the "See More!" text:

  • Font Family: Rockwell
  • Font size: 40px
  • Font weight: Bold
  • Anti-aliasing setting: Sharp
  • Color: Won’t matter since we’ll add a Gradient Overlay

Read more character settings

Give your "See More!"
text a Gradient Overlay.

Add a gradient overlay to your text

This is a good point to check and make sure you’re keeping your layers organized.

How the layers panel looks

Step 12: Creating the content area background

We’ll start by dragging a couple of horizontal guides to keep everything well-aligned.

Drag a couple of horizontal guides

Create a selection of about 890x400px with the Rectangular Marquee Tool (M).

Create a selection for the content area background

Press Shift + Backspace to open the Fill dialog window; fill your selection with a very light gray color (#edeaeb).

Fill your selection

Give the very light gray content area a Stroke layer style.

Add a stroke

Using the Elliptical Marquee Tool (M), place a very thin elliptical selection at the bottom of the content area. Fill this area with a dark gray color (#404040).

Create an elliptical selection

We will make the elliptical shape we just made into a shadow. Go to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur, set Radius to 4px, and press OK to apply the filter.

Apply gaussian blur

Step 13: Creating the sidebar

Create a selection of 170x395px on the left side of our content area. This area will contain a navigation menu.

Create a selection for the sidebar background

Fill (Edit > Fill) your selection with any color in a new layer.

Apply a pink horizontal Gradient Overlay to the sidebar layer.

Apply gradient overlay to your selection

Step 14: Adding content to the sidebar

Drag two new horizontal guides to help us keep our content in the sidebar aligned, one near the top, and the other, near the bottom.

Drag two new horizontal guides

Using the Line Tool (U), create two horizontal lines on top of each other. The top line should be a dark pink color, and the bottom, a light pink color. This will serve as horizontal dividers in a consistent style as the vertical dividers we created earlier for the sub-navigation bar.

Create a separating line

Write a word such as "Category" using the Horizontal Type Tool (T) towards the top of our sidebar.

These are the font settings for "Category".

  • Font Family: Arial
  • Font size: 17px
  • Font weight: Bold
  • Anti-aliasing setting: Smooth
  • Color: #ffffff

Keep adding more categories, horizontal lines and text.

Keep adding categories and lines

Using the Custom Shape Tool (U), add some arrows on the right side of the menu text. Fill the downward-pointing arrow — which indicates which category you’re on — with white (#ffffff) and the rightward-pointing arrows (inactive categories) with a dark pink/red color (#960023).

Add arrows

Step 15: Write a heading for the main content area

Let’s move to the main content area again. Type a word such as "welcome." that will serve as a heading.

Here are the font settings for the word, "welcome.":

  • Font Family: Rockwell
  • Font size: 100px
  • Font weight: Bold
  • Anti-aliasing setting: Smooth
  • Color: #ce133f

Write a heading for the main content

Again, cut the lower part the text using the Add a layer mask technique we covered earlier in the tutorial.

Cut the lower part of the text

Write some content below the "welcome." text using the Horizontal Type Tool (T).

The settings used for this text:

  • Font Family: Arial
  • Font size: 15px
  • Font weight: Regular
  • Anti-aliasing setting: None
  • Color: #1b1b1b

Note: We used an Anti-aliasing value of None to mimic how this text would look like in a web browser that doesn’t support technologies like ClearType that smoothens HTML text.

Text character settings

Step 16: Add the main content

Let us add a smaller heading (the text used was "Who we are") with the following font settings:

  • Font Family: Rockwell
  • Font size: 30px
  • Font weight: Bold
  • Anti-aliasing setting: Smooth
  • Color: #ce133f

Smaller heading character settings

Add some lorem ipsum text samples (using a nifty tool like this one to generate the text).

The settings used for lorem ipsum text is:

  • Font Family: Arial
  • Font size: 15px
  • Font weight: Regular
  • Anti-aliasing setting: None
  • Color: #1b1b1b

Text character settings

Duplicate your heading and text layers by selecting them in the Layers Panel and then pressing Ctrl/Cmd + J or right-clicking on them and choosing Duplicate Layers from the contextual menu.

