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How to Create an Illustration of a Young Couple for Valentine's Day

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Learn how to illustrate a young couple celebrating Valentine's Day with all the accessories that comes with it. We'll be using Gradients, Blends and Brushes within Adobe Illustrator to bring this guys to life.

Step 1

After doing some doodles about the concept I wanted to create, I start creating a detail sketching that I can translate into Illustrator that I wouldn't have to change too much. For the bodies I followed my cartoon style, but for other elements I looked for references on Google. Like the bow on the cellphone, the young man's hair etc.

Step 2

Place the sketch onto the blank canvas File > Place and set the image Opacity to 60%.

Then lock the layer where the sketch image is and Create New Layer on top where we'll be recreating the drawing with vector objects.

Step 3

Now I'm going to create a circle with the Ellipse Tool (L) in the middle of the sketch. This circle will help me place the characters and elements around them with certain proportion. This would help me get rid of the irregularity that a hand drawn sketch leaves.

Step 4

We'll start creating our characters by drawing the basic figures and going from there. Let's start with the heads! Draw a circle with the Ellipse Tool (L) for each of the character's head.

Step 5

As we all know, females have more delicate features than men. To give the circles a female look I'll reduce the lengths of the lower anchor point of the young woman's head. And for the man I'll reinforce his male feature by drawing a stronger chin with the Rounded Rectangle Tool.

Step 6

Next we'll draw some rectangles where the bodies should be. Make sure to go from shoulder to shoulder and finish with the waist. Just four quick corner anchor points, we'll be giving the bodies some body language on the next step.

Step 7

Here comes some body expression. We'll give the bodies some curvature to denote movement by editing the objects using the Convert Anchor Point Tool (Shift + C). Just click and drag on top of the anchor point to reveal its vector handles. Then moves the handles to the positions shown below.

Step 8

Moving on to the extremities. Draw a simple shape for the arm using the Pen Tool (P). Then focus at the end where the hand starts and add some anchor points where the fingers should start. Using the Convert Anchor Point (Shift + C) move the handles to draw the finger's length. Everything good so far, but the fingers look a little stiff and we want them to look like they're holding the cellphone. So we'll add anchor points at the bottom line of each finger and we'll play with the handles until we had the curvature we want. Use the same principles to draw the guy's arm.

Step 9

Now we want the bodies to be inside the main circle we drew at step one. Duplicate the circle twice. Go to Window > Pathfinder and Intersect each body object with each circle instance. We'll leave the arms outside the circle to give the illusion of them being inside a window with their arms outside.

Step 10

To draw the hair just follow the sketch's strokes using the Pen Tool (P). Make sure to separate the hair in different objects to later give each object different color tones to simulate the hairs shine and shadows.

Step 11

We'll begin with the girl's face. Draw a line with the Pen Tool (P) to indicate the mouth's smiling direction. Then place one circle with the Ellipse Tool (L) over each corner of the mouth. We'll use this to create the shadows of this area later on. Then draw the overall shape of the lips, duplicate the mouth's path and use the Window > Pathfinder to Divide the lips shape into two pieces, upper and lower lip.

Step 12

For the eyes we'll start from a basic shape. Draw a circle with the Ellipse Tool (L) and rotate it until it's in the same angle as the sketch's eye. Then draw a line with the Pen Tool (P) where we want the eye to end. Select the circle and the path you just created and go to Window > Pathfinder and Divide them. Delete the lower object.

Using the Pen Tool (P) draw the eyelashes. Here I did a simpler version of the eyelashes, compared to the sketch. You can change little things like that when you feel is needed. For the inner eye create two big circles and two smaller ones for the eyes sparkles with the Ellipse Tool (L). Select the circles and make them into a group (Command + G). Select the eyes overall shape and bring it all the way to the front (Shift + Command + ]), then select both this shape and the group of circles and Object > Clipping Mask > Make (Command + 7). This would clip the circles into the eye and you can move them later on if you need to change this.

For the eyebrow draw two overlapping objects with the Ellipse Tool (L) as shown in the picture below. With both objects selected go to Window > Pathfinder and apply the Minus Front option. Then select and delete the last anchor point at the right corner. Presto! We had some eyebrows.

Step 13

Finish the drawing by following all the principles for drawing the characters and background using the sketch and the drawing tools we use in the previous steps. Here is an outline view of the result. To see your artwork in outline mode go to View > Outline (Command + Y).

Step 14

To create the title font, which is hand drawn, we'll create circles as the fonts guidelines. Select the circle we created in step 1, click and drag hitting the Alt + Shift combination key to duplicate the circle and make it bigger from the center out. Create two circles that would cover the base and top of the fonts limits.

Step 15

Start drawing the font taking into account that the letters should star at the base circle and maintain certain proportions with each other.

The two circles help to fix the sketch's inconsistency and proportions. Make the necessary changes to the font so it starts and ends with the guideline we created.

Step 16

We are done drawing and are ready to use some color! Let's star with the skin tones. Thankfully Illustrator has a Swatch library for that! Look for it by going to Window > Swatch Libraries > Skintones. Select the tones you want for each character.

Step 17

Fill each object on the artwork with a medium tone. A medium tone is a color that is between light and dark. We'll be adding lights and shadows to the illustration, so a medium tone for the base is perfect.

Step 18

We'll start with the face shadows to give it a title tridimensional look. Create a gradient that goes from the skintone you chose to a darker version of that color. Then use the Pen Tool (P) and select the open anchor points of the nose path to continue the shape and create a close object where the nose cast a shadow on the right side of the face.

Duplicate the head's ellipse and intersect them with the nose shadow object by going to Window > Pathfinder and Intersect. Fill the resulting shape with the gradient we created at the beginning.

Step 19

To create the shadow under the eyebrow, draw an ellipse with the Ellipse Tool (L) and fill it with the gradient for the skin shadows. Draw a line path at the bottom of the eye and Intersect the line path with the ellipse by selecting them and going to Window > Pathfinder. Delete the bottom object and adjust the gradient angle of the top object as you wish.

Fill the little circles at the corners of the mouth with the skin shadow gradient and make a radial gradient. Move and scale the gradient handle to place the dark side only where it needs to be as shown on the image below. Then draw an irregular shape with the Pen Tool (L) under the lower lip and fill it with the skin shadow gradient. We are done with the volume of the girl's mouth.

Step 20

The guy's mouth is done a little different. Since he doesn't have pink lips we have to make an extra effort to paint the volume here. We'll follow the same steps as before and add a chin shadow to reveal the guy's lower lip. Oh and the guy has darker skin so I created a new skin shadow gradient for him.

Step 21

Repeat the process with each object for the couple's skin. Fill it with the skin shadow gradient moving and scaling the gradient handle to place the shadows where it needs to be.

Done with the skin shadows, let's move on to the lights! It's similar to the process of the shadows, only that we have to draw every object where the lights should hit the subject. For example, in the girl's face the light hits the top of her nose. Draw an object for this area and fill it with a white gradient that goes from 50 to 0% Opacity. Move the gradient and scale it to place the light where it should be.

Step 22

Now we'll give some volume to the inside of the eye. I've add an extra white circle with 50% Opacity for the sparkles, a gradient for the iris and a subtle shadow for the white area.

Step 23

We finish their faces volume by placing the blush and shines for the cheekbones. Draw them using the Ellipse Tool (L) and fill the girl's circles with a radial gradient with pink from 20 to 0% Opacity. Same with the guy's cheekbones but instead of pink we'll use a lighter skin tone to simulate shine.

Step 24

Moving on to the hair. Look for a lighter and darker color of the base color we chose earlier for the hair. Create a radial gradient with this three colors. Apply the gradient to one of the hairs objects and play with the gradient's handle and scale to place the shadows and the lights wherever you want.

