Vector Illustration: Using Creative Constraints to Find Your Style | Hedof (Rick Berkelmans) | Skillshare

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Vector Illustration: Using Creative Constraints to Find Your Style

teacher avatar Hedof (Rick Berkelmans), Illustrator

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

7 Lessons (36m)
    • 1. Introduction

    • 2. Limits Inspire Creativity

    • 3. Start With Sketching

    • 4. Moving to Illustrator

    • 5. Adding Color

    • 6. Adding Details and Finalizing

    • 7. Final Thoughts

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About This Class

Develop your personal style and play with striking color combinations with illustrator Rick Berkelmans of Hedof studio!

Join Rick in a thoughtful, fun class about the power of limitations — whether your own (Rick can’t draw shoes) or the ones you impose (like a limited color palette)! You’ll start by sketching what’s around you, learn to use the Dynamic Sketch plugin to draw more naturally in Adobe Illustrator, and finish off your piece with vibrant colors. While Dynamic Sketch has changed Rick’s workflow for the better, you don’t need to use it — whether you decide to try it or not, you’ll work alongside Rick to create a bold, vibrant vector illustration you can be proud of.

In this step-by-step class, you’ll learn how to:

  • Develop a strong, balanced composition
  • Use Dynamic Sketch, an Adobe Illustrator plugin
  • Create a bold, limited color palette that works for you
  • Explore your creativity by playing with color and shape

Creative folks of all skill levels are welcome to join in with Rick to create a beautiful illustration you can print and hang or give as a gift — and learn a whole new set of tools to add to your creative arsenal!

This class is open to all levels, though some experience with Adobe Illustrator is suggested to make it easier to follow along. Familiarity with plugins is also helpful, as Rick uses Dynamic Sketch for his own illustrations and demonstrates it throughout.

Meet Your Teacher

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Hedof (Rick Berkelmans)



Hedof is the one-man creative studio of Dutch illustrator Rick Berkelmans. His striking illustration work is a thoughtful, well-balanced composition full of candy colored sceneries, suspicious characters and wonky shapes that reflect Rick's positive attitude and his studio filled with silly looking toys.

Berkelmans' laid back, yet smart approach to image making has found its way into numerous magazines, products, advertising campaigns, installations and huge walls, all over the globe.

Always able to maintain a strong, recognizable voice while working through different disciplines for clients such as Nike, The New York Times, Nickelodeon, Ikea, Samsung, KLM Airlines, Lotte World Mall, Nestle, Green Man Festival, Red Bull, Playsta... See full profile

