Alice Thorpe

Free Tutorials

How To Make A Vector Portrait | Adobe Illustrator Tutorial

 
How to make a vector portrait in Adobe illustrator

I’ve created this little video tutorial to show you the basic principles of creating a vector portrait in Adobe Illustrator. This is definitely more of an intermediate level of work, so don’t be disheartened if you don’t crack it straight away. All it takes is practice and perseverance. Below is the video tutorial along with a short written summary of the main steps.

Happy drawing!

 
 
 

Step One: Using the pen tool

How to make a vector portrait using Adobe Illustrator

The pen tool will become your best friend - or worst enemy - either way, you need to familiarise yourself with it. This is the main tool that I use throughout this drawing. If you’re new to the pen tool or need to refresh your mind with how it works, check out my video where I explain the basics.

Step Two: Change your strokes

How to make a vector portrait using Adobe Illustrator

You can find the strokes panel by going to Window > Stroke.

Changing the stroke style is super important to make your drawing more natural looking. You can see from the drop down menu what the different options are for the stroke. I do this for a lot of my lines, as you can see from the image below, it drastically changes the look of the strokes, and is so simple to do.

Step Three: Using the erase tool

How to make a vector portrait using Adobe Illustrator

Use the shortcut Shift + E to erase any overlapping layers. This allows you to clean up the image and get rid of any shapes that are no longer need. For the eye, remove the excess colour from above the upper lash-line. Then send that shape behind the lash-line layer using Ctrl + [ or right clicking and ‘send back’.

Step Four: The eyelashes

How to make a vector portrait using Adobe Illustrator

For the eyelashes you can use the stroke tool one again. Firstly, draw some curved lines using the pen tool, then using the same method as before, change the look of the stroke in the menu (Window > Stroke). Choose the triangle shape that is thick at one end and tapers into a point, this is what makes them look like eyelashes.

Step Five: Adding Shadows

How to make a vector portrait using Adobe Illustrator
How to make a vector portrait using Adobe Illustrator

Shadows are what brings the drawing to life. To do this trace the darker areas of the face using the pen tool to create curved lines. This will take some trial and error, as getting the placement of these shadows is important, but you can always undo and start again if you mess up.

Step Six: The eyedropper tool

How to make a vector portrait using Adobe Illustrator

The eyedropper tool will come in handy a lot during your drawing. For this part, use the tool to select exactly the same colour for the nose, as the one near the eye. To do this, select the shape you wish to colour in, click the eyedropper tool (the letter I on your keyboard), and click the shape with the colour you want to copy. Now you can precisely match various colours across the canvas.

Step Seven: Adding Highlights

How to make a vector portrait using Adobe Illustrator

You can add highlights to the face using the pen tool. But an easier method is to us the Paintbrush tool (B). Simply select a lighter shade of skin colour, and draw in the highlighted areas. Usually the top of the cheek bones, nose and eyes are the main three places. You can also change the opacity of the highlight to suit.

Step Eight: Hair definition

How to make a vector portrait using Adobe Illustrator

The hair is made up of three main colour groups; mid-tones, highlights, and shadows. The base colour should be similar to the overall hair colour of your model. The highlight a little lighter and shadows darker. You can use the eyedropper tool (I) to select these colours from the original photo and apply them to your strokes.

The final piece

How to make a vector portrait using Adobe Illustrator

And there we have it, your digital portrait is complete. If you haven’t already watched it the video tutorial shows you each stage in more detail. I hope you enjoy creating your own vector portrait! I’d love to see what you create, just tag #DesignWithAlice and I’ll have a peek.

Take care,

signature small left.png