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Create a Vector Portrait of a Stylish Female

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Hi everyone! I am a vector artist currently living and working in Los Angeles. You can check out my artwork at my website, or my deviantART page and Flickr page. In this tutorial, I will show you the process I use to create vector portraits of stylish females using simple tools and effects in Illustrator. Let's have fun with this one!


Step 1

Today we'll draw a stylish, female portrait. When I do illustration, if I start with a theme, I always do some research before I start. I gather information on style, content, related symbols and anything that inspires me on that theme. For this particular drawing, I started without a theme, and just worked off a sketch I made.



Step 2

Scan the sketch into your computer and open it in Adobe Illustrator. I usually drag the image directly onto the stage of my new document.  Lock the "sketch" layer and create some new layers on top of it.



Step 3

Start by tracing the outline of the sketch using the Pen Tool. Set the fill to none and use a black 0.25 stroke. Place different elements in separate layers and name them accordingly, such as "lips," "left eye," etc. For the eyes, I used the Ellipse Tool. It goes over the eyelid. An easy way to get the shape you want is by adding two anchor points at the edge where it cuts off. Delete the original point that was not wanted. Adjust the shape with the Convert Anchor Point Tool.



Step 4

Here is a view of the finished traced version.



Step 5

In this step, we will create a brush for the eye lashes. Draw a triangle shape like the one below, and drag it into Brushes panel. Apply the brush on the eye lashes. You can adjust the thickness by using a different stroke size. Here we will use 0.5.



Step 6

Now let's fill in all the shapes with a basic black and white to get a feel how this piece looks.



Step 7

I feel the hair and the clothes need some extra stuff there because it looks flat and plain so far. Let's add some shading in the hair using the Pen Tool.



Step 8

Some beads would add some nice detail her. Let's create a new brush. Draw a circle with the Ellipse Tool. Drag it into the Brushes panel and create a new scatter brush. Draw a path where you want the beads to go, and apply the brush.



Step 9

Once you're happy with the size and position of the beads, go to Object > Expand Appearance on the beads. Now we are ready for some colors.



Step 10

I always start coloring from the skin, then hair, then face, clothes and accessories. What colors to choose for your artwork is a personal preference. I am using red and turquoise to give her a hint of a Native American look. The bold colors and the red eye makeup also adds some wildness to her character.



Step 11

After I pick the base colors, I start adding more details and shading. One of the effects I love is Inner Glow. The skin looks very radiant and natural when you add a darker color glow set to Multiply on the edge.

Let's also apply Inner Glow to her lips, clothes and the beads on her clothes.  Also add Drop Shadow to the beads to give them more depth. For her eyes, let's use Inner Glow with a white color, and set to Screen. This makes her eyes look very clear and dreamy.



Step 12

Add some blush to her cheeks and shoulders using the same techniques as in the last step. It gives her a very healthy look and a lovely touch.



Step 13

Next, let's add some white shapes with low opacity as the highlights, on her lips, nose, eyes and I also add one on her shoulder as well. The highlights add more depth to the image.



Step 14

The portrait is almost done. Now let's incorporate the elements already in this piece and create a little background or setting. Draw an ellipse with a red gradient fill and apply the bead brush. I would like to add a little bit of texture to the red background. Add a new fill and apply Effect > Sketch > Halftone Pattern.




Step 15

Duplicate the feather and lay a couple at the bottom of the ellipse background. You can play around with the colors. I switched the red and turquoise color on one feather to balance the colors. Add some circles with the same colors to tie the elements together.



Step 16

Now look at the whole piece, I think her upper body looks a bit empty. So I added a necklacechoker. The leather string is achieved by using a stroke with a round end.



Final Image

The vector portrait is done! The tools and techniques used in this piece are rather simple, though you can achieve stylish and professional results using them. Also, working from a sketch is helpful, but your imagination should continue to work while in Illustrator. Adding new shapes, just the right colors, and subtle effects will transform your vector portraits and add just the extra touch to make them shine.


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