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In today's Premium tutorial I'm going to show you how I created a personalized fairy scene using the image of a child. Along the way, I'll show you how to add fairy/elf like characteristics, create insect wings, a fantasy scene and use blurs to create depth and focus.
Parents, especially new parents, are extremely proud of their children and will always like to capture the fleeting years of their youth through commissioned art. They further appreciate to see their young one(s) in an enchanting scene, as if to create a story for them to appreciate.
You can find the source files in the directory labeled 'source' that came in the files that you downloaded. You may wish to look through them briefly before we begin.
Limits in Child Commissioned Art
In the past, I've been asked to do such portraits and there are many things to consider when referencing children. It's an unwritten rule and common sense to avoid certain themes which you could otherwise use with adult illustrations. These include themes of violence and sexuality.
In addition, you need to be careful about the modifications you make to the physical appearance of a child. For instance, if the child has a bumpy nose you wouldn't remove this as it would be a key family trait. Consider putting yourself in the parents shoes, would you want an artist to change the red/ginger hair of a child because you didn't find it as pleasing? It wouldn't be their child!
You also need to be clear on privacy and the art you're creating. Some parents are very protective over their children and may never want you to show works in progress or even the final product online in your portfolio or other areas. This needs to be strictly respected. I assume strict privacy is needed when I work with child commissions and usually ask at the end for their permission to display the work in my portfolio. I reassure them that if they do not wish me to do so, I will respect their wishes. Play it by ear with the communication you have with the parents.
First I'm going to bring the reference image into Photoshop and then go to Image > Adjustments > Curves. Apply the preset Lighten from the drop down menu and click on OK. Then go back into curves and apply the preset Increase Contrast.
I often use the Eyedropper Tool in Illustrator to create a skin color palette. As the reference image has too much red in the skin tones, I'm going to go back into Curves and create the green present in the image. This will help neutralize the red.
Save for Web & Devices at the same size as the original reference. Usually I'd decrease the size to move over to Illustrator; however with a reference image which is of the whole body, a larger size is required to get the maximum details in the face.
Go to File > Place... and place the image on the artboard. Using the Free Transform Tool (E) slightly rotate and resize the reference image. I'm wanting to position the image as if she is sitting on top of a mushroom. Double-click on the layer folder and rename it "Original," then lock it.
Create a New Layer and then draw a white filled rectangle using the Rectangle Tool (M) over the artboard. I've reduced the Opacity to 30%. Rename this layer "BG" and then lock it.
Create a New Layer and then rename it "Sketch."
I'm going to sketch the composition I'm aiming for to give myself a better idea of the placement of elements and so I have something to follow for modifying the child. These are only slight modifications.
With all my sketching and because I'll be using them later on, I'm going to use my Width Profile Brushes with the Paintbrush Tool (B). Specifically I'll be using the "Width Profile 1" brush.
Tip: When sketching your composition, go to View & Hide Artboard. This is so you're not subconsciously restricting yourself to the boundaries of the artboard.
I'm now going to unhide the artboard and then I'm going to Select All (Command + A) (the sketch and the reference image below) and use the Free Transform Tool (E) to resize and rotate the sketch I've created so it is within the predefined A4 artboard.
Create aNew Layer and rename it "Bases." I'm going to begin adding base layers to work from on the artboard. First let's create the skin bases with a color I have gotten using the Eyedropper Tool (I) from the reference image (C=5, M=15, Y=20, K=0). I've added on a sort of elf/pixie like ear. It's only a minor modification and helps tell the story of the parent's child being an innocent fairy.
Then I add the base layers for the dress. The green is C=50, M=0, Y=60, K=25 and the under dress is C=50, M=50, Y=60, K=25. I'll be using all three of these colors throughout the tutorial. So if I talk about skin tone color, green/dress color, under dress/brown color it will be in reference to these. As you're going along it's always wise to add these unique colors to your Swatch Palette.
Although young children are naturally chubby, I feel the way the dress on the reference sits makes the child look more chubby than normal and it isn't as pleasing to the eye. So using the Direct Selection Tool (A) I'm going to just modify the side of the dress. You really have to be careful when modifying areas such as this in case you place any unintentional curves to the child's body. It is a sensitive issue that you need to be aware of.
