Start your free trial now, and begin learning software, business and creative skills—anytime, anywhere—with video instruction from recognized industry experts.

Start Your Free Trial Now

Building base vector shapes: Part one


Artist at Work: From Sketch to Finished Vector Illustration

with Von Glitschka

Video: Building base vector shapes: Part one

As with every project it starts with a drawing, so what you see here is a refined sketch of this dog that's scratching himself. He's an, unhappy little dog, scratching himself and, I refine my sketches so it really removes the guesswork from building. So if I Zoom in on this, you can see that. I've defined exactly what I want these shapes to be, and what that's going to do now, it's going to assisted my Vector building. And on a project like this, I'm going to start, I usually start with the head, in this case I'm going to start with the nose.
please wait ...
Watch the Online Video Course Artist at Work: From Sketch to Finished Vector Illustration
1h 18m Intermediate Feb 18, 2014

Viewers: in countries Watching now:

Von Glitschka is known for his witty, colorful illustrations, logos, and design work. But how do his drawings make it from refined sketches to polished pieces? This installment of Artist at Work enables you to follow along with Von's coloring and shading process, as he transforms this vector-based graphic in Adobe Illustrator. He starts with a scanned sketch and builds out the basic vector shapes. He then adds shading, highlights, and color—the finishing details that make his illustrations so extraordinary. Von's methods are simple to follow and will help create a new level of depth and richness in your own vector creations.

Von Glitschka

Building base vector shapes: Part one

As with every project it starts with a drawing, so what you see here is a refined sketch of this dog that's scratching himself. He's an, unhappy little dog, scratching himself and, I refine my sketches so it really removes the guesswork from building. So if I Zoom in on this, you can see that. I've defined exactly what I want these shapes to be, and what that's going to do now, it's going to assisted my Vector building. And on a project like this, I'm going to start, I usually start with the head, in this case I'm going to start with the nose.

Actually before I start building that I do want to go to my Graphic Styles Panel. And you'll see I have two types of Styles initially in here. And these are just Magenta lines. I have this first one, we'll go ahead and create an Oval that will make up his nose. And this is the one style I use, and this is just simply a 0.5 stroke, and then if I clone this, Cmd + C, Cmd + F. Drag it over here. This other style I have is a 0.25 stroke, and I use these to build all the core base vector shapes for my artwork just because it doesn't get in the way.

I don't bother with any fills at this point, and I don't worry about working out color at this point, it's all focused on shape and form. So, that's what I'm paying attention to. So we're going to start with the nose here and we're just, once again just using Elliptical shape and I'm just rotating it into position and many times, I don't like using an absolutely perfect Geometric shape,even though this is simplified Illustration. At times I'll go in and I'll distort stuff so like on this one I might pull it out and then I pull it back in.

Now one thing you'll see me using a lot, if I toggle over this path you can see that it's telling me that I'm on the Path. If I go around I'll hit this Anchor point. That's because I have Smart Guides turned on. Smart Guides can be toggled on and off using Cmd + U, so if I toggle it off, now it'll tell me visually that I'm there, but not really obvious when you're over a path and it certainly won't snap to it just because. I have Smart-Guides turned off. So I usually keep those on when I start, but as I work I'll toggle that on and off at will just because it'll make certain build things a little easier.

It won't try to snap to a, to a Path or an Anchor point. So now I'll go to the Pin Tool, and this is where my building begins. Where ever you are it comes to a point, gets a point. These are no brainer's to discern where to place your Anchor Points. Now as you get along to the back edge of his head you have to figure out where you're going to put the Anchor Point. Referencing back to my drawing Vector Graphics course we're going to use the clock work method. So we're going to place it at a three o'clock position here. And I'm not going to try to pull out the full curve because I don't want to create that from just these handlebars, I'm just going to pull them out enough to have access to them.

And I'm not going to worry about this not aligning with my drawing at that point, we're going to adjust that in the secondary stage. I'm going to go ahead and slide up, and you'll see as we come down here. We'll place out second point here. Now, if I zoom out, I usually Zoom Out or Zoom In, depending on what kind of detail I'm doing. At this point, I don't like being in as far as I was. So, I want to repositioned how far I'm zoomed in. All I want to be right here, and I'll just continue where I left off.