Duplicate the heading and text

Using the Line Tool (U), create a 1px-thick line (the color of the line doesn’t matter for now). Place the line in between the two content sections.

Apply a Gradient Overlay to the line to give it some color.

Create a line and apply a gradient overlay to it

Create another copy of this 1px line by duplicating its layer. Change the Gradient Overlay settings of this duplicated line.

Create another line and apply a gradient overlay to it

Step 17: Creating the featured work box

Select the Rounded Rectangle Tool (U) and create a rectangle of 170x275px and Radius of 5px on the right side of our content. The color of this rounded rectangle should be pink (#ce1340).

Create the featured work box background

Apply a Stroke layer style to the rounded rectangle.

Apply stroke to the featured work box background

Use the same techniques I’ve explained in previous steps to create a shadow at the bottom of the rounded rectangle.

Create a shadow for the featured work box

Step 18: Adding content to the featured work box

Add some text with the Horizontal Type Tool (T) within the featured work box.

The font settings for the content is as follows:

  • Font Family: Rockwell
  • Font size: 40px
  • Font weight: Bold
  • Anti-aliasing setting: Smooth
  • Color: Any color just for now

Write text in the featured work box

Apply a white-to-gray vertical Gradient Overlay layer style to your text.

Apply gradient overlay to your text

Next up, place a square rounded rectangle selection of 65x65px and Radius of 5px using the same technique we used for the featured area image.

Create a selection

Place an image on top of the rounded rectangle shape layer, right-click on the image, and pick Create Clipping Mask.

Place an image and create clipping mask

Make three more thumbnails.

Make more three copies of the image

Create a vertical line that separates the content from the Featured works box using the same techniques we’ve used to create the horizontal lines to separate the content.

Create a vertical separating line

Step 19: Creating the footer area background

Create a selection of 1020x550px using the Rectangular Marquee Tool (M).

Create a selection for the footer area

Fill your selection with a light gray (#d0d0d0).

Fill the selection

Using the Single Row Marquee Tool, create a 1px selection at the top of the light gray area. Fill this 1px selection with white (#ffffff).

Create a 1px selection and fill it with white

Step 20: Add the Twitter icon at the footer

Start by dragging a new guide 25px below the top of the footer area.

Drag a new guide after 25px

Type the letter “t” using the Horizontal Type Tool (T).

To make the letter look like the Twitter logo, use the following font settings:

  • Font Family: Pico Black (get it from here)
  • Font size: 48px
  • Font weight: Regular
  • Anti-aliasing setting: Smooth
  • Color: #33ccff

T letter character settings

Apply a Stroke layer style to our Twitter icon to finish it off.

Apply a stroke to the T letter

Step 21: Creating the Tweets bar

Using the Rounded Rectangle Tool (U), create a rectangle of 730x40px with Radius at 5px. Fill this shape with a light gray color (#e1e1e1).

Create a rectangle for the twitter feed bar

Apply an Inner Shadow layer style to our bar.

Apply an Inner Shadow

Write some text in the bar using the Horizontal Type Tool (T) and the following settings:

  • Font Family: Arial
  • Font size: 15px
  • Font weight: Regular
  • Anti-aliasing setting: None
  • Color: #ce133f

A tweet character settings

Create two 1px vertical lines 1px apart from each other and fill the left one with white (#ffffff) and the right one with gray (#bdbdbd).

Create two vertical lines next to each other

Write some more text using the Horizontal Type Tool (T). The text represents the tweet’s meta information.

The font settings for the meta information is as follows:

  • Font Family: Arial
  • Font size: 15px
  • Font weight: Italic
  • Anti-aliasing setting: Smooth
  • Color: #1b1b1b

Tweet inforamtion text's character settings

Step 22: Creating the follow us icon

Download the popular Function Icon Set by WeFunction. Find the file called “twitter_48.png” and place it on the right of our Twitter bar.

Place an icon of a bird

Write the word “Follow” on the Twitter bird’s right.

