How to Create Bender From Futurama With the New Puppet Warp Tool in Adobe Illustrator

Final product image
What You’ll Be Creating

In today’s tutorial, we’re going to be recreating one of my favorite
cartoon characters of all time, Futurama’s one and only drunken robot, Bender.
We’re going to base the entire process on simple geometric shapes combined with
a few strokes here and there, and then use the new Puppet Warp Tool to quickly adjust his posture.

If you’re looking to expand your character library, you can always head over to GraphicRiver, where you’ll find a great selection of vector character assets just waiting to be clicked on.

That being said, grab a quick sip of that magic bean juice and let’s get started!

1. How to Set Up a New Project File

Assuming you already have Illustrator up
and running in the background, bring it up and let’s set up a New Document (File > New or Control-N)
for our project using the following settings:

  • Number
    of Artboards:
    1
  • Width:
    360
    px
  • Height:
    600
    px
  • Units:
    Pixels

And from the Advanced tab:

  • Color
    Mode:
    RGB
  • Raster
    Effects:
    Screen (72ppi)
  • Preview Mode: Default
setting up a new document

2. How to Set Up a Custom Grid

Even though today we’re not working on
icons, we’ll still want to create the character using a pixel-perfect
workflow, so let’s set up nice little grid so that we can have full control
over our shapes.

Step 1

Go to the Edit > Preferences > Guides & Grid submenu, and adjust
the following settings:

  • Gridline
    every:
    1 px
  • Subdivisions: 1
setting up a custom grid

Quick
tip:
you can learn more about grids by reading this
in-depth piece on How Illustrator’s Grid System Works.

Step 2

Once we’ve set up our custom grid, all we
need to do in order to make sure our shapes look crisp is enable the Snap to Grid option found under the View menu (that’s if you’re using an
older version of Illustrator).













Now, if you’re new to
the whole “pixel-perfect workflow”, I strongly recommend you go through my How
to Create Pixel-Perfect Artwork
tutorial, which will help you widen your
technical skills in no time.

3. How to Set Up the Layers

Once we’ve finished setting up our project
file, it would be a good idea to structure our document using a couple of
layers, since this way we can maintain a steady workflow by focusing on one
section of the illustration at a time.

That being said, bring up the Layers panel, and create a total of two
layers, which we will rename as follows:

  • layer 1: background
  • layer 2: character
setting up the layers

Quick tip: I’ve colored all of my layers using the same
green value, since it’s the easiest one to view when used to highlight your
selected shapes (whether they’re closed or open paths).

4. How to Create
the Background

We’re going to kick off the
project by quickly creating the background, so make sure you’re on the right
layer (that would be the first one), and then lock the other one so that we can
get started.

Step 1













Create a 360 x 600 px rectangle,
which we will color using #82A1AD
and then center align to the underlying Artboard using the Align panel’s Horizontal
and Vertical Align Center options.

creating and positioning the background

Step 2





Lock the current layer using the Layers
panel, and then move on up to the next one (that would be the second one), where
we’ll start working on our crazy robot hero.

locking the background layer

5. How to Create
Bender’s Torso

Once we’ve
finished working on the background, we can shift our focus over to Bender and
gradually create him shape by shape, starting with his torso.

Step 1













Start working on his torso by creating an 86 x 16 px ellipse, which we will color using #A6C1D1 and then center align to the underlying Artboard,
positioning it at a distance of 220 px from
its bottom edge.

creating the lower section of the torso

Step 2





Add an 86 x 112 px rectangle
(#A6C1D1) on top of the previous
shape’s top half, making sure to center align the two as seen in the reference
image.

adding the center section of the torso

Step 3





Adjust the shape that we’ve just created by individually selecting its top anchor points using
the Direct Selection Tool (A) and
then pushing them to the outside by 8 px using the Move tool
(right click > Transform > Move
> Horizontal > +/- 8 px
depending on which side you start with).

adjusting the center section of the torso

Step 4





Select both shapes, and then unite them into a single larger one using Pathfinder’s Unite Shape Mode.

uniting the lower section of the torso

Step 5





Give the resulting shape an outline using the Stroke method, by creating a copy of
it (Control-C), which we will paste
in front (Control-F) and then adjust
by first changing its color to #282425
and then flipping its Fill with its Stroke (Shift-X). Set the resulting outline’s Weight to 2 px and its Corner to Round Join, selecting and grouping all of the current section’s
composing shapes together afterwards using the Control-G keyboard shortcut.

adding the outline to the center section of the torso

Step 6





Start working on the torso’s upper section by creating a 102 x 24 px ellipse (#CCE5F2), which we will position as
seen in the reference image.