To make it easier to refer back to elements of the fairy, I've organized the base layers into further layer folders as shown below:
Now you have the skin all in one layer folder, select them, then create a Compound Path (Command + 8) and duplicate it. Using Pathfinder > Minus Front, I'm going to cut out areas from the duplicated shape so I just have shapes that represent the mid-dark areas of the skin. Set these shapes to Blending Mode of Multiply and 15% Opacity.
Group the cut out shapes (Command + G) and then duplicate the skin base layer again. While both are selected, create a Clipping Mask (Command + 7).
I'm now going to add further shading to the skin using a medium brown color (C=40, M=45, Y=50, K=5) set to Blending Mode Color Burn and Opacity 10%. Once done, Group the shapes (Command + G) and then drag and drop them into the Clipping Mask group.
Add further depth with more shadows (with the brown used for the dress) set to Blending Mode Multiply and Opacity 5%. These are typically much smaller areas, for instance the shadow to define between the toes and in the ear. Once done, Group the shapes (Command + G) and then drag and drop them into the Clipping Mask group.
Create a transparent radial gradient with the skin tone color and use this to add highlight shapes to the skin. Set the Blending Mode to Screen and Opacity to 40%. Then Group the shapes (Command + G) and drag and drop them into the Clipping Mask group.
Create a transparent radial gradient with the brown dress color. Duplicate the skin base three times and use the Gradient Tool (G) to position the gradient under the armpit and at the tops of the legs/under the dress. Set these shapes to Blending Mode Multiply and Opacity 20%.
Duplicate the skin base layer again and apply a brown inverted transparent radial gradient. Set this to Blending Mode to Color Burn and Opacity to 50%. Once done, Group the gradient objects (Command + G) and add them to the Clipping Mask group.
Create a pink transparent radial gradient (C=10, M=100, Y=50, K=0) and create shapes in the areas the skin is more likely to be red/pink... for instance the shoulders, cheeks, elbows and set these to Blending Mode Soft Light and Opacity 75%. Group the shapes (Command + G) and then drag and drop them into the Clipping Mask group.
I'm going to add further depth to the skin by using the skin tone transparent radial gradient and adding shapes in areas where I require further shadow. These shapes will be set to Blending Mode Multiply and Opacity 100%. Once done, Group them (Command + G) and put them in the Clipping Mask group.
Create a New Layer and rename it "Face." I'm going to add shapes to define the areas of the face using a light brown (C=25, M=25, Y=40, K=0) and set the Blending Mode to Multiply and Opacity to 50%.
And this set of objects are at Blending Mode Multiply and Opacity 100%.
Use the skin tone color radial gradient on Blending Mode Screen for the eyeball. Now apply the pink transparent radial gradient previous used for the lips set to Blending Mode Color Burn and 30% Opacity.
Create a New Layer and rename it "Hair."
I'm going to draw the hair more pixie like... so I'm going to create a short hair style, which is known as a "pixie crop." Using the "Width Profile 1" brush with the Paintbrush Tool (B), draw the outline strokes of the hair using the brown color. Try to get the strands of hair to be overlapping and touching each other as this will make it easier in the next step.
Using the Pen Tool (P) and the strands of hair, draw within the area. This will help make up the base layer for the hair.
Any areas you feel lack hair, simply add additional strands of hair at this stage.
Then Object > Expand all the strokes and Pathfinder > Unite them with the base created in Step 20 to create one large shape.
Duplicate the hair base and apply an inverted brown transparent radial gradient. Set this object to Blending Mode Multiply.
Lock the gradient object and base layer for now. Use the Paintbrush Tool (B) with the Width Profile 1 brush with a gold light brown color (C=25, M=40, Y=65, K=0) and set to Blending Mode Screen, with 20% Opacity. Begin drawing strokes of hair to add texture to the hair.
Group these strands (Command + G) and then unlock the base layer. Duplicate this shape and use it to create a Clipping Mask (Command + 8).
Using the same gold light brown, add highlights to the hair. These strands will be set to Blending Mode Color Dodge and Opacity 40%. Group the strands once complete (Command + G).