The font settings for the word "Follow" are:

  • Font Family: Rockwell
  • Font size: 35px
  • Font weight: Bold
  • Anti-aliasing setting: Smooth
  • Color: #ce133f

Cut the lower part of the word "Follow" using the same techniques we’ve used before for the tagline and other text elements.

Write the word follow

Now type the word “US on Twitter” below the word "Follow".

You can use the following font settings:

  • Font Family: Rockwell
  • Font size: 21px
  • Font weight: Bold
  • Anti-aliasing setting: Smooth
  • Color: #1b1b1b

Type the word us on twitter

Step 23: Make the separator

Using the Elliptical Marquee Tool (M), create a thin elliptical selection towards the top part of the footer area and fill it with a dark gray color (#404040).
Call this layer “separator_bg”.

Create an elliptical selection and fill it

Go to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur, set the Radius to 4px, and then apply the filter by pressing the OK button.

Apply gaussian blur filter

Create a selection over the upper part of your blurred shape. Hit Delete to remove the top portion, and you should end up with a straight edge at the top.

Delete the upper part

Give the blurry shape a Gradient Overlay layer style.

Set your gradient editor panel

Add a layer mask to the “separator_bg” layer.

Set your Foreground color to black (#000000). Use the Line Tool, hold down the Shift key to keep your line straight, and create a line at the top of the blurry shape.

Drag from right to left

Using the Line Tool (U), create a light gray (#e9e9e9) 1px line on top of the blurry shape.

Create a 1px line

Again, add a layer mask to the white line, dragging it from right to left with the Black, White gradient preset.

How the line should looks

Step 24: Creating the big footer

Drag two new horizontal guides.

Drag two new horizontal guides

Write a heading like "Testimonials" using the Horizontal Type Tool (T) and the same techniques and font settings we’ve used before. Also add some text below the heading (also in the same way as we’ve done before).

Writing a heading

Write a client name (I used "Mr. Clinet Name") below the "Testimonials" heading.

The font settings for "Mr. Clinet Name" are as follows:

  • Font Family: Arial
  • Font size: 15px
  • Font weight: Bold
  • Anti-aliasing setting: Smooth
  • Color: #ce133f

Client name character settings

Write some more filler text (lorem ipsum) that represents Mr. Clinet Name’s testimonial.

The font settings for the client’s testimonial text are:

  • Font Family: Arial
  • Font size: 15px
  • Font weight: Regular
  • Anti-aliasing setting: Smooth
  • Color: #1b1b1b

Client testimonial character settings

Duplicate your text layers and create a separating line.

Duplicate text and create a separating line

Step 25: Add more footer content

Using the same techniques we’ve covered in this tutorial, add some more content.

Add more content to the footer

Add more content to the footer

Step 26: Creating social media icons

I’ve showed you how to create this twitter “t” letter: you can duplicate that and place it under your contact information.

Type Twitter t letter

Write “fr”, which represents Flickr. To make it look like the Flickr logo, use these font settings:

  • Font Family: Frutiger (get it from here)
  • Font size: 45px
  • Font weight: Regular
  • Anti-aliasing setting: Smooth
  • Color: #ff3093 – #0079d2

Flickr character settings

Write a letter “f” for Facebook. To make it look like the Facebook logo, use these font settings:

  • Font Family: Kalvika (get it from here)
  • Font size: 50px
  • Font weight: Bold
  • Anti-aliasing setting: Smooth
  • Color: #395796

F letter character settings

Write the word "in" for LinkedIn. You’ll also need to create a blue rounded-corner square (use the Rounded Rectangle Tool) for its background. Fill the rounded-corner shape with this blue color: #0181ae.

Here are the font settings for LinkedIn’s icon:

  • Font Family: Myriad Pro (get it from here)
  • Font size: 35px
  • Font weight: Bold
  • Anti-aliasing setting: Smooth
  • Color: #ffffff

Create linkedin icon

Write the letters “YT” for YouTube. Here are the font settings for YouTube’s logo.

