Explore the traditional tattoo style of illustration and design using Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop methods.
- [Instructor] Welcome to Drawing Vector Graphics Laboratory. Design is style-driven. Many in our industry still hold to a view that we all should have our own signature style we are recognized for. I think it's fine to have one or more favorites but style, in my opinion, should always be dictated by the given client product or service it's being used for. So I like to explore styles, try new styles and in this movie we're going to take a stab at creating traditional-looking tattoo art in vector form.
It all starts with reference and these are reference images of the specific style we're going to approach in this movie. And when you look at this traditional-based tattoo style, there's certain characteristics that are going to give us clues as to how to pull this off in vector form. Now some of the stylistic references in this style that I really like is how black will be fused to the outline color black and then it kind of fades out into either the background color or a lighter color.
That's one part of this style that makes it really effective. And when coloring or shading is applied, it's usually going from a dark and it kind of speckles out into the background. It has a nice gradient effect that moves out into the background that's tattooed that way. And another aspect of this kind of detailing on this tattoo art is that they like to have these halos of the background color around those areas to define shape and define form.
You can see that on the eyes of the devil here, around his nose, around the bottom edge of his cheek, and his chin, down here. And we can see evidence of that in other ones such as the highlighting on the brow of this tiger and areas around the petals over here. And when you look at the other examples, you can catch it as well, such as on the skull. So those are some of the characteristics. They're going to give us clues as to how to pull off this style.
Now one thing that's key to this style is the gradients, how the color goes from dark to light. But since we're creating in vector form, a gradient in vector form will go like this one from dark to a light. So if we go to the gradient tool, you can see how it's going from this darker hue into the white background hue. And that's what we want. But the one thing you need to keep in mind is, I don't want it to distinctly be vector. And as we move forward in this project, I'm going to show you how it looks like in vector when we apply those things in vector gradients, but I want to handle it in a different way.
So we need to create an asset we're going to use when we get to that point in the process and that's going to be what I call a grain shader. Basically it's going to be a bitmap TIF image that gives us more of the aesthetic of that kind of organic graininess that you see in the textures. Now we're going to create that asset using this image here. And one thing about this is I'm not using a traditional black like this, which is just 100% K because if I copy that out of Illustrator and brought it into Photoshop, it wouldn't be stark, rich black.
It would kind of gray out and then the transition from dark to light would also be less of a black, saturated color and more of a dark gray. So it works better if you use what I call an inky black. You might call it a process black. And the reason why I use this is if we have this selected, you can go to the color palette, and then we're going to click on the sub-menu and change it to RGB, you can see that it's actually a rich RGB color. So when we copy it out of Illustrator into Photoshop, it's going to work well.
And that's exactly what we're going to do here. But before I do that, I want to show you one thing and that is on the gradients palette, for this one, we have it filled with this inky black. But if I go to color, we have it set for 85. The reason why I don't have it at 100, is because I want to allow artifacting in the black. And that's going to make more sense as we go to Photoshop. So let's select this shape and copy it to the clipboard. Now let's move to Photoshop and create the asset we need to use to pull off the authentic look.
We're in Photoshop now. We've copied our vector-based gradient into the clipboard. We're going to paste it into Photoshop now. And I'm going to paste it as a pixel image, not a smart object. We'll click OK. And we will go ahead and place it. So this is all I'm doing here, pretty simple. We'll even name the layer, I'll name it grain shader because that's what I'm calling it. That's what we're creating. And the first thing we're going to do is we're going to go to filter, we're going to go down to pixelate.
And then we're going to go over to mezzotint. That'll bring up a window here. And there's a lot of different choices. There's fine dots and there's medium dots. There's something called grainy. But we're going to choose coarse. That seems to work the best and we're going to click OK. And now it's converted that smooth gradient into a coarse or textured type of gradient. And that's what we want. The next thing we want to do now is we want to go back to filter, go down to blur, and go over to Gaussian blur.
And on Gaussian blur, you don't want it too much. We don't want to obscure everything like that level. And we need a little more than one. So we're going to do two pixel blur. And this is just to add some grayness to this. And it'll give us more flexibility as we move to the next stage which is adjustment under image and then levels. And we'll bring this up. And if you look to the left here, all we're going to do here is we're going to create a piece of artwork that we can then convert to a bitmap TIF and bring inside of Illustrator and it's going to work well to create that illusion of a grainy kind of gradation going from dark to light.