Using the brown dress shade, add strokes to add depth to the hair to create partings in the hair and to darken the roots. Set these strands to Blending Mode Multiply and 40% Opacity.
Due to the position of the hair, I'm going to need to add a subtle shadow to the forehead that will cast onto the face. So lock the "Hair" layer folder and now add the below shapes to the "Skin" sub layer in the "Bases" layer folder.
These shapes have a light brown fill color (C=25, M=25, Y=40, K=0), which is set to Blending Mode Multiply and 15% Opacity.
I'm going to work on the dress now, so go into the "Bases" layer folder to access the dress folders.
First I'm going to create a green transparent radial gradient and add shapes to the dress to give a basic guide to depth and shadow. These will be set to Blending Mode Multiply.
Once placed, I Group them (Command + G), duplicate the dress base layer and create a Clipping Mask (Command + 8).
As the dress has been modified, I'm not going to be able to use the reference as a guide to add the creases in the fabric. The key thing to remember is that fabric will attract light and shadow from lumps and bumps and this needs to be reflected in the detailing. As the child is sitting down, there needs to be creases around the groin area as the fabric would be bunched up slightly.
With this, I begin adding the shadowed fabric using the green set to Blending Mode Multiply and 10% Opacity. These are then Grouped (Command + G) and added to the Clipping Mask group.
I want to add an additional subtle tone to the dress, so I'm going to add medium golden brown tones in the shadowed areas (C=40, M=65, Y=90, K=35). These are set to Blending Mode Color Burn and 10% Opacity and as before, added to the Clipping Mask group.
Going back to the green, I'm going to add highlights to the dress with Blending Mode Color Dodge and 5% Opacity, which are then added to the Clipping Mask.
With the small shape behind the hand, I'm just going to duplicate the shape and apply the green transparent radial gradient to it and set it to Blending Mode Multiply.
Now for the underskirt in the dress. I've duplicated the brown shape and then applied an inverted brown transparent radial gradient set to Multiply and 50% Opacity.
As this is such a small detail on the dress, you don't need to put as much attention on it. I've created a quick texture on this with random shapes filled with the brown transparent radial gradient set to Multiply and 50% Opacity.
Then create a Clipping Mask (Command + 8) to trim the edges.
Using the "Width Profile 1" brush and the Paintbrush Tool (B) draw lines along the top, waist and hem of the dress. Then go into Stroke options and create an 8pt dashed line on each of the strokes drawn. This will give a sewn effect. The color used here is a golden yellow (C=0, M=50, Y=100, K=0).
Now I'm going to create some random stitches on the straps of the dress and in areas there maybe holes or rips. This is with the same settings as Step 34, but without the dashes.
Select all the lines and then Expand them until they are without strokes. I'm going to add outlines and gradients via the Appearance panel to these elements as shown below. Once complete, Group them (Command + G).
The edge of the underskirt is too clean, so I'm going to add stray threads and randomize them by adding random dark brown (C=55, M=60, Y=65, K=40) strokes along the edge with the Paintbrush Tool (B).
Go into the "Face" layer folder. I'm going to add subtle line art to the skin to help enhance the creases in the skin. This will also help define key features such as the ear. These are a light brown (C=25, M=25, Y=40, K=0) (made with the "Width Profile 1" brush set to Blending Mode Multiply and 80% Opacity).
Create a New Layer below the "Bases" layer folder and rename it "Wings."
The wings are going to be constructed by duplicating one element. First draw the outline of the wing using the dress brown color as the stroke, then use the Width Tool (Shift + W) to increase the width at the bottom of the shape to give the below effect.
Now to create the segments of the wing. I'm going to show you step by step how I have created this pattern. I've used the Pen Tool (P) to ensure I have straight lines and curves.
Then I have added a solid shape for the main arm of the wing so it looks more sturdy.
I've reduced the Stroke Weight of the segments within the wing to 0.5pt. Now use the Live Paint Bucket (K) to fill in between the segments with a light yellow (C=0, M=5, Y=45, K=0).
