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When I scan in a drawing that will be the basis of an illustrative design. It's always in black-and-white and toned back to around 15% to 20%. To simplify the process of building my vector shapes in Illustrator I use a default graphic style. The graphic style I have set up is a magenta line such as what's showing here on screen. I have this set up in a .5 and a .25 setting within my Graphic Styles palette as you can see here.
The reason why I do that is when I build vector art, in this case this face graphic. This was for a cover of a book on Illustrator actually. And when I build my vector shapes, we are going to zoom in so you can see what's going on here, I use magenta like this to build all of the base shapes before I ever do any kind of color exploration. Now I suggest to use a thinner line than what's showing right now on screen.
This is just too fat to build from and it's going to make it a lot harder to discern how smooth of a shape you're creating if you build this thick. So the size that I suggest you build out is at least .5. It's just easier on the eyes as you are following your underlying sketch and it's going to make building faster. Now when you get into small details on a design such as on these glasses, on the interior details, you might even want to drop down to a .5 setting which is a subtle change here on screen, but you can see the difference here.
.5 is on the right, .25 is on the left. So whatever one you prefer, I kind of toggle back and forth as I'm creating. Personally, I kind of prefer the .25 because I'm usually zoomed in like this when I am building my vector art. It just makes building easier. So like a good cooking show I always have things pre-baked. So we're going to turn on the All Base Shapes layer.
This shows all the base vector shapes for this design. Everything I need to create my final art is essentially here minus the detailing aspects such as shading and some highlighting effects. But all of the core base vector shapes have been built now. It's all using my magenta-colored graphic style and that's how I build every design. Every design at some point looks like this on my workstation.
So with this in place let me walk you through my custom color palette now. I have my own customized default set of color swatches and graphic styles that I load into every file I open in Illustrator. This prevents having to re-create the wheel everytime I work on a new project and it allows me to start color exploration immediately. Let me walk you through my custom color palette. These are my base shapes.
I can now start color exploration and what really facilitates color exploration is having a tonal family and if you look at my Swatches palette. I will just pull this out so we can see this a little easier. You see I have tonal families in here. The first one is this flesh tones and it goes from light flesh tone all the way up to a darker flesh tone. Then it kind of transitions into a brownish tint type of flesh tone into red, into brown, then we hit the blues and then once again it starts on the low-end tonal value of blue and goes to a darker value blue to a very dark blue.
Then you have grays. These grays are cool grays. They have a tint of blue in them. They are not just stark black tints and then these colors which are pink are the ones I use for, like creating on illustration like this, the mouth. Then I have greens and oranges and reds and I also include process black colors. In this case, a 40, 20, 20, 100 mixture and a 0, 40, 40, 100 mixture.
There's a lot of different processed black settings. You can have. Those are the two I prefer. With that in place I can now select each aspect of my base vector shapes and start colorizing it. So here's the base shapes that just make up the head and the hair and I've gone ahead and colored those using my tonal family. The next shapes that fall in place are the nose and components that make up the mouth, then the hair, the eyebrows, the goatee, and the glasses.
I mean the artwork at this point is looking pretty good. If we zoom in on it, it almost looks like a complete piece of art, but really what makes it and breaks this design specifically is all the detailing. Once you turn that on you can see how it really comes to life. Now just to give you a peek at this, you can look at it with just the detailing on and most of these are gradient shapes. One thing I'll do is I will provide this file in the exercise files.
So if you want to deconstruct it to kind of explore that aspect of it later, you can. But that's how I use tonal families. Now one thing with having tonal family set up is that I use nothing, but Global colors. So if we go over to this color palette and I double-click on this light green color, you can see that I have Global selected. What that means is I can make universal changes here. So let's say the Green in his glasses, I don't like that green.
I think it'd look better if it's like reflecting the blue of the sky. So we're just going to switch this over and start making that look more blue, take the yellow out, maybe make that little lighter. Now when we click Preview, you can see that it changes our art and if we keep the preview clicked on, it will dynamically change as we are editing the colors over here. You could change that to anything you want.
In this case I wanted to be a nice blue to reflect the sky. Once you have the color you want, you just click OK. That's the nice part about building with global colors is you're able to make on the fly decisions and wherever you've used that green color, in this case just in the glasses it will globally change it. So anywhere that color shows up in your design it will change it. It's a good habit to build all your colors as global colors. That's just a smart way to build your file.
Now all of these colors, I should point out, that are showing in my Swatches palette over here or what I call real world colors meaning each one of these colors I've actually used in a print project. So I've seen how it comes out in the real world and those are the colors I've used to create my tonal library over about the past 10 years. So, if you just get in the habit of paying attention to the colors you use in a project and keeping track of those in creating your own tonal families that are proven in the real world, it's going to make your life a lot easier.
That said you never want to trust your screen. Spec from a Pantone book using a true white source like an OttLite. These are just two simple ways I streamline my creative process. You will no doubt develop other ways to improve your own workflow and I encourage you to discover them.
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