How to make a simple and cute butterfly in Illustrator

Hi everyone! This tutorial is going to show you how to make a simple and cute butterfly vector from scratch!

It's a fairly simple tutorial but you will need to know (at least) the basics of using the pathfinders. If you're unsure or still have no clue on what it is, go for a crash course on it with my previous tutorial How to make a custom love shape in Adobe Illustrator (using pathfinders). Also, I would like to add that I won't be using the pen tool for this tutorial.

Right! Let's begin!

1. Select your skin color from your swatches.
Open your swatch panel. At the bottom left, you will see the Switch Libraries menu icon. Click on Skintones and you will be shown a range of skin tone color swatches. Click the ones you prefer. For my tutorial, I'm going to pick the first row (Skintone 1).

To bring it to your swatch panel, just click on the folder icon (Skintone 1). It will appear in your swatch panel now.
2. Let's make the face and the hairline of our butterfly.
Select black from your swatch and make a circle using the ellipse tool (L). Hold shift as you make the circle. With the circle still selected indicated by a line around the circle with 4 anchors (4 dots around the circle), use the direct selection tool (A) and click the bottom anchor of the circle. Note that you need to click it once to show the handles before your can proceed.

Click the bottom anchor again and pull that anchor towards the center of the circle to create a flat chin for your butterfly. Hold shift as you pull it inwards so that your anchor stays in the vertically centered.

Select the first tone from your Skintone 1 swatch. Make two ellipses and place them side by side but overlapping them like so.

Select both of them and bring out your pathfinder (Shift+Ctrl+F9 / Shift+Cmd+F9). Click the first option 'Unite'. Put them on top of the black head like so.

Now let's make a copy of the black head. Select the black head. Click Ctrl+C / Cmd+C and then Ctrl+F /Cmd+F to make a copy of the image and sticking it in FRONT of the original image.

Click on picture for better view.
Left side: Before copy-paste
Right side: After copy-paste via Ctrl+F

Now select ONE of the black heads and the skintoned-colored shape together. Bring out your pathfinder and click on the third option 'Intersect'. You now have a face.

3. Let's put in some facial features and antennae.
Eyes - Let's make some very cute round shiny ones. Select black from your swatch and make a circle. Make a small white circle and arrange your eye like so.

Group them together by selecting both of the white and black circles. You can group them by clicking on every element whilst holding the shift button. Right click and select group.

Once grouped, make a copy of it and move it to the sides but remember to hold shift as you do to keep it horizontally aligned. After that, select both the eyes and group them together.

Mouth - If you're not a fan of the pen tool, fear not. We'll make a mouth using only basic shapes with the help of the pathfinders. Select a pink from the swatch. I'm using the magenta pink from the default swatch but feel free to try a color to your liking.

Make an ellipse then select the rectangle tool (M) and put it over the top part of the circle. Select both of them.

Open your pathfinder and click on the third option 'Minus'. Tadah! Your butterfly is smiling at you now!

Antennae - We're going to make a black antenna. You will need to first activate the stroke option. To activate either the stroke or the fill command, just press X.

The option is activated when it is in front of the other.

Activate the stroke option. Select black from your swatch.

I'm going to introduce a very underused tool - the arc tool. Click on the arc tool.

Click once on the workspace. For this tutorial, my settings are like so. Note: You will need to double click on the arc tool to get a preview of your arc.

Click Ok. Move your antenna on top of the butterfly's head. Select the arc. Make the stroke thicker like so.

Make a circle and place it on the top end of the arc. Select both of them and group them together. Make a copy of it by using Ctrl+C /Cmd+C and then Ctrl+F / Cmd+F. Flip it vertically using the reflect tool (O).

Move the copied antenna to the side. Remember to hold Shift as you move to keep them horizontally aligned. After that, group both antennae. Your antennae is ready!

4. Grouping and aligning
To make everything aligned at the center, you need to make sure anything that comes in pairs (eyes and antennae) need to be grouped first.

Select all of the head component or you can do a quick shortcut by selecting Ctrl+A / Cmd+A. Click Shift+F7 to bring out the align panel. Click horizontally align center.

You're done with the top head! Yay! Now let's move on to the body and the wings.

5. Body, arms, and wings
Body - Let's make use of the technique we just learned a while ago. Select black from your swatch. Make a circle. Use the direct selection tool (A) and click the top anchor of the circle. Click-hold and drag the anchor away from the center of the circle. We got the thorax done. Now to make the abdomen, copy-paste the thorax by using Ctrl+C then Ctrl+F. Double-click the rotate tool (R) and turn the copied image 180 degrees to make the abdomen.

Resize the abdomen and place it under the thorax. Let them overlap a bit. Select both the thorax and the abdomen and aligned them by clicking horizontally align center from the align panel (Shift+F7). Group the thorax and the abdomen. Bring the thorax and the abdomen to the back of the head by selecting them and clicking Ctrl+Shift+[ / Cmd+Shift+[ . Then, select all and horizontally align center the head and the body.

Arms - Again, let's use what we have learned a while ago. Change the stroke thickness to 4 pts. For the arm, the arc tool option is like so.

For the hand, make two ellipses, one smaller and thinner than the other. Rotate (R) the smaller one by -30 degrees to make the thumb. Arrange the hands. Select both the hand and the thumb and click 'unite' from the pathfinder (Shift+Ctrl+F9).

Arrange your arms and remember to group them before making another copy of the arm.

Wings - Select a color of your choice. For this tutorial, I'm using a lilac color (R:240 G:150 B:225). Make a circle.  Use the direct selection tool (A) and click-hold-drag the top anchor away from the center of the circle. After that, click-hold-drag the left anchor away from the center of the circle. Remember to hold shift as you drag the anchors. You will get a shape something like this.

Rotate it. My rotation settings are as follows.

Now, make a copy of it via Ctrl+C / Cmd+C then Ctrl+F / Cmd+F. Rotate the copied image like so.

Resize that shape and arrange it at the bottom like this.

Group them and make a copy of it. Flip it vertically via reflect tool (O). Arrange them and group them. To bring it behind the butterfly body and head, press Ctrl+Shift+[.

Tip: You're still able to edit elements after it's been grouped. Simply double-click on the grouped elements and you can move the elements around as you desire.

Select all (Ctrl+A / Cmd+A) and align them vertically and we're done!

I hope you have enjoyed this tutorial. If you would like to share your work with me (and the blogosphere), feel free to send me an email or drop me a comment. I'll be more than happy to see your work. Thanks for reading! Bye!

My other tutorials:
How to make a folded paper heart in Illustrator (adding a gradient)
How to insert an image into a shape in Illustrator (A Clipping mask tutorial)

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