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Create a Vamp Feminine Portrait in Adobe Illustrator

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This post is part of a series called Mastering Vector Portraits.
How to Create a Vector Portrait With Curly Hair in Adobe Illustrator
Create a Steam Punk Inspired Portrait in Illustrator CS6

In today's tutorial, I'm going to be showing you how to create a feminine portrait inspired by the likes of Vampira and Elvira. I'm going to be using a stock image as a reference and then work in my own hair style and elements.

Step 1

I'm going to create a New document and the File > Place my stock image on the canvas. I'll be setting up my layers as I usually would as shown below. I've got the reference image in it's on layer. Then I have a "BG" layer which usually I'd add my background in at a later stage. For now it's got a white fill Rectangle (M) in it covering the artboard, set to Opacity 50%. I've then got other layers for sketching hair, base shapes and shading.

Step 2

I'll be using a variety of skin tones to create the skin shading. You can locate these swatches by going into the Swatch panel and click on the drill down menu in the top right of the panel. Go to Open Swatch Library and then select Skintones. Skin is more than one hue, so I tend to select several of the swatches.

I'll use the Pen Tool (P) to draw the initial skin base. I'm going to give it a medium skin tone fill (C=0, M=20, Y=25, K=5).

Step 3

The initial shading shapes I'm going to create are done by using Pathfinder > Minus Front to remove shapes from duplicates of the base shapes. I first draw shapes with the Pen Tool (P) covering the areas of light on the skin, then remove them from the duplicate base shape. These shapes will have a more brown tone (C=0, M=25, Y=32, K=33) to them and be set to Blending Mode Multiply, Opacity 5%.

As you go along, after you've created one set of shading shapes; select all the shapes created in that color/Blending Mode/Opacity and then Group them (Ctrl + G).

Step 4

The next shapes are messier and are created with the Pen Tool (P). You can see this from the below screenshots, the boundaries of the shapes go beyond the base shape. Don't worry about this as it will be rectified soon enough. The shapes will have the same fill color as before, however they are set to Blending Mode Color Burn, Opacity 10%.

Step 5

Duplicate the original base shape and use it to create a Clipping Mask (Ctrl + 7). This will hide the shapes which have gone beyond the base shape and will give you clean edges.

Step 6

Duplicate the base shape and then fill it with a transparent linear gradient. I've used a brown skin tone (C=0, M=32, Y=38, K=50) for this gradient and then set it to Blending Mode Multiply, Opacity 15%. Place it at below the groups of skin shading in the Clipping Mask group. Add an additional transparent radial gradient with the center at 0%. This gradient is placed in the center of the duplicated base shape and uses a peach shade (C=11, M=46, Y=37, K=9). It's set to Blending Mode Color Burn, Opacity 35% and is also placed below the other groups.

Step 7

Now to add the highlights to the skin. I always use a transparent radial gradient for the shapes for the highlighting, this is because it's a lot smoother. I'm going to use a light skintone in the gradient (C=0, M=9, Y=15, K=3) and set the shapes to Blending Mode Normal, Opacity 20%.

When done, place the Grouped (Ctrl + G) gradients in the Clipping Mask group.

Step 8

Using the same transparent radial gradient, add further highlights to the skin. This time with Blending Mode Color Dodge and Opacity 10%. As before, Group up the shapes when done (Ctrl + G) and then add them to the Clipping Mask group.

Step 9

As you can see from the original reference image, the contrast is pretty strong. So although I would usually finish my skin shading with the steps I've done so far, I'm going to add further shading now to bring out the contrast in the skin. These next shapes have a darker skin tone (C=0, M=32, Y=38, K=50) and are set to Blending Mode Multiply, Opacity 10%.

As usual, Group them up (Ctrl + G) and put them in the Clipping Mask group.

Step 10

I'm going to add some rose tinted areas to the skin... typically on the cheeks, shoulder and elbows. These will use a pink transparent radial gradient (C=11, M=46, Y=37, K=9) and be set to Blending Mode Color Burn, Opacity 50%.

