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Design an Underwater Clown Fish Tutorial in Illustrator

In this tutorial I will show you how to create a beautiful clown fish illustration inside Adobe Illustrator CS4. This is an intermediate tutorial and it requires some pen drawing skills. Let’s begin.

Step 1: Set Up

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Open Up Illustrator and set up a new document, any size you like. I use standard 800 x 600 pixels. Rename "Layer 1" to "Fish".

Step 2: Fish Body

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Select Pen Tool (P) and try to draw the main fish body path. This may take a couple of tries to achieve the needed result, don’t try to make it perfect, it should be a schematic fish shape. Pay attention to the head and caudal fin shape, the rest will be covered with other fins.

Step 3: Body details (a)

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Press E to select the Ellipse tool and draw a small ellipse intersecting the head. Select the body path and this ellipse and press the Unite button in the Pathfinder palette to create a single path from these two.

Step 4: Body details (b)

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Select the Pen Tool (P) and draw a path as you see in the image, after extracting it from main body path it will ad a little gap to the body for the mouth. Select the drawn path and the body path and click on the Minus Front button in the Pathfinder palette to extract it from the body.

Step 5: Body Color

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Click on the body path that we achieved and fill it with a gradient from a dark orange ( I used #D2690B )to a brighter orange of your choice ( #FEA600 ). Adjust the angle of the gradient.

Step 6: Eyes

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Use Ellipse Tool (E) to draw the left eye of the fish. Fill it with gradient from #FEA600 to #FE8800 with the same angle as the body gradient. Draw a smaller ellipse, fill it with black and place it on the top of the first one.

Step 7: Eye shadow

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Press V to select the main Selection Tool and click on the bigger path of the eye to select it. Press Ctrl + C and then Ctrl + B ( Cmd + C and Cmd + B on Mac ) to make a copy of it and place it under the original. You won’t see any changes for now. With your copy selected, hold down the Shift key and drag the top left corner of the bounding box to make it bigger but keep the proportions. Go to Effect > Blur > Gaussian Blur, enter Radius value 6.8 pixels, click ok.

Step 8: Mouth

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Use Pen Tool to trace a path for the mouth. Select the body path and make a copy of it by pressing Ctrl + C ( Cmd + C on Mac ). While holding down the Shift key, click on the copy of the body and the newly created mouth path to select them both. Press Intersect button in the Pathfinder palette. Fill the result path with # FE8800.

Step 9 : White bars (a)

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We’ve got to the most interesting part of the tutorial, we’ll now draw those nice white bars that make clown fish look so cute. Select the Pen Tool and try to draw a thick bar intersecting the body ( I’ve added a background to the illustration to make it easier to see ). Select the body path and make a copy of it(see how in Step 8) select this copy and the bar path and press the Intersect button in the Pathfinder palette.

Step 10: White bars (b)

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Repeat Step 9 two more times.

Step 11: White Bars (c)

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Select a white bar, go to Object > Path > Offset Path and enter 4 pixels as offset value and hit Enter. Fill the resulting path with black. Make a Copy of the body path, hold down the Shift key and select the copy and the black bar path, press the Intersect button in the Pathfinder palette.

Step 12: White bars (d)

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Repeat Step 11 actions on the rest of the bars.

Step 13: Left fin

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Select Pen Tool (P) and draw the left fin path as you see in the image. Using Eyedropper Tool (I) click on the body path to apply the same gradient and options to it, adjust the angle of the gradient (-143). Use Pen Tool again to draw an intersecting, black path on the fin. Make a copy of the fin path, select it and the black path and click on the Intersect button in the Pathfinder palette.

Step 14: Right fin

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The same way we’ve drawn the right fin in Step 13, draw the right one. Trace the fin itself then an intersecting black part and the cut the excess using Pathfinder. After that, select the fin and the black part of it and press Shift + Ctrl + [ (Shift + Cmd + [ on Mac) to send them back under the rest sub layers. Press Ctrl + G (Cmd + G on Mac) to group these two paths together.

Step 15: Right fin (b)

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Select the group we’ve just made, press Ctrl + C and then Ctrl + B, to make a copy of i and paste it back. Move this copy to the left, rotate it clockwise a little and press Shift + Ctrl + [ once again.

Step 16: Dorsal and Bottom fins

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Repeat Step 13 another three times to draw Dorsal and Bottom (anal) fin, don’t forget to adjust gradient angles to match to the rest of the shadows and highlights.

Step 17: Decorate Caudal Fin

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Select Pen Tool and draw a path slightly bigger that caudal fin, try to match it’s edges to the black stroke near the white bar to blend these two paths together. Press Shift + Ctrl + [ once to send this path under the body path.

Step 18: Background (a)

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Create a new layer under the "Fish" layer and name it ‘Background". Select the Blob Brush Tool (Shift + B), set no fill and a dark blue as stroke color (#21637A). Braw some random lines on the background, don’t pay to much attention to them, we’ll completely blur them later. Set another, brighter blue color (#2B93AF) as stroke color and draw some random lines again. Finally select a very bright blue color (#45D3F4) and fill all those white gaps.

Step 19: Background (b)

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Select all blue paths that you’ve drawn using Blob Brush Tool, go to Effect > Blur > Gaussian Blur, enter 37 pixels as Radius value and click ok. Lock this layer.

