1. Design & Illustration
  2. Illustration

How to Create a Painted Vector Illustration with Custom Brushes

Read Time:5 minsLanguages:

Today we are going to learn how to create dynamic vector illustrations with Adobe Illustrator CS5. This tutorial will focus on many aspects of rendering clothing, advanced lighting, and unique brush creation that will help you in you future character development projects.


This tutorial will follow the process I've used to color a dynamic character sketch. I encourage you to follow along with your own sketches and adapt the steps to suit the elements you're drawing. By the end of this tutorial you will have learned a new new techniques that you can apply and adapt for your own creative style. So let's begin!

Step 1

First I began to make my brush shapes. I will usually vary the shapes depending on what kind of line I will need.

The important thing to understand here is to make sure that your brushes are as basic as possible (these brushes will be mainly used for inking).

Step 2

Let’s move on to creation of our brushes. My brush scale options (1) are set to stretch to fit stroke length, and my colorization method (2) is tints. Setting my brush options to tints will allow me to change the color of my stroke.

Step 3

Now I began to color some of the basic detail the face and hair. I am not yet worried about color because I will change the colors according to the groupings. Just make sure when you create a grouping(the eyes and the teeth are the same color) that you are sure those groupings make sense.

Step 4

Now I'll start creating the headsets for my character sketch using the Ellipse Tool (L). I'll draw two ovals one inside the other.

Step 5

Now I place the the headset as the sketch dictates.

Step 6

Next I'll draw a smaller oval inside to give the headset more depth.

Step 7

Next I dragged a new copy (Ctrl+ Alt+ Drag) onto the other side of the character.

Step 8

Grab the Reflect Tool (O) and Shift+Drag the headset to reverse its position.

Step 9

I place the second headset in its correct position (1). Next I select Select > Same > Fill Color to select the pink color (the shirt object).

Step 10

I change the shirt and the lines to a light gray.

Step 11

Now we have the correct color for the shirt. Grouping colors in this fashion will help you keep your colors in order and make

it easier to create complex Illustrations.

Step 12

I used the steps above to change the rest of the colors of the character. I wanted to keep the focus of the character on the top half of his body, so I made sure that the red was dominant and only in certain places.

Step 13

Now I select the entire character.

Step 14

In the re-color artwork dialogue (Window > Color Guide then in the menu tab at the top go to Recolor Artwork), I darken the colors of the whole character by dragging the brightness slider (1) to the left. Make sure the link chain is selected (2) so all colors are included.

Step 15

Next I select the whole character and drag to make a copy (Ctrl+Alt+Drag).

Step 16

Change the whole character solid white.

Step 17

Set the solid white character to the Overlay color mode and place it directly over the full colored character.

Step 18

Now create an Opacity Mask (1) with the clipping option selected (2). (Go to the fly out menu in the Transparency Panel and select - Make Opacity Mask)

Step 19

Inside the Opacity Mask (make sure the mask icon is selected in the transparency panel) - note that status (1) bar which lets you know you are working in an Opacity Mask. Take the brush tool and in a circular motion begin to add some value with a linear gradient (2).

Step 20

Now I add more basic highlights to the character.

Step 21

I add more layers of value using a lower opacity setting (1).

Step 22

Next I work on creating the foundation for rendering the wrinkles. I continue to build up the lighting keeping the wrinkle patterns in mind.

Step 23

I added more highlights to the characters face in the directions and rhythms noted by the orange arrows. I also began to develop the eyes.

Step 24

Next I finished up the eyes and I expanded on the design of the wrinkles.

Step 25

Next I began to add some highlights to the hair. Keeping in mind his hair is of an African American person so I texture it accordingly.

Step 26

Next I take my Opacity Mask overlay and give it a gradient fill. This gives the character a nice balanced lighting (this works best with complementary colors).

Step 27

Next I begin to "POP" the lights around the face and the shoulders (note the direction given by the arrows).

Step 28

Next I apply more lighting to the side of the characters hair and face. The orange arrows show the direction of the brush stokes and lighting direction.

Step 29

Here we have the lighting completed.

Step 30

I imported some Vector arrows I created in Google SketchUp.

Step 31

Then I make Brushes out of each one (brushes included in the file). With the Brush Scale Option (1) set to Stretch to Fit and Colorization (2) set to Tints and Shades.

Step 32

Next I use varying arrow brushes and sizes to create a composition similar to the referenced sketch.

Step 33

Next I change the arrows to a darker color orange and apply a linear gradient set to screen to all the arrows.

Step 34

Now I add lines to the arrows to give them a sense of shape. I use the overlay mode to give the lines and overlaying effect.

Step 35

I popped in some black bars to be set behind the arrows to give an effect of the arrows coming out from the box.

Final Image

And there we have it. Painted style vector illustration. Have a play around with the techniques I've outlined in this tutorial and see what you can come up with. I hope you've enjoyed this tut.

One subscription.
Unlimited Downloads.
Get unlimited downloads