The Vikings are Coming!

When designing characters, sometimes we feel tempted to get into details too soon in the process. The very first thing we need to worry about is to block its main basic shapes beforehand. This way we can start with a very clear idea of what we are going after, before we invest too much time working on it.

Difficulty: Intermediate

Knowledge required:

  • Be familiar with Designer’s Corner Tool
  • Fair knowledge of the different shapes from the Main Tools

You’ll discover how to:

  • Use different Designer’s tools to sketch out different body types
  • How to combine tools to create complex-looking paths

Our final image:

The Basic Shape

Before I came up with my viking’s final shape, I made a half dozen of body type tests like the ones you see above. Nothing too fancy, just blocky primitives that allowed me to decide in advance, which kind of character I wanted to go for.

Once you’re happy with the main forms of your character, you can start playing around with the details.

Facial features

Let’s start by adding some facial features. (FIG A) I used a couple of circles to make the eyes and added some rectangles for his mouth, face and nose. Then I reshaped these rectangles with the Corner Tool.

You can read a step by step tutorial on how use the Corner Tool HERE.

Draw some eyebrows and a couple of teeth (FIG B). As a final touch for his expression, I made a half-circle and added a semi-rounded rectangle under his eyes to make him appear angrier (FIG C). What we get after all these steps is… a pretty silly face… Don’t worry, we’ll fix this in a moment. What we need to do now is to give our character some personality.

The Beard

Let’s take our viking’s silly grumpy face (FIG A) and create a rectangle about a half of his head (FIG B), then round its top two corners with the Corner Tool (FIG C).

To simulate some volume on his beard (FIG A), we’re going to duplicate it, change its color to a darker shade and eliminate its stroke. Then add a new rectangle over it as shown in (FIG B), then you’ll have to select both shapes -the darker beard and the new rectangle- and use the Subtract function (FIG B) to left just half of the duplicated beard (FIG C).

Creating the mustache is pretty simple. Just draw a new small rectangle as shown in (FIG A), then reshape it with the Corner Tool (FIG B) until you get the shape you please. Then just duplicate it and mirror it (FIG C).

Viking’s Face Color Reference:

  • Face fill: C:0 M:37 Y:36 K:0
  • Stroke: C:72 M:91 Y:23 K:8
  • Nose fill: C:0 M:67 Y:20 K:0
  • Eyeballs and Teeth fill: C:4 M:9 Y:14 K:0
  • Iris fill: C:74 M:13 Y:34 K:0
  • Eyes shade: C:0 M:60  Y:33  K:0
  • Beard fill: C:0 M:85  Y:33  K:0
  • Beard shade: C:23 M:89  Y:27  K:0

Going a few steps back

Before we go too far ahead, I want to address a very easy way to create cartoony arms for your characters, which you can use and re-use for sketching on future projects.

With the Donut Tool create, well, a donut; double-click it and adjust its center (inner orange dot) so it matches with the width you want for your arm (FIG A). Then grab the outside orange dot of the donut to the left, to open it (FIG B). You’re gonna end with something like (FIG C).

Ok… what was the point of that you may ask?

Example 1

Using this this method you can come up with lots of arms variations in no time. If you’re not-so-skilled with drawing arms in different poses, this technique will save you hours of your life! Let’s see another one…

Example 2

Here’s another arm using the same technique. I made a completely different arm just by subtracting a different part of the donut and pulling a couple of nodes here and there. We’ll get into more details later, but I hope you get the idea.

The body

As always I invite to have fun end experiment for yourself, our tutorials are meant to be creativity triggers and not strict rulebooks. Since you have already decided which body type you’re going to use from the beginning, it’s time to add more details to it.

I recommend you to look for some references over the web, so you can base your design on a real viking’s outfit. Remember to keep it very simple. Character design is about the big picture, keep that in mind.


The boots are extremely simple to make. I’ll break down the design I came up for this tutorial, so you can experiment a little bit more and come up with some cool design too!

