Create a Clownfish in Illustrator Using Basic Shapes
Today I’m going to show you how to create a clownfish in Illustrator using basic shapes. Not only does the use of basic shapes make this tutorial perfect for beginners, but it also helps to give the clownfish a cartoon-like quality that suits its friendly personality. After all, anyone who’s seen Finding Nemo will know that clownfish are pleasant fellows.
Here is the clownfish that we’re going to be creating during this tutorial. The added shadow and detailing on the fins really help bring this happy character to life.
Open up a new document in Illustrator and begin by drawing a 130px circle, this is going to form the body of our clownfish. Next, draw a 20px by 60px oval and align it centrally to the top of the circle using the Align palette then pull it upwards by around 40px. Using the Direct Selection Tool pull the oval’s left anchor point out to the left by 5px, we have just created the dorsal fin.
Let’s create the pectoral fins now. Draw a 15px circle and pull its left anchor point out to the left by 3px and its bottom anchor point down by 3px. Select both the body and the new shape then ALT-click on the body to make it the key object to align to (a thick blue line will appear around it). Align the new shape centrally and to the left of the body then pull it out to the left by around 10px. Copy and paste the shape in place CTRL+C, CTRL+F (or CMD+C, CMD+F if you’re using a Mac) then reflect it vertically by right-clicking and selecting Transform > Reflect from the pop-up menu and align it to the right of the clownfish to mirror the original.
If you’re thinking the fins are a little on the small side that’s because we’re not finished with them just yet. Continue the fins by drawing a 50px by 60px oval, then using the Direct Selection Tool pull its right anchor point out to the right by around 10px and its left anchor point in to the right by 5px. Next, align the shape centrally and to the left of the body before pulling it to the left by roughly 45px and sending it to the back of the document (right-click and select Arrange > Send to Back from the pop-up menu). Copy, paste and reflect the fin before positioning it on the right of our clownfish.
Clownfish have very distinctive white markings and ours wouldn’t be complete without one so let’s make that now. Draw a 110px by 140px oval and then from the Object menu select Path > Offset Path, set the Offset to -10px in the dialogue box and click OK. With both circles selected choose the Pathfinder Palette’s Minus Front button to subtract the offset from the original. Align the marking centrally to the top of the clownfish’s body then pull it down by 10px. Now, make a copy of the body and with it still highlighted select the marking and choose the Pathfinder’s Intersect button before pasting the body back into place and reordering the layering of the shapes.
Let’s create our clownfish’s face next. For the eyes draw two 15px circles positioned side-by-side with roughly 20px of space between them. Group the eyes (CTRL+G) before aligning them so they sit centrally within the body, again it will help here if you use the body as the key object to align to by ALT-clicking it after both it and the eyes have been selected. Draw another 15px circle for the mouth, positioned centrally about 5px beneath the eyes, and then use the Direct Selection Tool to remove its top anchor point. You should now be left with a happy smiling clownfish.
As well as the white markings, clownfish often have black tips to their fins. To create the dorsal fin’s black tip create a copy of the original dorsal fin and paste it back into place then pull it down by 10px. Select both the original and the copy then choose the Minus Front button from the Pathfinder Palette, you should now be left with just the tip of the fin. Paste the original back in place and then reorder its position by sending it backwards (CTRL+[), until it sits behind the tip. Repeat this process to create the tips for the pectoral fins, but pull the copy of the left fin 10px to the right before using the Minus Front button, and the copy of the right fin 10px to the left.
Our clownfish is really starting to take shape, we just need to make another tweak then we can add some colour! Select the clownfish’s body, dorsal fin and the little stubs that connect the pectoral fins to its body, once all four shapes are selected choose the Unite button from the Pathfinder to combine them. Reorder the layers as necessary so that the pectoral fins are at the back of the document and the markings, fin tips and face are at the front. Now add some colour, I have opted for a brown stroke, orange fill and a very deep brown for the tips.
Our clownfish still looks a little flat, let’s add a few shadows to give it a bit of dimension. The process we’ll be using is very similar to the one we used to create the fin tips. To start, create a copy of the body and paste it in place before pulling it upwards by 10px and subtracting it from the original using the Minus Front button. Paste the original body back in place and reorder the layers as necessary. Select the shadow, remove its stroke, and using the Transparency palette set its Blending Mode to Multiply and its opacity to 25%.
Repeat this process for the pectoral fins but pull them upwards by 30px before using the Minus Front button.
Let’s add a little bit more detail to the pectoral fins of our clownfish to finish them off. Draw a 5px circle, then using the Anchor Point Tool (SHIFT+C) click on the circle’s right anchor so that it becomes a sharp point. Pull the point out to the right by 20px and then create a further two copies of the shape positioned one above the other with roughly 5px of space between them. Rotate the top shape by -15° and the bottom shape by 15° then group the three together (CTRL+G).
Align the shapes centrally with the left pectoral fin and change their fill to the same orange you’ve used for the clownfish’s body with no stroke. Using the Transparency palette set the Blending Mode to Multiply and the Transparency to 35%. Copy, paste and reflect the detailing before positioning it on the right pectoral fin.
All that’s left to do is adjust the stroke widths to add to the sense of depth and we’re done. Select the body, pectoral fins and mouth of the clownfish and give them a 2px stroke. Remove the strokes around the fin tips if you have any. Next, make a copy of the clownfish’s body and pectoral fins and paste them in place before combining them with the Pathfinder’s Unite button. Send the combined shape to the back of the document (SHIFT+CTRL+[) and then using the Object menu select Path > Offset Path, set the Offset to 3px with round Joins and click OK. Give the offset a brown fill with no stroke and you’re done!
Why not put your finished clownfish on a blue background with a few bubbles to make it seem at home? Now, who’s up for a little Finding Nemo?
Written by Liz Canning