So that's all we're doing here. And I'm pulling in on this side actually we probably brought this in too far. So this is where you'll just have to play around with these sliders. And it's exploratory. But you can see how it's allowing artifacting in the dark areas. And that's kind of what I want to retain, without making it too light. So we'll do this, if I bring that over, that doesn't look bad.
Bring this down and that looks pretty good. I think that looks pretty good. So we'll click OK on that. And so that's how we've translated it from a smooth gradient out of Illustrator into this nice organic-based grain shader that we're going to use. Now, every time you do this, it's playing it, it's just exploring with those sliders. So I'm going to show you two other ones I've created using the exact same artwork.
Here's this one. It's pretty close to what we did. Ours has a little more depth in terms of the gradient and a little more artifacting in the black than this one does here. And then this one is pretty close to what we came up with. And when it's all said and done, I kind of like this top one best. So this is at the point in this file, the PSD file that I would save it so I could always go back and re-port out a new one if I want to.
So at this point, I'm going to go to image. I'm going to go to mode. I'm going to go to bitmap. We'll say OK, we can flatten it. We'll keep the resolution the same, 400 pixels per inch. And we're going to select a 50% threshold under method and click OK. So this is what we end up with, a distinct black and white bitmap TIF that has this nice element of organic shading to it and we're going to save this out now as a TIF image and use it in Illustrator.
So we're going to switch back to Illustrator now and I'm going to demonstrate how we're going to utilize this moving forward. So we're back in Illustrator now and we had copied this piece of artwork out, brought it into Photoshop and we created this asset now. We've placed this grain shader TIF image inside of Illustrator. And we're going to use that in just a few steps. But first I want to address the artwork and this specific theme that we're going to play off of utilizing this style is this cat.
Me and my daughter worked on this together. And she came up with the idea of doin' the cat. And I really thought it was great. And so this is what we're going to build out. Now once again, we're going to take some style cues from our reference. And if you look at this artwork and look at the line work specifically, it's a continuous stroke line whether it's on the inside or outside and that's key to this style. So we're going to keep that in mind as we build our base vector artwork. So this shows a lot of the base vector shapes.
And as I build, I don't always use the pin tool. For example, on this mouth part, I'll use a circle to create the curve I want and then if we zoom in a little further, I'll go and grab the scissors tool and I'll just cut it where I need to. So I'm going to cut it to end it there and where it intersects with this, with smart guides turned on, Command + U, it's going to tell you when you're intersected and then we can cut there. I'll select the shape I don't need and delete it. So this is the methodology I'll use to create it.
Once again, I'm using the simple elliptical shape to create the eye and then where it intersects, it'll tell me with smart guides and I use the knife tool, cut it there, actually let's try that one again, cut it there. And this is a case where you might need to zoom in even further so you get it exactly where it should be like this. And then you can just move down the screen to where it overlaps another area and cut it there, so on, and so forth. We'll do the next two here.
And the last one will be right there. And we can zoom out. And then we just select the pieces we don't need. And we can delete those. So that's how I'll go about creating the base vector art. Now all of this is just individual line work that I've created and composed and put together to form the artwork and just cut it using the scissor tool.
It just makes the process go a lot faster. Now we're going to switch to the next layer here which is the same exact artwork. I just colored it black. So this once again is just individual, separated lines and we're going to now work out the weight for the line work. And when we reference the traditional photos of the tattoo style, we notice that it wasn't this thin, it's obviously thicker. Now the only part that's not a stroke in this art, I should point out, is the inside of the eyes and the detailing on the mouth.
So we're going to select everything here, unselect the fill, and you can see we have nothing but strokes going. We're going to adjust the stroke weight to get it what we want it. So we're going to try four. And that's pretty good but it seems, let's try three, maybe three would be better. That seems a little, I think, dividing the difference. We'll go 3.5.