  • Font Family: League Gothic (get it from here)
  • Font size: 50px
  • Font weight: Regular
  • Anti-aliasing setting: Smooth
  • Color: #b72d28 – #1e1e1e

YT character settings

Step 27: Creating the small footer

Create a separating line at the bottom of the footer.

Create separating line for the small footer

Write some text in the footer such as your copyright information and links to important pages using the following character settings:

  • Font Family: Arial
  • Font size: 15px
  • Font weight: Regular
  • Anti-aliasing setting: None
  • Color: #ce133f – #1b1b1b

Tutorial Summary

There we have it! Whew! We’ve created a clean and modern web design with some basic techniques and Photoshop tools, but ended up with a pretty professional layout. We just used basic tools such as shape tools, clipping masks, layer masks, and layer styles.

Download Tutorial Source Files

Design a Vector Pencil Cartoon Character

Preview

Preview

Step 1: Create an artboard in Illustrator

Create a new document (Cmd/Ctrl + N) and use the settings below.

Create an artboard in Illustrator

Step 2: Place the sketch in and make it into a template

Go to File > Place and place your sketch into the artboard. If you want, you can use my original sketch for the purpose of following along this tutorial. I must warn you, though, that it was a very rough sketch and scan (download it here, if you must).

Place the sketch in and make into a template

Select your sketch template.

Place the sketch in and make into a template

Double-click on the layer with the placed file and use the settings specified below to make this layer into a template.

Place the sketch in and make into a template

Step 3: Create a new layer for base shapes

Create a new layer and name it "Base Shapes". This will keep our work orderly. This layer will contain the basic shapes and drawings of our vector illustration.

New Layer for base shapes

Step 4: Start making base shapes

Select the Ellipse Tool (L) to start drawing our base shapes.

Start making base shapes

Using your sketch template as a reference, create an ellipse for the head, and then, the pencil.

Start making base shapes

To make the base cylinder shape, duplicate the oval, Shift-drag downward, then create a rectangle that perfectly aligns with the duplicate ovals. Copy this shape, and then on the copy, apply the Combine pathfinder command on it. The reason you have to have a duplicate is that later on we will be using elements from the one that is not committed by the pathfinder.

Start making base shapes

The Pathfinder Panel can be turned on using the Window menu item.

Start making base shapes

Step 5: Elongating the cylinder

We need to stretch the cylinder and make it taller. We will utilize the Direct Selection Tool (A) to do this.

Elongating the cylinder

Duplicate the cylinder shape. Select the top three anchor points with the Direct Selection Tool and Shift-drag upwards to elongate the base cylinder shape.

Elongating the cylinder

Step 6: Making the rim detail

To make the rim detail, use the small cylinder shape from the previous step and the oval from the base shapes step.

Align these two shapes horizontally and vertically using Align Objects commands.

Elongating the cylinder

Divide these shapes using the Divide pathfinder command.

Elongating the cylinder

Once divided, you can then use the Group Selection Tool to pull apart the pieces.

Elongating the cylinder

The shapes below are the basis for the character’s head.

Elongating the cylinder

Step 7: Drawing the base shape for the head

To make the base head of the character (the eraser part of the pencil), get the elongated cylinder shape and oval.

Drawing the base shape for the head

Align these two shapes in the middle and top edges.

Drawing the base shape for the head

Ensure that the oval is on top by selecting it and bringing it to front (Object > Arrange > Bring to Front).

Drawing the base shape for the head

Drawing the base shape for the head

Step 8: Combining the head and rim

So far, you should have the elements below. We’ll now start to put them together.

Combining the head and rim

First, select the elongated base head and group it. Then ungroup the rim elements and select the bottom rim. Select these two elements and align them to the bottom edge using the Vertical Align Bottom command in the Align Panel.

With the Scale Tool (S), click once on the bottom edge of the lower rim and scale it up a little bit.

Duplicate this scaled rim (Shift + Opt/Alt-Drag upward) and reflect it (Object > Transform > Reflect).

Send the reflected rim to the back (Object > Arrange > Send to Back).