Step 11

Then it's time to use the previously created highlighting transparent radial gradient to add more highlights to the skin. These shapes are set to Blending Mode Screen, Opacity 20%.

Step 12

I'm going to begin sketching the hair and to do this I'll be using the Blob Brush Tool (Shift + B). Double click on the icon in the Toolbar to access the Options dialogue. I'm going to change the Size to 3pt and for it to be influenced by Pressure in the drop down menu, then set the Variation to 3pt.

Then I'm going to sketch to where the scalp and hair line is, based on what the reference image shows. I'll know from this to keep my hair design beyond this boundary.

Step 13

After my initial sketch for the scalp, I'm going to Group the shapes and reduce the Opacity so I can just about make out where the scalp is. Now to draw my actual guide for the hair. I've opted for an Elvira look. She has a bit of a beehive bump on top with hair flowing on the bottom section of the hair.

I'm going to use a different color to show a couple of highlighting streaks in the hair.

Step 14

As with the skin, I'm going to draw a base shape for the hair. I'll start with creating the hair line by drawing strands of hair along the sketch. I'll be using one of my Width Profile 1 brushes which I created in a previous tutorial. Once done, select all of these strokes and then Object > Expand and then use Pathfinder > Unite to combine them into one shape. If you've got any stray shapes, create a Compound Path with them and the main shape (Ctrl + 8).

Step 15

Then I'm going to draw the shapes for the hair base and combine them with Pathfinder > Unite where applicable. Note that the lighter shaded brown hair is in a separate Layer behind the skin shading layers. This is so these shapes don't unnecessarily overlap onto the skin.

The hair bases will have a dark brown fill (C=65, M=70, Y=70, K=80) and the streaks a lighter shade of brown (C=25, M=25, Y=40, K=0).

Step 16

Based on the current colors I've done for the hair, it seems a tad too bold in comparison to the skin. So I'm going to add more contrast and darker colors into the skin shading. First I'm going to duplicate the base shape underneath the groups of shading and give it a darker skin tone (C=0, M=32, Y=38, K=50) and set it to Blending Mode Color Burn.

I'm then going to add dark grey (C=0, M=0, Y=0, K=80) shapes to the skin to increase the shadow shade and set it to Blending Mode Multiply, Opacity 25%.

Once done, Group up the shapes (Ctrl + G) and then add them to your Clipping Mask group.

Step 17

Duplicate the base shapes for the hair and then fill them with a dark brown (C=50, M=70, Y=80, K=85) inverted transparent radial gradient with Blending Mode Multiply and Opacity 80%.

I've done the same with the streaks however I've modified the gradient slightly and change the Opacity to 100%, while still with the Blending Mode set to Multiply.

Step 18

Using the Width Profile 5 brush, I'm going to begin adding strands of hair with the Paintbrush Tool (B). These 2pt strokes will use a dark brown stroke color (C=65, M=70, Y=70, K=80) and be set to Blending Mode Multiply, Opacity 40%.

I've created a New Layer for the Streaks so I can also include these strands of hair within. I've then been able to draw the strands of hair which would be underneath the streaks without it interfering with the current design.

Step 19

Using the Width Profile 1 brush, I'm going to add some highlighting strands to the streaks. I'll use the same shade as the base and use 1pt strokes set to Blending Mode Screen, Opacity 50%.

Using the same brush, I'm going to add highlights to the hair where I think the shine will be. This is with a more golden brown (C=25, M=40, Y=65, K=0) and with 4pt strokes set to Blending Mode Color Dodge, Opacity 10%.

Step 20

Back to using the Width Profile 5 brush, I'm going to add strands away from the hair base. Hair isn't naturally smooth as much as we'd like it to be, so this is why I'm adding these strands. They will use the same dark brown stroke color, 1pt Stroke Weight and set to Opacity 80%.

Then to add some further subtle highlights to the streaks, using the same brush however this time using the streaks base color. These will also be set to Opacity 80% with a 1pt Stroke Weight.

