Create Your Own Kawaii Characters and Add Cuteness To Your Portfolio

By Freepik 3 weeks ago

Kawaii characters are all the rage these days and have become a worldwide trend. We can see them everywhere around us: in designs, technology, food, fashion, toys, etc.

But, do you know what kawaii is? Kawaii style is a Japanese artistic and cultural trend that means “cute,” “adorable,” and “lovely.” It has traveled from Japan to the rest of the world becoming a mainstream style. Its popularity in the graphic design field is also rising (not only children like it, by the way!).

At Freepik, we want you to ride the wave of cuteness. For this reason, we asked our contributor Sara Guerra to teach us how to create kawaii characters and where to apply them. Sara has some experience with kawaii, and she will be sharing with you valuable tips and useful techniques so you can make the most of your portfolio. Have a look at her Freepik profile: sara_guerra.

One of the advantages of working with kawaii designs (apart from how lovely they are, of course) is that they can be used for a wide variety of purposes. In fact, back to school is around the corner, and we can’t think of a better way of using kawaii characters than in school supplies.

In this tutorial, you’ll learn to create from scratch a set of sushi characters in kawaii style. Ready?

1. How to Create Kawaii Characters

Video tutorial


I’ve worked with Procreate to make the illustrations and, then, exported them to Illustrator. However, when creating them, you can choose the way that best suits you, and you feel more comfortable with.

  1. Draw your characters. In my case, I’ve used Procreate. Kawaii characters have some distinctive features that define this style. Thus, there are some characteristics you need to take into account to provide your illustrations with an authentic kawaii look:
    • Opt for simple shapes. Avoid too many details and a realistic appearance.
    • Try to use subtle and harmonious color palettes. The kawaii style usually employs pastel shades, so escape from bright colors and oversaturated tones.
    • Focus on round shapes. You can draw almost everything in kawaii style (animals, things, people, etc.) as long as they have rounded angles and shapes. Don’t forget that this design trend is about adorable and cute forms.
    • Facial features are one of the most characteristic attributes of this style, so make them as friendly as possible. Focus on big eyes, cheeks, and a small mouth. Placing these features in the right place is also essential. Try to bring them all close together!
    • Create asymmetrical shapes and exaggerate proportions. Kawaii characters usually have a big head and a small body. Also, the arms and the legs are normally smaller than the rest of the body.
    • Try out different facial expressions to create versatile and unique designs.
  2. Once the characters are ready, the next step is to color and ink them. Don’t forget to use a harmonic color palette!
  3. When they are ready, save the illustrations as PDF at maximum quality. This step is crucial because we need to keep the quality to its top to work with Illustrator later on.
  4. Open up Illustrator and select the PDF file containing your kawaii characters.
  5. Click on them and select Image Trace. I’ve used the following settings:
    • High Fidelity Photo
    • Set the Colors value to 85
    • Click on Expand
    • Desagroup the elements (to delete the unwanted white background generated after image-tracing the illustrations)
    • Group again the elements
  6. Now, we’ve turned our drawing into a digital design. After that, create a new artboard and place the illustrations to create a pack.
  7. As you can see, I’ve added some extra objects to enhance the final result.

The kawaii characters are ready! Aren’t they lovely?

Kawaii pattern

Now that we’ve finished our characters, we can use them for different purposes and designs. In this case, I’ve made a pattern that I’ve used to create a background. These are the steps I followed:

  1. Open a new artboard and use the dimensions you want.
  2. Arrange the elements on the artboard freely.
  3. Then, go to Object → Pattern → Make. In the Pattern Options dialog, you can select the settings you want. These are the ones I used for my pattern:
    • Set Tile Type to Brick by column. With this option, elements are aligned randomly and separated.
    • Then, Copies to 9×9.
    • For Width and Weight, use the value you want depending on the distance you want to leave between the elements.
  4. In the bar below the Control Panel, click on Done. You’ll find the new pattern in the Swatches panel. 
  5. Create a new layer for the background. You can add some text if you want so.

Have a look at the result:

kawaii sushi pattern


2. Where Can I Use Kawaii Designs?

Kawaii designs are really versatile! You can use them to give an adorable and funny twist to your designs and get original creations. Below we share with you some ideas you can use in your next submissions. There’re some themes and file types that are still unexplored. So, don’t miss this opportunity to be the first to upload unique content and boost your downloads!

Business Cards

kawaii business card

kawaii business card pastry chef


Back to School

kawaii back to school vector

kawaii school supplies



kawaii banner sushi

kawaii banner sushi

Birthday Cards

birthday card kawaii


kawaii autumnal pattern unicorn pattern kawaii

These are just a few examples, but there’re many other options!

We really hope you liked this tutorial. Remember that back to school is approaching, so take your skills to the next level and create kawaii characters for your next submissions.

If you haven’t joined our community yet and want to make money with your creations, it’s the right time to become a contributor!

Become a contributor now!

By Freepik