Final product image
What You’ll Be Creating

This tutorial is quick and not hard. It’s adapted for beginners, so you’ll be able to finish it and get a result easily. If you still have questions, feel free to ask them in the comments below and I’ll help you. You don’t need to buy or download anything additional to create this illustration as we’ll make it from scratch. That’s why I recommend my tutorials, because all you need to have is Adobe Illustrator!

But in case you want a completed image, for example some vector characters or a photo of a pelican, check out GraphicRiver or PhotoDune

1. How to Create the Pelican

Step 1

After you’ve opened your Adobe Illustrator and created a new document with 850 px Width and Height, let’s start. First, delete the stroke color and set the fill color to R=247, G=163, B=40. We’ll create the beak. Hit the Ellipse Tool (L) and draw a small vertical ellipse.

Hit the Direct Selection Tool (A), select its left anchor point, and move it to the left using the Left Arrow on your keyboard. Keep moving it until it starts to look like the beak of a pelican.

Again, using the Direct Selection Tool (A), select its right anchor point and move it to the right using the Right Arrow on your keyboard. But make sure to move it not too far. Set it aside as it’s the first upper part of the beak.

how to create the upper part of the beak

Step 2

Let’s create the second, bottom part of the beak. Using the Ellipse Tool (L), create a long horizontal ellipse with the fill color R=224, G=139, B=25.

While keeping it selected, go to Effect > Warp > Arc Lower and enter the options shown below in the new dialogue window that will pop up. 

  • Bend: 50%
  • Horizontal Distortion: 0%
  • Vertical Distortion: 0%

Then, press OK. Very important: expand the shape (Object > Expand Appearance). If you don’t, and you decide to rotate the shape, it will turn into a weird, unexpected shape.

how to create the bottom part of the beak

Step 3

Put the two beak parts together: the first one over the second.

To add the head, create an ellipse (R=247, G=228, B=203) using the Ellipse Tool (L). Make sure the head stays behind the first part of the beak and in front of the second.

Finally, add the eye. As the eye has to be an even circle, hold the Shift key while creating the ellipse. The fill color for the eye is R=124, G=71, B=50, and now we need the stroke color at R=247, G=228, B=203.

how to create the head and eye

Step 4

Now we are going to create the neck. Delete the fill color and set the stroke color to the same fill color as you had for the eye. Then, go to the Stroke panel (Window > Stroke) and increase the stroke Weight. It depends on the size of your pelican, so you need to adjust it by yourself. Be sure to check Round Cap.

Grab the Line Segment Tool (/) and draw a long line that comes from the head of the pelican. Notice that the line is rotated a bit to the right, so you need to drag it a little bit diagonally.

While keeping the neck selected, go to Effect > Distort & Transform > Twist. Set the Twist Angle to 70°. Press OK. Expand the shape (Object > Expand Appearance).

how to create the neck

Step 5

Let’s create the body for our pelican. First, draw a horizontal ellipse using the same fill color as the head. To take the fill color from the head, use the Eyedropper Tool (I): simply select the ellipse you created for the body and then, using the Eyedropper Tool (I), click on the head.

While keeping the body selected, go to Effect > Warp > Arc Upper. Enter the options you see below:

  • Bend: 30%
  • Horizontal Distortion: 40%
  • Vertical Distortion: 0%
how to create the body

Step 6

The last thing we need to create for the pelican is his tail. Draw a tiny ellipse, and using the Anchor Point Tool (Shift-C), click on its right anchor point, which will become sharp.

While keeping the body selected, go to Effect > Warp > Arc. Enter the options you see below. Then expand the shape.

how to create the tail

Step 7

Place the tail where it should be.

Create a copy of the tail and place it close to the first one. The pelican is ready!

how to place the tail on the body

2. How to Create the Background

Step 1

Grab the Rectangle Tool (M) and click on your artboard. In the new dialogue window, enter 850 px Width and Height, and press OK. Change the fill color to R=51, G=65, B=84. This will be our background.

how to create the background

Step 2

Place the pelican on the background. It is better to group the pelican (right-click > Group) in order to move it more easily.

how to place the pelican on the background

Step 3

Change the fill color to R=31, G=45, B=61 and draw a circle. Remember to hold the Shift button while creating it.

continue creating the background

Step 4

In this step, we are going to create the waves. Delete the fill color and set the stroke color to something light—it doesn’t matter. Make sure that Round Cap is checked on the Stroke panel.

Take the Arc Tool and draw an arc while holding the Shift button in order to have an even arc.

Again, while holding the Shift button, rotate the arc 45 degrees. The Shift button helps to rotate it by exactly 45 degrees.

Now comes the very precise work. Zoom in on your arc and, while holding the Shift and Alt keys, move this arc to the right. While moving, you will see that the Alt key created a copy of the arc, and the Shift key helps to move it straight. Be sure you moved the new copy close so the two arcs are connected. If you see that the arcs are not connected, you shouldn’t adjust the copy by trying to connect two arcs—just delete the copy and create a new one. I’ll explain why later on.

So now you have two arcs connected to each other. After that, press Control-D a few times until you have a line of arcs. As the Control-D combination repeats your last movement, your last movement should be creating a copy of the arc and not adjusting this copy trying to connect them.

Select the line from arc and go to Object > Path > Joint. All your arcs should be connected now.

We have still not completed the waves, as the line of arcs will be used as a cutter later on.

how to create the waves

Step 5

Select the dark blue circle behind the pelican, and create a copy in front (Control-C, Control-F). Cut the copy off (Control-X) and place it in front of the pelican (Control-F). Change the fill color of the circle to R=97, G=182, B=219.

Put the line made of arcs on the light blue circle. Be sure the arcs are behind the boundaries of the circle on both ends.

While keeping the light blue circle and the arcs selected, press the Divide button on the Pathfinder panel (Window > Pathfinder). Your line should disappear, but the light blue circle should now include two parts. Ungroup the light blue circle (right-click > Ungroup) and delete the upper part. The bottom part of it is the water. And that’s actually it!

continue creating the waves

Awesome Work, You’re Done!

I hope you enjoyed going through this tutorial with me. Make sure to leave your results in the comments section below as it is interesting for me to see your creations. See you next time!


And if you are here because you like birds, please check these tutorials that show you how to create birds: