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Create a Psychedelic, Funky Line Art Portrait

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Read Time: 9 min
This post is part of a series called Mastering Vector Portraits.
Creating a Wild Hair, Pin-up Inspired Portrait
Changing Hair and Makeup to Create a Retro Style in Vector Portraits

In today's Illustrator tutorial, I'm going to show you how I created a retro, psychedelic, funky, 70s inspired portrait using link art, bold colors and the handy Swirl Tool.

I've always admired the bright colors, delicate line art and psychedelic patterns of the work of Marleen Weijman aka WomanWithAGun. Although I've done line art myself in the past, I always wanted to create a bold colored piece myself. So today's tutorial is influenced by these elements in Marleen's work.

Step 1

I've chosen my stock image (no longer available) and drawn some aviator style sunglasses in Photoshop. Once done I've saved the image and File > Placed it onto a New Document in Illustrator.

I've set up my layers as shown below, with the "BG" layer containing a large Rectangle (M) with a white fill covering the canvas, set to Opacity 50%.

Step 2

Using the Pen Tool (P), create a white fill with a 4pt black stroke shape for the entire face and hand. You'll want to overlap the shape on the hair line, so be generous on the placement. The next strokes are dividing the portrait into sections with a 2.5pt black stroke. Finally, use a 1pt black stroke to add fine lines.

Step 3

For the sunglasses, I've used one Ellipse (L) shape and modified it with the Direct Selection Tool (A) to produce the shape of one lens. I've duplicated it and Object > Transform > Reflect > Horizontal, and then applied the below Appearance panel settings, with the Offset Path set to -3pt.

I've continued to draw in the rest of the sunglasses with a 1pt black stroke and a white fill.

Step 4

Now to style the line art. The first step is using Profiles on the strokes. If you don't have CS5, you can create these shapes to apply to lines from this tutorial.

For open ended lines, such as around the nose, I've used Width Profile 1 for the tip of the nose and Width Profile 3 for the nostrils. I'd usually use Width Profile 1 on open ended lines, however in this case for the nostrils, I've used Width Profile 3. This is because using the former would produce an overall thinner line, which would make the nose less obvious.

For lines that are intersecting with each other, apply Width Profile 4.

Step 5

There will be lines, such as the below with the little finger, where the line is too long to apply a Profile to without it looking overly distorted. To get around this, use the Width Tool (Shift + W) to reduce the width to 0pt at the end, and reduce the last point to 2.5pt or 1pt depending on the nature of the line.

The Width Tool (Shift + W) can also be used if you've got a continuous line for a shape and you want one portion of it to be slimmer than the rest. For the lips I've increased the width of the line on the lower lip as close to 2.5pt as I can.

Here I have my finished line art.

Step 6

I'm going to create an art brush for the hair curls. It starts with using the Line Segment Tool (\) with Width Profile 1 assigned to it. Object > Expand the line and give it a 2.5pt black stroke and white fill.

Duplicate the shape, reduce the height of the line, and give it a 1pt stroke and null fill. Repeat this and then add a horizontal 1pt line using the Line Segment Tool (\). Group all elements up once done (Command + G).

Step 7

While the group is selected, click on New Brush in the Brush panel. Select Art Brush and when you get the Art Brush Options window, just make sure the direction is set to horizontal.

Step 8

As a guide, I've drawn an Ellipse (L) behind the main line art. This will later be used as a background shape for the hair.

Step 9

Using the Swirl Tool, create swirls around the hair area to make sure you've covered the edges of the Ellipse guide. Then work inwards with the swirls to cover the area.

Give the swirls a 1pt stroke weight and then apply the Hair Brush.

Create a New Layer and add swirls on top of the face so it overlaps on the hair line.

Step 10

For those who aren't as confident with color selection, one of my favorite ways of getting a great palette of color is from using the default swatch libraries in Illustrator.

A good one to remember is the Skintones library, which can be found by clicking on the drill down menu in the Swatch panel > Open Swatch Libraries > Skintones. Clicking on the folder at the beginning of the colors you wish to use, which will add it to your Swatch panel. I'm going to be using "Skintone 7" for this illustration.

