Toucan Illustrations

Brief

Colourful and friendly illustrations based on Toucans.

Process

First I looked in books on wildlife and on the Internet to find out about Toucans. I wrote my own description based on my research.

Toucans are a relation of the Woodpecker, known for their bright colours, patterns and noisy, social nature. Toucans nest in family groups in holes of higher up trees. The birds have Zygodactyl feet which means they have two toes in front and two behind. This enables them to stay on the branches of trees and jump from one branch to another in the upper layer of the Rain forest. The Keel-Billed Toucan depicted here, is found from Southern Mexico to Venezuela and Colombia. It is the national bird of Belize. The Toucans bill although a third of it’s length is much lighter than it looks. It is made of a spongy hollow bone covered in keratin. They eat a wide range of fruit and nuts, and will also eat insects, eggs, nestling’s and lizards. They help scatter forest seeds with their feeding habits. Toucans are still threatened from hunters who want their meat and beaks.
Toucan populations are on a decreasing trend due to this and deforestation.

Using images of Toucans I found, observational sketching was the next thing I did to get a good idea of the shapes and colours of the animal.

Toucan bird colour study in ArtRage

Digital sketches of Toucan birds flying

Although there are many types of Toucan, I decided to concentrate on one type of Toucan, the Keel-Billed Toucan for time’s sake.

Design

After making observational studies of the animal I began to simplify the design and make it look more friendly by using round shapes and big eyes. I also wanted a character which had the potential to be animated one day, so I designed it in a way different elements such as the beak, eyes and wings could move.

Toucan bird character design sketches
I read about how the bird ate food and watched a few videos on YouTube to get a better idea of the sort of movement Toucans do.

Toucan bird eating a fruit movement sketches

Production

I decided to do the final art as vectors as this would give me clean and scalable artwork, and also make it easier to keep elements of the design separate for animating one day. It makes changing the appearance and colour of the design easier in the future.

I decided to incorporate a simple background and branch for the toucan to sit upon. I researched the Rain forest and did sketches of suitable foliage.

Sketches for the background of a Toucan bird Illustration

I made three different background choices for the illustration (dawn, day and night) and coloured the Toucan to work for each different background. For the sitting bird I made two design variations for closed or open mouth and tail down and tail up. One design was the bird looking at fruit resting on the branch and the other was it about to eat the fruit having picked it up.

I later decided to make flying Toucan designs as well, one with an open wing and the other with a closed wing.

Sketch of Toucan birds in different flying positions for an Illustrations development
After I was happy with the main design elements and the main colours I played with colour variations.

Colourful vector Illustrations of Toucan birds with different colour tests

I chose four different colour variations for the final designs: dawn, day and night, and a blue-sepia gradient effect. I also decided to give the branch and parts of the Toucan a subtle texture to make it look a bit more interesting.

Colourful vector Illustrations of Toucan birds sitting in three different backgrounds

Result

I was happy with the project. It gave me an opportunity to try new things in Affinity Designer and play with colour and shape.

Colourful vector Illustrations of Toucan birds sitting and eating fruit in three different backgrounds

Colourful vector Illustrations of Toucan birds flying in three different sky backgrounds

Colourful vector Illustrations of Toucan birds flying in three different sky backgrounds