Cupcake Tutorial in Adobe Illustrator

Beginner Adobe Illustrator Tutorial

In Adobe Illustrator, Building with Shapes, for Beginners, Step by Step Adobe Illustrator Tutorials by Jason Secrest


In this Beginner Adobe Illustrator Tutorial, we will be going through a basic process on how to apply the pen tool, shapes, pathfinder and blend tools. We will go through the Building Phase step by step to build a cute cupcake character. We will be doing some basic coloring with effects. We will add on flat color using Live Paint Bucket, Inner Glows, and Drop Shadows to complete the step-by-step tutorial. 

adobe illustrator tutorial cupcake


We are going through some different options for the pen tool. The few things to remember is to focus on getting down the anchors first. We have a lot of our tutorials that focus just on straight lines and placing anchors. The easy parts of the line are the start and end points which means you just have to look for changes in direction in the middle. Click and drag your mouse in the direction you want to go (slowly).


There are easy ways of approaching the pen tool. Start with straight lines and only look for changes in direction. Using your white arrow(A) select the point that look like they are curved and click on the smooth curves button. If your pen tool keeps adding a new anchor rather than a new line then make sure the line isn’t still selected. You will notice a + as you hover over the line if it thinks you want to add an anchor. Anchor Tool(Shift C) will reset and manually drag out each curve.


The line variation be simplified by looking at the ends of each of your lines. If it is floating out in space then it signals a tapered end. If the end point bumps up against another line or shape, this is a good signal that it should be wide. Use the Illustrator Brushes to adjust the thickness in areas to support the character and light source.

Understanding Pathfinder

Pathfinder Minus Front

1. Have 2 overlapping shapes selected. One shape will be in the front and this is the cut away shape. (I colored this one garbage green since it will be trashed after we click minus front). (Use fills only)

Shape Builder (alt/option) Delete

2. Have 2 overlapping shapes selected and click the Shape Builder tool. Hold down alt/option and click on areas you wish to be deleted. Wait for the shape to grey out. (Use fills only)

Pathfinder Unite

3. Have 2 or more overlapping shapes selected and click on the pathfinder unite button. The 2 shapes will merge together. (Use fills only)

Shape Builder- Combine Shapes

4. Have 2 or more shapes selected and then click on the shape builder tool. Click, Hold and drag across the shapes you wish to combine. Do NOT hold down alt/option.

Adobe Illustrator Top Tips

Zoom In

All of our initial preferences are designed to gain more control over what you are clicking on. The more you can zoom in and see your anchors and handles the better.

Smart Guides

Under VIEW make sure you have your smart guides turned on. Under your PREFERENCES (smart guides) you should definitely have your anchor/ path labels selected.

Anchor and Handle Size

In your (general) PREFERENCES there is a setting which can enlarge your anchor points and handles to make them easier for you to see before clicking.

Direct Selection Tool

The white arrow can grab and adjust the anchors, handles, and paths. All of the other settings are designed to let you know what you are selecting before you click and drag.

Understanding Editing Tools

Shape Builder is a tool that can be used to give an alternative to the Eraser Tool while Editing. In order to use Shape Builder, you will need to Expand the Brush Layer. Select All - Expand (or Expand Appearance + Expand). I do recommend duplicating a Brushes Layer to preserve a Live Brush Layer for future edits. Once the Brushes are Expanded, Select All + click on the Shape Builder Tool. The Alt/Option key will switch the Shape Builder Tool to delete mode. Simply Click or Drag through the stray or overlapped areas to delete. Remember to keep holding down the Alt/Option. You can also Turn On/Off the Highlighting by double-clicking on the Shape Builder Tool. The flashing gets irritating.

Expand Appearance: I do recommend Expanding your Brushes Layer (Save Live Brushes Layer) before using Shape Builder. This will prevent bouncing of the Brushes and Line Variation. It will also move toward an efficiency model to save time so you are not stopping and editing while you are still building.

Path - Simplify: Under Object, there is an easy and automatic way to remove extra anchor points which fits nicely into editing. Under Object - Select Path - Simplify. There is an auto-simplify button that does a great job. Things to keep an eye out for is this process likes to break curves. Clean up with the Smooth Button in your Control Panel.

Eraser Tool: The Eraser Tool is very straightforward. Click on the Path that you would like to erase and draw through it with the Eraser Tool. The Tool works great if you remember to Select the Object 1st. The default setting will delete everything. Use the Eraser Tool for smaller areas of overlapping or an easy alternative to Shape Builder.

