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Artist at Work: From Sketch to Finished Vector Illustration
Illustration by John Hersey

Refining color and detail


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Artist at Work: From Sketch to Finished Vector Illustration

with Von Glitschka

Video: Refining color and detail

Now that I'm looking at it, I definitely think we need to use And, that looks pretty good.

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Artist at Work: From Sketch to Finished Vector Illustration
1h 18m Intermediate Feb 18, 2014

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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.

Subjects:
Design Color Illustration Design Techniques Design Skills
Software:
Illustrator
Author:
Von Glitschka

Refining color and detail

Now that I'm looking at it, I definitely think we need to use some minor application of gradients in order to pull off certain types of detail. One of them is, we're going to do on this back tail. So even though it's this color, I'm just going to apply a gradient to it. And I will go ahead and drop this color from the swatches into this gradient slider. Actually that's the wrong one, we want it to go to the other side. We want the lighter color to be there.

And then I will take this darker shade and drop it in here. And that's pretty close to what we want. We're going to go to the Gradient Tool, click on it, and this will give us control to determine how far we want the gradient to go into that shape. So, for right now I think that looks good. It's, the darkest part will be on the bottom of his body where the least amount of light is showing. So that's kind of why I colored it that way. And, that looks pretty good.

We'll go ahead and I know there's one shape I want to create. So I'll go ahead and do that now. I'm going to clone the shape of this leg and we're going to just make it the magenta stroke color. I'll clone it again. And now this is where I'll take that clone of that path and I'm going to just pull these out. And what I'm doing here is I'm creating a new shape that's going to form the shading that's being cast by that leg.

And I really wish I had my plugin here, because it has a smart remove anchor point, and I could smart remove this one, and it would improve this curve. I don't have that, so I'm just going to have to eyeball it. This doesn't look bad, it's just this looks flat because this handlebar is pulled out too far. So that means we just have to move this over a little bit. And, that looks, pretty good. Okay so, I think that's good enough. We're going to select this leg, select the shape we manipulated and then we're going to punch it.

And you can see that the shape you end up with is this little kind of sliver of a shape. And I think that's what we will color with this kind of shadow color we have going here, and that'll help distinguish the leg. Now if we color the leg it's obviously the same color as the body, that's why I wanted to put that kind of detail in there. But, the other aspect of it is, if we go to the transparency palette, right now it's normal. I want to actually change that to multiply.

And you can see how it's enriched and darkened the color a little bit. That's too intense. So I want multiply because I want that blend mode and transparency effect to, show through on other detailing that I'm thinking I'm going to add to this so. This is where experimentation comes in. I'm going to set that at 40. Actually, that looks. Matter of fact, you know what? I like that look better than these. So I'm going to change all my detailing where it's a shadow to this exact setting because that, that's pretty much exactly what I was going for. So, we'll do that.

And that's the way it works. That's what exploratory is all about. Is you find something you go, oh, that's it, that works. And then it'll help you with other areas. So we got that established but the thing I don't like is this just looks weird being so light. His body would go here and I know it's a cartoon, I'm not worrying about the proportions but I'm just worrying about. I just think I want to add more form to this so, the way I'm going to do that is I'm going to have to build some throwaway shapes and these throwaway shapes I'll use to create the illusion that I want.

So that's what I'm going to do now is just build these shapes. I'll snap to that anchor point, and then I think if we bring it down. We'll just go right about there. So, this is just a shape we're going to throw away. We're going to grab the body we're going to go Cmd+C and Cmd+F to clone it. Select this shape, this throw away shape. And then we're going to go Intersect, and that gives it this shape. Now what we're going to do with this shape, is we're going to go to the Gradients tool, and we'll just do this, even though that's not the exact coloring we want at all.

But, that's okay, we'll adjust it. I think this one is 025. Now, here's a limitation, and this frustrates me, so. More than likely the more you work with color in Illustrator you'll run into this and it's probably going to frustrate you too. Is that on a gradient like this if I'm in the Gradient panel and I select on this darker color, I don't know what color that is. I know it's within my swatches but it doesn't highlight in the swatches. So, how do you figure out what color you have selected without just guessing? Well, it's kind of a roundabout way, and Adobe really needs to fix this, but it's the way it is.

