Friday, November 4, 2011

How To Draw A Cyberman In 42 Easy Steps

A couple of days ago I finally completed my Evolution Of The Cybermen vector drawing poster. As always when I do a vector drawing, I use InDesign.

I don't think most people believe me when I say that I use InDesign, as it's made for page layout and making books rather than drawing. Illustrator is usually the program of choice for vector drawing. I really don't like Illustrator though. I've tried and tried to use it and make myself like it, but... I just can't stand it. InDesign has most (not all) of the same drawing tools and they work much better and more intuitively for me than Illustrator's do. So I draw in InDesign.

In a way drawing in vector is a lot like building a model kit. You construct your drawing out of parts and pieces and each piece has to be assembled in a certain order. Unlike a model kit though, I don't ruin my drawing by accidentally spilling glue all over it and throwing it across the room.

Anyhow, I thought readers might be interested in seeing how I go about drawing my vector characters.

Whenever I draw any kind of cartoon character, I usually start with the head. The head's the part that gets the most attention so I figure that's as good a reason as any to begin there.

Step 1: I drew the general shape of the Cyberman's head and colored it a bluish gray. Most of the Cybermen are silver, which is tough to simulate onscreen. Obviously gray would be the best color to represent silver, but a page full of plain old grays would get old fast. I usually add a little bit of blue to the gray to give it a slight bit of color and visual interest.

Step 2: Then I drew the Cyberman's "mask" or whatever you want to call it. I made it a lighter gray.

Step 3: Next I drew a couple of tapered curved lines to indicate the sides of the Cyberman's head. Note that the lines are a bit longer than the head and stick out past the boundaries. That's OK for now, as we'll see in the next step.

Step 4: I used InDesign's "Place Into" feature to, well, place the lines into the head. Now they don't hang over the edge and they're behind the mask where they ought to be.

Step 5: Next I added a darker square behind the bottom of the mask, to give the head a little more dimension. I also added the neck. The neck was pretty much the same color as the mask, so I added a darker shadow to it to help separate it from the head.

Step 6: The mask needed to look a bit more three dimensional, so I added edges to it. I decided the light should be coming from the left (MY left!), so the left hand edge is light, while the right hand edge is dark. These edge shapes were basically just different colored clones of the mask, placed behind it and offset a bit.

I just noticed the head looks a lot like Magneto's mask.

Step 7: Next I added the wide ridge on top of the head. It was drawn the same way as the mask, with light and dark edges to give it some dimension.

Step 8: I added a highlight to the middle of the mask. It seemed to need something there to keep it from looking flat. To draw the highlight I just made a white shape and used InDesign's "Feather" effect to give it a soft, blurry edge.

OK, now we're starting to get somewhere. Have you ever watched a new home being built? It seems like the construction workers fiddle around with the foundation for weeks and weeks without ever making any progress. Then suddenly the next day, BAM! The walls and roof appear in an hour.

Vector drawings are like that. You work on the foundation for what seems like forever, but then once that's done, the drawing starts taking shape very quickly.

Step 9: Next I added the eyes. For the eye I drew a dark circle, then added a small "tear drop" shape to the side. I used InDesign's "Add" feature to combine these two separate shapes into one. Then I added dark and light edges to the inside of the eye by placing curved shapes inside.

Once I had the left eye done, I cloned it and flopped it to make the other eye. That's one of the fun parts about working in vector. When you're drawing something symmetrical, you only have to draw it once.

Step 10: Next I drew the mouth. When this version of the Cybermen speak, their mouths light up with bluish white lights that flash in rhythm with their speech. To make the mouth lights I drew a light blue bar and then a thinner white bar on top of it. I feathered them both, then cloned them until I had three of them. I then placed all three bars inside a horizontal black strip and placed it on the face.

See, what did I tell you? It took a while for it to look like anything, but suddenly it's definitely a Cyberman head!

Step 11: I drew a light gray band around the outside of the head. I also added a "top knot" to the top of this band.

Step 12: Next I drew a second slightly larger and darker band around the first one.

Step 13: Then I drew the beginnings of the Cyberman's "ears." Basically just boxes with rounded corners.

Oh, we're not nearly done! Read the rest by clicking below.

Step 14: Next I added more details to the ears.

Step 15: Then I drew the foundations for the "handlebars." Just a couple of shapes with curved bottoms, placed on each side. Again, I drew one side and then cloned and flopped it.

Step 16: I drew the handlebars next. Pretty much every version of the Cybermen has had these handlebars on the sides of their heads. It's probably their most distinctive feature.

I drew a curved bar shape, then cloned and flopped it to make the one on the opposite side.

We're just about done with the head! Only a couple of more details to go.

Step 17: I added some dark bands to the "elbows" of the handlebars. As always I did this by drawing a dark shape and then placing it into the main shape. I added a couple of connector pieces on either side of the top knot as well.

Step 18: Next came the "air vent," or whatever it's supposed to be on the front of the top knot. As you can see, this was quite a complicated little piece. I had to stop and think about the best way to construct it. I ended up placing some horizontal lines inside an inverted tear drop shape, then combining various dark and light clones of the shape to give it some dimension.

And that's it! The head's finished. On to the body!

Step 19: I started on the body by drawing a small light gray collar under the neck. Then I added a black torso shape under that. Yeah, I know, that torso's not much to look at, but most of it will eventually be covered up so it doesn't really matter what it looks like.

