Illustrating Custom Portraits: Mastering the Pen Tool | Bre Cain | Skillshare

Illustrating Custom Portraits: Mastering the Pen Tool

Bre Cain, One of Those Creative Types

Illustrating Custom Portraits: Mastering the Pen Tool

Bre Cain, One of Those Creative Types

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10 Lessons (25m)
    • 1. Introduction

    • 2. Class Project

    • 3. Setting up an Artboard

    • 4. Illustrator Toolbar Basics

    • 5. Working with the Pen Tool

    • 6. Selecting a Reference Image

    • 7. Illustrating a Portrait

    • 8. Coloring Your Illustration

    • 9. Finalizing Your Illustration

    • 10. Final Thoughts

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About This Class


In this class, you will be mastering the pen tool in Illustrator by creating beautiful custom portraits. By the end of this class, you will know how to take any image and turn it into a custom illustration. This class is for beginners and anyone looking to freshen up their skills in Illustrator. 

What You Will Learn: 

  • How to set up an Artboard
  • Illustrator Toolbar Basics
  • Functions of the Pen Tool
  • Hotkeys and Shortcuts
  • Color and Composition
  • Illustrating a Portrait 
  • Finalizing an Illustration


Meet Your Teacher

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Bre Cain

One of Those Creative Types


Hello, I'm Bre!

I am a small business owner, filmmaker, and graphic designer. I have a spunky seven-month-old daughter, two massive dogs named Kita and Guinness, and a kick-butt partner that I have the privilege of doing life with. I am a born and raised North Dakotan but currently reside in Salt Lake City, UT. I drink an excessive amount of coffee, I love a good adventure, and I daydream of buying land and homesteading in the middle of nowhere.