So I'll show you the way I do it. I select that color in the Gradient, then I go to the Colors panel, right here. And it shows you what that break is. But still, which one is that in the swatches you don't know, but it tells you the color break. And as long as you have tool tips turned on in the preferences, you can hover over these colors and it ends up being this one. So I know that's the dark color in here. And that's what I want, so that'll work. Now what I want to do is this is the base color for the body but I don't want it fading to 100% of the base color.

I'm going to make that zero alpha so it's fading out to nothing but that nothing is based off of, instead of white zero alpha and I'm doing that because I'm now going to make this a blend mode of multiply. Once I have that I'll go back to the Gradient tool in the tool box and I'm going to just adjust my gradient. Rotate it and position it. I think something, I think less, right about there.

That might, let me test drive this. So, I'm going to select the shape now. That's all the shape is. I'm going to cut it, Cmd+X. And now I'm going to select my leg shape, and this shadow shape. And I'm going to go Cmd+B which is paste behind. And that is the effect I'm going for. I want it to give the illusion of depth that there's no light there and it kind of helps form his body a little bit without getting too, radical with the detail.

Now once again I think this is too dark or, I don't want this much to show. So I'm going to knock this back, and I'm going to try, I don't know, let's try 60, see what that looks. I think that looks better. Now, I have a problem here. My gradient is blending, but you can see an edge on my leg. So I want to make sure that this gradient is pulled back. That that edge disappears and we might have to rotate it, there. So now, it's not peeking out behind that edge.

And if I was smart, I probably should have built this all the way down here, but we adjusted it, it looks good so. That's how I pulled off that effect using just this simple gradient, but I don't want to get too crazy with the gradients on this illustration. I think another gradient that is going to help is, I'm going to go Cmd+C, Cmd+F from the body and just bring all the way up to front. Now, I have a shortcut key set up for that, which is F5. So if I color this pink, just so you know which shape I'm talking about, and I hit F5, it brings it to the front.

All the F5 key is, is a shortcut, a keyboard shortcut, and that F5 key has been applied to our, the Bring to Front command under Arrange. So that's all I'm doing there. Now I'm going to go to Graphics Style just so we can see what we're doing, and now that I have this shape, you can see the top edge of this leg here. I don't want to go above that, otherwise you'll see that top edge of the leg. And after I set up my art the way I'm going to, you won't see that, it will blend into the color.

So we're going to draw a rectangle based off of the top edge of that leg, like this, slide it over. And we're just going to make sure it goes down a little below it. Then we're going to select that body shape we had and do another intersect, and this gives us another shape we can create a gradient blend from. Now that we have this gradient, it is possible to save them. And so once you have it saved, you can make a graphic style like this, so all you'll have to do is do that. And it just cuts down on your time when you make a graphic style.

And all you do to make a graphic style, let's say you really like how this blends, and you want to use it moving forward on other illustrations, you just drag this over to the graphics style, bam, you have a graphic style. That's how it works, that's how easy it is. So, if you find something that works, save those and use them later in another illustration. Now that we have this one set up, we're going to cut it and make sure it's behind this leg, Cmd+B to paste behind. Once again this leg, we don't want it colored this way, so we're going to color it the body color.

And you can tell because of adding this gradient blend. This leg now comes forward, the base of the dog falls backwards. It's not super detailed and that's what I want. I don't want to get overloaded with a lot of gradients and all that kind of stuff. I just want to keep it pretty simple. So I've made a clone of the leg here. I'm going to, just make a copy of it. And all I'm doing now is I'm just creating another shadow type detail I can use and, bring this to front just like this. Punch it out.

You can get rid of that shape. Sometimes building isn't, aah! Screwed that up. Okay. This is where zoom is a good thing. So, if you don't you might select something you don't intend to mess with, so there. We're going to select the body shape, clone that again, select this little wedge detail, and that gives us our little shape there. And like these other ones, we're going to color it the same way so you can see how that just offsets that leg, that's, the only thing I was doing that for.