That looks good. So one thing I want to point out, when you use strokes to build artwork, I don't use this methodology a lot but when I use strokes, when it comes to an end, the terminal of these lines, we don't want this to be flat. So we'll want to go in and add rounds like this. So I'm going to select everything, deselect the fill so it's just the strokes. And I'm going to cap everything with this roundness and it's going to look a lot better as you see it. If you study the reference, you'll notice that it never comes to a sharp point on that style, specifically tattoos, since they're tattooing on the surface of the skin, it tends to be a little softer in that respect.
So that's all I wanted to point out there. We're going to select everything here, deselect the fill. And this is where we want to expand the artwork and turn it from a stroke-based artwork to actual shapes, actual fills. And so we'll go up to object and we can go to path, and we can go to outline stroke, is one way you can do it. Or you can go to expand and then hit OK once that comes up. And now if we go to key line view, it's nothing but shapes.
So that's how we can use that methodology. We can turn off our sketch now. Go back to key line view, you can see it's nothing but shapes. If we zoom in on this, you can see that it's taken these individual lines and it's created shapes. And now all we have to do is select all of our artwork and we can deselect the fill ones. And we could go ahead and go back to preview. And then using pathfinder we can unite this. So now all of this is one unified shape.
So that's how I build the base artwork. So let's look at the base black and white. It's exactly the same but I've gone ahead and broke out all the pieces. So this is just the background shape which is black and everything on the inside are just like islands of white sitting on a larger, blacker shape. And if you're curious how I bridge the gap from the previous layer to this layer to break it out like this. I just didn't do it in this movie because it takes a little longer. Make sure to check out another movie, in my DVG Lab movies which goes over that specific process.
So I believe the title of that movie is Creating Precision Artwork. And you can check out because I go into that in more detail because somebody had asked me a question. This is a point where we'll look at a coloring for this specific illustration, how to handle coloring that is, and on this one it's pretty simple in terms of the only areas that actually get fill colors at this stage are the mouth of the fish and the nose of the cat. So these are pretty easy. Everything else, I'm going to utilize or build as a gradient.
So let me show you how I figure out what I'm going to do. I go back to our original sketch. Actually I did this before I even built any vector. It was just based off of the original sketch. And on a piece of vellum on top of that, I worked out how I'm going to handle the shading for this character to pull off this style. So I kind of figured it out beforehand and now I'm just going to build it out or flesh it out in vector form now. And this involved creating shapes that I can fill with gradient blends to pull off this aesthetic, to pull off this style like this.
Now the first thing I'm going to do is select the inside of these eyes and this is the only other part that gets a fill. Those will be filled with this kind of gold color. I'll select an area, let's start with this eye brow here. And I'm going to go ahead and take away the stroke and fill it like this with the gradient. I'll go to the gradient tool. And this allows you to orient your gradient within whatever shape you've applied it to. And that's all I'm going to do here.
I'm going to adjust my gradient. And now I'm going to take the color I want to apply which is this blue. And I'll drop it in there. And I don't want this to be 100% value so I'm going to go to transparency and on this blue, I'm going to hit the value to 70%. Now you can see how it's already kind of fading out. But I want to orient this a little different. I want to reposition this at that angle. And actually I think that looks pretty good. And it's at this point that once I get one angle, I know these two are going to be the same color.
I'll drag this into graphic styles like this and then I'll select the next shape and apply that style to it since it's going in the same direction and this one. Now most of the times it'll work. This one I don't have to do anything. This one I think I can improve. So I'll select it, go back to the gradient tool and just adjust the orientation and positioning just to make it work a lot better. So that's all I'm doing there. Let's do a couple of the black areas. So I'll select this one.
I'll fill it with the gradation of black going to zero. I'll use the gradient tool to orient it a little differently. Maybe push it back like that. Let me adjust that, I don't like how deep that is. And let me adjust the angle like this. That looks pretty good. And then I'll do another one. We'll do down here under the chin. This is also going to be black. So we'll use our graphic style we have set up.
And then I'll pull this out just to make it a little longer. Position it and you can see how this style can kind of come together really quickly. We'll do one more, we'll do this one. This one is going to be gold. And I want to reorient it like this. And maybe pull it down just a little. That looks good. I don't want the value on this to be 100% either. I want it to be somewhat subdued.