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1. Introduction: Hi, I'm Bre. I'm a small Business Owner, Freelance Designer, and Filmmaker in the Salt Lake City Valley. Throughout this Skillshare series, I'm going to be teaching practical skills that you can take with you to elevate your marketing and designing your own business. In this class, you're going to be learning how to master the Pen tool in Illustrator, in order to create beautiful custom illustrations. I'm going to show you how to get set up in Illustrator. We're going to walk through the toolbar, and I'm also going to show you how to use some hotkeys to make your work more efficient and easier. I'll also be showing you how I illustrate a portrait from start to finish, and share with you all the tips and tricks that I have along the way. By the end of this class, I hope you come away with a better understanding of Illustrator, and a portrait of your family or pet that you can be proud of and tackle up on the fridge. You can get your portrait framed or printed on coffee mugs. You can also use this to elevate your social media or even illustrate your head-shot. This classes catered towards beginners or people looking to freshen up their skills with the Pen tool. I'm so excited to see what you guys create. Pour yourself a cup of coffee and let's get started. 2. Class Project: For this class project, you're going to be working off of an image that you will turn into a custom illustration using the Pen tool in Illustrator. The sky is really the limit, so get creative and think about something or someone you would love to turn into a custom piece of art. A custom illustration can make a great unique gift as we roll into the holiday season. I've also done custom illustrations for people on their wedding day that they can cherish on their anniversary. There are so many things you can make with this skill. So Be thinking about this if you want to make your final project into a product. Throughout the class, I'll give you tips on finding the perfect image to base your illustration on path, help you get familiar with the Pen tool and teach you how to color your illustration. As we move through the class, you'll submit a rough outline of your illustration and get valuable feedback on your design. For the final project, I'll show you how to make your illustration look polished and walk you through how to clean up your anchor points and paths. At the end, you're going to post your final illustration to the class project and show off your new skill to the community. 3. Setting up an Artboard: For this project, we're going to go ahead and work off of an 8.5 by 11. You can set your width and height in these boxes, and then this is going to be your increments. I like to work in inches just because it makes it a little easier. Then think about the orientation of your illustration, if you want it vertical or horizontal. For this illustration, I'm going to be doing mine vertically. Then you can also set the number of art boards that you would like. I'm also going to set that to one. For this project I don't need any bleeds, so I'm going to go ahead and turn that off, and then CMYK mode is going to be your print mode. So if you're wanting to have this illustration printed on a product, I recommend using this color mode. If you're looking to just post it online, you would use RGB and that is going to be your web color mode. I like to get my stuff printed, so I'm going to be working in CMYK. Then once we have all of our options selected, we can go ahead and create our art board. Then it's going to pop up, and this is your illustrator program. In the next video, we're going to talk through all of the tools that we're going to be using in this class. 4. Illustrator Toolbar Basics: Let's go ahead and walk through our toolbar. This is our Selection tool. We're going to use this one quite a bit, and the hotkey is really helpful to remember. If you're on a Mac, it's just V, and you can see that in parentheses when I hover over the tool. The other tool we're going to be using a lot, especially to clean up our paths is going to be the Direct Selection tool. That's this white arrow right here. The hotkey for that is A. Then we're going to be going through with the Pen tool. This is actually how we're going to create our illustration, and we'll talk all about anchor points and paths, and best practices with that in our coming video. The other tool that we're going to be using quite frequently is our Eye Dropper tool, and a lot of this is going to be coloring our image. When we're working off of a reference image, we're going to be pulling colors from that to be able to get accurate colors within our illustration. There's three places that you can find the colors for coloring your illustration. You have your fill coloring, your stroke color over here on the bottom left. In this, you can just double click on to select and manipulate your colors for your illustration. You also have a Swatches panel up here. So you've got your fill color, your stroke color, again, and then you can also find them on the right-hand side in this little box labeled Swatches. These ones are set colors that just come preset in the program, but you're welcome to create a custom color profile if you would like. That's something we're going to be using a lot throughout this course. The other one that I wanted to talk about was the Pathfinder tool. This, if for any reason it's not on your screen, you're going to go up to Window, and then come down to Pathfinder right here. Then, it'll pop up over here. If for some reason it's detached and it pops up in a little box right here, you can just go ahead and click and drag and hover it over in your toolbar on the right hand side. This one is how we're going to do a lot of cleaning up of our illustration. There's lots of cool options in here as far as trimming and merging and dividing. These three are going to be the main ones that we use throughout this illustration process. Those are our toolbar basics. As you illustrate, you're going to get more familiar with each of these tools. 5. Working with the Pen Tool: Let's go ahead and get started with our Pen tool. We're going to come over here, or you can just select P if you're on a MacBook, and it's going to pull up your Pen tool. What we're going to do is we're going to be working with anchor points and paths. When you click down and let go, you're going to be creating an anchor point or a reference point. That's like your starting off point. Everything that you do next is going to be coming from this point. If we wanted to create a straight line, we would just move our path over here. This blue line gives you a projection of what the line is going to look like. You can go ahead and click and release. Now we have a black line right there. Let's go ahead and make a rectangle. I'm going to click and release, and click and release. When I get back up to the top, notice that at the bottom right of the Pen tool is a circle, so that means I'm completing the shape. We'll go ahead and complete the shape. Then there you have a rectangle. The next thing I want to show you is how to do curved lines. All you need to do is click and drag instead of letting go. You're going to get these little handlebars right here. Click and drag. Then notice that our line is going to be curved. I'm going to come over here and click and drag. Now we're creating curved lines. I've completed the shape right there. It is not a perfect circle, but that is okay. I want you to go through and practice with this. The other thing that I wanted to show you is that while you have your shape selected, you'll notice that when I hover over this anchor point, it has a minus sign. If there's already an existing anchor point and you hover over it, you can click on it and then it will actually delete that anchor point, but still keep the shape completed just without that point. Then if I hover over the path where there isn't an anchor point yet, I can click and let go and it's going to add that anchor point. This can be really helpful, especially when we're cleaning up or manipulating our illustrations. Go ahead and practice that as well. I also wanted to show you what happens if you don't complete your shape. Lets say we're going here, we're going to make a triangle and we end here. What we can do, we can go back to our Pen tool or I just select P. Then you'll notice this dash next to the Pen tool. When you click on that anchor point, it's going to re-select to that path and let you finish your shape. With the Pen tool, if you get to a point where you have this line and it's wanting to make a curve, you can go ahead and select the anchor point and it's actually going to delete that handlebar so that you can make a straight line again. 