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Create a Punk Queen of Hearts With a Sleeve Tattoo in Illustrator

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Read Time: 9 mins

In this tutorial we are going to take a walk through the process of vectoring my rendition of the "Queen of Hearts" playing card with an eccentric young girl who has an old-school sleeve tattoo. I'll be using various Adobe Illustrator brushes and tools to create this illustration, so let's get stuck in.

1. Create the Line Art

Step 1

I always start my work by placing a quick sketch into Adobe Illustrator. This time I've made my sketch image in Adobe Photoshop. While sketching, add as many details as you can to make your concept more interesting and whimsical. It will make it easier to visual the whole composition and make it easier to trace your line art from.


Step 2

After embedding your sketch into the Artboard, start making the smooth outline. For this purpose, take the Blob Brush Tool (Shift + B). Set the Angle to 40 degrees and Roundness to 90%. While drawing, vary the Size and Variation of your brush from 2px to 4px, making the outer lines (such as hands, back and outer line of hair) more solid and the inner lines (face parts, minor strokes on body) – thinner.


Step 3

Add fluffy eye-lashes with Pencil Tool (N) by drawing a random zigzag lines. Edit them with Direct Selection Tool (A) by dragging the anchor points up and down, making the lashes look more natural.


Step 4

Let's style some bushy brows. For this purpose we'll create a simple brush. Make a circle, using the Ellipse Tool (L). Select the left anchor point with Direct Selection Tool (A) and drag it to the left side. Select the Convert Anchor Point Tool (Shift + C) and click on the point to turn it into a corner. Finally, squash the shape and drag it to the Brushes panel.


Select Art Brush and set the options as shown on the screenshot:


Step 5

Make a basic brow shape with Pencil Tool (N) or Pen Tool (P).


Step 6

Start adding separate hairs to the brow with the newly created brush. Vary the Stroke Weight value to make some of them thicker than others.


Moreover, add some scratchy shapes above the basic brow shape, turn them into a Compound Path (Control + 8) and use Pathfinder > Minus front to cut out the unnecessary parts.


Continue adding thin strokes.


Finally, Object > Expand all strokes to turn them into a group of objects. Don't forget to group the entire brow shape to make your work flow more convenient.


Step 7

Mirror the brow using the Reflect Tool (O) and flipping it over a vertical axis. Hit the Copy button to duplicate your brow.


Use the Eraser Tool (Shift+E) to delete some strokes from the newly-created brow in order to give them a unique and natural look.


Step 8

Continue making the outline of your girl. At this step I don't care much whether my lines are overlapping at some points or the ends of two lines are not meeting.


Step 9

After drawing out the whole picture, start editing single lines. Move the anchor points and delete some of them, to make the ends of the lines tapered.


Step 10

Go on and start making etching strokes which determine the shadowed areas of your illustration. I usually go crazy with this hatch and add it all over the picture covering the blank areas. The main thing here is to be able to stop before all your lines will turn into a mess when you zoom out your picture, so add your hatch carefully only where it is needed!


Don't be afraid to make your lines cross one another. Use the Line Segment Tool (\) for straight lines and Ellipse Tool (L) for circles, Expand it and Erase the unneeded parts.


Use Guides for editing parallel lines. You can always rotate the object later if you need, after it is finished.


Step 11

After finishing the whole outline, I Expand it once more and create a Compound Path (Control + 8).


2. Bring Your Outline to Life With Live Paint Bucket

Step 1

Now my favorite part - the coloring! I use a Live Paint Bucket (K) for this purpose. Select your compound path, choose the Live Paint Bucket (K) and start filling up the blank areas.


The convenience of the Live Paint Bucket tool is that you can recolor any part fast and easy, trying different colors and choosing the ones which suit better. As a general rule, I select the colors by eye in the Color panel. Turn the HSB spectrum by Shift + Click on the color panel and drag the sliders.


Step 2

First of all, fill the areas with skin color, then add other colors – hair, tattoo parts. Use the Eyedropper Tool (I) to pick up the colors which you've already used in your picture to give it a harmonic look.


3. Add Depth to Your Illustration

Step 1

After the "flat" coloring is done, Expand your Live Paint group and use the Magic Wand Tool (W) to select the outline and Group it (Control + G). Further, Cut and Paste in Front the outline. You can even move it to a New Layer and Lock it to make the work more comfortable. From this step, start adding minor details, such as shadows and highlights to make your picture more realistic and vivid.