creating the upper section of the torso

Step 7





Remove the upper half of the shape that we’ve just created by selecting its top anchor point using the Direct Selection Tool (A) and then simply
pressing Delete. Make sure you close
up the resulting path using the Control-J
keyboard shortcut, before moving on to the next step.

adjusting the upper section of the torso

Step 8





Create a 102 x 18 px rectangle (#CCE5F2),
which we will adjust by individually selecting and pushing its top anchor
points to the inside by 23
px
using the Move tool (right click > Transform > Move >
Horizontal > +/- 23 px
depending on which side you start with).
Position the resulting shape on top of the ellipse’s bottom half, as seen in the
reference image.

adjusting the anchors of the upper half of the torso

Step 9





Unite the two shapes into a single larger one using Pathfinder’s Unite Shape
Mode
, giving the resulting shape a 2
px
thick outline (#282425). Once
you’re done, select and group (Control-G)
the two together, before moving on to the next step.

adding the outline to the upper section of the torso

Step 10





Take a couple of moments and draw the front door
using a 2 px thick Stroke (#282425), using the reference image as your main guide.

drawing the front door

Step 11





Add the little handle using an 8 x 8 px circle with a 2 px Stroke (#282425), which we will position 8 px from the door’s right edge and 32 px from its top one. Once you’re
done, select and group all of the torso’s composing shapes using the Control-G keyboard shortcut.

adding the handle to the front door

6. How to Create
Bender’s Head

As soon as we’ve
finished working on the hero’s torso, we can shift our focus towards his head.

Step 1













Start out by creating a 56 x 12
px
ellipse, which we will color using #A6C1D1 and then position on the torso as seen in the reference image.

creating the lower section of the head

Step 2





Create a 56
x 110 px
rectangle (#A6C1D1),
which we will adjust by setting the Radius
of its top corners to 28 px from
within the Transform panel’s Rectangle Properties. Once
you’re done, position the resulting shape on the upper half of the previously
created ellipse.

adding the upper section of the head

Step 3





Unite the two shapes using Pathfinder’s
Unite Shape Mode, giving the
resulting head a 2 px thick outline
(#282425). Once you’re done, select
and group (Control-G) the two
together before moving on to the next step.

adding the outline to the head

Step 4





Start working on Bender’s visor by creating its outer shell using an 80 x 36 px rounded rectangle (#CCE5F2) with an 18 px Corner Radius, which we will center align to the head,
positioning it 43 px from
its top edge.

creating the outer section of the visor

Step 5





Add the inner darker section using a 72 x 28 px rounded rectangle (#282425)
with a 14 px Corner Radius, which we
will center align to the shape from the previous step.

adding the inner section of the visor

Step 6





Take a couple of moments and adjust the visor’s outer shell by adding a
new anchor point to the center of its top edge using the Add Anchor Point Tool (+), and then repositioning and
adjusting the corner ones using the reference image as your main guide.

adjusting the shape of the outer section of the visor

Step 7





Give the resulting shape a 2 px thick
Stroke (#282425), selecting and grouping the two together using the Control-G keyboard shortcut.

adding the outline to the visor

Step 8





Create the main shape for the left eye using a 28 x 28 px circle, which we will color using #FFFAC1 and then position on the inner section of the visor, 6 px from its left
edge.

adding the left eye to the visor

Step 9





Add the pupil using a 4 x 4 px square,
which we will color using #282425
and then center align to the larger underlying circle, positioning it 10 px from its top edge.
Once you’re done, select and group both shapes together using the Control-G keyboard shortcut.

adding the pupil to the left eye

Step 10





Create the right eye using a copy (Control-C
> Control-F
) of the one that we’ve just finished working on, which we
will position on the opposite side of the visor, making sure to maintain the
same 6 px gap.

creating the right eye

Step 11





Using the Pen Tool (P), give
the eyes an expression by drawing the down-facing shape #282425 from the reference
image. Take your time, and once you’re done, move on to the next step.

adjusting the expression of the eyes

Step 12





Select and group (Control-G)
the two eyes and the shape from the previous step, masking them using a 68 x 24 px rounded rectangle with a 12 px Corner Radius (highlighted with
red), by simply right clicking and
then selecting Make Clipping Mask.
Once you’re done, select and group all of the visor’s composing shapes using
the Control-G keyboard shortcut.

masking the eyes

Step 13





Start working on the mouth by drawing its main
shape with the help of the Pen Tool (P),
using #FFFAC1 as your Fill color. Use the reference image as
your main guide, and then move on to the next step once you’re done.

drawing the mouth

Step 14





Add the digital teeth lines using a couple of vertical and horizontal 2 px thick Strokes (#282425), which
we will mask using a copy (Control-C
> Control-F
) of the underlying mouth.

adding the teeth to the mouth

Step 15





Give the mouth a 2 px thick
outline (#282425) using the Stroke method, selecting and grouping
all its composing shapes afterwards using the Control-G keyboard shortcut.