6. Selecting a Reference Image: Now, we're at the part in the course where you're going to be selecting your reference image. You can see here, I have my reference image. There's a couple of things that I think through, when I'm selecting my image to illustrate. One of them is going to be the angle in which the photo was shot. This one is shot straight on, so you can see their head and their feet, and it's just going to make for a really clean illustration. The next thing that I consider is resolution, so with the images, they're made out of pixels. You can see if I zoom in really far, they're these splotchy boxes. You don't want it to be too pixelated so you can't see the outline of what you're illustrating. In order to place your image on your art board, you can put it on your desktop and then go ahead and click and drag it onto your art board. This image came in much bigger than my art board so I'm going hold down "Shift" and "Option" and go to the corner and click and drag so I can make that smaller. The reason I hold down Shift and Option is that so when I'm decreasing the size, it keeps the image in the same proportions, versus if I were to just click and drag, it can skew the image. 7. Illustrating a Portrait: Once you have your image selected and it's on your artboard, we're going to go ahead and start illustrating. You can select "P" on your keyboard, which is the hot key to get into the Pen Tool. I like to start top to bottom and I work on the small details first, and then go into the larger details. As I'm getting set-up, I like to turn off my fill color and then make sure my stroke color is on black. Then once I have those illustrated, I'll select both of those. We're going to come into the Eyedropper Tool. I'm going to eyedropper the color of the inside of the ear. I'm going to right-click, and go to my Arrange and send that to the back. As I'm working through my illustration, I'm illustrating and then sending that shape to the back so I can see my reference image clearly. Next, I'm going to go ahead and work on the hair, make sure you turn your fill color off. You can also select "D" to get it back to that black and white coloring, and then just turn that top layer off. Remember when you're doing curved lines you're going to click-and-drag, and we're basically just tracing the shape. It doesn't have to be perfect. Then make sure once you get to the end you're completing the shape. You can go ahead and select "I" to get to your Eyedropper Tool and then I'm just going to eyedropper the color of the hair, and then right-click Arrange, Send to Back. Now we can jump into working on some of the facial hair. Make sure you press" D" again and turn off that top fill color. As you work through the illustration, it's going to become easier to identify what hot keys you need to be using. You can select "I" for the Eyedropper. Now we've got his facial hair, we're going to Arrange and Send to Back. We're turn off that top layer, press "P" to get back to my Pen Tool. Now that I've done the smaller details, I'm going to go ahead and outline the face. I like to think of every feature as a separate shape. So the head is going to be a shape, the neck is going to be a shape, the hands are going to be another shape. If you do something that you want to have undone you can just press "Command Z", and that is going to undo your last anchor point. Because I have the hair illustration done, I'm going to really quickly just go where I know the shape is going to overlap, and then complete my shape. We'll go into our Eyedropper Tool, select "Arrange" and Send to Back. If I go ahead and move this image, you can see the illustration is starting to take shape. If the color is not perfect don't worry about that, we're going to be adjusting that later. Basically, you're just going to keep going shaped by shape and illustrate as you go down. I'm going to go ahead and speed up the video so you can see my completed illustration, and then we'll move on to the next step. Once you have completed all the shapes of your illustration, you can go ahead and move your reference image. This is what it looks like, just purely from tracing a reference image. Obviously, some colors are really off, we're going to manipulate that. There are some gaps and spaces in there. But at this point, go ahead and submit your project so that we can take a look at it and see how you did with the Pen Tool. 8. Coloring Your Illustration: Now we're going to dive in to coloring our illustration. We're going to work with our direct selection tool, or you can press A, which is the hot key for the direct selection. To select multiple things, you just hold down Shift as you're clicking on the shapes. I want these all to be a similar color and you can mess around until you get a good flesh tone color that you're happy with. Then once I have a color that I'm happy with, I like to reference my other shades off of that color. Play around with your colors, see what feels good, see what looks good. Now I have a better matching skin tone. Then I'm going to move into the clothes. This pulled a little bit of a blue I'm actually going to [inaudible] black dress, and maybe make it like a dark charcoal, right there, that looks much better. Then his jeans are also quite a bit darker. We'll go ahead and pull a little bit of a darker color there. The next step is to clean up our illustration. I'll walk you through how to clean up those paths and anchor points, so here illustration looks a little more polished. 9. Finalizing Your Illustration: As we wrap up our illustration, we're going to go ahead and adjust our anchor points and paths and make this look a little bit cleaner. You can see there's little white gaps in places. Again, I just like to start at the top and look at the illustration and see what feels a little bit off. It's like this angle right here is really harsh. To go ahead and select an anchor point, you can just click and drag. I'm going to have that meet up there. I'm going to move that just a little bit. Double-click and move that up. Then notice down here how this doesn't have a handle on it, but my handle is down here so I can go ahead and stretch that up just so it overlays really nicely. Go ahead and move this up a little bit. This is just where you're going to finesse, move things around until they look good. Also, if you notice that certain things are in front when they should be in back, you can go ahead and rearrange them by right-clicking press "Arrange" and "Send to back". Now we have a really nice overlap on that neck and shirt. You may need to zoom in and get really close to your illustration so you can complete those lines really nicely. Her hand right here should have a shadow behind it. So I'm going to go ahead and create a shape of an eye dropper of that skin color and I'm going to go quite a bit darker because it is a shadow. And then I'm going to arrange and send that to back so that it looks like her hand has little bit of a shadow on it. Go ahead and just this. So finesse and see what feels good to you. Your shapes are overlapping. so you just want to continue to have them overlap so you get a really seamless look. And if you're wanting to select two anchor points at the same time, go ahead and hold "Shift" and then you can select just those two anchor points, which is really nice. You'll solve this little guy here if you want to make a curve out of those straight lines, you can pull down on that and it's going to curve things out. So right here you'll notice that I have this sleeve that should be on top. But I made this cut right here on the hand, so that is just not going to work. So what we're going to do is this is going to be a really great place to add anchor points. So I'm going to pull things down so I can see, I'm going to come into my pen tool and then add this a couple more anchor points on there. I'm going to press "A" again so that I can manipulate these. And I'm just going to trace along this path. 10. Final Thoughts: All right. Now, that looks pretty good. To go ahead and finish up, if I highlight everything, you'll notice where all those paths are overlapping and all those shapes are overlapping. So I'm going to come over here and I'm just going to trim it with our Pathfinder tool. What that does if I were to go into the direct selection, it just trims out any of that excess. There is our final illustration. If you want to come in here to the type tool, you can go ahead and put a fancy name on here. This is one of my favorite fonts when I'm doing illustrations for people. Maybe we want to turn that a little bit. Come into our brush tool. There you have it guys, start to finish. There's a completed illustration. From here, you can go ahead and get this printed, you can put it on a card, you can send it to your friends, and the skill is really great for illustrating everything from objects to people to pets. There's a lot of different uses for it. Thank you so much for joining me for this Skillshare class. I had so much fun illustrating with you. Please drop your final illustration in the projects, and I'd love to see what you guys have created.