Let’s start with a rectangle (FIG A), then with the Node Tool, select its bottom left node and drag it just a bit to the right (FIG B). To make the shoe, select the Pie Tool from the Tools Panel and draw a small half-circle (FIG C).

To know more about the Pie Tool, you can read THIS TUTORIAL.

Now, for the boot strap, you’ll need to draw another rectangle like the one shown in (FIG A) above, then rotate it by 90° (FIG B). Important! in order to get the next step right, you’ll need to apply this rotation permanently by selecting the option Reset Selection Box (FIG B), located up at the Context Toolbar.

Then skew this rectangle by 15° (FIG C) and rotate it 90° again (FIG D).

And finally, let’s add a last rectangle (FIG A), then grab its bottom left node and grab it a little to the right too (FIG B); then draw a small triangle over it (FIG C), select both shapes and hit Subtract from the Main Toolbar (FIG C). You’ll end with something like (FIG D).

Viking’s Clothes Color Reference:

  • General Stroke: C:72 M:91 Y:23 K:8
  • Vest fill: C:64 M:18 Y:36 K:0
  • Shirt fill: C:74 M:50 Y:35 K:9
  • Pants fill: C:54 M:67 Y:20 K:2
  • Belts: C:72 M:91 Y:23 K:8
  • Boot collar and shoe fill: C:32 M:41  Y:11  K:0
  • Boots fill: C:54 M:67 Y:20 K:2

So far, you should have something similar to the image above. To complete our viking’s head, we just need to add a couple of ears. Follow along the steps above, using the Corner Tool and the Pen Tool. Pretty easy!

Notice that I’ve added a couple of details and changes here and there. I won’t explain everything in detail, because I wan’t you to experiment and add your own personal touch to your viking friend.

The helmet

This part is very easy if you know a couple of tricks. Let’s break down its process and find out how to nail those curvy horns!

The base of the helmet is very straightforward, it is made out of a half-circle and a handful of rectangles. It is pretty simple to figure it out. But the next part will be a little more trickier and interesting…

The horns

This technique will help you to draw some awesome paths without the need of being a Pen Tool ninja master. I promise.

First of all, let’s draw a rough path with the Pen Tool that follows along our horn’s main shape. This has not not be perfect at all (FIG A)! Then, using the almighty Corner Tool, we’re going to fine tune our horn (FIG B) by smoothing all of the sharp corners we drew previously. The next step would be to increase this path width by 40 to 50px (will be your horn’s width) (FIG C).

This damn horn still looks pretty ugly ins’t it? that’s why we’ll rely on the other almighty Designer’s function: Pressure. It is located in the Stroke Panel and with this baby we’re going to control our stroke’s dynamic width (FIG A).

It looks more like a horn now uh? Finally go to the Layer menu and select Expand Stroke… Now you’re able to edit this path’s fill and stroke, like a regular one (FIG B)… magic!

The hands

Hands are always a very difficult body part to draw, no matter which style you’re using. I’m gonna show you today a couple of easy ways to draw hands, that are far from difficult.

Method 1: just take two rectangles (FIG A), then fill’em with a fleshy color and round the corners as shown in (FIG B). Take both shapes and use the Add function from the main toolbar to merge them and finally draw some lines for the fingers (FIG C).

Method 2: take another few rectangles (FIG A), round the corners indicated in (FIG 2), add the fleshy color and merge all shapes with the Add function (FIG C) and draw as many details as you wish (FIG D).

Putting all together and adding some extra details

That would be pretty much it. As you can see I’ve added my own final details to make this character more believable and more likely to my taste. You can look for photo references on the web and give your viking perhaps a cool and powerful sword, a more elaborated metal shield or a snowy background… let your imagination run wild and free!


Below you’ll find the .afdesign source file for this tutorial so you can study it a little closer and find more details on how it was made.


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