How to create WALL-E outline illustration

Hello there!

First of all, I would like to thank all of you who gave me feedback on my first tutorial. You can’t imagine how happy I was to hear that my tutorial was helpful for so many designers. Also, some people tried to follow all the steps of the tutorial and sent me the results of their work. This was really rewarding and made me continue sharing my way of designing the illustrations.

Today I’m sharing the process of creating ‘WALL-E’ illustration. You can follow the steps below to get the same result, though I recommend you to try finding your own shapes, proportions, colors, etc. This way you will learn the process of creating a complicated outline illustration and the result of your work will be unique.

In some parts of this tutorial I focus mainly on the process, considering that you’re very familiar with the general tools and functionality of Adobe Illustrator. If you feel that I omitted some very important details and you struggle to understand how something is done, please let me know and I’ll try to explain.

Let’s go!

1. Lineart

Create a new document (File -> New) with the following settings:
- Number of Artboards: 1
- Width: 600px
- Height: 400px
- Color Mode: RGB

Now, there’s one layer called ‘Layer 1’, rename it to ‘lines’, that’s where our outline will be stored. 
Use 4px stroke width for the main objects and 2px stroke width for little details.

1.1. Body Shape

Let’s make the main body shape and the ground line.

Stroke width: 4px, stroke color: #454b6e, no fill color.

To make the ground line select the ‘lines’ layer and choose ‘Pen’ tool (P). Ground length: 300px. Then choose ‘Rectangle’ tool and create a body shape. Width: 112px, height: 100px, corner radius: 4px, spacing to the ground: 40px.

1.2. Wheels

Add 2 more rectangles, they will be our wheels. Move around the shapes and experiment with sizes to get the proportions that you like. I came up with these values: width: 44px, height: 74px, spacing to the body: 8px.

Add lines with ‘Pen’ tool (P) to connect the body with the wheels from one side.

As soon as you are happy with the suspension element, use ‘Reflect’ tool to get this element mirrored to the second wheel.

1.3. Hands

It’s time to work on the hands. Again start with one, complete the shape and mirror it.

The hands are not supposed to be photorealistic, try to simplify the shape as much as you can so it won’t look too overwhelmed. After looking at a few references of real WALL-E’s hands, I’m ready to design it.

Here’s my process of creating a hand: I started with rough rectangular shapes, added a few anchor points than moved around some of them using ‘Direct Selection’ tool (A), and made the corners rounded.

It’s time to attach a hand to the body and mirror it. Also if the body shape overlays the hand in some parts, remove these paths with a ‘Shape builder Tool’.

1.4. Eyes

This is the hardest part I think but it’s not too complicated at all if you do it smartly. The most efficient way to design the right shape for the eye is to find a good reference of real WALL-E eye, place it on your artboard, scale it to fit the size of your illustration and outline the eye.

Here’s my process for designing the eye: start with a circle, add 2 curves with a ‘Pen’ tool, remove the inner path of the circle using ‘Shape Builder Tool’, round the sharp corner, add 2 inner circles to create the lens, and finally add a few dots to look like screws.

Move around the eye and rotate it until you find the right spot for it (I mean the spot that you like), then mirror it. I actually increased the size of the eyes compared to the body of the real WALL-E, because in my style of illustrations I like to put a lot of attention to finding the right proportions for the object to look cuter instead of using real ones.

1.5. Neck

Connect the eyes with the body by adding symmetric paths, in my case I did 2 rectangles with rounded corners, 3 short lines and one rounded path that is a small part of a circle.

1.6. Details

Let’s add some details to the main shape of our object, before we move on to coloring.

Start with a neck, add two wires (made of circles which have been cut with a ‘Shape Builder Tool’) with 4px stroke, and then add 3 horizontal lines with 2px stroke.

Using ‘Pen’ tool, a rectangle and a circle, add some details to the body, but try keeping it clean. I also added the shoulders to the body.

Add horizontal lines (2px stroke width) with an equal step to make a tire look like a simplified caterpillar.

2. Colors

As you might know from my previous tutorial, I always keep the colors on a separate layer, but I’ll repeat the process again.

Copy ‘lines’ layer and name it ‘color’, then place it below (not inside) ‘lines’ layer.