adding the outline to the mouth

Step 16





Start working on the antenna by creating its base using a 16 x 8 px ellipse (#CCE5F2) with a 2 px thick
outline (#282425), which we will
group (Control-G) and then position
on the head, 32 px from
the visor’s top edge.

creating the lower section of the antenna

Step 17





Create the lower section of the antenna’s main body using an 8 x 4 px ellipse,
which we will color using #7EA6C4,
and then center align to the larger base’s top edge.

adding the circular shape for the center section of the antenna

Step 18





Create an 8 x 28 px rectangle
(#7EA6C4), which we will adjust by
individually selecting and pushing its top anchor points to the inside by 2 px (right click > Transform > Move >
Horizontal > +/- 2 px
depending on which side you start with). Once
you’re done, position the resulting shape on the upper half of the smaller
ellipse.

adding the rectangle shape to the upper section of the antenna

Step 19





Combine the two shapes into a single larger one using Pathfinder’s Unite Shape Mode, giving the resulting shape a 2 px thick outline (#282425).
Then, select and group (Control-G)
the two shapes together before moving on to the next step.

adding the outline to the upper section of the antenna

Step 20





Add the antenna’s tip by creating an 8 x 8 px circle (#A6C1D1)
with a 2 px thick outline (#282425), which we will group (Control-G) and then position as seen in
the reference image. Before you move on to the next step, make sure you select
and group (Control-G) all of the
current section’s composing shapes, doing the same for the entire head
afterwards.

adding the round tip to the antenna

7. How to Create
Bender’s Arms

Next, we’re going
take a few moments and work on the character’s arms, which as you’ll see are
really easy to create.

Step 1













Start working on the robot’s
left arm by creating his shoulder joint using a 20 x 32 px ellipse (#CCE5F2)
with a 2 px thick outline (#282425), which we will group (Control-G) and then position underneath
the larger torso (right click >
Arrange > Send to Back
).

creating the left shoulder joint

Step 2





Select the Pen
Tool (P)
, and using a 14 px thick
Stroke (#8DA9BF) with a Round Cap, draw the hand following the example from the reference image.

drawing the left arm

Quick tip: you might have noticed that we’ve used regular shapes for the fills, and strokes
for the outlines for all of our other sections, but went down another path when
it came to the hand. Well that’s because the Puppet Warp Tool handles round corners differently when you use
open paths instead of closed ones, which we will see in just a few moments.

Step 3





Give the arm a 2 px thick outline (#282425)
using a copy (Control-C > Control-B)
of it which we will adjust by increasing its Weight from 14 px to 18 px. Once you’re done, select and
group (Control-G) the two of them
together, making sure to position them underneath the shoulder (right click > Arrange > Send to Back).

adding the outline to the left arm

Step 4





Select the Pen
Tool (P)
, and quickly draw the ring segments using a 2 px thick Stroke (#282425), grouping (Control-G) and then masking them using
an expanded (Object > Expand >
Fill
and Stroke) copy (Control-C > Control-F) of the arm’s
outline.

adding the ring segments to the left arm

Step 5





Take a few moments and draw the palm using #CCE5F2 as your Fill color. Once you’re done, give the
resulting shape a 2 px thick outline
(#282425), grouping (Control-G) and then positioning the two
as seen in the reference image.

drawing the left palm

Step 6





Add the three fingers following the same process used for drawing
the robot’s arm. Take your time, and once you’re done, select and group (Control-G) all of the palm’s composing
shapes, doing the same for the entire arm (except for the shoulder joint).

adding the fingers to the left palm

Step 7





Create the right arm using a copy (Control-C
> Control-F
) of the one that we’ve just finished working on, which we
will position on the opposite side of the larger torso.

creating the right arm

8. How to Create
Bender’s Legs

With the hands in
place, we can shift our focus to the lower section of his body, where we will
gradually build his legs.

Step 1













Start working on the left leg by drawing its main body using a 14 px thick Stroke (#8DA9BF) with a Round Cap for the fill shape, giving it
an outline (#282425) using an 18 px thick copy
(Control-C > Control-B). Once
you’re done, select and group (Control-G)
the two together, positioning them as seen in the reference image.

drawing the left leg

Step 2





As we did with arms, add the ring segments using
a couple of 2 px thick Stroke lines (#282425), making sure to group
(Control-G) and mask them
afterwards using an expanded copy (Control-C
> Control-F
) of the larger outline (right
click > Make Clipping Mask
).

adding the ring segments to the left leg

Step 3





Add the foot section using a 56 x 12 px ellipse (#CCE5F2), which we will adjust by
selecting and pushing its top anchor point to the outside by 16 px using the Move Tool (right click >
Transform > Move > Vertical > – 16 px
). Adjust the roundness of
the resulting shape, and then give it a 2
px
thick outline (#282425),
grouping (Control-G) and then
positioning the two as seen in the reference image.

