Cartoon Style Vehicles





It's common to see versions of our favorite Cartoon or Super Deformed characters, where the proportions are exaggerated to give them that adorable look, it's almost like designing a stuffed animal!

We also find in this style, although less frequently, vehicles, robots and other non-organic objects. It doesn't matter, we can give that achuchable and fun character to anything!

Yes, it is a fun style to work and in some ways faster and easier to make than a realistic illustration, but it also requires some practice and knowledge, in this tutorial you will learn everything you need to know to make a Cartoon / Super Deformed illustration and what functions and tools of CLIP STUDIO PAINT will help you in that task.

In this case we will take as a base a military vehicle, something in principle cold and hard, and we will turn it into a real cute!


First of all, some tips:



Although you can do a head design, I always recommend, for beginners as well as older ones, to use documentation to inspire you. You can choose a type of vehicle (tank, helicopter, airplane, ship, etc ...) and look for a few images with designs that get your attention. Remember, although your design does not have to be functional in this style, having documentation on hand will help you add details to your designs and make them more interesting and credible. You can even design a new vehicle that mixes two types of vehicles, who has said that tanks cannot fly?



It is very practical to have the elements of an illustration separated in layers to be able to edit them independently, but if there are many it can cost to identify them quickly. It is important to name your layers to quickly select the layer you need, you will save time and the experience will be much more enjoyable.



Remember, in the cartoon style, your designs do not need to be realistic, but credible. Applying a basic perspective will help your designs have that credibility that will make them stand out.

You don't have to have much detail, it's just to have a volume reference, a couple of simple blocks may be enough.


Now that we see the sheet of paper as a three-dimensional space instead of a plane, that time to do magic. Look at the vehicle you want to draw, or think of one you can imagine. The trick here is to find out what are the basic forms that make up the vehicle (mainly spheres, cylinders, cubes ...).

The tank body is like a box, the barrel is an elongated cylinder, some planes have the nose like a semi-sphere, etc.

A vehicle may seem like a very complicated object, full of details, but reducing it to basic forms will help you understand it better. It is important in a realistic style, and even more in cartoon style.

In a separate layer, you can do studies of the vehicles in your documentation, drawing some of these basic loose forms, to warm up engines!



The fun part! Once you know how to see the basic forms, it is time to play with them. You can use the perspective base and start making the vehicle.

In this step, the Real Pencil tool gives your strokes a natural feeling. Draw with soft strokes and with ease, you don't need much precision at this time.


It's like making a cartoon of a person. When you make a cartoon, you comicically exaggerate the features of the model as they get your attention: big ears, exaggeratedly small nose, bulging eyes, big head, etc ... well here, exaggerating the basic shapes you can get different effects. You can make different versions of the same vehicle to see what you like best.


Think of these basic forms as something soft and elastic, draw mostly using curved lines, straight lines will transmit stiffness and hardness, use them only when necessary.

Keep in mind the perspective base to capture the shapes with a three-dimensional volume, but you don't have to adjust to it faithfully, it is only a guide, the main thing is to have a loose, relaxed sketch.


Even if it is only the sketch, use a thicker line in the foreground shapes to visually separate them from others that are more in the background, so you will get your design to be better understood and give it more depth, we will do the same when it comes to inking .


Paso 4 - ENTIRE

You already have the design of your cartoon vehicle, it's time to ink it and define those shapes well before coloring.


To start we will lower the opacity of the sketch, it is also advisable to block the layer so as not to draw on it by mistake.

You can hide the layer with the perspective base to see it clearer.

We will create a Vector Layer and use a G Pen to ink. This will allow us to modify the path and the line thickness.


A common technique in this style is to make the contour lines of the main shapes thicker and the inner lines thinner. This way you can separate the most important shapes and help to make the design look better.


CTRL + Z is your friend! The best lines are those that are done with ease and security, if you go slowly they can be shaky, you can use CTRL + Z to undo the line and try again, but do not do it too much or you will end up getting tired! Remember that the sketch is also simply a guide, the inking lines do not have to fall just above those of the sketch, inking is not tracing! Reinterpret your sketch and give it a clean finish, ensuring that the lines are closed to facilitate subsequent coloring.


