1. Design & Illustration
  2. Drawing/Illustration
  3. Illustration

Vectoring a Pair of Luscious Lips in Illustrator CS6 from Stock

Scroll to top
Read Time: 9 min
This post is part of a series called Mastering Vector Portraits.
Create a Steam Punk Inspired Portrait in Illustrator CS6
Creating a Detailed Eye from Stock in Adobe Illustrator

Last month I showed you how I create detailed, stylized eyes from a stock image. This time around, I'm going to show you how I create a pair of detailed luscious lips from a stock image, including the teeth.


The exact steps and colors I use differs from project to project, so this is just what I've done for this specific stock image. However, this being said, the process remains the same on how I achieve certain elements of the lips detailing.

The stock image I'm going to be using you can get over on Photodune. I've picked this one specifically so you can see how I've rendered the teeth.

Step 1

I'm just going to prepare my file ready for vectoring the lips. In the first layer I'm going to rename it "Reference" by clicking in the text area of the Layers panel, which is a new feature of CS6. You no longer need to Double-click on the layer to rename a layer in the dialogue box and click on OK. I've went to File > Place the reference image into that first layer and then locked it.

Now Create New Layer and rename it BG. Within this I put a white fill, with Opacity 50%, Rectangle (M) across the reference image and then locked it. Then added two additional layers and renamed them "Skin Shading" and "Lips".

I tend to take advantage of the swatch libraries within Adobe Illustrator. One of my favorite are the "Skintones" swatches, which you can find by going into the drill down menu and going to Open Swatch Library > Skintones. If you click on the folder at the left of the swatches it will add them to your Swatch panel.

Step 2

Time to begin vectoring the lips. I view a lot of vector portraits online and one of my biggest pet hates in seeing detailed portraits are lips which appear to be floating independently on top of the skin. Lips are skin and should be shaded as such to prevent them from looking like they are floating. My biggest tip is to incorporate your lip shading into the skin shading and then use Blending Modes to tint and add detail to the skin.

I'm starting the skin shading with a base of the medium skin tone (C=0, M=15, Y=25, K=5) and then using a slightly darker shade (C=0, M=21, Y=35, K=7) to fill shapes drawn with the Pen Tool (P) around the lips and setting them to Blending Mode Multiply, with Opacity 7%. The shapes drawn should include the slight shadow at the corners of the mouth, the dint below the nose tip and underneath the bottom lip.

Step 3

I'm going to build up the shadows now with a slightly darker fill color (C=0, M=25, Y=30, K=10), then set to Blending Mode Multiply, with Opacity 7%. It's worth noting for each color I add, then Group all of the shapes (Command + G), to make it easier to go back and alter should it be necessary.

After adding very basic shading, I start to render the lips as two shapes/elements rather than one large shape. It's completely fine for the shapes to overlap, especially at the corners of the mouth, as this is where the lips will typically be darker. Pay attention to where the light is on the stock image if you're tracing it. From this stock image, the light is coming from above, therefore this should be reflected in your shading.

Even with the slight shapes we're building up, you can see the shading starting to form the lips.

Step 4

Now to focus more on the lips. I'm going to use a rose tint skin shade (C=11, M=46, Y=37, K=9) set to Blending Mode Multiply, with Opacity 10%, and add shapes to enhance the shape of the lips and the shadow on the lower portion of the shapes.

As you can see from the image below, the parting of the lips isn't so tidy. This doesn't matter right now as long as the rest of the lips are more smoothly rendered. The center of the lips/inside the mouth will have a shape overlapping this area and hiding the messy shape edges.

Step 5

I'm going to add highlights on and around the lips using transparent radial gradients with a light skintone (C=0, M=9, Y=15, K=3). These shapes will be set to Blending Mode Screen with Opacity 20%.

Step 6

The inside of the mouth will have it's own Layer as I'll want to add elements below it (the lip shading and skin shading) and above it (the teeth). So Create a New Layer and rename it "Inside Mouth".

I'm going to draw an overall shape for the inside of the mouth and then slightly smaller shapes within, around the teeth. These will have a dark brown fill, which can be found from the Skintones swatches I added at the beginning (C=30, M=48, Y=50, K=66), then set to Blending Mode Multiply with Opacity 60%.