adding the foot section to the left leg

Step 4





Finish off the robot by adding his right leg
using a copy (Control-C > Control-F)
of the one that we’ve just finished working on, which we will position on the
opposite side of the torso.

finishing off the character

Step 5





Add the circular shadow using a 180 x 32 px ellipse (#698791) with a 2 px thick outline (#282425),
which we will group (Control-G) and
then position underneath (right click
> Arrange > Send to Back
) our drunken hero, as seen in the reference
image.

adding the circular shadow to the legs

9. How to Adjust the Posture of the Character Using the Puppet Warp Tool

So we’ve gone through the process of illustrating our robot hero, but what
if we decided that we want to adjust his posture by repositioning his hands or
legs?

Well, following the latest Illustrator update, Adobe has introduced a new
tool called the Puppet Warp Tool,
which allows you to do just that by “twisting and distorting
parts of your artwork”. This is a really helpful addition to the field of
character design, since it allows us to quickly adjust the posture of our
subject using just a couple of clicks.

The way it works is actually really simple, since it uses what Adobe calls “pins” to adjust or anchor certain sections of your
artwork.

That being said, let’s jump in and see exactly how it behaves by playing
with our little robot friend.















Step 1

Let’s say that we want to position part of his left arm behind his body, to
make it look as if he has something dangerous hidden behind him.



To do that, we’ll first select the arm section
that we’re going to be adjusting, and then grab the Puppet Warp Tool and position it above the area that we want to
pivot, which in our case is the Stroke’s
top anchor point.

adding the first warp pin

Step 2





As soon as you click to add the pin, you’ll
notice that you now have a black ring with a dotted circle around it, which is
going to act as our anchor pin.

example of added warp pin

Step 3





Add a second pin over the wrist area, where the
palm meets the arm, which we’re going to be using in order to make the
adjustment.

adding the second warp pin

Quick tip: Adobe recommends you use at least three pins to
get good results, but it depends on what you want to achieve. In our case, we don’t need to add an elbow pin since we can make the arm adjustment using the bottom one.

Step 4





With the pins in place, we can now hover over
the second one and reposition the arm by clicking and dragging it behind the
robot’s torso.

example of ring segments separation

Now if you did that, you might have noticed something go a little bit
wrong, since the ring segments have partially separated themselves from the arm’s
path.

Some of you might think, “Well, you
should have used a closed path shape instead of strokes for the arms.”





If you know me, then you probably know that I did my research and I
found that most of the time when dealing with shapes that have rounded corners, the result varies from good to bad, since they can end up being distorted as
you can see in the reference image.

example of shape distortion when using the puppet warp tool

I believe this is
due to the complexity of your composition (the number of shapes and the
complexity of their paths in combination with the clipping mask), which for now
might be difficult for the software to handle.



In our case, we could use closed path shapes instead of Strokes if we position the arms behind
the torso, but I believe a better way would be to mask the ring segments using
an expanded version of the adjusted arm.

example of fixing the ring segments separation

Step 5





So we’ve managed to position Bender’s hand
behind his back to make him look more forceful, but let’s say we want to do
something with his right leg to make him look as if he’s moving towards us. To do
that, simply add a pin to its top section and another one to his ankle,
followed by a third one where his knee would be, and then simply drag it to the
outside to change his posture as seen in the reference image.

re positioning the right leg

Step 6

Tweak his leg a little bit more by selecting the
bottom pin, and then slightly rotating his ankle counterclockwise with the help
of the dotted circle.

example of shape rotation using the puppet warp tool

Step 7

Now this is looking a lot better! Let’s continue
adjusting his posture by doing something with his right arm, making sure to mask the ring segments again afterwards.

adjusting the right arm

Step 8





Raise his left leg and position it slightly
towards the outside by adding two warp pins to its top and bottom anchor
points, and then selecting and dragging the bottom one as seen in the reference
image.

adjusting the left leg

Now, some of you might be wondering why I didn’t
just group the entire character, and then add pins to all the sections that I’ve
just adjusted. Well, it seems that with some compositions, doing that gives you
all sort of shape distortions as you can see, which is why sometimes it might
be better to do them locally instead of globally.

example of shape distortion when adding pins to the entire character

That being said, we’re all done, so you can
select and group (Control-G) all of
the character’s composing shapes together before hitting that save button.

It’s a Wrap!

Even though it was a long one, we’ve managed to learn how to create one of
TV’s funniest characters and use the awesome Puppet Warp Tool to adjust his posture on the fly.







As always, I hope you’ve managed to follow each
and every step, and if you have any questions, post them in the comments section
and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can!

final result preview