You can use specific tools to retouch vectors, such as Correct Line Width, to increase or reduce the thickness of the line without having to redraw.



To facilitate the task of coloring I recommend making a silhouette of the vehicle and using the Adjust to layer function in the color layers that we add on it.


An easy way to get that silhouette is to select the transparent area around the inking line:


1. Use Automatic Selection with the default settings and click on the transparent area.

2. Reverse the selection from the Selection menu or with the keyboard shortcut (ctrl + shift + i).

3. In a new layer, fill the selected area with the paint bucket, for the color I recommend a medium gray.


Place the silhouette layer (if not already) under the Line layer.

Now, select the Line layer and activate the Reference Layer function


You can make a new Rasterized Layer and call it Color Base, it must be between the Inking layer and the Silhouette layer, and you must have the Fit to lower layer option, which is found in the Layers Panel. So you can paint without worrying about getting out of the drawing.



It is time to give color, a quick way to give the base color is to use the Paint Bucket.


Since we have established the Inking layer as a Reference Layer, you can use the Multiple Reference> Reference Layer function found in the Paint Bucket options.

This will allow you to fill in areas of the line drawing, but in a separate layer, keeping the line layer intact, isn't it great?

Well that's not all! Since the inking layer is a vector layer, you can also activate the Fill function until the vector is drawn in the tool options so that the color area is perfectly filled, without white borders!

Note: To avoid those white borders on rasterized line layers, you can use the Area Scaling option when filling. But since you are working with CLIP STUDIO PAINT, benefit from the power of the vector layer when working online, it has many advantages!



The first thing is to decide the origin of the light, in the example it comes from the upper left.

This is important to decide where to place the shadows and brightness.


You can make a new shadow layer by creating a new layer and putting it in multiply mode.


At the moment you can put 60% opacity, later you may want to adjust it to have softer or more intense shadows.

As we have done before, it is convenient to use the Adjust to lower layer function to paint the shadow without worrying about getting out of the drawing.


To simplify the process I used the same color for all shadows.

You can vary the color, but make sure it is a cold color and not too saturated.


You can apply the color in several ways, to start I like to use the Fill tool with loop, since for now I do not seek to make softened shadows but to apply a shading with defined edges, such as that used in animation.


Thinking about shapes as objects in three dimensions instead of flat areas will not only help you when drawing, it is also important when giving lights and shadows, the shape of the object and the direction of light is what you need To know where to put the shadow.


Once that is done, you can soften the edges of the shadows where you have rounded shapes, using the Blur tool. In some cases you will be interested in leaving the edge of the shadow without blurring (or blurring very slightly) to indicate a non-rounded surface or a projected shadow.

In the example you can see that I have blurred the front part of the wing, which makes it look more rounded, but the shadow cast by the wing on the rest of the tank is rather sharp.


When the shadow profile is too complex, you can make a selection with the Lasso and apply the shadow with the Airbrush, soft for degraded shadows or hard for more defined shadows, as we have explained above.



It is very similar to preparing the shadow layer, but instead of Multiplying we use the Plot blending mode. The initial opacity should be somewhat less, more or less than 50%. As with the shadows, activate the Fit to lower layer option.


To give the lights, instead of the Fill Loop tool, you can select the area with the Loop or Automatic Selection. Remember that the Line layer has been set as a reference layer, in the Automatic Selection tool you can also activate the Multiple Reference option, just like we did with the Paint Bucket, to be able to select areas without having to change the layer).


eye! If there is a shadow within the area we must subtract it from the selection. It's very easy, just click on the thumbnail of the Shadow layer while holding Ctrl + Alt.


Now it only remains to apply the light, in that case with a soft airbrush.

Another example of shading:

1. Select the area.


2. We subtract the shadow of the selection.

3. We apply airbrush lighting.


Occlusion shadows are found in those areas where it is harder for light to reach.

Technically it is the same as making a new shadow layer, as in Step 7, but shading only the recesses and corners of the model.

They help to give more depth and volume to the shapes. Occlusion shadows work best when they are subtle, but they have a noticeable effect.