Step 21

Now to add some detailing into the face. The good news is, if you're not as confident in vectoring features, is profile portraits with eyes almost closed don't require as much attention to detail! First stop will be the lips. I'm going to draw several shapes for the lips with a deep red fill (C=15, M=100, Y=90, K=10) and set them to Blending Mode Multiply, Opacity 30%. Remember to Group the shapes when done (Ctrl + G) and add them to the Clipping Mask.

Step 22

Using the highlighting gradient previously used in the skin, I'm going to add shapes to the brow bone, eyelid and eyeball. These will be set to Blending Mode Color Dodge and Opacity 40%.

Step 23

Using the Width Profile 1 brush, I'm going to use the Paintbrush Tool (B) to add strokes for the eyebrows and literally draw the details in the eyes. As long as you've got the basic shapes, then it's all that matters. These strokes have a dark brown stroke color (C=65, M=70, Y=70, K=80) and are set to Blending Mode Multiply, Opacity 30%.

Step 24

Using Blend Brushes previously created in my Sports Car Tutorial, I'm going to use the Circle Centre Blend art brush to add highlights on the skin. I'll be using a variety of sized brushes from 0.75pt to 4pt with a light skintone shade (C=0, M=9, Y=15, K=3) set to Blending Mode Color Dodge, Opacity 25%.

Step 25

Our Vamp is looking a little bare, so I think she should wear some pearls. I'm going to draw an even circle using the Ellipse Tool (L) and create the below Graphic Style using a variety of transparent radial gradients.

Then I'm going to add the circles to the ear lobe and at either side of the neck.

Step 26

Select both of the circles on the neck and create a Blend (Ctrl + Alt + B). Drill down into the group created for the Blend and you'll notice a single line path. I'm going to add a point to it with the Pen Tool (P) and then use the Convert Anchor Point (Shift + C) to bring out the handle bars to produce a curve.

I'm going to duplicate the Blend and add modify it so there are now two necklaces.

Then go into Object > Blend > Blend Options to change the Spacing to "Specified Distance" and the value to 11pt and click on OK.

Step 27

From the same collection of Blend brushes, I'm going to add a subtle shadow underneath the pearls. I'll be using the Square Center Blend brush with a skintone stroke color (C=0, M=32, Y=38, K=50) with a 1.5pt Stroke Weight and set it to Blending Mode Multiply.

Step 28

Create New Layer on top of the illustration. Draw a white fill Rectangle (M) to cover the illustration and then an Ellipse (L) over the portion you want visible. Duplicate the Ellipse for future use. Then use Pathfinder > Minus Front to remove one Ellipse (L) from it.

Step 29

I've changed the fill in the white Rectangle in the "BG" layer folder to "Gothic Pattern 18" from Gothic/Victorian Pattern Premium Pack and used Object > Transform > Scale to increase the scale of just the pattern.

I've then used the below settings in the Appearance panel to give it a lilac background and a slight vignette effect.

Back in the layer which contains the white frame, add a Rectangle (M) below the frame and use the same black transparent radial gradient to cast a vignette effect over the portrait. Set this shape to Blending Mode Multiply, Opacity 40%.

Step 30

I'm going to create a pearl rim to our frame... which is why I duplicated the Ellipse originally. For now, create an even circle with the Ellipse Tool (L) and use it to create a Scatter Brush with the options below.

Apply this brush to the Ellipse. If you can see where the arrow is pointing, there is an overlap of the circles, so reduce the Stroke Weight of the line to ensure they aren't overlapping. I've went with 0.5pt.

Step 31

Finally, Object > Expand the Ellipse so you're left with several circles and then Ungroup (Shift + Ctrl + G). Then I've applied the the pearl Graphic Style to the circles to create individual pearls around the portrait frame. When you're finished, Group the pearls for the sake of being organized (Ctrl + G) as it's always good practice.


I hope you've enjoyed today's premium tutorial. Often when you create a portrait to a theme you end up being influenced by other artists. I think I've been subconsciencely inspired by Grelin Machin's wonderful piece "Lady Elizabeth de Lioncourt".

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