Adobe Illustrator Cartoon Tutorial with a Wacom Tablet

Below is a tutorial I’ve written for a cartoon character created in Adobe Illustrator using a Wacom Tablet. This is an alternative method from my other cartoon tutorial in Adobe Illustrator. I bought a Wacom Tablet a while ago, but was never really sold on it. I guess I’m just used to drawing with the mouse.

As usual, I always start with a sketch placed in Illustrator.

Next, I want to set my brush that I’m going to use. I open the brush palette. Go to Window > Brushes to open it. When your palette is open, double click on one of the brush styles along the top.
A dialogue box will pop up. I picked these settings, but feel free to play around with the settings to see what kind of different lines they give you.
Next, I select the Brush Tool from the tool bar, select a stroke color, select my brush from the brush palette and start drawing with the stylus. I like to pick a bright color, so it is easier to see my line while working.

After my lines are drawn, I usually clean them up any lines that overlap or have gaps. I do this by selecting the Direct Select Tool (open arrow) from the tool bar and moving the anchor points of the lines.

Next, I want to turn my lines into shapes. To do this I’m going to use Flatten Transparency. Go to Object > Flatten Transparency.
A dialogue box will appear. Set the Raster/Vector Balance to 100 and click OK. This turns your strokes into shapes.

You’ll want to group your new lines together for easier selection later or you can use the Pathfinder Palette to make them one shape.

Next, I use the Ellipse Tool to draw in all the circles. I like to use the Ellipse Tool instead of drawing the circles with the stylus because the circles are symmetrical.

You’ll notice that a few of the circles are outside the lines. You can your the Knife Tool (located behind the Scissors on the tool bar) to cut off the excess. It works basically like its name suggest. You draw where you want to cut and it splits the shape into two pieces. Delete the piece you don’t need.

Once all my shapes are correct, I change all my lines to black and eliminate my sketch.
Now, it’s time to color. You can color the circles by adding a fill or by using the Offset Path (Object > Path > Offset Path) to create a smaller shape.

For the lines drawn with the stylus, you’ll need to trace around the lines.

Finally, I add in my shadows and highlights. See the snail cartoon tutorial for how to do that.

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  1. 08/07/29

    Your site- is interesting resource, tnks, admin.
    Good luck.

  2. 08/09/05

    Hey! , Your blog post about adobe photoshop tutorial is absolutely great. Easy to understand it and with excellent value. I just stumbled up and dugg your site to digg as good news article about adobe photoshop tutorial on Friday . Cheers, Mike Brown , keep up the good work !

  3. 09/01/26

    I am looking to become an illustrator. Please visit my site and see if i got what it takes to become one.

  4. 09/01/28

    Wow! Thank you!
    I always wanted to write in my blog something like that. Can I take part of your post to my blog?
    Of course, I will add backlink?

    Regards, Reader

  5. 09/01/28


  6. Cory

    Links to my posts are always appreciated, Reader.

    Lottie, I had to edit your post down from 1000 o’s in cool. I don’t think people are ready for that kind of excitement.

    Rotasha, it looked like you had some nice stuff on your site. To be honest, I had a little trouble navigating it.


  7. 09/03/04

    well said, finally a good report on this stuff

  8. Stephina

    I really like your tutorials.

    You didn’t really say if you like the tablet or not? Which one are you using? I’ve been thinking about the Intuos3 6×8 but now they just announced the Intuos4. So any feed back would be nice. It will just be for me and my stuff. I won’t be selling anything or showing anyone else.

  9. Stephina

    I know you did a review but that was back in 07′

  10. Cory


    I bought the Intuos 3 6 x 8. I haven’t used it all that much since I bought it in 2007. I just didn’t like it as much as my mouse, but I’ve read a lot of people that love their tablets. For me, I thought the Wacom took up too much desk real estate and it wasn’t as precise to use. Keep in mind, I’ve been drawing with a mouse for 10+ years, so the stylus felt kind of foreign.