Combining the head and rim

Combining the head and rim

And there you go—everything is shaping up nicely.

Combining the head and rim

Step 9: Add details on the rim

Duplicate the most recent rim detail twice from the previous step (Shift + Opt/Alt-Drag downwards).

Select these two shapes and use the Intersect command in the Pathfinder Panel.

Detail on the rim

Detail on the rim

Step 10: Use Offset Path on the detail

We will continue to shape our eraser by giving it another ridge that seems to be on a higher plane than the current rim. We’ll do this by offsetting the shape to create a different-sized, smaller copy of it (Object > Path > Offset Path).

Use Offset Path on the detail

Use these Offset settings on this shape.

Use Offset Path on the detail

Align the offset shape to the rim; a handy way to do this is by selecting those two shapes and clicking once again on the base rim. Doing this tells Illustrator that the base rim is the key object. When you align, only the offset detail will move and align with the base rim.

Use Offset Path on the detail

Step 11: Making the body of the character

With our eraser taking shape, lets now move onto the body of our character—the shaft of the pencil. Create a rectangle in the same width as the base head (not the rim).

Select the two bottom anchor points of this shape. Shift-drag them downwards and scale inwards. Ensure proportions of this shape are relative to your sketch template.

Making the body of the character

Now create four perfect squares next to each other by using the Rectangle Tool and holding down Shift. Duplicate your first square by Shift + Opt/Alt-dragging once, and then pressing Cmd/Ctrl + D two times. This will give you the result shown below.

Making the body of the character

Group (Cmd/Ctrl + G) the four squares and send them back.

Making the body of the character

Select the two elements shown below and then go to Object > Envelope Distort > Make with Top Object.

Making the body of the character

Once you have applied the Envelope Distort, select and expand it.

Making the body of the character

Step 12: Create a new Art Brush

After you expand the shape, make it into an Art Brush. You do this by dragging the element into the Brushes Panel. A dialogue box will ask you what kind of brush you want—specify New Art Brush.

Create a new Art Brush

Step 13: Apply the new Art Brush on the character’s body

Make a path with the Pen Tool (P) to follow. It helps if you refer to the sketch template when doing this.

Create a new Art Brush

Step 14: Apply the new Art Brush

Apply the Art Brush made in the previous step and expand its appearance, Object > Expand Appearance.

Afterwards, make sure this element is sent to the back.

Create a new Art Brush

Step 15: Draw the pencil tip

Create a half "u/v" shape with the Pen Tool (P), shaped like the tip of a pencil.

Next, select the shape and then reflect it (Object > Transform > Reflect).

Then join the two bottom anchor points with each other by selecting them and then hitting Cmd/Ctrl + J. Repeat this for the top anchor points.

Making the Wooden Head and Multi-colored Lead

Send this shape behind the body using the Object > Arrange command. Then use scale and rotate tools to make the edges the same size and align.

Making the Wooden Head and Multi-colored Lead

To make the lead of the pencil, copy and paste in front of the wood shape. So, now you have two of the same shape on top of one another.

Now, make a circle with the Ellipse Tool and intersect it with the frontal wood shape.

Making the Wooden Head and Multi-colored Lead

Step 16: Making the mouth of the character

Alright, now that we have the basic shape of our character, we’ll start on its detailing. First up is the face of our character, which will be on the eraser. Start off with a circle using the Ellipse Tool, delete the topmost anchor point with the Direct Selection Tool (A).

Making the mouth of the character

Refine the mouth shape with the Path Eraser Tool (hidden behind the Pencil Tool).

Making the mouth of the character

Thicken the stroke and round off the edge of the path in the Stroke Panel.

Making the mouth of the character

Expand the path (Object > Expand).

Making the mouth of the character

Step 17: Create the teeth of the character

Create the teeth of the character by making a duplicate of the shape and applying a negative offset value to it. When adding an Offset Path effect, make sure the path does not have a stroke or else you will get odd results. Also, Offset Path requires the shape’s appearance to be expanded (Object > Expand Appearance) after its application to commit it and allow us to work with it.

