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How to Create a Pop Art Tribute to Egyptian Icon Oum Kulthoum, in Adobe Illustrator

Final product image
What You'll Be Creating

One of the most iconic and celebrated women in the Middle East is Oum Kulthoum. A diva of her time, she was an iconic Egyptian singer, songwriter, and film actress from the 1920s through the 70s, known also as the "Voice of Egypt". She was also given the honorary title of "Kawab-Al-Sharq" in Arabic, which means "Star of the East". Her vocal ability and music was unique in style and influenced generations of Arab/Middle Easterners.

In this tutorial we will go through the process of creating a pop art style portrait of the influential Arab diva, using basic Adobe Illustrator tools and other tools like the Blob Brush and Live Paint. Also learn some quick tips and tricks, and how to capture a kitschy, lighthearted illustration style.

Love pop art design? Then check out our incredible selection of pop art graphics available through GraphicRiver, or collaborate with a design professional from Envato Studio.

Let's begin.

1. How to Set Up the Artboard 

Open Adobe Illustrator up and create a New Document (File > New or Control-N) using the following settings:

Select Print. 

Preset Details: Oum_Kulthoum_PopArt

  • Number of Artboards: 1
  • Width: 950px
  • Height: 1150 px
  • Units: Pixels
  • Color Mode: CMYK

And Create.

We are now ready to design our pop art illustration.

Set Up New Document using Adobe Illustrator

2. How to Illustrate the Portrait Image

Step 1

Move over quickly to Adobe Photoshop so we can sketch a line-work image of Oum Kulthoum.

Use any search engine to find a portrait image of Oum Kulthoum. Preferably a photo in her customary bejewelled gown and signature dark glasses, so she's recognisable.

Then use a simple thick black marker Brush Tool (B) to trace over the outlines of the portrait image on top of the photo layer, before deleting the photo layer.

File > Save Image, Format as JPEG.

Use Adobe Photoshop Brush Tool to sketch Oum Kulthoum

Step 2

Move back to Adobe Illustrator.

Use the Place shortcut (Command-Shift-P), and fit the sketch onto the base of the Artboard. 

Open the Layers panel (Window > Layers). Double-click "Layer 1" to open the Layer Options dialog box. Select Lock and Dim Images to: 20%, and OK.

Set Layer Lock and Dim Images in Layers Panel dialog box

Step 3

Press Create New Layer, from the Layers panel, and name the new layer "Linework".

Select the Blob Brush Tool (Shift-B). We need to modify the width of the brush in order to draw in our line artwork. This works best if you are working with a pen tablet. 

Double-click the Blob Brush Tool icon. This reveals the Blob Brush Tool Options. Change the Size from the default Fixed to Pressure from the dropdown menu, and increase the Variation slider to 5 pt. This way, you set a small brush size when sketching lightly with your pen to the tablet and a larger brush size with a heavier touch.

Set Angle to Stylus Wheel, and OK.

Setting Blob Brush Tool Size angle and Pressure

Step 4

With the Blob Brush Tool (Shift-B) selected, trace over the lines of the sketch.

With the line artwork shape selected, use the Live Paint Bucket (K). This turns the selected object into a Live Paint Group. 

So, when you move the Live Paint Bucket Tool (K) over the shape, the gaps that are ready to be painted become highlighted in red. 

Fill out the gap in the sunglasses with black.

Use Live Paintbucket Tool Group to Fill Shape Gaps

Step 5

Next, using a white stroke and the Blob Brush Tool (Shift-B), add in the white reflections on Oum Kulthoum's sunglasses.

Trash the "Sketch" layer from the Layers panel and File > Save (Command-S).

USe Blob Brush Tool Sketch Illustration Oum Kulthoum

3. How to Color and Create a Pop Style Effect

Step 1

Let's create our background and color our pop artwork.

Select the Rectangle Tool (M), and click once on the artboard to open the Rectangle dialog box. Set the Width and Height the same as the artboard we created:

  • Width: 950 px
  • Height: 1150 px

Give the rectangle the blue color #00b5e5.

Open the Align panel: Window > Align. Choose Align to Artboard from the Align Options dialog box, and then select the Horizontal & Vertical Align Center icons. 

Object > Arrange > Send to Back (Shift-Command-[).