So, I'll start from this Anchor Point, and I will go ahead and go up here, and I'm also, one thing I'm keeping in consideration as I build is... I might want to segment some of these components and not fuse them altogether as one independent shape. But for his back leg, I will build a component of this artwork that'll be separate, and that will make sense in a little bit when I show you how to do that. So, we're going to continue building this path, as it wraps around his back leg.

This is another three o'clock position, if you orient it based off of thinking like a clock. This would be a six o'clock position. And right here, and then this would be a nine o'clock. Once again, not pulling the handle bars all the way out, I'm not going to worry about that. As specifically at this stage and I think we're going to put another one. Comes down to personal preference. But I think it would work best if we put one at an angle there, one I'm going to do a shortcut here. I'm going to build his lip a little differently just to, I make a point at how you can go about buildings.

So we're just continuing here where it comes to a curve. You want to hit the apex here so this like, is six o'clock if the clock's angled. And another six o'clock, and then we're going to end it, up here. So you can see I kind of missed the Anchor Point down there. It's no big deal we'll just snap it into place. We just select both of them and Cmd+J, that is to join them. So now we have our base Vector crudely built.

This is what I call a rough build. Now it's at this point I would use my plugin. I would go in on a path like this and literally grab the path and I can bend it right to where I want it and it goes fast. Out of Illustrator out of the box you'll want to instead go to convert Anchor Point Tool, this one. This is where I will zoom in just because it'll allow us better control. And you'll click on an Anchor Point. Pulling out, and that'll give you access to the handles. We'll then grab this handle, adjust it to align it to our drawing underneath.

And then on this one, it's almost a straight line. But one thing I do when I Illustrate, I try not to leave any line perfectly straight. because technically, in nature there are no perfectly straight lines. It might have the appearance of being straight but it's always a little off, and so I like to draw my lines a little off. I don't like to draw them perfect that also pushes away from looking so computerized, in my opinion. Not to say when I lay down my initial Anchor Points I'm always going to hit dead on where I want.

So, I usually drag it away and then drag it back so I can see precisely and then drop it where I want it. And on this I'll go in and adjust. I'm kind of cheating. Usually, I go in a clockwork motion and I go all the way around. I think I'm going to go back to that just so, it'll help you remember to do that. This one being straight isn't so bad but, even with that I'm going to make it ever so slightly curved. And then, get access to this one.

And now, the balance between this Anchor Point handle, and this curved handle. Is going to make up the back of his head so I don't want to try to make it from just one handle being pulled out. That's how you make curves look flat. So to avoid that flat appearance, always try to create a curve like this using a handle from. Corresponding Anchor Points on each side of that curve, you'll get a better result that way. Once again I'm a little too zoomed in, so I'm going to Zoom out a little bit here, and we'll continue, and we'll pull the Anchor handles over here, adjust this.

We'll grab this one, and this handle we can pull out to accomplish the back. Now, you'll see how this Anchor handle. This is broken it should be a smooth Anchor. So, I'm going to show you how to fix that in just a second. So, once that's pulled out, I want to select this and, we want to make sure this is going to be a curved Anchor handle. You have two types of Anchor Points in Illustrator. You have corners. This would be a corner. And you have smooth. This needs to be a smooth.

Right now it's technically a corner because you can do this, and it doesn't affect the top anchor handle. So Select that and you go up to the Top Menu to Convert selected Anchor Points to smooth and you click that and now it's smooth. So if you move one, it elegantly flows through the other, and we want that on the backside of his head, so that's how you fix that. And you will break 'em as you're working with Vectors, you will run into that, so it's good to know that. I keep wanting to go back here and adjust that, but I'll just wait until I get to it.

We'll go here and once again it's the same process going all the way around so, if I don't talk for a little bit just watch what I'm doing and pay attention. And you should be able to discern exactly what I'm doing because most of what I'm doing now is I'm just replicating the exact same process at each Anchor Point. To make sure I have the Bezier curves, which I'm creating, these are the Bezier curves, and these are the handlebars that control the Bezier curve. That's what vector art is all about, it's about Handles and Paths.

So, I'm continuing once again, here's another example of a curve, and we wouldn't try to do this because what you'll end up with. Is this flatness appearance here, and you don't want that. So we're going to make this based off of pulling this out a little bit and pulling this one out, and you get a much more Elegant curve. I think this is already, Nope. So we're going to make sure that's smooth. Fix that. And we'll go back in and finesse it.