Step 2

Add a light-rose colored shape for the lips.


Use a Pencil Tool (N) to render a shadow on the lips and fill with slightly darker rose color.


Step 3

Add a few light spots to make the lips more textured and dimensional.


Step 4

Continue improving the lips by adding more details. Add simple shapes and cut off the unnecessary parts by duplicating the basic lips-shape and using Intersect in Pathfinder.


4. Add Shadows and Highlights Using Blending Modes

It is very important to place the shadows and highlights properly to emphasize some features of face and body. In order to do that the right way, you may use a photo-reference or just look in the mirror and notice how the light falls on different parts of your face: how shadows are located, which parts are the lightest and which are the darkest.

Step 1

I use Multiply mode for larger shadows and fill them with linear gradients to deepen the shadow.


Step 2

Add highlights in the same way as we did with the shadows, but changing the Blending Mode to Screen. This way we will emphasize the lightest parts of the body.


Step 3

Let's add some blush on her cheeks by creating an Ellipse and filling it with a radial gradient from pink to white. Rearrange the position of the blush by placing it right above the basic face-shape. Switch the shape into Multiply mode so that the shape will fit perfectly onto the skin.


Create a blush on the second cheek in the same way.


Step 4

We need to add a shadow falling from the crown of thorns. Double-click on the object to enter Isolation Mode (your crown shapes must be Grouped) – this will help us to edit the crown only without moving other shapes.


Duplicate all the green parts of the crown and fill with black. Send them to back and move down a bit so that it is visible below the crown.


Further we need to cut off those parts of our shadow which are outside the head. Exit the Isolation Mode by clicking twice on the blank space and select the basic face-shape and all the hair parts, duplicate them and fill with black color.


Select both, the black face-shape and the black crown-shape. Use Pathfinder as we did it before to cut off the shadow.


Finally, fill it with linear gradient in Multiply mode or simply pick up the color from some shadow which we already have.


Step 5

Here I place a highlight on the arm adding dimension to it. For this purpose, add a squashed Ellipse above the arm, fill it with equally squashed radial gradient and use Screen mode to make it transparent so that it gives some nice glowing to the tattoos.


5. Add Interesting Details to Your Illustration

Step 1

I've added a glamour leopard print to the girl's underwear. I've drawn it with the Pencil Tool (N) and used the Pattern Tool to distribute the spots around the work field and then to compile the swatch itself. Look through my Summer Underwater Seamless Pattern Tutorial to find out how to work with Pattern options and how to make patterns easily.


Step 2

After I had an idea of making this illustration looking like a playing card, I decided to draw an anatomic heart instead of a common heart icon, because our Queen of Hearts is not that average woman that is usually depicted on cards. So there should be something freaky and even shocking in the whole image.

I made the heart in the same way as we made the whole girl. First of all – a clean outline above the sketch, then – coloring with Live Paint Bucket (K), and finally – minor details (shadows and highlights). I've added some grungy blood splats and spots on the background. There are a lot of useful tools that will help you to create such splatter. Just make a circle and use, for example, Warp Tool and Wrinkle Tool to render a torn texture. You may try using other tools from this list to get an unexpected and creative effect.


Step 3

Add a letter Q for "queen" using some stylish Gothic font (I used "Alpine") and place it above another grungy spot. Add a white stroke around the heart to separate it from the background.


Use the Reflect Tool (O) to flip our sign vertically and horizontally and place the copy in the opposite corner of your Artboard.


Step 4

Finally, place our girl in the center of the card. Add a simple background shape with Rounded Rectangle Tool, duplicate it and use a clipping mask to hide those elements which are outside the Artboard.


Step 5

If you want to add an overall grungy look to your card and make it look more paper-like and realistic, add a texture of an old spotted paper sheet above your illustration and try various Blending Modes for it. You can check the end (Part 5, Step 6) of my Feisty Female Vampire Tutorial to see how I create such textures using inbuilt Adobe Illustrator brushes which work perfectly for such illustrations.


Great Job! You're All Done!

So there you have it – a wild and vivid Queen of Hearts playing card with a punk girl wearing an old-school sleeve tattoo.

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