Lock ‘lines’ layer and select ‘color’ layer. Select all the objects on ‘color’ layer and remove the stroke from them, then choose ’Live Paint Bucket’ (K) and fill the object with #d4eaf1 color.

The coloring part is very subjective, I usually spend 20–30% of the time on it when creating an illustration. My main goal is not to overwhelm the illustration with too many colors, at the same time making it juicy and clean.

The process is like this: add different colors (for now fill with any color) to different parts of the object, similar parts should have similar/same color. When you finished with allocating the colors, it’s time to tweak all the colors to find the perfect ones for your illustration. To do it select everything on your ‘colors’ layer (cmd/crtl + A) and use ‘Recolor Artwork’ tool to tweak all the colors at the same time.

3. Lighting & Shadows

Now let’s add lights and shadows to make the illustration more detailed.

First of all, we need to decide how many light sources we want to use and where they will be located. I usually use only one light source and set it in the top left corner of an illustration. This illustration is not an exception.

Create a new layer ‘shadows’ and place it above the ‘color’ but below ‘lines’ layer.

3.1. Wheels

I do only 1 shape of light and 1 shape of shadow for each tire. Keeping in mind that the light source is located in the top left corner. I do one rectangle on the top of the tire and the second rectangle on the front part of the tire, but shifted a little bit to the left from the center. The final light shape was created by merging of these 2 rectangles (via ‘Pathfinder Tool’).

For the shadow I’ve just added an arcuate form (done using ‘Pen’ tool) with a little tilt on the right side (again because of the light source).

The shapes don’t have to be theoretically correct and realistic, they just have to be good to your eye 🙂

Fill the light shape with white color and adjust the opacity to 17%, the shadow shape will have black color with 10% opacity.

Using the same approach, add the shadows and light to the suspension (an element that connects the body and wheels). I’ve added a huge shadow from the body on the right part of the suspension, small rectangle shadows between the small parts and even one little light shape on the top left element. These lights and shadows are on the metal parts, that’s why I use higher opacity values for the light shape (50% opacity) and for all the shadow shapes (25% opacity). Always think about the material of the object that you’re working on.

3.2. Body & Hands

It’s time to add the light and shadows to the body and hands. I decided to add the lights first because there are so many small parts. It may look pretty hard but in reality I’ve just added small white rectangles (65% opacity for the body parts and 90% opacity for the hands) on all elements of the upper part. Then I’ve created the huge rounded rectangle shape in the middle of the body to make it shiny, but set the opacity to only 35% not to draw too much attention to it. And the final step is adding two stripes of the light on the screen. This is a very common approach to drop the lights on the glass.

To add shadows from hands I copied the shape of the hands on the lines layer, pasted them (cmd+F for mac, ctrl+F for Windows) on the shadows layer, then moved them on 5px right and 5px down (it’s really easy to do by the arrow keys) and then pasted in place the hands again. Then I removed all unnecessary lines with ‘Shape Builder Tool’, rounded the corners and got these cool shadows.

The final steps for the body are 2 shadow rectangles between the fingers and one small rectangle in the bottom of the body.

3.3. Neck

Add 2 shapes of the light to the neck just like we did on the tires and one shadow shape on the face area.

3.4. Eyes

Make a couple of shadows from the eye defend plates using the same method as for the hands shadows.

Finally, to make eyes shiny, create a new layer ‘eye-lights’ and place it above the ‘lines’ layer because we need a shiny effect which will affect the stroke as well. I really like 2 glares for each eye: a big circle and a small one. It looks really cool, but we can make it even better with adding this moon-like shape to highlight a convexity of the binoculars.

4. Polishing

Are you still there? Cool! The illustration is almost ready, but we can do some small touches to polish it a bit.

4.1. WALL-E details

Let’s add some small gaps on the tires (via ‘Scissors’ tool) to show that our little buddy likes to ride around, one gap on the neck, WALL-E label and a couple of scratches on the empty space of the body.

4.2. Ground details

I already like the illustration a lot, but the ground seems pretty boring. Let’s create some gaps on the ground as we did for the body and add a few additional ground lines.

Conclusion

I’m pretty happy with the result, but if you want to go further you can add the background environment, recolor WALL-E in purple, put a birthday cap on his head, then print the illustration out and hand it over on your friend’s birthday, do whatever you want!


Thank you for reading! Any feedback is highly appreciated.

Here’s the .ai source file of the illustration.

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