How to create a digital portrait in adobe illustrator

A few days ago, while I needed a little break from my database assignment, I created this digital portrait of my daughter, Hannah.

Everyone seemed to really like it, so I decided to share my knowledge and create a tutorial on how to do those cool portraits using any photograph.

All you need is Adobe Illustrator and a photograph! No skills required and it’s really easy to do!

Watch a video tutorial or follow my written instructions below!

How to create a digital portrait using Adobe Illustrator:

  1. Choose a photograph you would like to use for this project. It can be literally anything you want! I chose this cute photograph of Hannah-ballerina:

  2. Open Adobe Illustrator, click a New File and choose the size of your canvas. For this project I chose A4, but you can choose a different size.

  3. Click the Window tab and then select Layers. This step is really important as layers are crucial!

  4. Click File tab and Place, to place a chosen photograph onto Layer 1. Next, place the image on the canvas.

  5. Lock the Layer 1, add a new layer, zoom in onto the face (or any other part you want to start with) so you can see the area better, and using the Pen tool, start outlining the shape of the face.

    Remember to change the size and style of the brush! I like to outline the skin with the smallest brush size (0.25) and hair and clothes with a slightly bigger one (0.5) Play with different brush styles and choose the one you like the most.

  6. Name a layer accordingly, and lock the layer using the lock icon in the layers tab.

  7. Add another layer and outline the left ear. Name a layer and then click the down arrow to open this layer, and lock the one inside (not the whole layer)

  8. Outline the shadows inside the ear outline. Lock the whole layer and outline the other areas following the same rules.
    One area= one layer. Lock layers when you finish them.
    For this photograph, I have layers for: face, left ear, right ear, hair, neck, top of the dress, tutu skirt, left hand, right hand, and legs.
  9. When you finish outlining, you can unclick the eye icon next to the Layer 1 (with the original photograph) to see how you’re doing.

    You’re halfway there!

  10. Ok now click the eye icon on Layer 1 again to bring back the original photo, if you would like to use color from it. If you choose to have custom colors, this step is not necessary.
  11. Unlock the first layer (in my case, it’s a face layer) and using the Eyedropper tool, select the color of your liking from the original image. Then select the outline of the face layer and click on the color swatch you just chose.

  12. Lock the layer again and fill in other skin areas, like ears(just the main outline), neck and hands.
  13. Unlock the ears layer, and select the inside outlines, color them with the same color and then double-click on the color swatch (big color square in the left side menu) and select a darker shade. Fill with the same color other inside ear’s outlines.

  14. You may want to take the stroke of the outlines out if you wish (in the right-hand side menu).
  15. Color other layers the same way.

  16. Now create a new layer for the background. Place it on the bottom of the layers (so it’s in the back of your portrait) Using the rectangle tool, select the area of your canvas and fill with the color of your liking.

  17. Add another layer, place it on top of the background layer, and using the Curvature Tool, draw a “blob” around your portrait. It doesn’t have to be perfect so play with it 🙂 Again, fill with any color you like.

  18. Add a new layer and using the Text tool, add a text. I like to separate lines of text to have more control over the alignment of the lines. Choose your font and the size of the text.

    Voila! You have just created a digital portrait!

    I would love to see your creations, so please tag me on Twitter @katwlodarczyk and use the #katstutorials
    so I can see them! You can also comment or email me!
    I hope you liked this tutorial!
    ✌️

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