Set Rectangle Width  Height and align to Artboard

Step 2

With the blue rectangle selected, Copy (Command-C) and Paste in Front (Command-F), to create the same rectangle on top of the original.

We need to delete the bottom right anchor point of the rectangle, to create a diagonal split screen effect. Press the Minus - key, to select the Delete Anchor Point Tool, and click on the bottom right anchor point.

Afterwards, you need to create Color Halftone: Effect > Pixelate (Photoshop Effects) > Color Halftone... for the new triangular shape.

This opens the Color Halftone Options. Set the settings:

  • Max. Radius: 80 Pixels
  • Channel 1: 70
  • Chanel 2: 70
  • OK
Create Color Halftone Effect thru Pixelate Effect

Step 3

We need to duplicate a part of the black line work. Select the outer line-work shape. Holding down the Shift-Alt keys to constrain the proportions and duplicate, Drag the shape slightly to the right.

Object > Arrange > Send to Back (Shift-Command-[). Give the duplicated shape a color Fill #ffb41d. Then Lock (Command-2) the selection or Object > Lock > Selection.

Arrange object and Lock Selection

Step 4

Open the Window > Swatches panel.

Create the following color swatches, using the New Swatch icon in the panel:

  • Red #ef4136
  • Orange #f7941d
  • Yellow Orange #fcb71c
  • Yellow  #fdef3e
  • Neon Green #8dc63f
  • Light Green #39b54a
  • Green  #009444
  • Evergreen #006838
  • Light Blue  #00b5e5
  • Blue #1186c8
  • Dark Blue #0e67a4
  • Dark Purple #92278f
  • Purple #a13e97
  • Light Purple #b454a0
  • Hot Pink  #ee4c9b
Swet Color Swatches Palette thru Hex Code

Step 5

Use the Selection Tool (V) to select all the black line work.

Open the Window > Pathfinder panel, and from the drop-down menu, choose Make Compound Shape.

Next, click the Expand button to merge everything into one shape.

Create Compound Shape and Expand from Pathfinder Panel

Step 6

With the line artwork shape selected, use the Live Paint Bucket (K), and fill out the gaps with color swatches of your choice.

Next, with the shape still selected, Object > Live Paint > Expand, so we can disconnect the shapes from the object as a whole.

Use Live Paint Bucket to fill color swatches

Step 7

Take the Direct Selection Tool (A), and select the two yellow shapes of Oum Kulthoum's face.

Then Color HalftoneEffect > Pixelate (Photoshop Effects> Color Halftone... and set to the following:

  • Max. Radius: 50 Pixels
  • Channel 1: 160
  • Chanel 2: 160
  • OK
Setting color halftone effect options radius and channels

Step 8

Unlock the locked shapes, Object > Unlock All (Command-Alt-2). Then, Select All (Command-A) and Group (Command-G) all the objects together.

Select the Rectangle Tool (M) and create a rectangle slightly smaller than the artboard size:

  • Width: 910 px
  • Height: 1114 px

After that, we need to mask our illustration. Use the Selection Tool (V), and select the group plus the new rectangle, Object > Clipping Mask > Make (Command-7).

Create Clipping Mask of selection

Step 9

Let's turn on the Smart Guides to line our objects easily. Smart Guides (Command-U or View > Smart Guides).

Use the Selection Tool (V) to select the masked group. Hold down Shift-Alt keys and Drag the group to duplicate it to the right of the original illustration.  

Make a 3x2 grid as below.

Use Smart Guides Shortcut and Duplicate frames by Shift Alt Drag

Step 10

Select the third frame.

Take the Free Transform Tool (E), hold down Shift to constrain the proportions, and scale the image to the base of the bottom frame, using the Smart Guides

Use Free Transform Tool to Scale

Step 11

Let's Edit Artboard dimensions. File > Document Setup (Command-Alt-P) and Edit Artboards. Expand the artboard around the frames.

Edit Artboards from Document Setup

Step 12

Let's give all the artwork different colors. Take the Direct Selection Tool (A), select each shape, and apply different color swatches to each. File > Save (Command-S).

Fill color Using Selection Tool and swatches

4. How to Add Text and a Pattern Design

Step 1

Let's add a 3D pattern to our larger frame.

