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How to Create a Colorful Fashion Illustration in Adobe Illustrator - Part 1

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In this tutorial I'd like to show you the possibilities of using the Mesh Tool in creating a stylish fashion illustration of a young woman in Adobe Illustrator. In this first part I'll be using a gradient mesh for hair and I will also show you my usual routine of drawing hair, using custom made brushes.

1. Prepare Your File

Step 1

Place a sketch into a New document, setting it's Blending Mode to Multiply with Opacity 50%, and naming the layer "Sketch" accordingly. Then Lock the layer.

Step 2

Next step is to add a simple white .JPG file to the layer "White" (the third layer will be named "Girl" for the main drawing), set it's Blending Mode to Multiply and Lock the layer.

Step 3

Now I will be creating base color palette. I always add a white transparent radial gradient to my Swatches panel.

various skin tone shades from light to dark, gradients with transparent edges and in solid color, some basic pink shades and few other that I decided to add at once. This palette will be growing as I proceed with the image, as at the moment I'm still not sure as for what colors I will be using. So the end result is still a mystery for me.

2. Create the Main Shapes

Step 1

Now it's time to start drawing the main shapes. If you have read my previous tutorial, then you know that I will be using Pen Tool (P) for this.
So I start with the head.

Step 2

Draw the body with a radial gradient with darker skin tone in the center and usual skin color on the end as the fill. Add this gradient to the Swatches panel.

Step 3

Now I will choose a lighter skin color, later this color may be changed. Draw the arm which is visible to the front.

Step 4

I have noticed that arms are a bit different in sizes, so I will correct that straight away. For this I duplicate the front arm and place it above the second one. I recolored it to bright pink to make the difference in sizes more obvious.

Then I just null the fill on the upper arm, but keep a bright pink Stroke (to see the lower hand clearly), and correct the second hand, using the Convert Anchor Point Tool.

Here is how it looks now. I then add the shape for the hand and thumb.

Step 5

Then I create a palm with fingers for the second hand. So now I have a bald woman or at least some part of her.

Step 6

I will prepare a palette for the hair. It is going to be an ombre hair style (a gradient effect hair color), so I checked images of various celebrities to see how that should look like. Then I made my own palette of colors, and added them to the Swatches panel.

Step 7

Time to draw the hair's main shape. It will be very rough as it's a guide. Detailing will happen later on.

Step 8

I will now draw the top and skirt in random bright colors. I also made some draft colors for the rest of elements in the picture. Looks OK, so I will probably stick to these colors. Although…everything might still change in the process! The beautiful of vector allows this indecisiveness.

3. Create Brushes for the Hair

Step 1

To create a customized hair brush I will first draw a black ellipse, using Ellipse Tool (L) and transform it as shown below.

Then I will move the top and bottom center points towards the center of the shape, to make it more narrow.

Now I simply drag this shape to the Brushes panel. The following window will appear. I choose Art Brush to be created.

Once you press OK, the next window will appear and I've used the below settings:

Step 2

Here you have the brush! It will appear in your Brushes panel. Please note that I'm using tablet for drawing, so I simply choose the brush and draw with it, not with Pen Tool, but the Paintbrush Tool (B) and then apply the new brush to it.

You may vary the thickness of your brush lines in the Stroke panel, making it either thicker or thinner.

Step 3

I will move the center top and bottom points of the original brush shape, in order to make a brush thicker on it's left. This will be good for hair on the forehead and eyelashes.

After following the same Brush creating procedure as in the first instance, I have the new brush. I used bright pink color for you to see the difference, and I am drawing from left to right.

Step 4

Another brush that I will create will be the same as previous, but reflected.

I have also drawn from left to right, so you may see the difference below. It's subtle but it makes a difference later on.

Step 5

Once you're happy with your brushes you may save them for the future.

Here is how my set looks like from previous illustrations I've done. It saves time to always keep a collection of basic brushes handy.

4. Use the Mesh Tool to Create the Ombre Effect

Step 1

So let's add detailing to the hair with our newly made brushes. I will choose a color that is not being used in my image. I do this to be able to select all the lines once they're drawn easily with the help of the Magic Wand.

Here I start drawing hair with the brushes from my hair brushes set. I will be using brushes thicker on the left or right and symmetrical brushes, depending on the area I'm drawing. I also will be playing around with their thickness in the Stroke panel.

The forehead hair area needs special attention, so I will work on that thoroughly.

And after some time here is what I've got.

Step 2

Now I will use the Magic Wand to select all the brush strokes I've made, then I will Expand them.

Recolor to the main hair color, select them and the main hair's shape and do Unite, using Pathfinder panel, and make Compound Path from this new complex shape.

Step 3

And now I will send this shape to the front.

Null the fill color and give it a bright stroke.

Then Lock it.

Step 4

Time for using a gradient mesh! So to begin with I will draw a rectangle (using Rectangle Tool (M)) in the medium hair color (from the palette that I've already prepared for the ombre hair) and place it behind the locked hair's shape.

Now I select the Mesh Tool (U) and start adding points, where I think they should be. I will start from the darkest areas – the roots of the hair, which should be very dark brown.

So I start coloring those darkest points. I'm using Eyedropper Tool (I) when I want to soften the transition from dark color to brighter. .

