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2.2 Vectoring Fur: the Basics

In this lesson, you'll learn the theory behind creating fur, from where to place the initial fur strokes to the actual technique of drawing the fur.

2.2 Vectoring Fur: the Basics

Hey all, welcome back to Vector Pet Portraits, Cats. My name is Sharon Millen and in this lesson I'm going to cover the basics of rendering fur and set the foundation strokes for our cat portrait. In the first lesson we set up our layers ready to be worked on. So you should have the following ready to go. However before I start, I'm going to give you a lesson on how to actually draw the strands of fur. I'm going to start by just hiding the layers and keeping the fur layer visible. I'm going to show you some basic drawing motions so you can get a good idea of how I'm drawing the fur. In the stroke panel I'm going to have the arrowheads enabled at the end points of my line. This is so you can see in which direction I'm drawing the strokes. As our fur brush is rather thin, I'm going to zoom into the canvas and select the paint brush tool to draw the strokes. I'm using a graphics tablet, so I'm used to a to and fro motion with my hand as I draw. This makes a very comfortable way of drawing the fur in a small amount of time. Think of it as a zig-zag motion, but I'm not holding down the stylus towards the corners. Notice how I keep the lines almost parallel to each other. Of course, not all fur will be parallel. So you tailor this to the shape and the direction you're working with. So let's see how this motion would work on a curved edge. I'm going to draw a black filled circle and create fur coming away from the shape. Think of the circle as perhaps the edge of a base shape. Perhaps the head of a furry creature. If I'm having to draw the strokes in a more precise manner as I'm covering the edges of the shape or they need to be in the specific direction or length, I will draw the strokes starting with overlapping in the inside and then drawing outwards. This gives me much more control with the strokes. If the fur around the shape is not so tidy, you can always speed up the process by doing a zig zag motion with your strokes. Once you get more experience with drawing fur, you should be able to create accurate strokes in a zig zag motion. Now I'm going to select the strikes around the shape and remove the arrow heads. So you can see the effect the strokes have created. As you can see I've almost hidden the smooth edge of the circle and created this very shape, which is the point of drawing these strokes. You're disguising the base shape and creating a more organic outline of your furry shape. Now it's worth practicing these exercises before you take on the rest of this course. Once you feel confident, let's jump in and start creating fur. The first thing I'm going to do is drag and drop the color from the fur base, from the Fur BG layer, into the swatches panel. This will be useful color to use in this process. And then I'm going to use the eye dropper tool to sample on the darker colors of the fur around the shadows of the face, and then drag and drop this into the swatches panel. Then I'm going to create a radial gradient, using this light base color, and the dark shadow color. I then add this to the Swatches panel. This gradient is going to be used to create the shadow around the face. Using gradients in the early stages to map out where the shadows are will make it easier to know where to place the initial strokes of fur. In this case it's going to act like base layer to place strokes around the face. So think of the strokes I place around the circle, only in reverse. So I'm using the pen tool to to draw the shape which cuts around the face and goes over the chest area. I then use the gradient tool to modify the shape and placement of the gradient so it creates a sort of drop shadow effect around the face. There are other areas which would benefit in using a gradient. And these are either sides of the bottom of the chest area. I'm going to keep all my gradients together, so I create a new layer between the Fur BG and the Fur layer and call it Fur Shading. I then add our phase drop shadow gradient into this layer. Then in this layer, I'm going to add circles with transparent radial gradients created using the dark fur color. These circles will be in the lower corners and then along the top of the face. As I don't want them to be as dark, I'm going to reduce the opacity of those shapes to 50%. Now we've laid our foundations, it's time to start rendering the face fur. So this is the fur that covers the edges of any overlapping shapes such as the face, and it also dictates the direction of the fur. To make things easy, I'm going to put our first shading layer on outline mode by Ctrl clicking the eye icon to the left. I then make the blue BG layer visible, so I can see the kitty underneath. I'm going to be using the paintbrush tool to draw the strokes with our fur brush. The stroke color will be the fur BG color and then zoom into the area. I begin drawing the strokes around the face, drop shadow shape. Pay attention to the direction of the length of the fur. You'll notice that the strokes are set to opacity 50% and the reason being is that I'm wanting to create a soft furry outline. By using this method of seeing the outline of the shapes underneath, you can get a good impression of how much coverage you'll need with these 50% strokes to create an effect which hides the hard curve of the drop shutter shape. So don't worry about going over the same stroke as you've done before as this is the intention. If you can still see the black line from outline of the shape, then that means that the curve of the drop shadow of shape will still be visible. So keep on overlapping and going over that shape with fur time and time again. You'll notice that in certain places along the edge of the drop shadow shape, the strokes are smaller, specifically around the chin area. This is because the fur strands are shorter. So