Join Von Glitschka for an in-depth discussion in this video Creating a graphics avatar illustration, part of Drawing Vector Graphics Laboratory.
- [Instructor] Welcome to Drawing Vector Graphics Laboratory. In this movie I wanna go over creating a graphic avatar illustration. Now, these two characters in front of you, on the left if Doug Winny and on the right is Justin Sealy. Actually you might recognize Justin. He's staff author for Linda.com. So you might have watched some of his tutorials on the site, but these two guys were starting their own podcast and Justin approached me and asked me if I'd create avatars of themselves that they could use on social media and to advertise their podcast, and I said yeah, I'd love to do that.
So they provided me with this reference photos for the two co-hosts of the show, and what I did is I first just isolated their heads using my intense Photoshop skills, as you can see here. This is just simply a hack job. Just to get and capture the heads that I could isolate them in order to focus on the details to capture the essence of these characters. Now, the specific style that came to mind was I wanted to keep these simple. Geometric in essence and almost like a Fisher Price iconification of these two characters.
Now if you're not familiar with Fisher Price, it's a child brand of toys, and the toys are very iconic, very simple, and that's the fashion I wanted to keep these illustrations, and I focused on Doug. So I'm gonna walk you through how I created Doug, and it all starts with basic geometric shapes. All the shape tools, be it rectangle, and ellipse are the ones I'm using here. Very simple, nothing hard, nothing complex about this process whatsoever. One thing that's gonna help you is to make sure to have smart guides turned on, command U.
You can see if I hover over an anchor, it's on an anchor. If I'm on a path, it's on a path. That assist and shape building like this. Everything in this design is using basic shapes with one of the exceptions to that is the glasses where I used the pin tool. Which I'm gonna show you, but we're gonna start with the rectangle tool and make sure you're on the right layer, and we're gonna go ahead and start building the shape to form his head. So I'm just creating the background shape in terms of this.
Actually I should point out that I use graphic styles like this when I build, namely a magenta outline. Just so I can focus on shape and form, and color and fills don't get in the way. In this case, it's the shape of his face. Which I'll take this rectangle and the circle, and using pathfinder I'll unite him into one cohesive shape. This part is gonna make up his hair. This is where I'll start to use rounding. Now, the rounding tool I use is the dynamic corners tool from Astute Graphics. Everything I'm showing you here, you can do with the rounding tool in Illustrator.
I believe it's only available in CC and above, but everything I'm showing you, you can use Illustrators native tool. I just happen to have it turned off because in my opinion, it gets in the way of actor building. So I'm gonna use this dynamic corners tool and just simply round that, just like this, and then I'm gonna select this hair piece. This is representational of the top of his hari. I'm gonna clone it, command C, command F. I'm gonna slide this up in place. Notice how smart guides locks it in, so I know it's right where it should be going, and then for this i wanna go ahead and just select these two anchor points here and slide them over like this.
I'm creating the illusion at the top of his hair. Is it exactly what the photo shows? No, it's iconifying complexity down into simple form. I'll take all three of these shapes now, and I'm gonna unite them together, and then I like, as I build, I go and select anchor points I don't need. Use the remove anchor point tool in the top menu bar here and click it to get rid of those. I'll go back to the dynamic corners tool, the rounding tool, if you're using Illustrator or the corner fillet tool in Illustrator, that is, and I'll select this, and I'm gonna pull this out to give that a nice round, and I'm gonna also round these like this.
So that's how fast that can go. I'll also use shapes to edit other shapes. So in this case, his mouth, I'll create another rectangle and I'll just use this just to lop off the part I don't want to form the final shape I do want. So this is simple building that I do to form the basis of his shape of his head, and with a design like this, I kinda isolate areas and build those out. Keep them on their own layer. So I can turn them off, turn on another one.
Whoa, what are all these shapes? Well I wanted to really show you and reinforce the idea that this is simple shape building. These are all shapes. I'm not using a pen tool to do any of this. Once again, I use one shape to edit another shape. So I'll take this shape, which is just a oval, and I'll distort it like this, and I'm just gonna use this. If you look at his hair line, it's not perfectly straight. That's what I'm eluding to is his kind of arch top of his hair line, and I'll select this shape.
