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Jerrod Maruyama: How I drew Kawaii-inspired Toy Story characters

Woody & Buzz by Jerrod Maruyama

Woody & Buzz by Jerrod Maruyama

Jerrod Maruyama is a freelance illustrator from Sacramento, California and has worked as an Art Director for several educational software companies. His clients include Disney Consumer Products, FunChat and Macmillan UK.

The story behind Woody & Buzz

Jerrod has a long-held love of drawing Disney and Pixar characters. But with this design, he wanted to do something different. "Rather than just faithfully re-creating a character," he explains, "I thought I would approach it with a more stylised approach."

As a big fan of the Kawaii style, Jerrod wanted to see how Toy Story's Buzz and Woody would look when reduced to their basic visual elements.

"It's a relatively lo-fi image," Jerrod says. "No fancy tricks or filters." As you can see, there are relatively few line strokes in the final image, with only a small amount of texture brought in for the background.

The image itself only took Jerrod around five hours to complete, with a few alterations made afterwards. It involved "a lot of work up front and then much tinkering after that," he reveals. "With such a simple style, something like the space between the eyes can make a huge difference."

Pixar printed the design for their official merchandise

Pixar printed the design for their official merchandise

Still learning Adobe Illustrator

Very few effects were used on the piece. The background texture was an image brought into Illustrator and then the levels and transparency were adjusted. The rest of the image is pure vector.

Jerrod still finds Adobe Illustrator CS6 a daunting programme to work with, despite using it every day. "I am surprisingly unfamiliar with many of its shortcuts and tricks", he admits.

Even though he's been using the software since 1998, Jerrod feels a refresher class would be more than beneficial: "If only to update me on all the simpler ways of doing things!"

I think you can get stuck doing things the old way and not even realise it.

Obviously the biggest problem with Jerrod's Kawaii approach was reducing the features significantly, without losing the essence of what makes the characters recognisable.

"I had to find the right balance between simplified/cute and overly simplified/odd," he explains.

Consequently, some minor changes and adjustments were made along the way to this image before it became a t-shirt you could buy in the Pixar Studio store. But the basic design remained intact.

To see more of Jerrod Maruyama's work or to contact him, you can visit his Dribbble or Flickr outposts. You can also find him at his website.