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1. Introduction: All of these things that make you you, they make your work way more unique than the stuff that you're good at because the things that make you weird or different, that has a fun effect on your style. Hi. My name is Rick Berkelmans. I'm from the Netherlands. I am an illustrator and today I will be teaching you how to work in Adobe Illustrator but with limitations. As an illustrator or freelance creative in general, it's always very helpful to have a very distinct voice or style. Your style is very much based around you. It's based on the stuff that you are good at but more importantly the stuff that you are bad at actually. So for example, I'm terrible at drawing shoes. So I just draw every body bare feet, which is weird sometimes but makes it to be more personal and unique. The two major things that we're talking about today is working with limited colors and also I will talk about how I translated my more natural way of drawing to Adobe Illustrator. This calls basically for everybody because it's all about having a personal style which is based around your own story and your own limitations. So I'm super excited by doing this class today, and hope you are too. I can't wait to see what you guys came up with, and you can share your work in the Project Gallery. Thank you for joining the class, and let's get started. 2. Limits Inspire Creativity: So I really like working with limitations, and I think as a commercial illustrator, you always have to work within limitations. But for me, I see it as a good thing because it makes you more creative. When I create personal work, for example, I tend to use the same colors over and over. So in a project, when you agree on certain set of colors that isn't within your comfort zone, you just build your work rounded. In the end, it will definitely surprise you and think, "Hey, actually this is not so bad at all." So when I was in art school, I just tried out everything, and I was not focused. I had no idea of what I wanted to create or what style should I have? So I was just all over the place and I didn't enjoy doing this. But just before graduation, we threw a party with friends and we needed a poster. I thought, okay, maybe we can screen print it because it's super cheap. Then when I lifted that screen for the very first time and I saw the layers mixing on top of each other into a third color, it was exactly what I've been looking for, and I instantly fell in love with printmaking. Printmaking is all about limitations, of course, because every color layer makes the design harder to print, but also it makes it more expensive. So you have to set these boundaries of not picking too much color, and then within those limitations, you have to be really smart about getting the highest possible result. That's something that I really like. So if you feel limited about not knowing how to use Adobe Illustrator, don't worry, because the plug-in is going to be really easy. But the other limitation that we are using is a limited color palette, which is three or four color stops. So throughout the process, you will definitely see how beneficial working with limitations will be and just using limited colors or a limited technique, and then find your own way within those boundaries. So first, we will start with a sketch, because no matter how good all the programs and plug-ins are today, I always start with a pencil on paper. 3. Start With Sketching: You can really know your programs like Photoshop or Illustrator but still like sketching, the input for me is so important. So I just sketch a lot and then make sure that the drawing that I start working with is the best possible version of what I can do. So I try to sketch everyday, at least like half an hour or an hour and this is what it looks like, it's just sheets of paper. I don't necessarily work in a sketchbook because in a sketchbook I get nervous that I will mess up and then it's not cool anymore. So I will just use simple sheets of paper and I just start somewhere in the corner and just fill it up, and even then I reacts on the shapes on the paper. So it allows me to work with forms that I'm not familiar with and the results are always more surprising and fun. So I just do this like all the time and then these drawings they end up in my work basically. All these sketches combined for me is my most prized possession, but it is still a safe zone. You are always allowed to mess up and even like the uglier sketches are always more funny or more surprising and always more useful as well. So even sometimes I just start working on, I don't know, a dog for example, and then while sketching, you get into some weird like flow state and it might end up as a tree or whatever. You can use those shapes and you can turn the paper like 90 degrees or whatever and just work and experiment. So as I'm sketching, I'm just doing whatever and I always look around me where I am or something that I can use. At the moment, I'm surrounded by plants, so I just start drawing plants and I think it's a very cool shape to work with. But just in general, I just try to make fun shapes that interact with each other and just make a nice little blend of characters and items, make it fun. I always use a mechanical pencil because that line is very consistent and very sharp. I've looked for a nice material for so long to sketch with and I don't like regular pencils and these mechanical ones are really easy to use. I'm not afraid of messing up the sketch. Whenever I go into a direction of what I think is, "Okay, this is too ugly or whatever", I just take a moment and see, "How can I fix this?" Most of the times when I've fix it is one of my favorite pieces on the