Which is a rectangle, and I'll lop off the top so it has a nice round, and now the next one I wanna focus on is this circle, this circle, and this rectangle. We'll unite those all together. Then I'll take this background we created and I'll unite that together, and that's starting to give us all the elements we need for his face, but you notice how his hairline kinda comes in like this. So I'm gonna elude to that by using these shapes. We'll just fuse these together.
I'll go to the rectangle tool, snap to this anchor point, and here is where I'm creating another shape in order to form the final shape needed. In this case, the indentation in the side of his head. So I'll take the two circles we fused together and I'll remove from shape to get the shape in need. I'll clone this, command C, command F. Then we'll use the reflect tool, find a central location anchor point for orientation, and I'll flip this one to the other side.
We'll select these two now. I'll unite them together, and then I'll select the base shape we created and remove from that shape to create those indentations on the side of the head. I'll then take my rounding tool, dynamic rounding tool, and then I'm gonna go in on this and just create a nice round, and the nice thing about this tool, once you create one round, you can apply it to the next one just by clicking it. It remembers the previous setting, and that makes the process go faster.
So we're just gonna work on the inner detail for the area of his mouth, which are just two rectangles, two circles. I'll drag select these and I'll unite them together like this, and this circle here I'm gonna use with another one to get the shape I need. So I'll go ahead and create this like that using the rectangle. I'll select this circle. I'll go intersect, then I'll select the previous one we created and unite those, and this gives me the final shape.
Once again, I don't need these anchor points, so I'll delete them, and if I turn on the base layer you can see how I've created all the inside areas of his face very easily using simple build method shape building methods and now we're gonna move to his glasses. His glasses are simply just a path, and you can see how I've created those with just a simple stroke. Now what I'm gonna do is select his eyes and his glasses. We'll go to strokes, and I'm gonna punch in a specific number, 12.56.
Normally when I build, it's always in round numbers but because I've made this larger for this recording, it's actually an irregular number plugged in there. Usually if I was building this I'd probably be at 12 or 10. I always try to stay with whole numbers. Now on a stroke like this, you have the caps. This one's a straight. I like the rounded one on this because we're given the illusion of the end of the glasses and the round just looks nicer. These are his eyebrows. Once again these are gonna look better if they're rounded, and then once we have these shapes in place, if I go to key line, these are just still strokes.
So we're gonna have to select them, go to object, and go to path, and go to outline stroke to turn them into actual shapes. So you can see they're shapes now, and now I'll select the glasses and I'll go ahead. Make sure we're on the right layer. I'll go ahead and I'll unite them together into one cohesive shape, and if I go ahead and turn this back into outlines and then turn on our previous, you can see what we get.
So when it's all said and done, we're trying to get to base shapes like this, and this is at the point I can start thinking about color and I can start selecting shapes, and I usually use the eyedropper like this and pull out colors like this, and I just start coloring stuff. So on this, his face will be this skin color. His ears will be a darker tone since they're further back. Then we'll select this, and this is gonna be black too. We'll make his eyebrows initially right now black, and his eyes will be black and the little highlights in his eyes will be white, no stroke, and his nose, my wife doesn't think this looks like a nose by the way, she's too literal.
She goes, "That's a triangle." I go, it's a nose, it's graphic. Nope, it's a triangle. I love my wife, she's very literal, but I'll make that a 70% tin of the tone that we have going on him, and I'll make this white, no outline, and this will be his skin color as well. Now, the only problem we have here is his hair, glasses, eyebrows are all kind of fusing together since they're all the same tonal value. So I wanna address that next, and I'm gonna address that by using a gradient, and you can see I've already applied one of the colors I'm gonna use in the gradient to his eyebrows.