pay attention to the length of the fur in each place. It would be very easy to go on autopilot, but remember to pay attention to the direction and length of the fur. I'm going to continue filling in as much of this overlapping fur as possible, doubling over in strokes where I can and making sure I've got a nice, even coverage. Then I Ctrl+click the eye for the first shading layer and see how well my first strokes have hidden the curved edge of the Drop Shadow shape. From zooming in, I can still see the smooth curve. So because of this, I'm going to continue to add strokes of fur to hide this edge. Thankfully, due to the drop shadow shape being a gradient, it's more visible in the darkened area. So while you go around the edge of the shape and draw those strokes again, you'll only need to add as many towards the middle of the shape where it's dark. Keep on adding the strokes until you can no longer see the curved edge of the shape. Now if you're wanting to create a less softer, more stylized portrait, you could up the opacity of the stroke to, say 80%. This would mean less doubling over the strokes and it would take a lot less time to create the fur. However, it wouldn't be as soft and realistic, so it's worth keeping this in mind. Let's put the first shading back on Outline mode and hide the BG and Fur layer. Grab the pen tool and create shape for the chin with the transparent gradient as a fill. Then with the Gradient tool, I'll modify the shape and size of the gradient so it creates a subtle shadow. Make all the layers visible again, and then go back in with the paint brush tool with the previous settings of the fur strokes you've drawn before. And draw short strands which overlap the top lip of the fur layer. This is helping hide the edge of the new shape. Note how close to the shape I'm drawing the strands. They're almost parallel. Just add a slight angle to the shape. Because of this, I won't need to draw as many overlapping strokes as I have around the face. I then draw strokes from the bottom of the gradient to help add a fur texture, merge it into the gradient. This gives it a more realistic look. I continue adding the fur strokes around the edge of the shape to thicken up the fur. In parts, I'll draw the strokes at a higher angle to create a more fluffy appearance. I want to emphasize the texture on the gradient, so I'm going to make the gradient larger within the shape. I then go back in and draw more strokes. With the lasso tool, I select as many of the overlapping strokes onto the gradient as I can, and then reduce the opacity to 30% to create a softer fur texture. I see how it looks zoomed out and then zoom back in to fill the gradient with the same setting of strokes. This is creating a great texture to work on further down the line. You may experience that if you draw so many strokes, Illustrator may struggle to render further fur in real time. You can get around this by creating a new layer, and either hiding the previous work, or just not working in that layer. I'm going to create a new layer and add new strokes in this layer for the next stage. I'm going to hide the Fur BG and Fur Shading layers as it's now time to start drawing the strokes to set the direction of the fur, the length of the fur, and where there are more light areas of the fur. By drawing these guide strokes, it will help you work from these rather than the stock image to create your own fur texture. Of course, if you're wanting to create an exact duplicate of the stock image, you'll have to follow exactly what is underneath rather than freestyling it, which is what this course focuses on. I'm going to start by drawing strokes around the chest area on the high points of the chunks of fur. These strokes are set to opacity 20%. I continue working my way around the chest area. I pay attention to the direction of the fur and the length of the strands. I leave gaps where there is dark shadow, so in theory I'm just drawing where there's mid to light highlights are. At the sides of the face underneath, there isn't as much detail which is clear, so I place the strokes based on the direction visible beyond the art board. I make the rest of the layers visible to compare the strokes to the composition, then I continue to add more strokes. I know I should be doubling over the strokes in some areas to make them more visible. I then begin adding strokes to the top of the head and inside the ears. These are the beginnings of the guide strokes for the face. I'm going to then select all of the strokes I've been working on for this guide and change opacity to 50%, so I can see them a lot more vividly. For now with this 50% opacity stroke, I'm going to build up the strokes which fade into the gradients. So like I did with the change shape gradient, I'm going to draw the strokes to add texture to create a less smooth appearance to the gradients. Now keep in mind, as this is the same color as the Fur BG, I've kept the blending mode to Normal, as you won't see the strokes if they're entirely placed on the non-gradient areas. It's not until they overlap the gradient that you'll begin to see them. So like you've created an overlap on the face and the chin to hide the curve of the shape, this process helps distort the roundness of the gradients. And as the stroke is 50% opacity, I'm going to keep on chipping away at areas all over, where the gradients are present. So around the corners, the drop shadow on the chest, and the top of the head. When required I double over the strokes to create the impression of clumps of fur. As you can see, the appearance of the fur is gradually happening in that gradient areas. This is how you create the guiding strokes and distort the edges of base shapes and gradients ready to print, adding detail to the rest of the fur. Next time on Vector Pet Portrait, Cats, I'm going to show you how to add details to the fur by adding highlights and shadows. So get ready with that paint brush tool. Thanks for listening.

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