Create the teeth of the character

Create the teeth of the character

Step 18: Make the eyes of our character

With the Line Segment Tool (\), create a diagonal line by Shift-dragging in a diagonal motion; holding down Shift ensures that you are creating a diagonal line with a 45-degree angle.

Making the Eyes

Now reflect a copy of the diagonal line. Thicken and round off edges like with did for the mouth of our character. Also, expand this shape and then combine the expanded shape using the Combine command in the Pathfinder Panel.

Making the Eyes

Afterwards, draw a perfect circle around the "X" shape by Shift-dragging using the Ellipse Tool.

To finish off the eyeball, send it to the back.

And there you have it, an eyeball with a cross as the pupil.

Making the Eyes

Step 19: Place and tweak characteristics

Group the eye and mouth and then tweak them with the Group Selection Tool. Afterwards, position the pieces on top of our eraser using the Selection Tool (V).

Place and tweak characteristics

Step 20: Make the paper base

We will make it look like our pencil is writing on a piece of paper; the paper serves as the base of our shape. Make a narrow "C" shape with the Pen Tool and then Shift-drag to duplicate it.

Join the bottom and top anchor points of the "C" shape with each other using Pathfinder commands.

You should now have a paper fold shape.

Make the base paper

Create a rectangle that perfectly aligns to the bottom edge of the paper fold.

Make the base paper

Select the bottom two anchor points of this rectangle and drag it up over the top edge of the paper fold. Ensure this shape is behind the paper fold.

Make the base paper

While the anchor points are still selected, move them so that the rectangle looks skewed, giving the illusion of the paper being seen on an angle in 3D space.

Make the base paper

Step 21: Color in the artwork

Artwork can be colored easily with the Eyedropper Tool (I) and the Color and Swatches Panels open. (I discuss this simple coloring technique in greater detail in my previous illustration tutorial.)

In the Color Panel, specify a stroke and fill color; you could also use the Swatches Panel. I recommend docking these two panels when you are coloring artwork for convenience, and hiding them when you’re doing line work to give you more space in your monitor screen.

Once you specify a fill and stroke, press Opt/Alt and click on closed paths to give them desired colors, gradient, and/or patterns.

Color in the artwork

Color in the artwork

Step 22: Adding detail to your artwork

With the Knife Tool, split the lead into four closed paths.

Adding detail to your artwork

Double-click on the base paper to enter Isolation mode. Within Isolation mode, create a path drawn by the character with the Pen/Pencil Tool.

Adding detail to your artwork

On top of the path, create lines (with no stroke or fill) that split the bottom shape into four sections. Select these elements use the Divide command in Pathfinder on them—this will cut the bottom shape into four separate closed paths.

Adding detail to your artwork

With the Direct Selection Tool, copy the base paper rectangle and paste in front of the drawn path.

Adding detail to your artwork

Select the drawn path and the frontal shape and make a clipping mask via Object > Clipping Mask > Make.

Adding detail to your artwork

Select the clipping path with the Selection Tool (V) and apply the Divide command again (in Pathfinder).

Adding detail to your artwork

Step 23: A technique for adding highlight and shadows

When adding highlights/shadow details, it’s better to keep it only as a fill.

A technique for adding highlight and shadows

With the Pen Tool, I created a highlight shape on the rim.

A technique for adding highlight and shadows

Clean up the highlight detail by copying and pasting in front of the highlight shape of the offset rim detail shape and then removing its fill.

Repeat this step as desired and see your character come to life!

A technique for adding highlight and shadows

Tutorial Summary

Preview

In this tutorial, I have shown you different ways to illustrate a cartoon character based off a scanned-in sketch. We applied various Pathfinder commands, shape tools, transformation commands, and other basic and non-complicated Illustrator features to create a vector character.

I hope that through this tutorial, you can see that many of Illustrator’s power lies within its basic shapes and transformation tools, and you should try to explore their potential in helping you convert your sketches to digital vector art.

Happy Illustrating! Show us your own vector drawings by adding it to the Design Instruct Flickr group pool.

Download Tutorial Source Files