Which separate those nicely, but I'm gonna create another shape right now. We're gonna create a rectangle shape. Make sure I'm on the right layer, and I'm gonna go ahead and just create this rectangle shape. Pull it over and I'm gonna make a clone. Command C, command F of his hair. Select the rectangle shape, go to pathfinder, go intersect, and we just end up with this shape now, and this is a shape that I'm going to fill, make sure we're on fill, with a gradient, and then we're gonna go to the gradient pallet here, and I'm gonna go ahead, I wanna keep it black like this, but I want gray to blend into it, so I'm gonna drop gray down here, and right now our black, I believe we're using, let's see, let me double check.
I believe this is, okay we are using processed black. That's good, 'cause I wanted to say, you don't wanna use black that's the default black in Illustrator 'cause you'll get banding. Always used processed black when illustrating. You're gonna get a nicer transition and avoid all the banding problems you can run into with Illustrator. With this shape gradient in place, we'll select the gradient tool and this is where I can start controlling this. So I'll adjust how thick the gradient is, and on this one, I want it to be right about there, and then we'll go ahead and copy this, and paste it behind, and you can see how it's added a nice aesthetic.
It actually matches the look and feel, and this is where you can adjust it. I think we need to go a little lower. That way we can see part of the glass on top of the hair, which is important. I should point out, if you're working like this, you can take a gradient like this and just drag it over into your style pallet like this and it saves it, and that allows you to apply it to other shapes later if you wanna use it. That's kinda what I did here. So I can just apply a gradient to his hair to get the nice effect on the bottom of his beard as well.
So we're gonna keep moving forward, and I'm gonna detail this now, and we're gonna take this illustration, which is very simple. We're gonna take another shape. Make sure we're on out outline color and we're gonna find this central location like this, and one of the things I'm gonna do is I'm gonna make one side lighter, the other side darker, and this is just about isolating certain areas. I could make the whole color affect one side, but it assumes it's gonna work and I like to customize every usage of tonal values so it looks better.
So I'll select his face, for example, make a clone of that. Command C, command F, and I'll take this rectangle shape, and then with pathfinder I'll intersect it, and then on this one I'll apply a darker value for the skin, and then that I'll go ahead and paste behind the various shapes we have here. Like this, to create that nice illusion. Now because I've done that, I'm gonna select this cheek highlight, make it the same value.
Go to color and select a 70%, actually I'm on the wrong. Go on the fill, and go 70% so it matches that shaded area. I'll do the same thing on the bottom part of his mouth, and we'll go ahead and intersect these. I can use eye drop tool to sample this, and we can paste it behind this mouth. Here's another example. We'll take the nose and I'll take the rectangle shape, and we'll intersect it, and on this one I'm gonna go ahead and fill this color with the darker value here.
We can get rid of the outline, but in this case I would use a multiply and then I would adjust the value of the nose or the opacity to adjust the hue value. In this case I think 40 will look good, and then that gives me a nice look. So sometimes you will use multiply. Sometimes you don't have to, but this is the process I'll use. So when it's all said and done, the final artwork looks like this, it's a lot of fun. Both of them together came out really nice.
I like it. In context, this is the iTunes cover art here for their podcast. Which is ones zeroes and pixels. They kinda geek out about technology and stuff like that. This is the full avatar character with the body. Doug likes a specific hockey team, hence the hockey uniform, and Justin's looking nice and dapper, and I like this so much, I changed my Twitter avatar icon to match this style. So you'll see this on my Twitter account. You can follow me at @Vonster, and I've actually started using this style.
I've never worked in this style before, and I did a nice project, which is on my website you can check out. It was for Nina Paper, and I created all of these selfie avatar characters using this style. I consider this avatar art as a personal project. I did it for a friend but the very act of exploring a new style lead to discovering a new way to illustrate. These avatars aren't supposed to be realistic. They're just merely caricatures and that's fine. They simply represent and pull out relative attributes that reflect the person I was basing it on.
So find a picture and give this style a try. It's fun and very, very forgiving. Thank you for watching DVG Lab, and until next time, never stop drawing.
Skill Level Intermediate
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