Create a Purple Monochrome Portrait for Spirit Day in Adobe Illustrator

Final product image
What You'll Be Creating
In the following tutorial, you will learn how to create a purple monochrome portrait from a photograph, for GLAAD's Spirit Day, in Adobe Illustrator.
Millions go purple on Spirit Day in a stand against bullying and to show their support for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) youth. Observed annually since 2010, individuals, schools, organizations, corporations, and public figures wear purple, which symbolizes 'spirit' on the rainbow flag.
I'm going to be using a reference image of a friend from Envato Studio, Jordan McNamara, taken by fellow Envato staff member, Natasha Postolovski.
I've chosen this image as it's a clear, high-quality image (see the tutorial assets for a higher resolution download) and Jordan is smiling! For such an occasion, I feel we need a nice positive image.
Jordan McNamara
After cropping the image in Adobe Photoshop, I'm going to change the colour scheme of the image.
If you're creating a basic, line art style portrait with minimal shading, I would recommend turning your image black and white to make it easier to work from. I went to Image > Adjustments > Black & White and used the preset Maximum White to neutralise as much of the shading as possible. I then used a purple tint to get some palette inspiration.
Once I'm happy with the minor change to the image, I'm going to save it and get ready to use it in Adobe Illustrator. I'll also save a copy of the photograph in the original colours so that I can work from both images.
Turn your image black and white then add a purple tint
Create a new document and File > Place your photographs onto the artboard. If you're going to resize your images, be sure to select them both and resize them together so they are both aligned.
I then set up my layers as shown below. In the "BG" layer, I include a white filled rectangle set to Opacity 50%. This is so that I can easily see the images underneath. I prefer to work in this way rather than dimming the layer, as I can easily turn the layer on and off by using hide/unhide.
Organise your layers
Using the Artboard Tool (Shift-O), I change the dimensions of the artboard edges and effectively crop the image. When doing this, pay attention to your Navigation panel as this will give you a clearer idea of the composition.
Use the Artboard Tool to crop your image
As this style requires the use of lines, it's worth creating your own taper brushes. I have a collection of home-made art brushes I use for such occasions.
The two main ones I'm going to be using are tapered at both ends and are a triangle taper brush. They both originate from a simple circle and have had their points modified and height reduced.
Turn circles into two brush shapes
Then via the Brushes panel, I create two new art brushes with the following settings:
Taper Brush
Triangle Taper Brush
Let's start creating the line art for our portrait. I always start by drawing the largest shapes first. When drawing these shapes, be sure that your lines intersect with each other, as we'll be using the Live Paint function later on.
I'd recommend using the Pen Tool (P) for maximum control with these lines, even if you've got a tablet. I've increased the stroke weight so that you can see the lines more clearly.
Initial line art
I then continue to add the more minor lines and detailing. Don't worry about your portrait not looking true to the photograph right now. There's no style applied to the lines and they are basic shapes.
Further line art is added
Let's apply the custom-made art brushes to the illustration. I use the Taper Brush in places where the ends of the line do not touch other lines (pink). I use the Triangle Taper Brush in places where one end intersects with another line (blue).
Adjust the Stroke Weight of the lines in the Stroke panel depending on how delicate or deep the lines are on the portrait.
Applying the art brushes
I'm going to use the Paintbrush Tool (B) and the Taper Brush to render the hair on the portrait. Depending on the location of the hair, it will dictate the Stroke Weight, so adjust accordingly. For instance, the eyebrow hairs are thicker than the eyelashes.
I start with the eyebrows. While using the reference image to show you the direction of the hairs, draw around the outside first and then fill in the centre.
Render the eyebrows
I then use the reference image to begin drawing in the facial hair. You don't need to place a stroke for every single whisker, just enough to give the impression of facial hair. Be sure to follow the direction of the hair.
Add the facial hair
I use a thicker Stroke Weight to create hair along the edges of the jawline and at the sides of the face. This will be quicker than adding a larger number of thinner strokes along these edges.
Use thicker strokes around the edges of the hair
Men have eyelashes, so remember to add them. I use a thinner stroke to avoid making it look as if he's wearing mascara. I also change the pupils to a black fill.
Add eyelashes
Time to add purple to your portrait to stick to the Spirit Day theme. I'm going to use the modified reference image and the Eyedropper Tool (I) to pick out the darkest and lightest shades of purple. I use them to fill two Rectangles (M).
I then Blend (Control-Shift-B) the shapes together to create two shades of purple in between. Once done, I Object > Expand them and add all four colours to my Swatches panel ready to be used.
Purple swatch creation
After changing the stroke colour of my line art to the darkest purple, I duplicate it and then select the core line art and Object > Expand Appearance and Object > Expand it. I then use the Pathfinder panel and select Unite to combine all the lines into one shape. This is ready to use with the Live Paint Bucket (K).
Expanding the line art
I use the Live Paint Bucket (K) to fill in the shapes using our restricted palette. I've used all purple fills, apart from the whites in the eyes and teeth, for which I've used a white fill.
Fill your line art
Select your Live Paint group and go to Object > Expand. Drill into the group in the Layers panel, and remove your line art. You'll still have your original line art in another layer.
Duplicate the shapes for the face and the neck/chest area and fill them with a transparent radial gradient to create shadow around the facial hair regions. Use the Gradient Tool (G) to place the gradient sources where necessary.
I've changed the weight and colour of the line art to create a more subtle style. You'll notice that I keep on tweaking these as I go along.
Use gradients
As I'm coming to the end of my portrait, I'm going to add some small details to help refine it. The first is to use two circles with a white fill and a purple stroke to create a reflection in the eyes. The second is a circle to represent a mole on the neck. I add moles to all my portraits, even if the person doesn't have them.
Add light reflections and a mole
I then add a button to the shirt and use dashed lines with the Taper Brush to create stitching around the shirt. This helps balance out the level of detailing, because in the face you have plenty with the hair rendering, and there's little in the lower part of the composition.
Add stitching
Finally, I use a line pattern from the Illustrator default texture pattern libraries (accessible via the Swatches panel) to add a subtle texture to the fabric of the shirt.
Before I apply the texture, I modify the pattern via Pattern Options, just to change the colour of the pattern so that it fits with the colour scheme.
Adding a pattern to the shirt
Thank you for joining me in this tutorial, and I hope you'll consider wearing purple for Spirit Day to show your support.
Line art is a fun style to play with in vector portraits, as it's quick and easy. Show me your line art portrait in the comments!
Jordan McNamara


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