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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'll trace the mouth, nose, nostrils and eyebrows and this time we'll just go ahead and use the Pen tool. So, I'll go and zoom out a little bit here and we are going for a symmetrical face. So, we are going to be tracing the things on the right side and then flipping them in order to create the shapes we need on the right side. But that doesn't mean that we only go for complete and total symmetry and the one thing I decided to make a little bit asymmetrical is the nose. So, I'm going to start things off by selecting the Pen tool, which you can get by selecting the P key, and I'm going to first draw the eyebrows just by clicking and dragging here and then dragging right about there.
In order to create a couple of smooth points, and now I'll press the V key to switch back to my Black Arrow tool. I'll click on that path outline to select it. That way I can see my line weight up here in the options bar. I'll change that line weight to four points like so. All right, now click off the path outline, in order to deselect it. And I'm going to restore a line weight value of one point up here in the options bar, which will affect the next path I create. And I'll press the P key once again in order to select the Pen tool.
And I'll begin tracing from the bottom of the nose here. And for now, you want to go ahead and trace as scrupulously as possible. You can always go back and modify your path outlines if you want to. Because, after all, this is an avatar cartoon. And so, it doesn't have to be exactly accurate. But you might as well as start with accurate path outlines in the first place. Alright, now that I've gone ahead and drawn a single arc. I'm going to adjust the position of this first control handle by pressing and holding the Ctrl key or the Cmd key on the Mac.
So I can get that last used Arrow tool on the fly, which happens to be the Black Arrow tool. So, with Ctrl or Cmd down, go ahead and tap the Tilde key as well, and that's going to switch me over to the White Arrow tool. And now, with the Ctrl or Cmd key still down, I'll just go ahead and drag that bottom control handle out a little bit. And now I'll release the Ctrl or Cmd key to return to the Pen tool. I'll press the Alt key or the Option key on the Mac and drag from that last point that I drew.
In order to break the smooth point and send the control handle in a different direction. And now I'll go ahead and drag right about there. In order to create a smooth point. And just so you know, you have the option of pressing the spacebar to move your anchor point on the fly. Alright, once you get it in place, just go ahead and drop it down there. And now, I really want to take my path all the way to the top here. But if I start dragging at this location, you can see that the Pen tool cursor is telling me that I'm going to join this nose path to the eyebrow.
And I don't want that. So, I'll go ahead and drag like so in order to create the point and then I'll press the spacebar in order to move it into place, and then I'll release the spacebar and continue dragging in order to stretch that control handle a little bit like so. Alright, now I want to begin drawing the mouth, which means that I want to start a new path outline and I'll do that by pressing the Ctrl key or the Cmd key on the Mac to get that Arrow tool on the fly and I'll just click off the path outline to deselect it and then I'll release the Ctrl or Cmd key to return to the Pen tool.
Now you want to start your mouth right here in the center of the document. And one of the best ways to create a smile, just a very simple smile, is to begin dragging like so and press the Shift key as you do in order to constrain the angle of your control handles to exactly horizontal. And now, drag another point out here at the edge of your mouth, and I might move mine out just a little bit, like so, in order to create a larger mouth. And you can drag it up, you can drag this control handle up and that'll force the other control handle down, the opposite one that is to say, and you'll end up with this nice, fairly smirky smile, but it does convey a certain amount of calm confidence, which, isn't that what we all want? Anyway, now I'm just going to press the up arrow key a few times in order to nudge that point upward, like so.
Alright, now I want to draw the edge of the bottom lip. So I'll press the Ctrl key, or the Cmd key on a Mac to temporarily get that White Arrow tool. And I'll click off the path outline to deselect it and now I'm going to drag right about there and I'm pressing the Shift key once again to constrain the angle of this control handle to exactly horizontal and I don't want to take this one too far out, so what I've got here looks pretty good. And then, I'll drag to create another smooth point at this location here. And if you have any concerns about the thinness of your lip, you know, I was sitting there telling you initially you want to go ahead and trace everything accurately.
But you probably want to fill in your lip a little bit more than this, and you can do that by pressing the V key to switch back to the Black Arrow tool. Go ahead and click on that path outline to select the whole thing, and then just nudge it down a little bit to give yourself fuller lips. Which I figure looked great regardless of your gender. Alright, now I want to create a little bit of a smile crease over here on the right hand side of my face. So I'll go ahead and click off that path outline to deselect it. I'll press the P key to switch back to the Pen tool and I'll drag from right about here, I figure.
And I'm dragging up in order to create a smooth point, as you can see. And then I'll go ahead and drag right about there as well to add another smooth point, so I have a little bit of a smile crease there, and I'm going to press the A key to switch back to the White Arrow tool, and I might take this control handle out, ever so slightly, like so. And now we've got ourselves a smile line. Alright, we still need to create those nostrils. But I figure I'll go ahead and save that exciting task for the next movie.
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