Join Von Glitschka for an in-depth discussion in this video Creating a linear portrait illustration, part of Drawing Vector Graphics Laboratory.
(electronic sound effects) - [Instructor] Welcome to drawing vector graphics laboratory. In this movie, I want to go over creating a linear portrait illustration. It's also referred to as a continuous line illustration because essentially, as with this illustration, it's one single stroke line, if I go to keyline view, Command Y, you can see it's just one continuous path with a certain weight applied to this stroke.
In this case it's a three point stroke as you can see here. And think of this style as taking a thread or a string or a noodle and laying it down on the ground and moving it and composing it in order to form the shape of the intended theme that you're working on. In this case, a face. It simply is that simple to compose. So, what's going to greatly assist in this process is going to pick a theme that you're going to enjoy working on.
In this case, we're going to be creating a face, and you have to have reference, so I'm going to show you my reference for the one I'm going to be creating. Growing up, I've always loved movies and one of my favorite film critics is Gene Shalit shown here, and this guy just has a gregarious personality but he's very much a character in and of himself with his glasses, his big mustache and he's always smiling and this is what inspired my drawing. Now, when I approach drawing out any kind of linear line illustration, the best way to approach it is to focus on a certain area.
So I started like with his eyes and I'm going to turn that on right now so you can see how I just start with one central area, in this case, his eyes, since he wears glasses, I'm incorporating that shape and his eyes are squinting in this composition. Then I move on and focus on a different area, in this case it'll be his nose and his mustache and his mouth and I draw those shapes out as well. So this is how I'll work out this composition. I don't try to draw everything at once. I kind of focus and itemize certain areas of a given theme that I'm drawing and focus on creating one continuous line to pull it off, then I kind of weld the parts together.
So the next part on this one would be his hair and the part that forms the brow that moves into the other eye and then I'm able to draw the rest of the part out which is other eye, his chin, and so on and so forth. So this is the methodology I use to draw what I'm going to essentially use as a roadmap to build on. Now when I approach vector building, especially on an illustration like this, I always have to figure out where's the best place to start. Well it's always easiest to start at the end of the continuous line.
So I could start down here with his hair where it comes to the end here or his nose. But in this case, I am going to start with the nose, just because that's usually where I start any illustration like this. And I have graphic styles set up so I always use these as my fundamental buildings so we're going to zoom on in, that is, on his nose and we're just going to start going to the pin tool and I like to call this rough building. I don't worry about the curves at this point. I'm just placing my anchor points where they need to be and where it comes to a curve, I know I'm going to need access to bezier points.
Actually I should point out, let me go ahead and delete that because right now we have smart guides turned on, so if I go like this, you see how it says anchor and it'll like lock me into certain angles and I don't want that. So this is where you'll want to toggle smart guides on and off as you build using Command U so I'm going to Command U and turn them off right now and this just makes building like this point by point go a little faster. When it comes to an area that comes to a curve, where do you place your anchor point? Well I like to use what I call the clockwork method, so I'll look at the shape and I'll figure out right here about a 3 o clock position will get one and I'll pull out the handlebars just enough to have access to them.
I don't worry about forming the full curve. It's going to come to a point here, it's going to swing over here, get another point there, and then as it swings down here to go into the mustache form, it's going to go, if I think the bottom of a clock it's like 6 o clock so it would go here, I'll pull the anchor points out, and that's how I approach it. I use, I came up with the clockwork method just to teach my students how to look at a drawn form and figure out where to place your anchor points. If you want more information on that, make sure to watch my drawing vector graphics course, the original course, because there's a really good animation on the specific movie where I go over this process and it really does a nice job of explaining it through the process of animation as I'm actually building.
It's kind of cool how we pulled that off. So I'll just pull this out, and all I'm going to do here is just go through and this is what I call rough building. I'm not trying to get the final shape, the final form finesse, I'm just trying to get my anchor points laid down in the correct position initially, then I'll go back and I'll adjust and wherever your drawing comes to a point gets to a point, these are easy ones to discern, not a whole lot to think about here, I don't worry about placing any anchor points on shallow curves because I can form that with the bezier curve from this anchor point to the corresponding line over here.
Now, here comes down at a bend so this will be, if you think of a clock analogy, 6 o clock, but maybe you think about clock upside down, then it would be 12 o clock. It's a mental trick, it's not an absolute, so just keep that in mind. It's just to assist you and once you learn this principle, you'll never actually think of a clock. You're not going okay, 12 o clock, 3 o clock, but it's to help you just get used to thinking this way as you look at shape and form and discern how to approach it and how to work it out.
So I'm just going to lay down my other initial anchor points here, it's like a 12 o clock here, then it swings back down and this would be like 6 o clock, then it comes up to a point and this would be like 9 o clock and we'll end it right here. So this is what my initial stroke looks like. Let's go ahead and beef that up a bit so you can see it. This is what it looks like.
It's pretty rough, that's why I call it rough building at this stage. Then I'll go back in and you can use the native tool in Illustrator, that is CC and above if you're in CS6, you won't be able to use this functionality, you'll have to use the old functionality, using the same tool but you would have to go to an anchor point, click on it, and pull out anchor handles, then manipulate those anchor handles like this, which the process goes a lot slower. I don't actually use this tool, but if you do have CC, you can just grab the path and bend it.
It works okay, but you can see how it pulls out other anchor handles in strange ways, that's why I don't tend to use this. I don't like how it behaves a lot of times, so I tend to use the path scribe tool right here. It's part of these four tools that come with the vector scribe plugin by Astute Graphics, and this is what I usually use just because it's fully customizable. I can go in and you can see these white dots that show up.
These are what are called ghost handles. So I can grab these immediately without even touching an anchor point and start pulling it out. You can see how there's one here, but I'll just go through this and I'll just start adjusting and finessing my bezier path. Another nice feature of this tool is notice how sometimes you'll get a broken anchor point. When you're using the path scribe tool, if I pull this up, you see the little S that appears, that means it's smooth.
That means it's fixed itself. You can't do that with the Illustrator tool out of the box, so that's a really helpful feature because you will break anchor points as you're building. It just, that's just the way Illustrator is unfortunately. It will take a smooth and make it a corner at times or it will take a corner and assume you want it a smooth when you don't and you have to adjust those in order to get a nice finesse. Here's another one right here where I can quickly fix it using this tool. But I'll just go through after I lay down the initial ones and I'll finesse my bezier curves like I've shown you here until when it's all said and done, I have a nice smooth transition between my vector form that matches the underlying drawing.
Now if I zoom out on this, once again, my rough build looks something like this but after I go in with the tool like your path scribe or if you have CC Illustrator or above you can take the anchor point tool and finesse it. I should point out that you can do all of this with the existing tools in Illustrator, it's just going to take a lot longer. And notice how once again as I say, this anchor broke and then if I try to align it here, there is no way to do that in Illustrator.
This is why I use the path scribe tool, so I can go like this and fix it immediately and I can make other adjustments that just go a lot faster in my opinion. That's why I use the plugin. So whether you have the plugin or you don't, you can still pull this off. So I'll go through and finesse all of these paths until my base vector artwork looks like this and it matches my underlying drawing. That's really important. That's why it's best to work out your design in an analog form through drawing so you know what to build before you attempt to build it.
It's going to make the whole process go faster. You won't spend a lot of time noodling with it. And the whole point is I'm trying to reach is a nice black and white vector path, if I go to keyline view you can see this is still a vector path. And this is where I'll start using another tool in Illustrator called the width tool. That's the one right here. So I'm going to click on that, actually let's go ahead and zoom in because I'm going to make some decisions on line weights. So we'll do that.
We'll click the width tool, and then the way the width tool works is you can grab anywhere on a path or an anchor point of an existing stroke as this face is and you can decide if you want to make it thicker. So in this case, I can just click and pull and you can see how it gives you that tactile feedback and the visual information saying it's going now from a thick to a thin, that's kind of what I wanted there. Then I'll go over here and I'll pull this out to be a little thicker there. That looks good.
And then on this one, maybe just a little thinner there. And I'll go through my entire drawing and this is where it's exploratory. This is where I'll try it and make sure I like it and if I do then I keep moving on. I might not even stay in the same area. I might go up to another area and make something thicker, decide on this one, I want this to be thick like, maybe not that thick, probably right around there, and then I'll grab this and make this thicker.
And so you can see it's very easy to use this and then I'll go in at times and I like to give a good balance between thick, thin, and then I might make it thick again just to give that kind of characteristic so it has a lot more character than a single weight stroke when you add these type of thick and thins. But if we go to keyline view, it's still a stroke. It's just visually showing us that this is going to be thick and thin.
Now, when I have everything established, I'm going to turn on this layer, you can see what it looks like with all my thick and thins in place. Once again, it's still a stroke, so once you get it to this point, you have to convert it to a path. I should say, you don't have to convert it to a path, but I never give clients artwork like this because they could accidentally change some of the thick and thins. I want to lock this in. So what I want to do is I want to outline this path or expand this path, that is, so I'm going to go to object and we're going to pull down and we're going to go expand appearance and this is going to turn it into a shape.
So you can see how it adds an insane amount of anchor points. I'm going to zoom in because I think it's important to point out you should expect this, if I go to keyline view, notice how where these areas where it comes to the vertice of where one path gets to a point and moves into another path, you can see how it creates these strange little shapes in these transition spots. That's not wrong, that's just how Illustrator handles this. I'm not sure why they didn't clean that up, but they didn't.
Now, visually it's going to look right, but the first thing you'll want to do to kind of remedy this and get rid of it is I go to pathfinder and I go unite and so if you look at like for instance right here, if we hit unite, you can see that it does remove those problematic areas and so you'll want to do that. Now, we still have one problematic area and that is this specific design, if we go to the path scribe panel here and we click on it, you can see we have about 3101 anchor points.
And we have some anchor points that are piggybacking and one another, that's what this exclamation mark means, and that's not because we've done anything wrong, that's just because that's the way Illustrator works unfortunately. So we have to clean these up. We have to improve this to make it look better. So when I work on a project like this, I'm going to show you how I do that. There's two ways. So we'll turn on this one, and once again, this is the outline. I just want to walk you through the process cleanly so you understand how I got to that.
So once you're done with the width tool, putting all your thick and thins into your continuous line illustration, you'll want to go to object, you'll want to go to expand appearance and then the next thing you'll want to do is unite it to fix any of those areas that overlap and then once you have that, now you want to clean up your art. So there's one way that, the only way you can do that in Illustrator to get rid of the unnecessary anchor points is you'll want to go to object, you'll want to go down to path, and you'll want to go to simplify.
Now, this'll bring up a popup window that we're going to move right here. And this is where you can preview it and you can see that it does not do a very good job at certain settings because this looks horrible how it's showing how it's changing it. So we want the curve precision to be better, so we'll bring it up here. And you know, that's still a whole lot of anchor points, but it looks better and I think it's pretty precise.
You know, maybe if we put it down to 90. I think that might be okay, but once again, the lower you go, the less precise it'll be to your original bill. Like right here looks really wonky and over here so I don't like that so we're going to leave it at 100 and that's right around 838 anchor points and we'll click OK. So we've simplified it, and it hasn't sacrificed the quality of the artwork too much, but there's still a stinkload of anchor points in this, 800 and something, and so I want to show you another way you can do this is we're going to take the exact same art, I'm going to walk through the same process of expanding and then uniting and one way you can do this with a plugin by Astute Graphics, if I click and hold here, you can see the smart remove brush tool.
If I click into this, you can set the size of the brush and other tolerance things. This will tell you what exactly this means if you're not sure what it is, but it's more information on the settings. And once you have this, you can just simply drag it over your artwork and just notice how it just magically knows what anchor points are really needed to form your shape. It takes into account your existing artwork and then it only removes the anchor points that are unnecessary in order to retain the artwork underneath and it's a really nice feature.
I use this when I'm working with the path tool or a continuous line illustration like this because it really does a great job in order of cleaning up the artwork. So it's all about just kind of scrubbing it basically with this brush over all the areas where the path and anywhere you see those anchor points and I think I got most of them, probably not all of them that I could, but if we go to path scribe, you can see it only has 337 anchor points now instead of 800 and something and that's why I use it.
So once again, to make the comparison, if I expand the stroke, it's between 2842 anchor points to a little over 3000 anchor points actually and when I simplify it using Adobe's method, here it says 675, but you could see that I actually got 800 and something. I probably could have gone a little lower to get 675, but still when I use the Astute, it came out to be a little over 300 anchor points and it retained the exact quality of my art so that's why I use it, that's why I like to optimize these kind of designs.
Now, once I have a design like this, you can color it anything you want. In this case, I'll color it blue. Let's go ahead and add a nice drop shadow so I'll probably do 20% and what I like to do is zoom in so I can see exactly how far this is offsetting. And I'll offset it like this and paste it behind. And I'm probably going to, you know what, I think I'm going to change this color.
I'm going to go here and I'm going to go down to like 15% to make it a little more subtle. And that looks pretty good. So that's usually how I handle coloring a project like this. Once again it depends on the context and here's a few examples. This was for a March Madness piece, and so the context was the same colors, the basketball orange and I used it on a branding project exploration for this client called Elastic Minds. So linear line illustration is one of the most versatile styles in digital illustration.
I've capitalized on this aesthetic to market pharmaceuticals and coffee products and software and insurance and even banking which we animated for a TV spot. It's a fun style to work in. If you want more insight into this style, make sure to check out my drawing vector graphics linear line illustration course. Thank you for watching DVG Lab and until next time, remember, never stop drawing.
Skill Level Intermediate
Q: Why can't I earn a Certificate of Completion for this course?
A: We publish a new tutorial or tutorials for this course on a regular basis. We are unable to offer a Certificate of Completion because it is an ever-evolving course that is not designed to be completed. Check back often for new movies.