Step 20: I added some dark gray wires and tubing to the bottom of the torso.

Step 21: Next I added the chest piece. It was a fairly elaborate shape, especially that middle piece that hangs down. When you have a really complicated piece like that to draw, it's better to do it in pieces and then join them together into one.

Whenever I'm drawing a cartoony version of something complicated like a Cyberman it's always a balancing act. If I draw every single detail then it's no longer a cartoon, it's a realistic drawing. If I leave out or simplify too much, then I run the risk of the character becoming unrecognizable. I have to decide what bits are most important and then figure out how to stylize or simplify them.

Step 22: Since all the chest piece segments are the same color, I needed a way to separate them. I added a dark edge to the bottom of the main chest piece to separate it. Then I added a second chest piece below that one.

Step 23: I continued adding chest segments and edges. See, I told you the weird torso piece wouldn't matter. It's almost totally covered up.

I also added a "codpiece' at the bottom.

Step 24: The chest pieces all look a bit too flat here. They have no depth or dimension. To remedy that, I added highlights and shadows to each side. I did this the usual way, by drawing light and dark shapes and then placing them into the chest pieces.

I think the highlights and shadows really help. The body immediately went from being a flat drawing to a fully formed 3D shape.

Step 25: Next I added a couple of inner pieces behind the upper chest plate. I don't know what these pieces are supposed to be, but they're on the actual Cyberman suit, so I added 'em.

I also drew vents on the sides of the chest. I drew three vertical lines (with rounded ends) of different heights, grouped them, then cloned them and added them in the appropriate spots.

Step 26: The final step in drawing the body! The last thing I added was the round Cybus Industries logo, which is a stylized letter C inside a circle. Like the top knot vent, this was a pretty complicated object, made of many different parts. I'm not going to go into too much detail as to how I drew it, but I included an exploded view so that you can see all the parts that make it up.

That's it! My Cyberman is really starting to shape up now. On to the arms!

Step 27: For the arms I started with three different shapes. Usually when I draw a human character I just draw one simple arm shape, but as this is a robot-like character, his arm needs to be drawn in pieces.

Step 28: Next I drew two black "sleeve" shapes behind the arm plates to connect them.

Step 29: Then I added wires and tubing to the sleeve, much like I did on the lower torso.

Step 30: Next I drew the hand. Since this is a cartoon version of a Cyberman he naturally has only three fingers.

Step 31: Then I added all the various parts and pieces to the upper arm. Again, because this is a cartoon I simplified the details and parts a bit.

Step 32: Then I added details to the lower arm. I did this the same way I did in Steps 3 and 4; I drew various curved and straight lines and then placed them inside the arm piece.

Step 33: This Cyberman's hands are a surprisingly complicated affair. Here's an exploded view of all the parts needed. Again, I drew them and placed them into the hand shape.

That's it! I've got one arm completed.

Step 34: Once again, vector to the rescue! I cloned and flopped the left arm to make the right one (my right, not the Cyberman's).

The upper half is now complete! All that's left are the legs and feet.

Step 35: I tackled the legs much the same way as the arms-- I drew them in two parts.

Step 36: Then I added the foot.

Step 37: Next I added the dark gray "sleeve" behind the leg pieces.

Step 38: Then I added more wires and tubing to the sleeve (which is a bit tough to see here).

Step 39: Next I added all the fiddly bits and details to the leg. You can see the exploded view of all the parts I used here.

Step 40: Then I added details to the foot. Once again, I drew darker curved shapes and then placed them inside the foot.

That took care of one leg.

Step 41: Then like the arm and handlebars, I cloned and flopped the leg. There was a little bit more too it this time though. Because the leg is slanted to the right at an extreme angle, when I flopped it, it naturally slanted backwards at that same angle. I had to use the "Skew" tool to slant the cloned leg over so that it would lie against the original leg.

Step 42: One last step-- I didn't care for the way the upper legs blended together while there was a gap between the lower legs. So I drew a separator line and placed it between them.

And that's it! A vector drawing of a Cyberman in just 42 easy steps!


  1. Holy crap, that's a lot of work! And you had to replicate that at least a dozen times for your Cybermen poster! (I know some of them were basically clones of completed Cybermen, but yeesh--you still must have done about 600 manipulations.) Such dedication! My hat's off to you, Mr. Canada! (I'd take my Cybus Industries earpods out as well, but for some reason they can't be removed just now.)

  2. Thanks, Dr. OTR! Yeah, it was quite a bit of work. When I first decided to draw all the versions of the Cybermen I figured there were 8 different ones, 10 tops. It wasn't until after I'd already started drawing them that I found out there were 18! If I'd known that beforehand I probably wouldn't have started the project!

    Actually it wasn't all that bad. Once I had 4 or 5 Cybermen drawings under my belt I learned tricks and shortcuts to streamline the process, so the rest went pretty quickly.

    Originally I was going to do a horizontal lineup of them similar to this one:, but it would have ended up being 3 feet wide, so I had to come up with a new layout.

  3. well done a fab drawing thing have u done any more xxx

  4. Is this theme connected with your occupation or is it more about your hobbies and free time?

  5. @Missis Julies Blog:

    Kind of both! I'm a graphic designer by occupation, but I like to draw and design things for fun too.


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