Free Illustrator Tutorial

Free Illustrator Tutorial

Family friend ‘Uncle Vince’ has recently discovered ‘social networking’ on the internet, so, as a bit of fun, I set about creating a custom illustration in Adobe Illustrator for him to use as an avatar. I often joke that he looks like an east-end, hardman character out of the movie ‘Snatch’ or ‘Lock, Stock and smoking Barrels’ in most of his photos. So we picked a photo that looked more like his true character of friendliness and good nature!

Nice! The first task was to try and work out some shadow areas, I ran the photo through the posterize filter in Photoshop to see what it would come up with in the way of shadows….

Not brilliant, but it gave my an idea of some areas to work on, so out came the tracing paper and a pencil (for the younger generation, this is a long wooden stick with black stuff in the middle, used for writing and drawing in the old days before mobile phones). Allowing for hair loss, the pencil lines were then fortified with black felt tip

The next step was to scan the shadow trace.

The scan was then placed into illustrator, locked then traced using the pen tool.

I tend to trace in Illustrator using a magenta stroke and no fill, It really helps to see where you are going. Take your time on this part and try to enjoy the process, once you are engrossed you will be surprised how quickly you can do it.

All the shadow shapes finished were then converted to black fills, then printed out on tracing paper and overlaid onto the original picture to sketch in some mid-tone shapes.

There is a certain amount of trial and error here, I find it helps to blur your eyes a bit to help make decisions where the mid-tone line is. But keep going and any parts that don’t ‘look right’ when you trace can be adjusted in Illustrator after.

Again, scan the mid-tone trace and place in Illustrator to trace.

The mid-tones were then carefully traced (on a new layer), coloured and I then went to work on the eyes….

I decided at this point to add Uncle Vince’s trademark of designer glasses, he often wears them and he seemed more recognisable with them on. Back to the eyes…. The eyes were created using the sphere tool and gradients to match eye colour. A few highlights and they began to look good. The eyes, for me, are a main point of focus on the face (unless someone has an ugly wart or huge nose) so spend some time getting them right.

By this point you should end up with something looking like this (previewed in outline mode).

Next I added some highlight details using illustrators blend tool between 2 shapes. The bigger shape being the same as the base flesh colour and the smaller a lighter shade.

Then a few finishing touches, a floral pattern for the shirt, ear rings with highlights and some light shading on his glasses and Bob’s your uncle! (well, vince then), all done!

With a broad keyline added and a snazzy background the result works quite well large and small. This is a good technique for creating portraits for stickers or screen printing where colours are limited. Uncle Vince is happy with it and most of the family seem to recognise who it is and that’s good enough for me….

(actually, now I look at it again and if it were a commercial job I would tidy up the chin shadow a bit… )

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3 Responses to “Free Illustrator Tutorial”


    Uncle Vince is very happy Mr Ivan Longland. Love your work, “FANTASTIC”.


    Very impressive work!
    Nice to meet you yesterday!
    Mathieu and Emilia, paramotor guys

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