Now, this is where I'll hold Shift down. Because we're at the base of his feet, it's on the ground. So I want this curve to be oriented with the ground. So, just by holding Shift down when I'm pulling this Anchor Point out, snaps it to 90 degree angles. And then I'll pull it in a little bit and that should work. Pull this one out. And, here's another example where I think we'll actually want to slide this Anchor Point a little forward. And then we'll pull this one out a little bit. So you won't always hit these Anchor Points exactly when you're laying down your first initial path, but you're just trying to get it in the right neighbourhood maybe not the exact home address.

So we'll continue to tweak with this. And we're almost done with our initial one here. We're going to Zoom in here so we can see this a little better. And, we don't need that one but we do need this one. Pull this one out and you can see how I'm not making a whole lot of guess-work in terms of building my vector shape, I'm letting my underlying drawing really kind of guide my building efforts, and this just allows me to go a little faster.

You might be wondering what bread of dog this is I have no idea he's a mutt I guess. So now we're up in this area, I can go ahead and adjust this, and we're going to adjust this. So once again, even though the back part of his mouth is straight. We're going to curve it ever so slightly like that and I like pulling stuff away, because it makes it easier to kind of determine where to bring it back to.

In this case, I think that means this needs to be pulled out more. So, just easier to discern things that way. And we'll adjust this, and yes a lot of these details some people might not never notice but it doesn't mean I don't make him, I'm still, I'm kind of anal when it comes to My Vector, so, I really want it precisely the way I want it. Now, the whole reason I left his lip this way is, I just wanted to show you that you don't always have to build in one continuous shape all the times. Sometimes it's easier to do that way.

Other times, you want to think in how you can kind of break apart your art into more manageable pieces and I'll explain that in just a little bit and demonstrate what I mean by that and I think you'll make more sense. So we're going to finish building out this Lip shape. Once again, even though that's straight, I'm going to curve it ever so slightly. We've taken this Anchor Point, we're snapping it to that one because I will use that as an orientation point to bring the tongue around and it'll snap there as well, so, that will just help us in that regard.

Bottom lip is looking a little wonky, I'm going to fix it. Okay. I have his lip done, now the whole reason I built it this way is because I'm going to have this little detail of shading here. If I turn of this layer, you can see how I drew this in here, so I want to replicate that now as I'm building it. So I'm going to clone this shape, which is Cmd+C, Cmd+F, and once you do that, this shape's sitting on top. I'm going to grab the Rotate Tool with Smart Guides on, I know I'm right on the Anchor Points.

I'm going to click, then I'll rotate it, and you can see how it helps me make that little Sliver Shape. Once again I'm going to clone this shape again and make sure it's on top. Select the shape I rotated and we're going to, actually one thing I want to do before I do that, is make sure it's covering it all the way. So we're going to Select that, Select this. And we're going to Cookie Cutter it. So this is shape building, and ungroup it.

We can get rid of that shape. So now all we have is this Wedge Shape here. You can see what it looks like, and we're going to Select the Background Shape, clone that. Cmd+C, Cmd+F. Select the Wedge shape we just built. Use another Pathfinder, which this is Intersect, wherever it intersects creates the shape. And now we have that little detail shape we need. So that's why I built this one independently, it was just going to help with that. On more complex Illustrations I do that a lot just because it makes building the whole artwork easier.

Now that I have this the way I want I'll just fuse this into the other shape so you can see that it's now considered one shape. So we have our base Vector shape for the core of our dog's body and his back leg. We're going to go ahead and build the ears now these are the same, same build principles as everything else we've done to this point. If you do have a chance do check out the Astute Graphics plug-ins because I remember when first discovered' em, I was like, just, I, I couldn't close my mouth I was so, kind of blown away by' em.

I'm going, okay this is what I want to use. So what I'm doing now, I'm not coloring stuff, this can be a Throw away shape, I'm just doing it so you can see it easier. I'm going to fuse these together. So what a throw away shape is, is it's something I'm not going to keep. I'm just creating for the sake of building other content. In this case, the back of the dog, since his ear inner played with this shape, and the shape that I originally built. I needed to fuse them together in order. Oops, it's the wrong color need to use that.

