Design a Cute Hamster Avatar

Going through my sketchbook I noticed I’ve been drawing cute characters lately. Where is all this cuteness coming from? Probably from an exciting job I’m doing right now. Anyways I picked one of the characters for a tutorial so here it goes.

Final result

Behold the dynamic cuteness this rodent oozes!

Frankly, I have no idea who inflated the hamster.

Ready to start? Not quite. We need a soundtrack first.
Yes, I think Cute Little Factory is the first design blog whose tutorials come with soundtracks. Just a little idea I had recently. Let’s see if you like it.

Soundtrack: The Adventures of Greggery Peccary

I couldn’t find a song related to hamsters in my library. The closest I got is “The Adventures of Greggery Peccary” by the Man Himself, Frank Zappa, from his album “Studio Tan.” This amazing composition tells the story of an entrepreneur peccary and his groundbreaking invention. The peccary is a “nocturnal gregarious wild swine.” Not quite a hamster but close.
Press Play and let’s start the tut!

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Step 1: The body

Draw the main body shape with a circle then squash the top a bit.

Fiil the shape with a brown gradient to obtain some roundness.

Step 2: The pot belly

Take a copy of the shape and move it down. Set it to Screen mode.

Now crop it using a clipping mask. Move the gradient up so the bottom is darker.

We are satisfied with the belly now so let’s flatten it to a single object. Select it (it’s a group) then click the first icon in the Pathfinder to get rid of the clipping mask.

Step 3: The tail

The tail is a simple triangle. Place it behind the body and shade it with the appropriate brown gradient. Make sure the darker shade is at the top to simulate a shadow cast from the body.

Step 4: The nose

The nose is a triangle, too, but add a point at its top and move it up. Hit Shift+C to select the Convert Point Tool then click-drag the point to turn it into a smooth node. This time make the bottom darker to simulate light coming from the top.

Step 2: The lips

Draw the right lip with a simple path. Load the Artistic Ink brushes and select the tapered one. It looks too fat!

Click on the Properties icon at the bottom of the Brushes palette. Reduce the Width until the lip is thin enough. When you’re satisfied mirror the other one.

Step 6: The giant teeth

While drawing the teeth I noticed the nose needed a highlight: it’s a white ellipse with some blur applied (Effect > Blur > Gaussian Blur). The teeth are made with a simple path. Next draw a vertical line straight down from the lips. Apply the tapered brush to it.

Add a light gray-to-white gradient to the teeth. Offset them to create a smaller copy. Modify the copy’s gradient as in the next image: light gray-white-light gray. Finally go to Effect > Stylize > Feather and blur the copy’s edges to blend it with the main teeth.

Adding a shadow to the teeth is easy. Make a smaller copy and move it behind. Make sure it’s dark brown. Apply a good amount of Blur and reduce the opacity to about 60%.

Step 7: The mouth

Draw the shape for the mouth and fill it with a brown gradient. Fade it out by setting the bottom spot’s opacity to 0%.

Step 8: Adding glow

Simulate ambient reflections by adding an Inner Glow effect to both the nose and the body. You can find it in the Effect menu under the Stylize group.

Step 9: The eyes

Create the right eye with a simple ellipse. Go to Effect > Warp > Arc and bend the eye upward. This is what makes the hamster smile!
When happy with the results go to Edit > Expand. Fill the eye with the same two-tone brown gradient we used before. Mirror the other eye.
If you take a close look at small animals (and their counterparts in comics) you will notice that their facial features are small compared to the head. So the big trick is: scale down all facial features (eyes, nose, lips, mouth and teeth) for extra cuteness.

Step 10: The ears

Create the right ear with a circle filled with a brown gradient. The inside is just a smaller, lighter circle. Mirror both circles over to the left.

Move the outer, daker circles behind the body and select all three objects. Join them by clicking on the first icon in the Pathfinder palette. The body and the ears are now one single shape. Notice how the glow effect correctly surrounds the ears.
Just blur the inner, lighter circles to blend them with the main body.

Step 11: The paws

Using the same method create the paws and attach them to the body. I also rounded the tip of the tail but that’s to your discretion. The hamster is finished.


To complete the avatar create the appropriate background. Mine is a simple three-tone gradient with white soft wakes about the hind paws and tail. I’m sure you can come up with something better. The idea is to make the avatar dynamic. It’s the least you can do after inflating the hamster, don’t you think?

Stay tuned because I’ll release the hamster in an icon set very soon. And if you liked the character and the tutorial please share them. Link love is good for ya!

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