If you're wanting something less generic/default, you can always use Color Guides. I'm a big fan of magenta (my own hair is dyed this color!) and so I want a color scheme which involves this color.

I've selected magenta as my fill. Then I go into the Color Guides drop down and I've selected "High Contrast 4," which has given me colors that include shades of purple and green. Using the drill down menu in the Color Guide panel, I've selected "Show Warm/Cool". It's the pinks, purples and violets I'm wanting to use specifically for my illustration.

Step 11

The coloring first step is to duplicate the original group used for the hair brush and use the Live Paint Bucket (K) to add the colors to the sections of the hair brush. I've then added it as a New Brush.

Then I applied it to the curls of the afro. I've given the guide ellipse shape behind the hair a blue/violet fill.

Throughout this tutorial you'll notice that the hair curls will be moved into different positions often or even resized. I've done this with the Free Transform Tool (E).

Step 12

Before we use Live Paint on the model, I'm going to duplicate the original base of the skin for use in a Clipping Mask. There are Profiles attached to some of the lines as well as the Width Tool. Therefore, I'm going to need to Object > Expand Appearance, applying Object > Expand to all the lines and shapes for the model and her sunglasses before I use the Live Paint Bucket (K).

If you notice, I've colored the gap between her hand/face/shoulder in green and you'll see why in the next step.

Step 13

Once you've used Live Paint, Object > Expand the group. Use the Direct Selection Tool (A) to select the green shapes and then use Pathfinder > Minus Front. Duplicate this shape and give it a 4pt stroke weight and null fill.

Use the original shape to create a Clipping Mask (Command + 7) for the model. You'll now be able to see the curls behind the hand. Place the 4pt stroke base in front of the Clipping Mask group. The reason I've done this is because the original line art, this internal section only had a 2.5pt stroke and I want to make sure the overall boundaries of the model is a thick 4pt for it to remain consistent.

Step 14

I'm going to add a gradient to the sunglasses using the colors from the Color Guide. The first are radial gradients and I've use the Gradient Tool (G) to position the source at the bottom of the sunglasses.

I've then applied a magenta linear gradient set to Blending Mode Screen, Opacity 50%, Offset by 2pt on duplicated shapes of the lenses.

Step 15

For the lips, I've added a blue transparent radial gradient as a highlight. These are set to Blending Mode Lighten with Opacity 70%.

I've then used a purple, transparent, radial gradient to add depth to the lips. This is set to Blending Mode Multiply, Opacity 50%.

Step 16

For the nails, I've added a magenta, transparent, radial gradient set to Blending Mode Screen with Opacity 100%.

Step 17

For the skin shading, I've used Blends (Command + Alt + B) in key areas of the face and body to give subtle depth to the skin, but not too much.

Both shapes in the Blends are of the same color with the difference that the smaller shape is set to Opacity 100% and the larger is set to Opacity 0%. I then went to Object > Blend > Blend Options to ensure each Blend is set to Spacing: Specific Distance and the value of 4pt.

Each Blend is set to Blending Mode Normal, Opacity 50% - 70% depending on the location.

Step 18

Working on the sunglasses now, I've changed the fill of the frame to a medium gray. I've then drawn lines with the Pen Tool (P), given them a light gray stroke, and applied Width Profile 1 to them to create highlights.

Step 19

I'm going to add some cliché sparkles to the frames. To do this I'm going to use the Star Tool with an off gray fill and then apply Effect > Distort & Transform > Pucker & Bloat set to -200%.

I've added a new fill and set it to Opacity 10% and Offset Path to 2pt to give a faint glare to it. I've then duplicated the shape all over the frame, using the Free Transform Tool (E) to rotate and resize it.

Step 20

For the background, I've added a large swirl with the Swirl Tool, with a 6pt Stroke Weight and our Hair Color brush assigned. This is sandwiched between two Rectangles (M). One has a purple fill in the background and on the top is a black transparent radial gradient set to Blending Mode Multiply.

Step 21

Finally, I've added three stars with the Star Tool and a black fill to the shoulder. These can be seen as a funky shaped mole or tattoo.


With the help of Color Guides and several options for strokes and stroke creation tools, you can also create a retro looking psychedelic funky portrait. Have fun and stay fabulous!

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