There you go, so all I'm doing now is building this back here. Oops. See even I as as I'm building will. Things you're not supposed to. Now I don't care about this down here' cause that won't show up anyway, so once I have this, tweak that just a little bit, okay once I have this, I'll take this Throw away shape.

Just make sure it's in front of this shape and I'll punch this out and that's all that shape was for, it was a Throw away shape and the reason why I did that is because this shape is separate from this shape. And it just made more sense to flaunt those really quick, fuse them and then use it as a cookie cutter on the other one. I'll do the same thing for this one. You know, let me color this so you can see what I'm talking about here, and then I'll throw away that shape. And so a lot of shapes I create for no other reason than to build another shape, and then I get rid of it.

I don't need it any-more so, we're going to go ahead. I've made a clone of this, here. Now I'm snapping to this point using the Rotate Tool. And, you know and, being a little lazy here I thought this would save me some time, in actuality. Actually it's good for you to see this because you can see sometimes it's just faster to go ahead and build something from scratch. This time I thought, oh I'll just clone the ear and, use it to create the inner-detail. And actually it didn't save me any time at all. Now I'm going back in and just, tweaking it the way I should have to begin with.

So just ignore that, you didn't see me do that. And that's the inner-part of that ear. Now we're going to do the back part of his ear. By the way, most of the time when I'm building like this I'm usually listening to an Audiobook or watching Netflix or whatever. There are those times where I talk to myself, and those are pretty weird conversations.

Okay I think the, the Lynda persons looking at me now so I'll, I'll stick to the topic. I won't get off topic. So these whiskers these are, whiskerish detail, that is just simply Elyptical shapes. And I'm just using the Elliptical Tool to drop those. And those are no brainers. Now one little shape building that I'll do at times is making little wedges like this. Instead of doing it point by point click and drag. And I'll just use Elliptical shape like this.

I'll make a clone of that shape. Cmd + C, Cmd + F. And then I will just position it to create kind of the Wedge shape I want and then I Cookie Cutter it using Path Finder. And that gives me the End shape I need so I do that a lot just because it saves time and it goes faster and it is way more precise most of the time than trying to build it point by point. So shape building is a great way to save time and to, the more you think about your drawing in terms of shapes, the easier you'll be to discern where you can use shape building, and wherever you can use it, makes it go way, way faster.

So, it's a good thing. So get in the habit of doing that and as you draw, you'll start thinking hey, you know, if I formed it this way, you know I'll be able to build that with shape. So, it'll just be easier. So that's all I'm doing now. It looks a little convoluted and confusing but, it really isn't if you just pay attention. So, we're just making sure this Elliptical shape is on top. We're going to select this one. Cookie Cutter those out so you see the shape left. We're going to go and fill that with green so you can see it better.

We're going to take this shape, once again, just make sure it's on top. Select the shape underneath it. We're going to punch that out. So you can see what shape it leaves. We'll color this one orange or a dull orange. We'll take the green one, just make sure that's on top. Select the one underneath and we'll punch that out, un-group it, and just toss the shape we don't need. So, you can see how using shape building like that, you can create detail pretty quickly, you don't have to. Spend a whole lotta time.

We're going to back up to the nose really quick because I notice on my drawing for whatever reason, I forgot to include a hotspot so, that's easy. It's just taken the shape and I think we'll have the lighting kind of you know, what? I think we're going to have the lighting coming kind of from that angle. So that's easy enough. Now we're going to focus on his tongue. Now I know a lot of the people who watched my drawing Vector Graphics Course was asking to see the whole process from beginning to end, and that's kind of what motivated doing this course.

That said it obviously is more simplified than a lot of the Illustrations I do because I could spend upwards to 15 to 18 hours on one Illustration, and this one won't be anywhere close to that long in length but it's still not very short. It's still going to take a while so, once you get the general idea of how I'm building my core-based Vector shapes, like I'm doing here, it's not really a big deal if you decide, you know, what I get the idea of what you're doing so.

I don't need to see every little aspect of that. And you can fast forward to the end or to another part, you know. But for those who like talk about building Vector tongues you might want to stick around. Okay, so that's how I built the tongue. Once again I create an throw-away shape. Let me undo that. So this shape was created for no other reason then to just lobe off that little part on the tongue and register it. And you might be wondering about this point here it doesn't matter if is it just won't show up once we color anything, so that will work.