    My advice would be if you’re comfortable drawing with the mouse, then you might not like the tablet. But if you hate drawing with the mouse, then the tablet might be better for you. I think it is mostly about what you learn first. Also, you may want to get a second opinion, and search the Illustrator forums on They seem to have the mouse vs tablet debate a lot.

    As far as the Intuos 4, I don’t know too much about it. It looks like it has more quick keys. I like to use a lot of keyboard shortcuts, so that would probably be a good thing.

    Hope that helps,


  11. Stephina

    It did, thanks.

  12. 09/12/12

    Thnx 4 the submit! 🙂

  13. Kay

    Does this proceedure create a vector file or bitmap? What is the file extension?

    I have been trying to learn to draw in Photoshop with a Wacom tablet, but it takes so long to get smooth lines. I draw with the hard brush, then I have to blow it way up to see the jaggies and smooth them out with the eraser.

    Photoshop also has a pen tool that makes weird vector lines with anchor points. I can’t get the hang of it.

    Is Illustrator different? I wish I could just draw a nice smooth line and not have to spend 10 minutes editing something that I drew in 10 seconds!

  14. Cory


    Yes, it is for making vector files. As far as the extension, Illustrator can save in a variety of formats (.ai, .eps, .pdf, .svg & more).

    I like working in a vector format because you are never going to get resolution problems or jagged lines. But if you prefer to work in Photoshop, I’d say if you are getting jagged lines, then your resolution may be too low. 300 dpi is the standard for print files and 72 dpi for the web. I guess I can’t really tell you what the problem is without seeing the file.

  15. 10/03/19

    Enjoyed reading this post, thanks 😉

  16. 10/06/17

    Whats up it’s my first visit here, I LOVE the pictures 😛

  17. Lucia

    Hi Cory,

    I wanted to thank you for such a helpful website. I am a budding cartoonist/illustrator who is converting to digital artwork after many years of hand rendered design.

    I am currently teaching myself how to use an Intuos 4 tablet with Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop CS2 and it is very hard and time consuming. Your quick tips and advise have saved me hours of searching through books and other online tutorials.

    Very much appreciated.
    Thanks again,

  18. Ben

    Was a good read and easy to understand.
    I still need to work on photoshop for improvement.
    Nice article. 🙂

  19. 10/11/12

    Couldn’t have arrived at a better time. Great blog.

  20. 10/12/15

    this is hard

  21. 10/12/25

    This is a very good post! Keep them comming!

  22. 11/02/01

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  23. 11/02/15

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  24. 11/02/22

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  25. 11/03/03

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  26. 11/03/31

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  27. 11/06/14

    I am often blogging and i really appreciate your content. The article has really peaked my interest. I am going to bookmark your site and keep checking for new information.

  28. 12/04/20

    You said you use the brush tool to draw your initial shape; do you do this because it’s so much quicker than outlining with the bezier (pen) tool? I also noticed that a lot of your illustrations appear to be duplicates, with minor variations (eyes closed, smile instead of frown, etc.); do the micro-stock agencies have difficulty with (what might appear as) “padding” the quantity of illustrations, or are they more accepting? I only ask because I’ve just begun teaching my students the rudiments of Adobe Illustrator, and trying to motivate them by getting as many sellable pieces as possible, to submit to the various stock agencies.

  29. Cory

    I wrote this after I bought a tablet, so I was experimenting with different ways to work. Typically, I draw with a mouse and use the pen tool.

    I do create a lot of similar variations for my illustrations. Some agencies do frown on that and reject them, but others don’t. Buyers do like to buy variations of the same character, but agencies have trouble sometimes reconciling that with trying to accept a wide variety of contributors.

    It’s sort of a flaw in the microstock model. You can try to make a fair playing field for everyone, but by not concentrating on any of your contributors specifically, you end up with rules that don’t necessarily benefit anyone. I keep expecting more smaller more focused agencies to pop up, but it hasn’t seemed to happen yet.

  30. jan

    Thanks for this tutorial. Too bad drawing still takes a lot of time. But when you know the tricks the result is worth the time. Thx