Occlusion shadows are essential for a realistic finish, but even if we are working in cartoon style, it will give your designs an extra level of credibility that will make them stand out.


In the following example we see how the occlusion shadow under the wing makes us get more depth. We also make the foreground cannon look better.


Here we see another example of how to separate shapes by adding a small occlusion shadow.


Make a new layer over the occlusion, this time we will use the Add (brightness) blending mode and use this layer for two things:

 - On the one hand we will add the glitters:

The brightness, logically, is found where the light reflects more on the material. Like the shadows, think about the three-dimensional shape of the area where you are going to apply the shine. The brightness is concentrated in the curved areas, the more rounded, the more the brightness is concentrated. The edges, for example, are places where the brightness is very concentrated. Use the Eyedropper to take a sample of the color where you are going to apply the shine, when painting in the Raster layer you will see how the resulting color is much lighter. You may have to lower the opacity of the layer if the brightness is very intense, depending on your preference.


 - On the other hand, the secondary light.

The secondary light is one that reflects the environment. In this scene, a bluish ambient light, like the sky, will suffice. If there were objects of another color nearby, the secondary light of the model could be tinted by the color of that other object.


To paint the brightness or secondary light use an airbrush and try to vary the hardness. Glitters usually have harder edges and are smaller, for secondary light it is better to soften the edge and cover more area, unless it is a polished material, such as chromed metal, in that case the secondary light will be more intense and with harder edges.


Here we see a clear example of where and how to apply glare and light reflected in a spherical and very reflective object.


Although the model is a flying tank and we do not see the terrain, the light reflects on the ground itself and illuminates the lower part slightly.


Since the metal is very reflective, even the turbine cone reflects light, slightly illuminating the inside of the front ring. Also notice how the wing reflects light on the bottom of the turbine.

Here is an example of how the edges concentrate the light, especially if the material is metallic or chromed.




You already have your layers of color, shadow, occlusion and brightness. You can edit and adjust each layer separately to give more contrast, saturation, etc. But there is a much simpler way to make general adjustments and maintain the integrity of the layers.


Open the menu from the upper left corner of the Layers Panel or right-click on it. In New correction layer, you will find the two adjustment layers that we will use in this step:


Hue / Saturation / Brightness and Level Correction.

The name Hue / Saturation / Brightness speaks for itself, in this case I have used it to adjust only the color saturation slightly.


Level Correction allows you to adjust the lighting. You will see a line with three triangular controllers under the graphic in the Entry section: the black triangle on the left adjusts the shadows, the gray on the center the halftones, and the white on the right the lights. There are no specific rules to adjust the levels, it depends on the illustration and what you want to do. You may want to achieve greater contrast, so you should reduce the distance between the handlers, or simply darken or lighten the halftones. Play with the handlers and see how it affects the final result, the advantage of the adjustment layers is that you can do all the tests you want without modifying the rest of the layers.


Subtle adjustments may be enough to make the design more colorful.


Instead of presenting the drawing on a flat background, spending a few extra minutes to make a frame, background or other design element can give you a better presentation and make it stand out.

It may be enough with some expressive brush strokes of color after drawing with a watercolor brush, in this case I have made a trimmed background, letting the model stand out.


To give it a torn paper look, I used a custom brush and erased the edges.

With the Fill Loop I created some simple clouds, giving them some volume with a shadow in multiply mode, as we have done with the drawing.


Using the function Adjust to lower layer we have integrated the clouds with the blue sky background.

Finally I made a slight gradient in the background giving it a slightly darker color than the sky.

As a general rule, a background color should be less saturated and less bright than the drawing for it to stand out.


It is also a good idea to use the complementary color of the main color of the drawing. (As in this case are yellow and blue).


Remember that in CLIP STUDIO ASSETS community members make available to other users backgrounds and textures that you can use to add them to your design or as inspiration.

Acknowledgments and links


Thanks for following this tutorial! I hope you learned something new and had a good time. Now that you have finished your drawing, I encourage you to share it with the community from CLIP STUDIO SHARE. Teach the world what you are capable of!


If you want you can see this and other works in my profiles on social networks:








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