Repeat the process with the guy's hair, this time creating light and dark colors for his base hair color.

Select each object of the couples hair and fill them with the correspondent gradient. Remember to move the gradient handle so they all have some consistency with the direction the light is coming and the shadows it produces.

Step 25

Now we'll take care of the clothing of our characters. Find the light and dark color of the sweater sleeve and use it to create a radial gradient for this shape.

Do the same with the other clothing items. Remember to keep a consistency with the light's direction.

I'll teach you how I did the sleeves and neck details. Draw a few line path around the teeshirts neck. Using the Blend Tool (W) click on one of the paths open anchor points and then click in the next paths open anchor point. This would create a blend between them as shown in the image below. Repeat the process until all path are blend. Then select the Convert Anchor Point Tool (Shift + C) and smooth the anchor points of the blends spine by clicking and dragging on top of them to reveal its vector handles. Once you've create a circle out of the blend spine, and all your path are around the tee-shirts neck, go to Object > Expand Appearance. Then, keeping the path selected, select the tee-shirts neck object as well and Divide them by going to Window > Pathfinder palette. Now you just need to fill each individual object with the gradient to give it some volume.

Step 26

Let's take a moment to focus on the bow on top of the cellphone that the girl is holding. This could be tricky. We'll use a gradient for the top ribbon and a darker gradient for the inner ribbon. We'll only do one ribbon and then replicate the fill on the other ones. It looks complicated when done, but it was actually quick and simple. Gradients give that effect.

Step 27

Now we are done with the coloring of the couple and we're going to move on to the accessories around them. They are pretty simple, much easier to color than the main characters. I'll explain how to color the wine glass shaped like a heart. We want to convey the transparency of the glass. First draw an irregular shape inside the red heart with the Pen Tool (P), this shape represents the top of the wine in movement. Next draw a line path that goes trough the shape you just created. Duplicate the heart shape and select the line path and the red heart and Divide them going to Window > Pathfinder. Now delete the top shape and we have the bottom of our wine!

Now we'll give the glass a little volume and reflections. Select the remaining heart shape and set the fill to white. Also fill the glass with a darker blue. Duplicate the glass body, delete the anchor points of the base so you're leaved with only the top of the glass. Select both the heart and the top of the glass and blend them by going to Object > Blend > Make. Now bring the wine objects to the front, and draw the reflection with the Pen Tool (L), free style. Try to follow the glass shape. Fill the reflection shape with a white gradient going from 30 to 0% transparency. An lastly, I've drawn a rectangle with rounded corners inside the glass's base to give it a little depth.

Step 28

I always use two types of shadows and lights. The ones we've been doing so far that consist in soft gradients and the ones we are going to be adding now. I'm talking about hard shadows in some key places to make some areas pop. We'll start with the shadow that the hair casts on the girl's forehead and eyes. I'll draw the shadow how it would naturally fall on her face, and then use the Pathfinder panel to cut the parts of the objects that are out of the area of the shadow, in this case out of the forehead.

We didn't add too much of this kind of hard shadows, only a few that you can see in the image below.

Step 29

Finally the header title. I like dashed lines, I'll be using a dashed brush for the custom font but you can choose the brush or stroke that you like the best. I'll open the brush library by going to Window > Brushes Libraries > Borders > Borders_Dashed. I'll apply my chosen brush by selecting the font path and the clicking the brush swatch.

I made the font into a heart shape at the end that I've decided to fill it with pink as well as all the closed spaces within the font. And for the "day" at the end I used a simple dashed stroke. I wanted it to be a different kind of dashed lines from the main tittle.

And this is the final result for the main header tittle:

Step 30

And the last thing we'll do is add some pink in a gradient to the light yellow at the background. This would give a nice limit to the illustration and makes all the element more like an ensemble.


Now we've finished our Valentine's day illustration! I hope you've enjoyed today's love themed tutorial and hope you have a great day with your loved one.

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