Step 7

Using the Appearance panel I'm going to add four fills which contain the same dark rose (C=11, M=46, Y=37, K=9) transparent radial gradient. Use the Gradient Tool (G) for each fill to move and shape the gradient so there is one for the bottom of the lip, mouth parting and corners of the mouth. Each of these fills are set to Blending Mode Color Burn with Opacity 100%.

I then added a magenta fill and a green fill over the top of the gradients with the below Blending Modes and Opacities. Place this shape underneath your initial lip shading.

Step 8

Now to add dark rose shapes (C=11, M=46, Y=37, K=9) which add creases to the lips as well as shadow underneath both of the lips. Again while adding the shapes, you're adding shading beyond the lip region so you're including the face skin shading into the lip shading. All the shapes drawn are with the Pen Tool (P) and have a Blending Mode of Multiply with Opacity 20%.

Step 9

Create a New Layer and rename it "Teeth". This layer will need to be on top of the "Inside Mouth" layer. I'm going to draw around the shape of all four of the visible teeth. Then duplicate the shape for the inner mouth area and use it to Pathfinder > Intersect. This will result in an exact fitting over all teeth shapes for the mouth and it will trim off any edges which overlap onto the lips themselves.

A key thing to remember is that when you're doing detailed teeth that are stylized towards a realistic look, teeth aren't white! I'm going to then fill it with the highlighting transparent radial gradient, which I used for the skin highlighting in the previous steps. Then change the Blending Mode to Screen with Opacity 30%.

Step 10

I'm going to use the same transparent radial gradient to fill shapes for each of the teeth. These are going to be set to Blending Mode Screen with Opacity 20%. If you notice the placement of the gradients, they are positioned towards the bottom of the tooth. This is because of the slight shadow cast from the lips.

I'll continue working on each tooth, building up on each tooth individually. Then I'm going to add a slight texture to the teeth using the same gradient, yet set to Blending Mode Screen with Opacity 10%. When using more irregular shapes with gradients, a lower opacity is best used to avoid seeing any hard edges from the gradient being cut into.

Finally, a duplicate of the original teeth shape is laid over the top of the tooth shapes with the same fill and is set to Blending Mode Color Dodge with Opacity 40%.

Step 11

Using another duplicate of the inner mouth shape, I'm going to fill it with a dark brown/red, inverted, transparent radial gradient (C=0, M=75, Y=100, K=85) and set it to Blending Mode Multiply with Opacity 40%. With the Gradient Tool (G) I'm going to position and shape it so the gradient acts like a shadow cast over the top of the teeth.

Step 12

Now to add a shine to the lips. Create a New Layer, rename it "Shine", and place it underneath "Inside Mouth".

I'm first going to use a pale rose, transparent, radial gradient (C=5, M=20, Y=15, K=1) set to Blending Mode Screen with Opacity 50% shines and highlights to the lips.

Step 13

Now I use the great feature of gradient on stroke from CS6 to add lines along the top of the upper and bottom lip, and along the bottom of the top lip. I created a gradient using the same pale rose as the highlighting gradient, yet this time within a linear gradient. I used the below Stroke panel settings and set the strokes to Blending Mode Screen, and from top to bottom Opacities: 80%, 20%, 40%.

Step 14

In theory, the two front teeth are more exposed to light. Therefore, I'm going to use the dark brown/red, transparent radial gradient (C=0, M=75, Y=100, K=85) to add shadows cast onto the side teeth, corners of the mouth, and under the bottom lip. These shapes will be set to Blending Mode Multiply with Opacity 20%. So it's a subtle change in shadow.

Step 15

Finally, I'm going to duplicate the complex Appearance panel lip shape and lay it over the top of all your lip shading (excluding the shine) and then change the magenta to red. With this additional shape it has helped increase the overall contrast of the lips.

This will leave you with your finished luscious lips!


I hope you've enjoyed today's tutorial. If you want to play around with colors of the lips and not affect the teeth and inside of the mouth, duplicate the complex Appearance shape and then Pathfinder > Minus Front the shape of the inside mouth. I've then dragged and dropped this shape into it's own layer above the "Lip" shading.

By playing with the fill color and the Blending Mode, you can come up with some funky colored lips to give your portraits some extra character... why not check out these variations.

Did you find this post useful?
Want a weekly email summary?
Subscribe below and we’ll send you a weekly email summary of all new Design & Illustration tutorials. Never miss out on learning about the next big thing.
One subscription. Unlimited Downloads.
Get unlimited downloads