Take the Direct Selection Tool (A), and select the halftone shape in the larger frame, and Delete. Then use the Rectangle Tool (M) to draw a 150 px Width & Height square, with the yellow orange shade #fcb71c.

 Effect > 3D > Extrude & Bevel.. and set to the following:

  • Position: Isometric Top
  • Extrude Depth: 170 pt
  • Bevel: None
  • Surface: No Shading
  • OK
Create 3D cube using Rectangle Tool and 3D Extrude  Bevel

Step 2

Object > Expand Appearance.

Use the Direct Selection Tool (A) to select the left cube cap and give it a Fill Hex color of  #ff5c0b and then the right cube cap #f7941d

Open the Swatches panel (Window > Swatches). Drag and drop the extruded rectangle into the Swatches panel to create our New Pattern swatch, and Delete our original shape from the frame.

Create New Pattern from Swatch panel

Step 3

In the Layers panel, expand the larger frame's group sublayers. You will see the blue "Rectangle" sublayer at the bottom of the selection. Select it, and drag it down to the Create New Layer icon to duplicate it.

On the top blue "Rectangle" sublayer, click on the Click to Target icon to select the shape. And Fill it with the new 3D swatch we created, in the Swatches panel.

Control Layer sublayers to duplicate and fill attern

Step 4

With the Rectangle shape still selected, choose the Free Transform Tool (E) and drag the top anchor down to the tip of any of the pattern rows.

The pattern will scale the shape with it, so to correct it, you need to tap the 3D swatch again to Fill it to the edited size.

USe Free Transform Tool Shortcut to Fill Pattern

Step 5

Now let's add some text!

Open the Character panel: Window > Type > Character (Command-T). 

Choose the Type Tool from the Tools menu, select a black Fill, and type in the text "OUM KULTHOUM".

I chose the font Geared Slab and set the Font Size to 318 pt.

USe Character Panel  to sleect font and type size

Step 6

Take the Selection Tool (V) and select the "OUM KULTHOUM" text. Then Copy (Command-C) and Paste in Front (Command-F). Give the new type path the yellow swatch Fill of #fdef3e.

Object > Arrange > Send to Back (Shift-Command-[), and use the left arrow key to move it a few spaces to the left.

USe Copy Paste Shortcut and align with Arrange Send to Back

Step 7

Again take the Type Tool from the Tools menu, to type in the text "STAR OF THE EAST" in black, below "OUM KULTHOUM".

I used the font Gilmore Sans Extra Bold, at 118 pt Font Size.

Use the Selection Tool (V) and the Smart Guides to align it to the right of "OUM KULTHOUM".

Use Type Tool for text and Character Panel to set Font Size

Step 8

Now let's add some Arabic text on the four frames to the left.

Using the Type Tool, let's type in أم كلثوم (Oum Kulthoum written in Arabic), using the Type Tanseek Extra Bold, in black Fill.

Take the Free Transform Tool (E), and manually rotate it slightly.

Write Arabic text with Font Tanseek Type Tool and Free Transform to Rotate

Step 9

For the final bits, let's add colored shadows to the text.

Take the Selection Tool (V), and select the "أم كلثوم" text. Copy (Command-C) and Paste in Front (Command-F).

Give the type the yellow swatch Fill of  #fdef3e.

Object > Arrange > Send to Back (Shift-Command-[), and use the up arrow key to move it a few spaces to the top.

USe Copy Paste Front Shortcut and Arrange Send to Back

Step 10

Finally, with the yellow "أم كلثوم" text still selected, Copy (Command-C) and Paste in Front (Command-F), and give the text a green swatch Fill of  #009444.

Use the down arrow key to move it a few spaces to the bottom, and tap the left arrow key to place it slightly to the left. File > Save (Command-S).

Use Swatch Fill and copy paste text

You Are a Star!!

Great job! Using a few simple tools and quick shortcuts, you can create many other pop illustrations. You can apply the artwork to web banners, posters, textiles, or any merchandise. Once you are inspired, there are no limits.

Remember to keep the style kitschy and lighthearted. Using vibrant hues, punchy prints and a whole lot of quirky styles and textures is the key to this funky look.

Final Pop style Illustration of Oum Kulthoum Tutorial by MissChatz
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