And I think that looks good. So this is the methodology I'm going to use to fill out all these shapes I build to create the shading on this. And like a good cooking show, I have it pre-baked. So this shows you all those shadings in place and you can see that it's really capturing the essence of this style, even though this is vector form. One thing I've done here is this is actually sitting on top of this gold shape and it's multiplied. I just wanted to show you that 'cause it's not evident just looking at it.
And you could build this with red blending into gold. But I like the effect of that red mixing with that gold color. It looked a little more intense doing it this way. But however you want to handle it. Now as much as I like this, I think we can pull off this effect the exact same way but instead of using gradients, we're going to use our grain shader. So here's our grain shader here. And I'm going to copy and paste a new one.
And I'll go ahead and orient this as close as I think it could be. We'll do the eyebrow again. I'll cut it and paste it behind this shape. I'll then mask it with. And then on this one I'll fill it with blue. I want this to be subdued, not 100%. So I'll knock it down to 70, select the shape and mask it. Now to mask, you have to go to object with both selected and go clipping mask and make. But see how I hit F1.
I have keyword shortcuts. So all I do is select both, hit F1 and it masks. That's why I use 'em, it makes the process faster. Then I can use direct select to go inside and just orient or adjust the positioning to kind of get the look I want. Maybe on this one we rotate it a little bit. Yeah, that looks better. So that's all I'm doing there. And I'm going to repeat this process on all of 'em. So we'll do a few more just to show you how this is going to go. Let's go like this.
And one thing you can do is you can size these a little. I just wouldn't go too far 'cause you want the aesthetic to remain the same. This is the default black that bitmaps come in. So we want to make sure to color it this inky black since we're doin' a black now. And we'll cut it, we'll paste it behind this mask shape. We're going to mask it in. And then we just have to adjust the positioning a little. Actually maybe the other way. That looks better. And then I'll select the mask and F1 to mask it into shape.
And if you want to move it, just use the direct select tool. Click inside to grab it and then you can adjust it however you want. Think I'm going to move it there. That looks better. And then we'll take this shape. I'll take it again. I'm going to rotate it. I'm going to color it gold. I'm going to bring it down here. And I'm going to go ahead and size it a little bit, paste it behind this shape.
And on this one, once again, I want to adjust the value. I don't want 70. We'll match what we did before at 60. I'll select this chin color. And we'll mask it into shape. So you can see how this process works. Now I created, you saw me create this organic shader here, this grain shader. Now I also made an oval one that I have down here using the exact same methodology I showed you in Photoshop. And we're going to use this one on the cheek because it's circular.
So it's going to conform with the shape of the chin, we have it here. Notice I'm distorting this. And that's because textures like these are very, very forgiving. You're probably never going to notice the distortion. We're going to color this one blue, hit the value to 70 to mask the rest, select the shape we're going to mask it into and hit F1 to mask it using keyboard shortcuts. I think this one, direct select, we'll adjust it, maybe rotate it a little.
So you're going to be finessing these. You're never going to get it perfect the first time, most of the time. Yeah, that looks good. So that's how I'll go about doing the same effect in terms of shading whether it's black fusing with the outline or some of these colors on the inside. We'll turn this layer off. And I'll turn on how the final artwork came off using this methodology. And I just think this looks absolutely cool. Not only that, when it actually prints, it looks way better than a vector gradient.
And this would actually work really well for t-shirts, in terms of printing. It'd be an easy way to pull off the style. Now one thing you can do, if you look at most tattoos over time, black tends to, on a person's body that is, black tends to go from black to like a dark, kind of muted blue. So because we use global colors, we could click into this inky black color we have here.
And on this one, let's say we brought the black down to 70. We push the blue up to 90. We can do this live by turning this on. And then got rid of some of the magenta and the yellow. And you can see how it's turning this muted gold. So if I click OK, that looks pretty cool just like that as well. So it all depends on what you're going for but I like this equally as well.
I think I like black a little better. But you can do whatever you want. It's digital, you have that flexibility. So I really love workin' on this project. It was a lot of fun to explore this style. And I'm going to revisit again and try another motif using the same process. I hope you found this movie helpful for your own creative workflow. Thank you for watching DVG Lab and as always, never stop drawing.
Skill Level Intermediate
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