Now another, kind of throw away we'll be, we're just going to go like this, then we will just adjust to that curve, this will become the inside of the mouth, we will select his body and the head. And we're going to to go ahead and clone that, Cmd + C, command Cmd + F, make sure it's in front. Select the inside shape and then use the Pathfinder, to punch it out so now we have the inside shape of his mouth so that's how you create that.

Let's zoom out a little bit, take a look so we got a lot of it done, we just have a little detail we need to do on the back of him on those legs, and those will go pretty quickly.

There are currently no FAQs about Artist at Work: From Sketch to Finished Vector Illustration.

Share a link to this course

What are exercise files?

Exercise files are the same files the author uses in the course. Save time by downloading the author's files instead of setting up your own files, and learn by following along with the instructor.

Can I take this course without the exercise files?

Yes! If you decide you would like the exercise files later, you can upgrade to a premium account any time.

Become a member Download sample files See plans and pricing

Please wait... please wait ...
Upgrade to get access to exercise files.

Exercise files video

How to use exercise files.

Learn by watching, listening, and doing, Exercise files are the same files the author uses in the course, so you can download them and follow along Premium memberships include access to all exercise files in the library.

Exercise files

Exercise files video

How to use exercise files.

For additional information on downloading and using exercise files, watch our instructional video or read the instructions in the FAQ .

This course includes free exercise files, so you can practice while you watch the course. To access all the exercise files in our library, become a Premium Member.

* Estimated file size

Are you sure you want to mark all the videos in this course as unwatched?

This will not affect your course history, your reports, or your certificates of completion for this course.

Mark all as unwatched Cancel


You have completed Artist at Work: From Sketch to Finished Vector Illustration.

Return to your organization's learning portal to continue training, or close this page.


Upgrade to View Courses Offline


With our new Desktop App, Annual Premium Members can download courses for Internet-free viewing.

Upgrade Now

After upgrading, download Desktop App Here.

Become a member to add this course to a playlist

Join today and get unlimited access to the entire library of video courses—and create as many playlists as you like.

Get started

Already a member ?

Exercise files

Learn by watching, listening, and doing! Exercise files are the same files the author uses in the course, so you can download them and follow along. Exercise files are available with all Premium memberships. Learn more

Get started

Already a Premium member?

Exercise files video

How to use exercise files.

Ask a question

Thanks for contacting us.
You’ll hear from our Customer Service team within 24 hours.

Please enter the text shown below:

Exercise files

Access exercise files from a button right under the course name.

Mark videos as unwatched

Remove icons showing you already watched videos if you want to start over.

Control your viewing experience

Make the video wide, narrow, full-screen, or pop the player out of the page into its own window.

Interactive transcripts

Click on text in the transcript to jump to that spot in the video. As the video plays, the relevant spot in the transcript will be highlighted.

Learn more, save more. Upgrade today!

Get our Annual Premium Membership at our best savings yet.

Upgrade to our Annual Premium Membership today and get even more value from your subscription:

“In a way, I feel like you are rooting for me. Like you are really invested in my experience, and want me to get as much out of these courses as possible this is the best place to start on your journey to learning new material.”— Nadine H.

Start your FREE 10-day trial

Begin learning software, business, and creative skills—anytime,
anywhere—with video instruction from recognized industry experts. provides
Unlimited access to over 4,000 courses—more than 100,000 video tutorials
Expert-led instruction
On-the-go learning. Watch from your computer, tablet, or mobile device. Switch back and forth as you choose.
Start Your FREE Trial Now

A trusted source for knowledge.


We provide training to more than 4 million people, and our members tell us that helps them stay ahead of software updates, pick up brand-new skills, switch careers, land promotions, and explore new hobbies. What can we help you do?

Thanks for signing up.

We’ll send you a confirmation email shortly.

Sign up and receive emails about and our online training library:

Here’s our privacy policy with more details about how we handle your information.

Keep up with news, tips, and latest courses with emails from

Sign up and receive emails about and our online training library:

Here’s our privacy policy with more details about how we handle your information.

submit Lightbox submit clicked
Terms and conditions of use

We've updated our terms and conditions (now called terms of service).Go
Review and accept our updated terms of service.