Expand the entire wing to remove the Live Paint group and so you have access to each of the segments. First reduce the Opacity of the light yellow shapes to 20%. Then duplicate these and apply an inverted pink transparent radial gradient to each of the segments. Set these to Blending Mode Screen and 20% Opacity.
Duplicate the segments again and create a Compound Path (Command + 7) to make them one shape. Apply an inverted cyan transparent radial gradient to the shape and set it to Blending Mode Color Burn and 20% Opacity. This will help create a slight iridescent appearance to the segments of the wing.
Expand the lines for the frame of the wing and then use Pathfinder > Unite to create one shape and then duplicate it. I'm going to apply the dress brown inverted transparent radial gradient to this to give a slight change in depth. This will be set to Blending Mode Multiply.
With the same gradient, I'm going to add two shapes to add a highlight to the frame of the wing, set to Blending Mode Screen.
Group (Command + G) all the elements of the wing and then duplicate the group twice. Rotate and modify the dimensions of the group to create the wings, as shown below. I have duplicated the set of three wings, mirrored it for the other side of the wing, and then modified the dimension slightly.
Create a New Layer below the "Wings" layer folder and rename it "Mushroom." Our fairy is going to sit on a mushroom and it's going to be a large one at that.
Create a circle using the Ellipse Tool (L) and then with the Direct Selection Tool (A) modify the bottom three points as shown.
Use the Rounded Rectangle Tool and a light brown color (C=40, M=45, Y=50, K=5) to create the stork of the mushroom.
Overlap a rectangle over half of the mushroom and use the Pathfinder to Minus Front so you're left with the below:
Select the stork and the head of the mushroom and use the 3D Revolve Effect to create the mushroom base.
In your Swatch Palette go into the drill down menu. Select Open Swatch Library > Patterns > Basic Graphics > Textures and select the "USGB 20 Scrub" pattern. Use the Rectangle Tool (M) to fill it with this pattern, set to Multiply at 20%.
Duplicate the rectangle and fill it with the brown dress color underneath the pattern.
Use the Ellipse Tool (L) to create three circles filled with the dress brown transparent radial gradient. These will be for the shadows cast by the legs of our fairy. Group the shapes (Command + G) and then apply a Blending Mode Multiply to the group. This is so the gradients look like one united shape and aren't showing they are overlapping.
Draw a shape around the mushroom head as this is to be used to Draw Inside in the next stages.
Mushrooms tend to have a slight powder feel to them. In order to recreate this texture, I'm going to use the "Chalk - Scribble" brush in the default Brush palette to create a dark texture along the bottom of the mushroom. Use the dress brown color with a Blending Mode of Color Burn and 10% Opacity. Select the option Draw Inside (available in CS5) to draw the strokes within the shape created in Step 51.
If you're not using CS5, you can recreate this by creating a Clipping Mask with the same shape. It will create the exact same effect.
Repeat Step 52 now; however, with the Blending Mode set to Screen and 10% Opacity to add a highlighted powder texture on top.
Duplicate the same process for the stork of the mushroom.
Create a New Layer below the "Mushroom" layer folder and rename it "Butterfly." I'm going to create a quick butterfly using our fairy's wings as a base. Duplicate one element of the wing and use the Free Transform Tool (E) to modify its dimensions.
Now remove the gradient shapes so you're left with the light yellow shapes. Change the Opacity to 100% and change the colors. I've chosen reds, oranges and yellows for my butterfly wing, as it will stand out against the green.
Duplicate the segment shapes and apply the dress brown inverted transparent radial gradients to these objects, set to Bending Mode Multiply and 30% Opacity.
Duplicate and rotate the wing to create half of the butterfly.
Use the Ellipse Tool (L) to create the body of the butterfly.
Use the Paintbrush Tool (B) with the "Width Profile 1" brush set to create highlights (Blending Mode Screen) and shadows (Multiply) onto the body. Then use two strokes for the antenna attached to the head.
Now I'm going to use the Free Transform Tool (E) to resize and rotate the butterfly in place where the fairy is reaching out.
Go into the "BG" layer folder and change the color of the rectangle to the dress green.