STEP #1: DOWNLOAD BRUSHES. Many of you are jumping over from YouTube looking to download our Cartoon and Illustrator Brush Libraries. Our (Updated) 200 Adobe Illustrator Brushes are specifically designed for Illustrators and Cartoonists to speed up their workflows. You can download our 200 Adobe Illustrator Brushes to follow along with the Tutorials or use them with Your Own Vector Artwork.
STEP #2: EXTRACT FOLDERS. The first step will be to download and extract the Resource Folders. The Folders will come as a Zipped Folder on Teachable. Once you have Downloaded and Extracted the Folders, they are ready to be used in Adobe Illustrator. Follow Along with our Resource Guides and Tutorials to practice applying and editing Brushes + Halftones + Textures.
STEP #3: FOLLOW ALONG. If you are following along on YouTube, I recommend starting with our 100 Adobe Illustrator Beginner Tutorials Playlists. This playlist will focus on Building Tools, Applying Brushes, Editing Options, and Basic Coloring Techniques. *I have included our Resources to follow along with the 100 Tutorials Playlist on YouTube and 50 Step by Steps on the Website. 



Adobe Illustrator Brush Libraries include our 70 Cartoon, 100 Comic Strip, and 50 Vintage Mascot Brushes

70 Adobe Illustrator Cartoon Brushes specifically designed for Cartoonists and Illustrators who are looking to speed up their workflows. Use Cartoon Illustrator Brushes with the Pen, Pencil or Paint Brush Tools to Apply different Line Variation to your Vector Artwork. Includes 70+ Cartoon Brushes (libraries include the Updated Cartoon, Cartoon 2, and Original Cartoon Brush Libraries).
100 Hand Painted + Comic Strip Brushes to get a lived in feel back into your Vector Art. Comic Strips and Hand Painted are painted based on some of my favorite artists and cartoonists. These brushes are designed to look ready for the Sunday Paper. Includes 100+ Brushes (libraries include the Updated Comic Strip, Hand-Painted, Paintbrush, and Fine Liner Brush Libraries).
50 Jittery Hand, Caffeinated Cartoonist + Rough Ink Brushes to Mimic Paper Bleed and Caffeine. Designed to be a little less stiff with your vector art. Use these Brush Libraries to get more of a distressed look or ink bleed back in your own Vector Artwork with heavy ink and a little more wobble. Includes 50+ Brushes (libraries include the updated Caffeinated Cartoonist, Rough Ink, and Jittery Hand Brush Libraries).



Understanding Coloring

Open the Swatch Window. On the bottom left hand corner you will see the Open Swatch Libraries icon. At the bottom of the drop-down menu you will see Open Other Library. Go to our resource folder in the Color Palettes folder to Open ASE files. The ASE files have been created to make your life easier while going through the Challenge Series. Once you open the Library- click on the folder icon next to the swatches to move them from the library to the swatches.

Coloring with Fills

One of the easiest and fastest ways of filling in your color is through using Fills. The main thing to look for is enclosed shaped. We have done nothing but build with Shapes so coloring is super easy. Keep this in mind as you are going through the other tutorials where we don't have any shapes.

Gradient Panel

Select each color using the Magic Wand Tool (Adjust to Tolerance 5) each color. Add on a Radial Gradient to the frosting layers (3). Use the lightest and Darkest Color Swatch from the color set of 3. Adjust the slider to control where the values hit. Troubleshooting: Double check your fill is in front and not your stroke.

Gradient Tool

You can use the Gradient Tool to gain some control over where the gradient hits on your shapes. The tool will control the same features that are in the panel. I use the tool when I don't want to guess and check angle degrees or aspect ratio percentages.

How to Color in Adobe Illustrator

One of the easiest and fastest ways of filling in your color is through Live Paint. Live Paint Bucket is a part of the Shape Builder Tools which builds the shapes in the exact shape you need it. Select All. Go up to Object - Live Paint - Make. If you have a grayed out Make it simply means you didn't have anything selected. I do recommend Deselecting by clicking on your artboard before clicking on a Color Swatch. *Remember Everything is still Selected so it will Color the Full Selection if you click on a Color Swatch with everything selected. Click on the Live Paint Bucket (K) and Click to Dump Color. It will feel like the Paint Bucket in Adobe Photoshop. 

Popular Adobe Illustrator Tutorials

beginner adobe illustrator tutorial whale
beginner adobe illustrator tutorial pug
beginner adobe illustrator tutorial coyote
beginner adobe illustrator tutorial duck
beginner adobe illustrator tutorial ice cream
beginner adobe illustrator tutorial ice cream
beginner adobe illustrator tutorial snail
beginner adobe illustrator tutorial monkey
beginner adobe illustrator tutorial ice cream
beginner adobe illustrator tutorial posicle
beginner adobe illustrator tutorial ice cream
beginner adobe illustrator tutorial ice cream