Step 20: Anemone (a)

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Create new layer under "Fish" and name it "Anemone B". Select Pen Tool and draw a line, make it about 50pt thick and round corners. Go to Object > Expand and click ok. Fill it with a vertical gradient from #AA8B7E to #87695B. Select it and go to Effect > Stylize > Inner Glow and set the Mode to Normal, Color #D8D1B4, Opacity 75% and Blur 18px, hit Enter.

Step 21: Anemone (b)

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Select Anemone tentacle path and create a lot of copies of it, Try to place them close to each other, reflect them, move up and down so they look different.

Step 22: Anemone (c)

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Create a new layer above "Fish" layer and and name it "Anemone A". Repeat Step 21 once again to fill all free space under the fish with Anemone.

Step 23: Anemone Blur (a)

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Select the closest to background tentacles of Anemone, go to Effect > Blur > Gaussian Blur and enter 9.8px as Radius value, click ok.

Step 24: Anemone Blur (b)

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Select a row that is closer to fish, or the next row of tentacles this time and also apply a blur effect on them but enter 3px Radius value this time.

Step 25: Anemone Blur (c)

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Select some tentacles that are very close to the bottom of the image, those that hiding caudal fin and the white bar near the caudal fin and apply the same 3px (or 4) blur effect to them. This will add a macro effect to the image.

Step 26: Final Result

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Our clown fish illustration is ready!

Download the Adobe Illustrator Vector File

37 Comments

  1. Add point Subtract point
    Rich (-1 Points) April 4, 2011 at 8:39 pm

    I’m finding one difficulty. Maybe it’s because I’m to cheap right now to upgrade to CS5 and I’m using CS3 for this tutorial, but I am wondering if anyone can clarify this for me. In step 8, it says to copy the body path…but what do you do AFTER it’s copied? Do you paste it on top(command + F) or on bottom(command + B)? Or are you not supposed to paste at all? Because it doesn’t say to paste or not, I’m confused.

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  2. Add point Subtract point
    Jane Oliver (1 Point) February 9, 2011 at 9:46 am

    Excellent start, trying to convert form Corel Draw

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  3. Add point Subtract point
    Susannah (1 Point) January 29, 2011 at 7:24 pm

    Wow! Thanks so much! I just upgraded to CS5 and am flabbergasted. Of course, I need to learn to use this powerful tool, and I’m grateful for your tutorials!

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  4. Add point Subtract point

    How can i make it blue? LOL ; )

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  5. Add point Subtract point
    roneybalack (-1 Points) August 8, 2010 at 3:40 am

    In this photoshop tutorial we will learn to design a clean website layout. … This photoshop tutorial show you how to design a very beautiful and shining …
    thanks.. find more best tutorials here http://newsclub1.com

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    GaEul (1 Point) July 22, 2010 at 5:04 am

    Wow good job! :)
    um….. hey~
    hi? i’m korean nice Nice to meet you

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  7. Add point Subtract point
    ashraf (1 Point) June 29, 2010 at 5:39 pm

    thanks, for great tutorial

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  8. Add point Subtract point
    Gebel Scarduzio (0 Points) June 19, 2010 at 5:16 pm

    Download60s.com is a graphic designing website. photoshop tutorials.
    http://download60s.com

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  9. Add point Subtract point

    aww so cute lol… nice tutorial

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  10. Add point Subtract point
    Herbig Raduenz (0 Points) June 12, 2010 at 6:18 pm

    Download60s.com is a graphic designing website. photoshop tutorials.
    http://download60s.com

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  11. Add point Subtract point
    Robert Bavington (0 Points) June 4, 2010 at 3:53 am

    Thanks for this great tutorial. The blurred coral in the background adds a great depth of field along with the small amount of blur applied to the foreground coral.
    Being a website designer I would like to see how this effect could also be applied to other forms of artwork accross different media platforms.

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    κατασκευή ιστοσελίδων – PCNW (1 Point) May 27, 2010 at 7:48 pm

    really cute!

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  13. Add point Subtract point
    Damian Smith (2 Points) May 19, 2010 at 8:59 am

    That is pretty cool! I will have to go through that tonight :)

    Illustrator is one thing I would like to spend a little more time learning, as a web designer I rarely need it but finding when clients want logos or icons creating illustrator is the best choice I have at hand, and I can sometimes struggle with certain aspects of it.

    Just reading through this post not only shows me how to create Nemo but runs through a lot of basic steps to create anything in illustrator, so thanks very much for this!

    Excellent illustration btw, although I might try adding some thin lines on the fins to give a little more detail to it.

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    Rosti The Snowman (1 Point) May 18, 2010 at 10:27 am

    Good tutorial

    Thanks!

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  15. Add point Subtract point
    Jennifer R (2 Points) May 18, 2010 at 8:32 am

    I looks not really but it’s still beautiful.

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  16. Add point Subtract point

    Nice tutorial ! I like it :)

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  17. Add point Subtract point
    Jeprie (2 Points) May 18, 2010 at 2:19 am

    Love the anemnone or anemone or amenone stuff. :)
    This reminds me to finding nemo.

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  18. Add point Subtract point
    jaka (1 Point) May 17, 2010 at 8:53 pm

    waw/…..
    great tut’s….
    :)

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  19. Add point Subtract point
    Ilie Ciorba (1 Point) May 17, 2010 at 4:35 pm

    I’m happy that you guys like it

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  20. Add point Subtract point
    fajarfaqih (1 Point) May 17, 2010 at 1:52 pm

    I’ll try it. Looks great :)

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  21. Add point Subtract point
    david (1 Point) May 17, 2010 at 11:19 am

    Looks great, just hope I can do it :P

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