I'm going to create a random colored background by using the Mesh Tool (U). Add darker colors towards the bottom of the mesh and lighter ones behind the butterfly and towards the top of the mesh.
Use the Rectangle Tool (M) to draw a rectangle over the gradient mesh. Fill it with an inverted brown transparent radial gradient and set it to Blending Mode Multiply.
Duplicate the rectangle and then position a green transparent radial gradient towards the top, underneath the butterfly. Set this to Blending Mode Screen.
Duplicate it again, and I've applied a dark blue (C=100, M=95, Y=5, K=0) to white linear gradient, which is set to Blending Mode Lighten and 80% Opacity. This is to give an impression that the background is all blurred out and you can see some of the sky.
For the next part of the tutorial you'll need to create the Ivy Brush as featuring in this tutorial.
Create a New Layer in between the "BG" and "Butterfly" layer folders and rename it "Ivy Back." Although in all my tutorials I work to keep the art 100% vector, yet there is one element where it is quicker and less resource hungry where a raster effect is extremely helpful... and that's working with depth/focus. The idea is that the furthest elements in the background would have a higher blur than those closer.
First, I've drawn several ivy leaves using the Paintbrush Tool (B) scattered in the background. Now go to Effect > Blur > Gaussian Blur and set the value to 10 pixels.
Repeat the same but focus the leaves along the bottom of the frame, set these to 3.5 pixels on Gaussian Blur.
Create a New Layer above the "Hair" layer folder and rename it "Front Ivy." These ivy leaves will go along the frame and some of the mushrooms and won't have a blur.
To add further depth to the leaves, go back into the "Ivy Back" layer folder, and apply two transparent linear green gradients over the leaves. The first one covers only the furthest leaves and is set to Blending Mode Multiply.
The next will cover both sets of leaves and will be on Blending Mode Color Burn, with 20% Opacity. If you notice both rectangles slightly overlap into the white frame, which gives it an extra bit of detailing.
Create a New Layer above the "Front Ivy" layer folder and rename it "Fine Detailing." I'm going to use the Paintbrush Tool (B) with our "Width Profile 1" brush to add highlights to the wings. This will give it an embossed impression. I've used a light brown color (C=25, M=25, Y=40, K=0)set to Blending Mode Screen and 50% Opacity.
Using the previously used shade of pink, I'm going to add spots to the tips of the wings. I find using a 3pt Round brush and the Paintbrush Tool (B) will produce a mixture of perfect circles and slightly more organic shapes. I've set these to Blending Mode Screen and 80% Opacity.
Finally, to add soft spots of color around the illustration; use the Ellipse Tool (L) to add white transparent radial gradients set to 50% Opacity to the artboard. These can be in a variety of sizes and some overlapping the fairy. They can be out of focused pieces of dust, spores, etc... in the air. It helps to create an extra bit of "magic" to this type of illustration.
When printing, I always prefer to print directly from Illustrator as it can benefit from it being vector and produce the most crisp prints. So go to File > Print and you'll get a dialog box. Towards the bottom left hand corner there will be a button called "Setup" and I would advise going into there and making sure the printer knows what sort of paper it's using and it's printing to the best quality possible.
I have a standard (cheap prints) Epson Stylus SX200 series, which is a 3 in one printer (printer, scanner, photocopier). It costs less than £50 (about $75 USD). In fact, you're more than likely to find this printer cheaper now with the cartridges costing more!
I highly recommend using genuine inks as you will get the best colors from it and also using the best quality paper available. For this print I'm using "Professional Photo Paper Resin Coated 260gsm" by Mirror. It cost me £7 (about $10 USD) for 50 sheets!
Another tip would be to make sure your paper matches your printer... ensure it's compatible to your inkjet or laserjet printer.
Usually in my illustrations I would add additional elements such as a mole to the face and body, but keeping in mind you're using images of someone else's child, you have to let go of modifications you would have in your own work to ensure your client is happy with the end result. Although your priority should always be to create a stunning piece of art, a very close concern should be how you're making the client's child look. If you hit the right spot, you can create a timeless piece of personal art for a loving family.
Below are images of the final illustration and how it looks as an A4 print from a relatively affordable printer!