Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Tutorial: How to Create a Modern Fantasy Character in Illustrator

This tutorial covers the process of creating a fantasy pinup illustration with Illustrator CS3. This tutorial uses Live Paint, so you will need CS2 or above to follow. If you need an alternative method for a legacy version of Illustrator, please download my Creating Comics with Illustrator tutorial which includes instructions for that.

Only an abridged version is shown here. You can read the full tutorial on Vectortuts+ here.

Downloads for Following Along:

Highlight #1

When setting up a new document, I like to start with a layer named after the character (in this case, "Suko"), with these sublayers:
  • g – for character-specific guides (optional)
  • d – for top details and line work
  • sh – for shading and shine details that will be filled paths
  • c – for colour and shading with Live Paint

Feel free to use longer names that make more sense to you. You should also create a template layer at this point for your foundation drawing. I dim mine to 60% and set to unprintable (I delete the template later). Position the template image on the artboard and lock your template layer. My pencil sketch is available here, if you'd like to take a look.

Highlight #2

With the d layer active, start drawing with one of the calligraphic brushes with a black stroke set to 0.05 pt. Using a small stroke weight allows for a more delicate line. The brushes are angled to give subtle line variation.

It's easiest to start by drawing simpler lines first and leave the finer details such as facial features until later. I use the pen tool for drawing most lines. Use your pencil sketch as a guide, but don't be afraid to make corrections if you feel a line will look better if adjusted. Switch between the two brushes as necessary, if you find a line to be too thin or thick in a certain place.

Here's what the linework looks like when it's mostly done:

Highlight #3

Continue adding more details to your line work. Then, to make sure that the facial features are correct, unlock and show everything on all layers and sublayers. Rotate everything 90 degrees clockwise with the black selection tool (V) while holding down the Shift key. Adjust the facial features as needed, but ignore how the brush styles look altered. Use outline view (Command + Y) to see the paths without styles if that helps you while adjusting. I changed Suko's expression at this point to a slight smile. When you're happy with the changes, rotate everything back to the original position.



Highlight #4

When the line work is done, select and copy all of the paths on your d layer. Then lock all the layers you are not using and activate the c layer. Make sure that "paste remembers layers" is off.

Paste the copied line work on the c layer and delete any compound paths. Then, select everything on the c layer and convert to a Live Paint group by pressing Command + Option + X. You may receive a warning about brush styles being discarded. This is why the line work is on a separate layer.

Once you have your Live Paint group, hide your other layers. Use the direct selection tool (A) to select any superfluous paths that you won't need for Live Paint and delete them.

Select your Live Paint group and set the fill and stroke to none. Press X then / to do this quickly. Make the d layer visible again, but make sure only the c layer is unlocked. Now you can use the Live Paint bucket (K) to fill in your flat colours.

The image below shows partial flat colours and the gradient applied to the belt buckle (which I made as a compound path).


Highlight #5

Now we can move on to shading. Lock your Live Paint group and choose a bright colour that you are not colouring with. I usually use pink. Make sure you have no brush selected and set your stroke to 0.25 pt. You need to see the lines, but you don't want them too thick as you need to make sure the shaping is correct.

Draw outlines for the areas where you will add your shading. Some areas are easier to create shading outlines for by copying existing paths, ignore those for now. If you shaded your sketch well, use outline view to use your sketch as a guide. When you're done outlining, use the magic wand tool (Y) to select all the paths. Send them to the back of the layer by pressing Command + Shift + [. Unlock the Live Paint group and drag your selected paths into it via the layers palette.

When done correctly, you will see only your Live Paint group in the layer, but your paths will still be selected, as in the image below.


Press / to change the stroke to none if you haven't already. Deselect the paths and fill with your shading colours. Make adjustments as needed if there are gaps between paths that prevent you from filling.

When the bulk of the shading is completed for Live Paint, move to your sh layer to start adding extra details. I like to add a shaded accent to the eyes (alternatively, the accent can be lighter than the iris), and add small shading paths for the lips and the nose. You can also add shiny details to the skin and clothing. Use shiny accents on the skin minimally, you usually don't want you character to look like they have greasy skin.

The Final Image from the Tutorial:



This is only an abridged version of the tutorial. You can read the full tutorial on Vectortuts+ here.

Relevant Links:
The final illustration of Suko with a tiled background was shown in an earlier post (which includes links to the line work and sketch).

"Suko with a Rose" (with the tiled background) is available on RedBubble as prints.


Hope you enjoyed this tutorial!

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Hi! My name is Emily.

Welcome to my art blog. I am an independent graphic designer and illustrator from the Toronto area. I create print and web solutions for a variety of businesses and individuals with a personal touch and conscientious approach.

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