sheet of paper. So when I have these sketches, I have a very big pile of all usable things that I can use for my client work or personal work. So for today, I'm just going through some of these sketches and I really like how this character is like sitting, so maybe this could be at the bottom of the composition. Because I always try to have a nice balance in the composition of characters and surrounding items and how they interact with each other. So I just usually flip through these sketches and then I pick whatever is strongest or suitable for the idea or concept that I'm doing at the moment. So for example, I really like this guy or maybe like I said, the plant could be a cool thing to work with, so I just go over them and make a selection and just start combining them in one big sheet of paper. When building a composition, I always try to think of rhythms, so I don't want every part of the illustration to feel the same. So that's why, for example, I combine more graphic shapes with more organic like plant shapes. I have like one or two main subjects or characters and then I build something around that as well. I just think about this while drawing and it's almost like creating a song. You don't want every part of the song to sound the same, you want melodies and other things in the song that will make it more diverse, I guess. Drawing is like the same. So I will just start working on a composition now and I will encourage you to do the same and then from there we can take it into the final drawing. So this is what I came up with. I always like to draw humans interacting with nature and I always try to make it a bit weird and mysterious. So here is this character slicing open an animal and there's another person watching and it's like a weird situation. But I really try to mix organic shapes with people and more graphic shapes. So I will clean up this sketch and scan them into the computer. 4. Moving to Illustrator: So I have scanned in my design and I'm now ready to start tracing. You can even take a picture because you don't need a very sharp scan, it's just a place holder. So what I will do is create a new file. I'm European, so I think in centimeters, I think 70 wide and 100 high is big enough. Then I will just paste in my sketch. It's way too prominent now, so I will just go to transparency. It's already on multiply. So this means that it's transparent, but it's still too dark. So I will set this to 20, maybe 15, as long as I can see it but it's not too distracting. So you have installed the Dynamic Sketch plug-in, and here are the settings. This is the base settings and I will open a new layer where I start tracing. I'll put this layer on the bottom and put the layer with the sketch on top on lock, so it won't shift. So if you go to two the right layer, you see there's some weird string on your line. It works just like a pencil tool or like a brush, but the line is very distracting, so it's called string, and I will just get that off. It's also responding to the stroke weight and sketching speed. But I will just turn it off as well. I just want a clear line. So let's do this way. You can already seen what I'm doing a bit. This can go as well. So I just start somewhere in the corner. So with the Dynamic Sketch tool, you can just draw really organically and even if you make mistakes, you can just go over them and just make the lines better. Then you can just trace your drawings, which is really nice. I will set the lines to round and around corners and I'll just choose a bit thinner line. With Dynamic Sketch, especially in combination with the Wacom, you can just draw all the parts that you need. Here's the best part. You can connect them by pressing Shift and then you will cut away all the extra bits which will turn it into one big line. Also, if you need straight lines, because of course they're straight lines in the design, you hold the Option key and then you can have a straight line, which is super helpful. Again, I will just cut it away. If you need a line to be horizontal, you also press the Option key, but also do a shift. So then they are perfectly straight. So yeah. It's basically a combination of the pen tool, but also it is a shape builder basically. So it's like pen tool and pathfinder combined, which is really all you basically need in Illustrator. So I will just continue tracing my piece and you should do too. So now we have our final sketch and we start the coloring part. I actually bought this plugin by accident, I thought I had ordered something else. Because it's originally created as a sketch plugin just to make you sketch in Illustrator, but I thought, okay, yeah, I can now make line drawings, which is nice, but I wanted it to be color shapes instead of lines, but I never new how to do it. So it took me four months to figure out, but it's actually quite easy. So let's turn off the sketch layer. Actually, we'll throw it away because I don't need it anymore. This is the final line drawing. I will now select my whole drawing, and then I will copy this, create a new layer, let me turn this off, and I will paste it into layer with Command F. So it's exactly on the same place where the line-drawing is. Now I will go to Live Paint, Make and then you will swap the fill and stroke. So now it's all shapes instead of lines. Then you need to expand that. So you go to Object, Expand and now it's all shapes. You see all the line work is gone and you need to ungroup it because now it's grouped. So you go to Command Shift G, and then it's all shapes. So once you have finished this process, you are ready to start coloring, which is the fun part. 5. Adding Color: So I quickly will go into Photoshop and pick three colors. I'm sticking to the basic principles of CMYK