So we're almost done here in terms of detailing this dog. Some of the leg work for detailing, you will build kind of new content. I just think on this one, just creating a nice little shadow down here that kind of, oops, kind of rounds off. His belly is going to look good, so we'll do that. In this case, we can just select this shape, Cmd+C, Cmd+F, select our newly-built shape, use the path finder, now we can use this leg, Cmd+C, Cmd+F, bring to front.

Then select that new shape, punch it out, and now we have the new little shadow shape. We can use the eye dropper, grab that, and that's how we can just add some more little details there. I think I'm going to diminish that just a little bit, like, knock it back to 30. Now I like that better. Okay, so we're going to keep moving forward on this one, I think we are going to set this to multiply, but I'm going to make his spots, you know what? I think I'm going to try kind of a light brown instead.

And we'll go 50. Let me think about that. I'm still not sure if I like that. It doesn't look bad, I guess, I guess it's okay. We're going to move on to something else. Okay so we're going to go to his tongue. I'm going to clone his tongue. And just so you can see what I'm doing I'm going to color it pink or outline it pink. I'm going to select this anchor point, rotate from here with the Rotate tool, click, then I'm just going to rotate it. I'm creating a drop shadow.

So I'm going to Cmd+C, Cmd+F the tongue, make sure that's on top. Select the shape I rotated, punch that out. Get rid of the little sliver it creates, and now I have my shadow for his tongue. So detailing doesn't always have to be super complicated. Here's an example of his ear. And just to add a little detail we're going to, let's adjust this because it's eating too much in, and actually, colors are a little off too.

So we're going to make sure we got the right colors. That's the light, and, I think we're going to use a lighter shade of the darker, and I think that looks a little better. Okay, now the next thing the, I think we've got about two or three more things to do and then, we're going to be all done so. I'm just going to hurry up. I'm just creating an inner shadow for the ear. And, we might be able to get away with using this, and, yeah, I think that looks fine.

And, like we did on the stomach, we're going to zoom in on this and I'm going to go ahead and, actually, on this one, I think we can get away with doing it even faster. I think we can just use a circle shape, clone that shape, select the circle, punch it out. Ungroup it, get rid of what we don't want, select the shape that remains and colorize it so. I'm still not sure about this, let me think about this a little bit. I think 40.

Change the color and change the opacity. I think I like that better than this one, I just don't want it to show up quite as much. Yeah, that looks better, okay. So, now all we need to do is on the front leg and the back leg. Since it's the back leg, it actually would be more in the shadow than what's showing here. So we need to just tweak that a little bit and we'll do that by, draw a box like this. Select the shape of the leg we cloned.

And then we'll use this to, you know, I'm going to do this, go. Oops! Let me redo that again, crop it there. We're going to make graphic style of that. Then we're going to apply it to this. And then, I'll just adjust my gradient on this. I think that's a little too dark so I think I'm going to. Once again I'm trying to go a little faster than I normally do. Okay that looks better. And make sure this is background color. It's still, something looks wonky, hold on.

Oh, well, that's why. Oops. I guess that would help, to use the correct base color. So there we go. So if I select that, select the back leg, and make sure that goes behind everything, now it's starting to fall back where it should. I'm going to change the blend mode on this, and too intense, we're going to go to 40. And when we do that, we need to make sure that this base color, once again, goes to zero alpha, and yeah, I like that a lot more.

Okay, we're getting there, we're getting closer. You know what, I think this whole back leg needs to be, just, this darker color period. And then, just for consistency's sake, I'm going to change the base color blends too, to the same color. So, I make changes as I go. I try to think everything out as much as possible, but you're always going to make changes. So I only have a couple more things to color here. Just this last detail on the leg of the dog.

And then I notice a little while back that I should have added a little detail on the eye of the dog. So I'm going to go back and do that and I think that will be the very last thing we do. On this artwork, we'll do a review. And then, you don't have to listen to me anymore. You'll be done with this course if you've gone through all the movies. So hold on, we're almost there.

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