Create a Summer Portrait From a Stock Image in Adobe Illustrator

Final product image
What You'll Be Creating

If you live in the Northern Hemisphere, it's coming towards summer! In celebration of the hopefully milder, warmer weather, I'm going to show you how to create a portrait from a stock image, using summer colours, in Adobe Illustrator.
This is an advanced tutorial, so previous portrait/vector knowledge is assumed. If you're needing help with creating vector portraits, why not check out my many Tuts+ Courses or consider using Tuts+ Experts for one-on-one tutoring. 
In order to complete this tutorial you'll need:
  • A portrait image... I've picked one from PhotoDune as I can clearly see the shadows on her skin. This makes it easier for me to render in vector. Keep this in mind should you wish to select your own photograph for this project.
After creating a New document, I File > Place my stock image on the artboard. I then create new layers: one for my base shape of the face, and one with a white filled Rectangle (M) set to 50% Opacity. This is so I can just click hide/unhide on this layer to enable the dimming effect of the white layer with a click of the eye icon.

Prepare your layers

Using the Pen Tool (P), I draw around the entire shape of the head, ignoring the hair as I'm going to alter this later on in the tutorial. I'm going to fill it with white.

Create your skin base

The composition I had in mind is a minimalist looking portrait, with white hair and only dashes of colour for the face shading and details. I'd like to use vibrant colours which remind me of summer, so with that, it's time to use Adobe Color. 
If you're using Adobe Creative Cloud, you can download swatches directly from theColor website into Adobe Illustrator via the Color Themes panel. I've searched on "summer" and picked out two swatches which have similar hues. I've then created transparent Radial Gradients for each colour and added them to my Swatchespanel. It's these gradients that I'll be using for the skin shading.

Download swatches from Adobe Color

I create a layer to place my skin shading shapes in. Using the Pen Tool, I draw around the shadows on the skin. I'll be using a similar method to what is shown in my Skin Shading tutorial
I start with using the lightest, saturated gradient (the yellow from the "Summer" swatch) to create the largest areas of shadow. I don't modify the gradients in any way (moving the centre of the gradient within the shape). 

The initial shading shapes

I create several shapes for the first colour (the yellow from "Summer") and set these shapes to Blending Mode Multiply, Opacity 25%. The aim is to add several shapes of low opacity to create a smooth shading style.

The first set of shapes

Once I've created my first set of shapes for shading, I Group them together (Control-G). I then use a duplicate of the base shape and create a Clipping Mask(Control-7) to hide the overlapping edges. Future shading shapes will be added to this clipping mask.

Create a Clipping Mask

The next series of shapes use the orange hue from the "Summer" swatch. These shapes are set to Blending Mode MultiplyOpacity 15%. As the fill colour gets darker, the shapes get smaller. I'm effectively replacing the shadows of the face with colourful gradients to product this abstract shading style. 

Using the Orange gradient

Now it's time to use the red gradients from the "Summer" swatch. These are set toBlending Mode MultiplyOpacity 10%.

Adding the red gradients

I then add the pink gradients from the "Summer" swatch. Although these are being used in the darker areas, I'm also using them to add a pink hue to the cheeks and nose tip to enhance these features. These shapes are set to Blending Mode MultiplyOpacity 10%.

Adding pink to the skin shading

Now that I've got the initial shading laid down, I'm going to use the less saturated gradients to push the colours further. I do this by adding larger shapes to the clipping mask. The first is using the orange shade from the "Summer Decadence" swatch. 
I'm using it as a fill on a duplicate of the skin base and modifying the dimensions of the gradient using the Gradient Tool (G). This shape is set to Blending Mode Multiply, Opacity 50%. This is so it darkens the area on the back of the neck.

Darken the back of the neck

I'm doing the same with the pink from the "Summer" swatch. This time it's set toBlending Mode Multiply, Opacity 30%.

Adding pink

To soften the gradients and to lighten up the areas which need more light, I'm going to use some white transparent radial gradients. These are set to Blending Mode Normal, Opacity 30%.

Add white to bring out the highlights

Using the Direct Selection Tool (A), I've modified some of the shapes. For instance, along the cheek bone I felt the shape was a bit too blunt. Then in places where I felt there was missing shading, I've added the appropriate gradient. For example, I added a subtle shadow where the eye area meets the temple. 

Modifying the shapes

Using the Blob Brush Tool (Shift-B), I add shapes using the appropriate shades and previously used Transparency panel settings around the portrait. The Blob Brush Tool helps me create small, quick shapes which help refine those little details. 

Using the Blob Brush Tool
Adding highlights to the ears with the blob brush tool

I feel my shading is near complete. Here is what I currently have. You'll notice the minimal details in the eyes and eyebrows, as I'll be adding those details later. 

Skin shading

It's time to start adding the hair to the portrait, which also includes adding the eyebrows. In order to do this, I first create a tapered Art Brush.

Creating an Art Brush

Using the Paintbrush Tool (B), I draw strokes of red and pink (set to Blending Mode MultiplyOpacity 10% and 25% respectively) using the tapered brush. By layering two colours, you create a great texture for the eyebrows.

Adding the eyebrows

Now to begin adding hair to the scalp. I first need to map out the hairline and the skull in order to begin creating a hairstyle from scratch.
For more tips on creating hair from scratch, check out my theory article on the very subject.

Mapping out the skull and hairline

Then, using the Blob Brush Tool (B), I sketch a hairstyle which shows off the shading in the neck and ear. I don't want these elements covered too much as I feel I've put a lot of work into those features... so let's make them a focal point in the portrait. 

Creating a sketch of the hair

Using the sketch as a guide, I first use the Pen Tool (P) to create a base shape of the hair. I then use the tapered Art Brush and the Paintbrush Tool (B) to add strands coming away from the base. 
These initial strands will have a much larger Stroke Weight of say 5 pt...

Creating the hair base

...then as I add more detail to the silhouette of the hair, I use a smaller Stroke Weight of say 0.5 pt. I want to make sure I cover the majority of the base's outline to create a more organic-looking shape.

Adding finer strands

Once the hair is complete, I select it all and then Object > Expand it and usePathfinder > Unite to create one shape. I'll be changing the fill to white, but until the project is finished, the hair will show as pink to make it easier to see in this tutorial. 

Object Expanding the shapes

Just as I've done with the eyebrows, I'm going to add the eyelashes to the portrait using two shades. This will be the same pink and red. I've used the stock image as a guide to where I should place the eyelashes. 

Add the eyelashes

Using the Pen Tool (P), I add red shapes around the eyes to help define them. These are set to Blending Mode Multiply, Opacity 20%

Adding details to the eyes

With the Pen Tool (P), I add white to the eyeballs. Then with the Blob Brush Tool (Shift-B), I add a shimmer effect to the eyelids and socket. 

Adding a bit of sparkle

I then add further depth to the shadows around the nostril, ear and lips using the appropriate gradients and settings. They're only subtle, but they help those features stand out more clearly.

Adding further depth

After adding my usual moles to the skin, I'm then done. 
I'm a big fan of skin shading and often think it's overlooked by some portrait artists. If you put more focus on the skin by making the hair one colour or using a monochrome colour scheme, you can really show off your skin-shading skills.
If you've created a portrait in this style, please share it in the comments! Until next time, enjoy the warm weather, and someone get me an ice cream!

The finished portrait


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