because then I can really explain how the printmaking aspect works. So I'll create a new layer. I will use yellow, I will use like a pink color and blue. Then when I copy this layer and move it around in multiply, so you can see what colors do to each other. For example, the blue and the pink make a nice purple color. So I will definitely use that one, and the pink and yellow will make an orange. So I said we will stay within three colors, but even though we have these three, they can mix into new ones. So I will use a black one for the outlines as well. So these are the colors that I will be doing. So like I said, my coloring process is very much based around printmaking and with printmaking, you'll print the layers on top of each other like I just did digitally here in Photoshop. So that's how we will approach this process in Illustrator as well. So I will just copy these colors and paste them in Illustrator. What I now will do, I will make a vector version of the swatches. So I just use the circle tool, create a circle, copy, paste it a bunch of times by copy and then press F, and then I will put them nicely in a row by using a line. You can search for them in window, but it's already up here. We need six. So I just really like things well organized and that's why I do this. Then I will use the eyedropper tool to give them a nice color. So this is the black, this can be yellow, and orange, and pink, and purple. I now have a vector version of this. So I will just make the whole illustration yellow so I can see a bit better, and then I will just start coloring. I will turn off. You can even move this layer around so you can see the shapes. So then I will just start somewhere. I usually start with the most prominent shape, and I think that can be orange as well. Then I will just use the eyedropper tool and the selection tool. That's how I basically approach it. I just start by just trying to see what works and what I can do here. Sometimes I see the pink and orange, it's not too much contrast. Maybe this needs to be white. I think this can be black. Maybe here in the flower I can use the pink. I think that works. The eye, for example, needs to be black or purple. I think a lot of this coloring is based on experience, but while you're doing it, you will definitely feel what is right and what is wrong. So just experiment and just sometimes save different versions. Here for example, this is not working because orange and orange. Now you can see the illustration clear, but I usually do this without the lines. Then because it's going to look like this, and then you will see what the end result is going to look like. So I usually do it without the line work. So for example, I will make this part pink, but since this is mixing with the blue, if I were screen printing, this pink shape would be overlapped by the blue. So that's why I want to use that purple mixing color. So now you really got this printmaking color layer feel, which is giving it a nice look, a nice touch. I think this can be blue as well, and then the eye needs to be black because then it's more prominent. Like I said, the orange here is not working, so I can definitely do purple, but it's too close to that. So I think this really needs to be pink. So this coloring process is always like a really fun puzzle to make. So I will just continue puzzling and I hope you will enjoy doing the same. Sometimes when you are coloring, you see that something isn't working, so you need to edit the shape a bit. The cool thing about dynamic sketch is that you can not only redraw the lines, you can also use it to change the shapes, which is really a cool feature. So for example, I want this skin color to be white, but then you won't see the nose. So what I'm going to do is I will just alter the shape of this tree here, and it will cover more of the background so you will see a hint of the nose. So this is the final color. As you can see, I made some adjustments because while coloring, you always spot some things that could be better. The really cool thing about the dynamic sketch is that you can just adjust the shapes with the tool as well. Now, we have the basic outlines of what the design will be. Everything is like a nice mix. You see as much yellow as you see pink, blue is really nicely balanced together. I'm happy with this design, but to make the design complete readable, you need to add some extra details that really make the design more fun and give it a bit more rhythm as well. So up next, we will be adding the line work. 6. Adding Details and Finalizing: So now I will be adding some line work to polish this up. There's two ways to do this basically. You can just start drawing again like this is the shape color, and I will just flip it back to line again, and I will go to the stroke part. I think a four or five point stroke will be nice. I like the stroke stuff like round corners and round ends, so I will just click on this part here as well. So this is the stroke thing that I want. I will now go back to dynamic sketch and start drawing, this can go, and I will just start adding the lines; bring back the mouth, maybe here, I need a bit of detail. This is all like the black lines. Like here it feels a bit unnatural and I wanted it to be orange again, so I will just use the Eyedropper tool for the right shade of orange. I will flip it to line again and go for that stroke, the same settings. So now I can just work in orange lines. For example, the fingers need to be brought back as well. So not really, I can just if you place them not exactly on the right part, you can just move them around as well and just do whatever feels right and you can definitely play around. So this is one way to do it. I will just go back. So this