Here is how it looks. Color transition looks a bit rough, right?

So I will correct that using the Direct Selection Tool (A) to modify the point's position.

And use the Eyedropper Tool (I) again to smooth the color transition.

Step 5

Now it's time to add some bright colors on the edges. So I start adding new points and coloring them to blond.

Adding some medium light colors to make shades flow into each other smoothly.

Here is how it looks now. I see some rough places again, here where medium color meets lighter, so those points need some correction.

Now it looks softer and brighter, right?

And now I just look around the hair in general and make some corrections where needed. For example, here I decided to add more to the darker part.

Step 6

Now I'm done with the mesh and it's finally time to Unlock the hair main shape, select it and the newly created Mesh and go create the Clipping Mask (Control + 7). As the upper object (the hair) is really complex the following window will appear, just press Yes.

And here I have the ombre hair!

5. Correct Areas of the Hair

I noticed some unnecessary hairs on the forehead.

So I need to correct that straight away. So I just remove some points, using Delete Anchor Point Tool. I then draw some new hair, using Pen Tool (P).

6. Add Details to the Hair

Step 1

And now it's time to draw a lot of hair! Here I will again be using the brushes from my hair brushes set, varying their thickness. I also will be drawing with a green stroke so you can see where I've added these.

So what I do first is I draw all the hair lines that I intend to make in darker color than the hair itself. This is a very meditative job, I could do this for hours, just drawing lines!

Step 2

Now again I will use the Magic Wand to select all brush strokes I made. This will also select my clipping mask – but that's OK – just do Expand for brush strokes.

And then use once again the Magic Wand to select all green hair lines and use Pathfinder panel > Unite and make a Compound Path.

Since the hair is not a solid color, but ombre, these darker hair lines should also be darker on the roots and lighter towards the tip. So I use a medium brown radial transparent gradient and Blending Mode Multiply, Opacity 70%.

Step 3

Now I will be drawing hair lines that should be brighter than the main hair color. Normally I would do these in one light color for the whole hair, since normally my girls' hair has one plain color shade. However since we have an ombre affect I will split the light hair lines into a few groups depending in which shade area they are.

Once lines are drawn I color them (using the same Expand and Unite process) with transparent radial gradient from medium brown to light brown and set their Blending Mode to Screen, with Opacity 70%.

Step 4

Draw light lines for the rest of the hair.

And I will color it to a lighter transparent radial gradient and position it as on the picture, with Blending Mode Screen, Opacity 70%.

Step 5

Now I will add some more lines to intensify the depth of the hair mass.

And I will color these with a brown radial transparent gradient, Blending Mode Multiply, Opacity 80%. Position it as depicted below, so to have the center of the gradient on the darker part of the hair and it's edge going towards the hair tips.

Step 6

Finally I decided to draw some extra light hair lines. Again I will split those into two groups – for darker area and for lighter.

The first group (I call it group, but remember that all the brush strokes were Expanded and United using the Pathfinder panel) will be in plain beige color with Blending Mode Screen and Opacity 80%.

Second group will be colored to light beige radial transparent gradient accordingly, with Blending Mode set to Screen and Opacity 80%.

And here is what I've got now!

7. Add Highlights and Shadow to the Hair

Step 1

Now it's time to draw some shadows on hair. So I will be using Pen Tool (P) to draw some fine shapes as depicted on the images below.

These shapes will be created for the whole hair, and again they will be divided into groups (now there will be three of them) according to the hair shades. All shapes within one group will be United (using the Pathfinder panel) and a Compound Path will be made from them.

Then I color these groups to brown, medium brown and beige according to their position on hair, set them to Blending Mode to Multiply with Opacity 60%, 50% and 40% accordingly. Here is how it looks now.

Step 2

I will draw few more shadowed shapes to intensify the depth on the hair.

Colors and features of the newly created shapes will be same as described in Step 1.

Step 3

And now I will be drawing new shapes, which are going to be highlights. These will be created on the places between shadowed shapes, so to see more clearly I reduce Opacity on the new shapes I'm drawing.

This is a bit of a boring and slow process, but once this is done, here is how it all looks now.

I will select all these shapes using the Magic Wand again, Unite them and Make Compound Path. Then color this to beige radial transparent gradient, position it as depicted below and set it's Blending Mode to Screen, 40% Opacity.

Step 4

Now I duplicate this newly created complex shape twice. I draw a random new shape as shown on the image below.

Then I chose this shape and one of the copies of the complex highlights' shape and use Minus Front, using the Pathfinder panel. Make Compound Path from the new one and color it using the preferences as depicted on the image below.

Step 5

Now I will do the same procedure but for lighter part of the hair. So first draw the abstract new shape, then select it and the remaining copy of the complex highlight shape. Use Minus Front and Make Compound Path.

And color the new shape as depicted below.

Step 6

And now I'm going to intensify the highlights just like I did for the shadows. So I draw some new shapes above all the hair.

Select them and color as shown below on the image. Please note that this time I didn't Unite all new shapes into one, so that now each of them is colored individually and I may vary the position of the gradient I colored them in.

Finally, I'm done with the hair!

Wow, That's Some Detailed Hair!

This concludes the first part of our fashion illustration tutorial. Be sure to check the next tutorial in the process to see how to do the skin, face and clothing.

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