Every artist have their own style of creating a vector portrait ranging from ultra-realistic to very cartoony. What youâ€™ll learn is the style of making one and hopefully you can come up with our style after learning the basics of vector art. Letâ€™s begin.
What you need:
Reference Photo: This photo is what weâ€™re going to work on for this tutorial.
And this is what we will end up with:
Try to use hi-res copies of the pictures that youâ€™d want to convert into vector portraits because itâ€™ll be easier to see the details and produce a much better looking vector. Photoshop Basics: For this tutorial, we will use Photoshop to create our vector portraits. Most artist prefer Illustrator for vector graphics but for this tutorial Photoshop will do. We will use the Pen Tool (PS Shortcut: P) primarily in creating the vector portrait. This tool is used to produce vector shapes and the vector shapes that you will create will ultimately form the portrait that you are working on. If you havenâ€™t used the pen tool before hereâ€™s a primer: To create a basic vector shape, just click wherever you want to start on the canvass and continue clicking to create a square shape. Click again where your shape started to close the shape. A new shape layer will appear in your layer pallette.
There are two ways to deal with curved shapes using the pen tool. The first one is to use a curve node which creates a smoother curve and the other is to use lots of nodes to trace the curve.
After finishing the curve, you can still edit the curve by holding the CTRL key while still using the pen tool. Your cursor will change to a plain white arrow to edit any node on your current curve. Just click on any node and drag it to edit the curve. Method 2:
This is easier than the first method but may result to not as smooth as the curve from the first method. All you do is zoom into the curve that you wanted to trace then click along the curve to create a lot of nodes which when zoomed out looks like a smooth curve. Before we start: We need to set the pen tool options and shape options
Click on the pen tool or press P on your keyboard then check the settings for the pen tool options and shape options. This is the basic set up we will use on working on our vector portraits. We will use different shape option a little bit later on the tutorial. I guess weâ€™re all set so click the link below to start with the next part. First right click on this image and save it on your desktop and open it on photoshop
Duplicate the current layer by pressing CTRL+J then go to Image>Adjustment>Posterize.
Type 7 in the levels input box.
The posterized layer will serve as a guide to the shades of color that we need to trace. The higher the level of posterizing you use the more realistic your vector will look but it will also be more difficult to work on. Now press F to go into fullscreen mode, this will make tracing shapes easier. Zoom in at around 300% using the zoom tool, then hold down the space bar (your cursor will change to a hand) click and drag the image so that you are looking at the part of the picture same as below.
Click on the background layer to activate it then press P to select the pen tool, using the above image as a reference click on the starting point. You will notice that a new layer is created named â€œShape 1â€³ on the Layers Palette. That is normal and this simply means that we are working on a vector shape. Follow the guide below to start tracing the outline of theskin of the model in the picture.
You may notice that I intentionally placed a node outside the picture, you donâ€™t have to worry about this because any nodes outside the picture will not show and will not affect the vector. Also, in case you made a mistake or the curved path did not fit well you can hit CTRL+Z to undo. You can also edit any past node by holding the CTRL button and drag any node that you want to edit. Continue tracing the shape until you have something like the image below:
What we are doing here is to trace first all the skin parts. Finish tracing the belly and the leg part, donâ€™t forget to close you shape. Click on the â€œadd to shape areaâ€ on the shape options.
What this does is to add the next vector shape in the same layer. This way we can keep our layer organized and easier to edit in case we need to come back and correct something. Continue tracing the other skin shapes so you may end up with something like this:
And this is what your layers palette should look like:
The top layer is your posterized picture, the middle layer is the shape layer which ou are working on and the bottom layer is the original picture. You can toggle on and off a layer by clicking on the layer visibility toggle icon. You can turn off the top layer so you can see how are you doing with your vector. Double click the box found on the left side of you shape layer to change its color. Select a color that is close to the primary skin color of our model (I used #F7CDB8). This will be the basic skin color of our vector, you will add highlights and shadows later to this to finish the vector skin. Hereâ€™s what your current work should look like with the posterized layer turned off:
Using the posterized layer as a guide, weâ€™ll start tracing shapes that will be details of our modelâ€™s skin. Lets concentrate on the belly and leg part first. When you posterized your pictureâ€™s color depth was reduced and the boundaries of the shades are shown. Take a look at the image below, it is a zoomed in picture of the posterized belly part. Youâ€™ll just have to trace every color that you see in this picture.
This is where youâ€™re going to need the patience part. It really takes awhile to finish a vector portrait. You can also see clearly which color is on top of other color. Basically darker shades should be on top of a lighter shade. Every color shade must also have its own shape layer. You can create a new shape layer by clicking on create a new shape layer option in the shape tools option box. Donâ€™t forget to use the add to shape area option to add a new shape in the current shape layer. The following thumbs are arrange in order in which they are created with the last thumb as the top most layer.
You will notice that each color shades have a very slight difference. Also the last 3 frames are actually highlights. I usually trace highlights after I work on the darker shades. Color are selected by moving the color selector slightly towards the darker side of the color palette or lighter side of the palette, depending if youâ€™re working on shadows or highlights. Hereâ€™s what it looks like when its put all together: