Join Von Glitschka for an in-depth discussion in this video Creating a polygon-styled illustration, part of Drawing Vector Graphics Laboratory.
(swoosh) - [Instructor] Welcome to Drawing Vector Graphics Laboratory. In this movie, I want to take you through the process of creating a polygon styled illustration. It's also referred to as a low poly type of graphic or illustration, but it's not a hard one to pull off, and many of the features in Adobe Illustrator are going to greatly assist in this process. Now before I jump into it, I just wanted to explain really briefly what a polygon is.
If you look at this line here that forms almost like a clunky letter C, it's made up of segmented parts. You have one straight part, followed by another straight part, so on and so forth, and this is what forms what is called a polygon. Right now this isn't a polygon. It's simply a stroke with segmented lines. So it's any chain or line of segmented parts, but as soon as you connect this and create the hole by filling it in, it becomes what is called a polygon.
Now this is spherical in shape. A polygon can be any shape, but as soon as it connects, or it loops upon itself, it becomes what is known as a polygon. And once again, that shape can be circular like this, it could be a rectangle, it could be anything. That's why it's become popular for illustration most recently. Now to really bring life to this style of illustration, it's all about creating specific planes, and this shows you an example of taking this connected polygon shape that's spherical and we've started to add planes to this.
And these are just simple vector shapes. And we have what is called Smart Guides turned on, Command + U, and you can see if I hover over a path it says Path over it, an anchor point is going to say Anchor Point, and this is going to assist us in snapping, or building that is, the shapes that we need to create. And it's really simple. With Smart Guides turned on, we can simply snap to an anchor, click, click when another anchor point, click another, and fill the shape. This is how fast this style can be built and constructed.
We're not working with any curved paths here or adjusting any bezier curves with the anchor point handles. This is a style that is easily pulled off with ever having to really build any curves if you don't want to. That's why it's called the low poly style. It's as if an image has been rendered in a very low resolution, and you get the illusion of depth without all the complexity of really organic shapes and forms. So this is how simply you can take the Pen Tool and create these type of shapes by just snapping to the anchor point and simply drawing the shapes out in order to form the end shape.
In this case it is a sphere. And you can see how all of these planes added to this polygon shape start to bring dimensionality to it, and that's the beauty of this style. Now what's really going to bring full kind of a dynamic to this style is by adding tonal values to these various planes of color that we can see here. And we're going to do that, and this shows you a tonal family, a gray scale, shown here. We're just going to select some of these, so we'll select this one, and we're going to color it differently.
I'm going to use the Eyedropper Tool here. We'll go down here and we'll sample this. So right now, everything is the two color, so we'll select this one. We'll color this one the lightest, because this is where our light is coming from, the top left, so it hits the plane closest to it will be the brightest. We'll start selecting planes. We'll select these two here. We'll color them this color, and maybe we'll color this one the same color. And so as the light moves further away from the source of the surface the color is going to get darker, the hue, that is, is going to get darker.
And that's all we're doing here. That's the principle we're using in order to colorize this and to kind of really make it more believable in terms of its dimensional form. And you can see, just by adding a few of those planes of color and filling them in here it's really starting to give a greater depth to the overall. And if we finish this out, and like a good cooking show I have it finished out here, with all those planes on this shape filled out, and you can see it really breathes life into this shape.
But, what's really going to bring this style forward and make it usable to illustrate any subject matter you want is right now we kind of have an outline around all of our shapes. It's a simple stroke shape, black in this case, with a gray scale fill. What really makes this style shine and work well is by not using any strokes whatsoever. So I'm going to turn on the exact same art, but we've applied a style, a tonal family of colors, in this case going from a dark blue to a very light hue of the same blue, and we've applied to those various planes on the exact same shape.
And you can see already how much more believable it is. Even though it's not realistic style, it has an element that refers to realism that makes it work better in terms of the composition and how the dimensional aspect of this shape has really come to life. So what we're going to do is we're going to take this principle and apply it to a specific theme, and this theme can be anything you like. For example, in this movie I want to take the Statue of Liberty, or actually this is a photo of the Statue of Liberty, but we're going to use this as a reference point that we're going to draw from.
Now when I print this out, and this was the exact photo I printed out, once I have the print out done I take tracing paper and I draw on top of it. Now to demonstrate that, I'm going to go ahead and go to transparancy, and we'll set this to like 40, and we'll go ahead and lock that layer. And I'm going to turn on my refined drawing which is above it, and you can see using that polygon style I've looked at the image in terms of the photograph reference, and I've looked at areas of this photograph, in this case such as on the face.
The lighting is coming from the top down, so the surface that's closest to light source is the bridge of her nose and forehead. Then you have the top area of the cheeks, and you have the chin. And then the areas that are darkest are the areas that are further away from that light source, underneath the top part of her hair, underneath the top edge of the crown, in the brow, under the brows in the area of her eyes, and then the further back it goes into around the side of her head starts to get darker.
So these are the areas I want to focus on, and then I'm going to simply draw planes or shapes that I intend to now build vector art based upon these in order to pull off that polygon style. Now, there's a lot of forgiveness here. This isn't photo realism, and if I toggle this on and off you can see how I've interpreted some of those shapes. And I've added in details. In terms of her eyes I've simplified them. But, I carried forth the basics by letting the shadow guide my shape, and this guides the exact polygon shape.
Now once again, it doesn't have to be a sphere like I showed you originally. So if you look at her forehead, it's made up of these two polygon shapes, one on the left, one on the right, but they're not spherical. They're more of kind of a rectangle that's almost forming a triangle of sorts. So this is the process I'll use, and you'll want to spend most of your creative heavy lifting drawing out your design in this phase. And you can notice you use great liberty in simplifying form. If you look at the arm over here, there's a lot of detail in the creases here that I didn't even bother to do because I don't need to.
It's about representing what it is without getting specific in terms of details. So, it's all about having the prerogative to simplify form and shape to create the end polygon shapes we need. So in this case I'm going to go ahead and I'm going to set this one just so we can see it. We'll try 30. Actually, I think I'm going to set it to 20%. I'm going to lock that layer, and then on the layer above it I'm going to do what I always do in terms of building. I'm going to go to my Graphic Styles, and I set it to a nice magenta color.
That's usually what I build from. Then I select the Pen Tool. And we can zoom in on this one. So we'll just zoom in in this case on the eye, and I'm just going to start building the shapes. Now I'm not worrying about having a specific curve to my shape, because the style works better with just really straight edges to form the polygons. Not to say you can't curve, but this style inherently really doesn't use curves a whole lot.
It represents curves by making up those curves out of several or a lot of different polygon shapes. So you can see how I'm using Smart Guides to snap to the anchor points in order to form the shapes, and that's all this style is. I'll go ahead and build all the shapes needed in order to form my overall design. Now, on this design you can see that I'm not following my drawing exactly. Like here, I like this interconnection of all these points to kind of align with this next segment that I'm going to do here.
So the forgiveness about this style, especially since you're not using curved lines, is with the Direct Selection Tool selected that I have here I can just drag select this area and just pull it over here, and now all of those segments of those shapes that are aligned with one another come to exactly where I want this next shape to align to. So I'll do that a lot as I'm building using this style, and then I'll build the next shape needed. So this is the principle. This is the methodology I'll use to build all the shapes needed.
So if I turn on my base shapes here you can see all the shapes I've created to pull off this design. Now one thing I like to do when I get to this stage is, I can go ahead and turn off my Refined Sketch now, is right now all of these shapes are just simple magenta line with no fill. Now, it's going to be a lot easier if we actually give a temporary fill to these shapes. So I'm going to go ahead and drag these. We don't need the background shape, just the elements that make up the Statue of Liberty, and we're going to give all these a simple white fill.
What this means, it just allows us to grab a shape without having to grab the stroke. You can just click in the middle of a shape, like this, and it'll select the whole shape. That's just going to make coloring a lot easier. And what we're going to do now is we're going to turn on another tonal family here. And you can see how I've created this tonal family based off of the color of copper. Actually, the Statue of Liberty is made of copper, and over time oxidizes and it changes color.
It becomes this kind of muted green. So we're using that as our color theme to pull off this style. And we've created a tonal family that goes from an oxidated color that's very dark, as shown here, all thw way up to the very lightest color showing here. Now, this is how you need to think when you start approaching color. Think about your light source. Wherever it's going to get the least amount of light it's going to get darker in its hue. Where it becomes the lightest value in terms of a highlight for example, it's going to get the lightest value of that hue, so that's all you have to think.
And looking at your source photograph, if we go back to that right now, if you refer back your source photograph this is going to help you make your choices on what shapes to color which hue. So let's go ahead and zoom in, and we'll go... Actually, not quite that far, because I want to sample the hues there. So we'll go ahead and zoom in about that far, and I'm going to take the Eyedropper and I'm going to select this one and we'll go ahead and we'll color the eye the darkest.
We'll take this, we'll try that, take this. And a lot of this is experimentation. Sometimes I'll pick a color and I'll sample something. I go, "Well, it's too much. I think I want it like that. I think that's going to work. Oop, you know what? I don't want to have it that color because the hue is too close to this one I had here. So we're going to go ahead and select this shape and I'll sample it a little darker, so I'll push it up in this range.
Actually, I think that one I want there. And on this one I'll take that and I'll put this here. And then this one I'm going to go, let's see, a little darker up there like that. So it's all about just experimenting. You can go ahead and start filling colors. I don't think too hard about this. I just try to make good choices as I'm going along, and then later I can always come back and finesse it if one color is too close to another color in terms of its value.
And I'll tweak it, I'll make adjustments, so that should be expected. So don't worry about it. Just keep coloring, keep moving forward and pushing the process forward, and you'll be able to figure out what color something should be once you get everything in place. But you can see, this is the methodology I use to go ahead and color all these shapes, and it goes pretty fast. I'm not going to go ahead and fill in all these shapes. It's pretty redundant in terms of the methodology, but that is the process I use.
So what you end up with is a really nice low poly style looking illustration based off of the tonal family you figured out. Now that's one thing that's going to help in this style is figuring out your tonal family ahead of time before you start coloring is going to greatly assist in this process and make it go faster. Now you might not always figure out all the colors you're going to use. You could do that on the fly. I might decide later that having the value in between a couple colors would benefit if I had an additional iteration of that color, and in that case that's just part of the creative process discovering those kinds of needs as you go forward.
Now on this design I wanted it to be an art print, and so I wanted to work typography into it. Now when I use typography I usually just start typing out a bunch of different fonts based in the word I need, in this case I was thinking Liberty. Originally I was thinking of using this saying, "Life, liberty, and the pursuit of great art." I kind of like that, but when I dropped it into the design it was just calling too much attention to it. I wanted the art to get most of the attention. I wanted the type to be almost a secondary read.
So I settled on this type right here with Liberty, and so the final design with that type nested in came out like this. So it's a fun style to work in. In my opinion, the low poly style is a good example of what I consider a style trend. How long it remains popular is kind of up in the air. Nobody knows, nobody really knows. With that said, it's a fun one to explore. So give it a try with your own subject matter and see how you do with it.
Thank you for watching DVG Lab, and until next time, never stop drawing.
Note: Because this is an ongoing series, viewers will not receive a certificate of completion.
Skill Level Intermediate
Q: Why can't I earn a Certificate of Completion for this course?
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