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Designs dekeConstructed is a new series that breaks down the creation of cool designs so you can build them on your own. This installment is for everyone who needs an online avatar—that tiny image that has to communicate a thousand words about who you are in less than a square inch. Start by taking a photo of yourself facing forward—the traditional passport style. From there Deke McClelland takes you through the steps to transforming your photo into a cartoon avatar with Illustrator: tracing your features, refining and exaggerating the strokes, adding color and shading, and using gradients and patterns to fill in details like hair. Plus, learn some tricks for infusing your drawing with an extra bit of personality and exporting your final image in the best format for social media sites like Facebook and Twitter.
In this movie we are going to separate the neck and shoulders from the head, and then we are going to enlarge the head. My reasoning once again being that we want to exaggerate the most recognizable portion of your avatar. So, I'm going to start things off here by creating a new layer, and I'll do that by alt clicking or option clicking on the little page icon at the bottom of the layers panel. And I'm going to call this new layer neck/shoulders you can call it anything you like.
And I'll change the color to gold. You have to do that, no you don't. All right. Then go ahead and click OK, in order to create that new layer. And drag it below what is now called the tracing layer and let's rename the tracing layer head because that's what it's going to be. Now, go ahead and scroll down a little bit, make sure you've got your black arrow tool and marquee these bottom most shapes. So you should partially marquee through all the necklines and all the clothing lines, whether they're my sweater or something of yours. But, be sure to avoid the jaw and everything that makes up the head.
Then you'll see this little blue square. At least if your layer's blue, you'll see a little blue square over here on the far right side of the layers panel. That represents the selected pass. Go ahead and drag it and drop it, down onto the new gold layer, like so. And you will move all these paths as you can see here. Now, as long as all these path outlines are selected, go up to the control panel and change the line weight to two points. So we're going to make those paths thicker, quite obviously. Now we want to select all the paths on the head layer.
And you do that by clicking in the upper right corner of this layer. See that little triangle right there? That triangle is associated with all the layers, whether they're active or not. And if you click in the far upper right corner, you'll select all the art on that layer, like so. Now I'm going to scroll up a little bit so I can see the head. I'll select the scale tool which you can get by pressing the S key and you want to Alt click or Opt click on the bottom point in the chin in order to bring up the scale dialog box.
Now you could scale the head by 120%, but that's probably going to be too much. I'm going to change that value to a 110% like so. Make sure scale strokes and effects is turned off. Very important. You can preview the effect if you'd like and then click OK. Now I'd like to raise the head a little bit so that all of my neck is visible. So I'll press shift up arrow and then just nudge the head upward about to there. And if you have a little bit of overlap with the neck and the jaw, don't worry about that.
Then press the V key to switch to the black arrow tool. Select these two sort of necklines right here by clicking on one and shift clicking on the other and nudge them upward until they intrude on the jaw as well. Alright now I'm going to zoom out just a little bit as well to the 200% view size. So that we can see all of the path outlines here in the video. And that's at least one way to exaggerate the size of the facial features without turning your avatar into an absolute bobble head here inside Illustrator.
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