is the other way. We still, because we copied the line drawing, we still have it here. So you can just ungroup that layer and then you will select all the lines that stand out. So you will try to select as much of these lines as possible, basically all of these that you can see and see which ones you really need. But you need to select and press the Shift button. Keep on pressing the Shift button while selecting, but you can select a whole bunch of them. I'm selecting as many as possible then I can see now. I will definitely forget a few, but we can just do them later. It's okay. So I think I have most of them and then I will copy and paste them in the layer that I need by pressing Command F. Now, you can see all of these lines are on the right place. They are super black, and I've used a dark shade of blue. So since they're still selected, you can also Select and then you go to Same and then you go to Stroke Color or Stroke Weight. That way you can select them as well, but since these are all selected, I don't have to do this. Then I will just use the Eyedropper tool again. Now it shapes, but I need to swap them. So now it's lines again. I go to the line part and then put them on the four point width round corners and then it's all the lines that I wanted. But I really like them when some of them have the right color. Like for example, here I want some lines to be orange. So I can just select that line, make it orange. So flip it again, use this settings, and then it's orange, and you can do this with other parts as well. So I think we're done now. I have added some details. I edited some shapes as well, and I added all the lines that I needed. Basically, the design is finished now, but I usually take it into Photoshop and do some final tweaking and I do it is by just selecting the whole thing, copy it and then this is my new Photoshop file. I used the same dimensions and I will paste it in. I usually just do it as a pixel file. So now it's pasted in Photoshop file. I make it smaller holding the Option keys, and now it's just transforming the right way and I just press Enter. So let's first start the coloring process. So I just copied a layer, I turn this one off, and I press Command U, which is the hue saturation. Then when you move this around, you can just easily switch colors. For example, I already like this one, this style, but the yellow is way too poisonous, a bit too bright. So I will just keep it like this and then I will select the yellow by Select, Color Range, and then you can see what part is selecting, but I think now it selected just yellow. I will do the same with Command U, and then I will slide that one into another color. So for example, I don't know, I like this being more yellow, bit more white, for example, and that's how, I just play around with the colors basically. So I will just play around with this for a while. Okay. So we now switch the colors. It is still like super crisp and clean. When I worked in Photoshop with hand-drawn, shapes and styles and not vectors it had more sense of the hand-drawn aspect and more that looks more tactile. I was talking about this with illustrator friends and he taught me about this filter. You need to have a background for this for some reason, I've no idea why. So I create a new layer filled up white and then emerge by pressing Command E. Then I will go to Filter, Filter Gallery. The filter is called Spatter and then I will just zoom out a bit. So you can see it makes it like super fuzzy. This is way too much. So I will set Smoothness up until maximum result. If I zoom in, you just get like a bit like a crunchy line. I think this is still too much. So I will just turn this down a bit and you can see it changing. So I think this is good. If you zoom out, you won't even notice that much. It's just that little extra that makes it look a bit nicer. You can always add some like texture as well. There are a lot of brushes, what I used to do is make some like smudges and shapes my own and then scan them in. What I do is make them, without a background so I just select Color Range, select the black, select like this. Create a new layer, turn this off, and then that will fill it up and I will, just to make it look nice, put another layer with a white background on it. So here it is. So now I can just move this around and I can just copy paste it into my illustration here. So this is going into a new layer and that's just transformed it. Maybe some smudges over here might look cool. I think here it would be nice, so I just leave it there. You can even put down the transparency a bit and then I just select and start in a new layer. Maybe I will just use the green for now, fill it in, and then I will select the Magic Wand Tool. I'll just select that shape so now I have the selection and I will in reverse the selection and delete it in the layer. You don't see it right now. But as soon as I turn this into another color, you'll see my smudge over here. So what I will do is just make it gray, a bit lighter, put it on the multiply, and then play with this Opacity a bit. So its just like a tiny bit of change into the color. I go apply this to some other spots as well. So I'm done now, I'm quite happy with the results. You can just add smudges and textures and switch colors until you are happy too. I can't wait to see what you came up with. You can even download some textures that I've uploaded in the resources gallery as well. So thank you for taking this class, and thank you for sticking with me all the time. 7. Final Thoughts: Congratulations, you just finished the class. Thank you for joining me and I can't wait to see all the stuff that you came up with and you can share this in the party gallery. Thanks again and good luck.