2. Three Portraits

Refer to the following additional Resource Links:


Using the image of a 2 famous/recognizable persons and you as templates, create three different styles of portrait drawings. You choose which person to use for each of the graphic styles described below. Think about this as a series or group. What connections or meaning might you infer between the three by your choices.

  1. high-contrast
  2. posterization
  3. “scanner darkly”


Step 1

Create a high contrast, shape oriented version of the person chosen for step one. Determine the minimum level of detail that is needed for step one. Generally speaking you are converting all values of gray that are 50% or darker to black and by default, all values less than 50% to white. The 50% level is arbitrary. You can decide where “50%” is. However, you must be consistent throughout the entire image.


Key Tips for Step/Style I—High-Contrast

  • Create a grayscale version of your reference portrait photograph in Photoshop. Manipulate the Levels to boost contrast in the image to make it easier for you to identify shadow and highlight areas. Save it as a 100 ppi JPEG.
  • Use the Place command in Illustrator to import your PS JPEG image. Put it in a Template layer
  • You can alternatively turn the grayed template layer off or on to check your progress.
  • Look for simple shapes that are repeated throughout the drawing. Use cut, copy, paste, and duplicate functions to speed up your work. Modify the shapes by reflecting, scaling or rotating shapes.
  • Group smaller sets of shapes within the drawing and then stretch, rotate or scale the entire group to get the look you want.
  • Determine the direction that the primary light source is coming from. This is a high contrast drawing. Look for shadow and highlight shapes as well as shapes of objects (hats, glasses, eyes, etc)
  • Set the stroke color to none and the fill color to black to draw with the pen or pencil. This is the opposite settings that we might normally use with either of these tools..
  • Use Beziér handles to control smooth curves, not a lot of points.


Key Tips for Step/Style II—Posterization

This drawing should be a “posterization”. Looking at the shading on your face, break this pattern of light down into 5 or 6 specific shapes of gray value.

Screen shot 2013-02-20 at 10.38.52 AM

  • Change your color palette to Grayscale, not RGB or CMYK
  • Create Swatches of 10 levels of gray (10%, 20%, 30%… 100% black) and make those swatches spot global colors. Do this by first opening up the black color and changing the color mode to grayscale, saving this to the swatches pallet. Duplicate this swatch and then make each of the additional levels of gray from it. Add them to the swatches pallet. If you have done this correctly the swatches will each have a white triangle in their lower right corner (indicating global color) and a black dot in the middle of the triangle (indicating spot color).

Screen shot 2013-02-20 at 10.39.34 AM

Additional Tip

If your placed image file is either too dark or too light for you to easily see the shadows and highlights in the midrange areas, you may want to return to PhotoShop and further adjust the value range on the image.

To do this easily, first go to your Links pallet and choose your image. Then from the options select “Edit Original”. This will open the file in PS where you can make adjustments. Save the changes and when you return to Illustrator the file will automatically update in exactly the same spot and size.

If your file opens in Preview instead of PS, you may need to do one additional setup step. From the Desktop select (not open) any JPEG file. Then from the Menu bar>>File select “Get Info” or press command + I keys. Locate the “Open With” option and select Photoshop. Lastly click “change all” to apply this to all future JPEG images. Now, when you do the “Edit Original” step in Illustrator, the placed JPEG will open in PS not in Preview.

Use the eyedropper tool to sample values from the image. You can also create small squares, each filled with the vales from the grayscale ramp you created. Move these over the template image to compare values and help you determine where there are similar values throughout the entire image.

Key Tips for Step/Style III —“Scanner Darkly”

The third portrait follows a slightly different, but similar, process than that of the first two drawings you have been working on. This is meant to give you a little experience following a different approach to building a drawing in Illustrator. It is one that is often followed in drawing for animation/film. The is a technique that is well represented in the movie “A Scanner Darkly.” Refer to the steps in this link as a reference for achieving the effect.

Use the Smooth Tool (option from the Pencil Tool) to selectively simplify or smooth out small parts of an outline. Use the Simplify Object command (found under the Object Menu) to do the same for an entire shape. Double click the pencil tool to bring up these options and reset to look like the settings below. (the options panel in the tutorial is from an older version of Illustrator and looks a little different).


Step IV—Combine files and Typography

Once you have completed all three (or four, see below) drawings:

  • “Save As” each file separately and rename each by adding the word “print” to title.
  • Flatten layers (option found in the layers window)
  • Convert all type to outlines (found under “Type” from the main menu)
  • Group each drawing (command + G)
  • Copy and Paste Steps 1 and 2 into the step 3 file (command + C, Command + V)
  • Resize the artboard to a 12 x 18 inch horizontal layout (artboard) (show rulers, guides, artboard tool)
  • Resize images and do final tweaks on each so they work together compositionally.
  • Add a background. This could be in the form of a “setting” or it could be because of the way the three images connect with one another or it could be a stylistic reference, graphic novel look, expressionism, graffiti, etc. Crop in on the group to create a more dynamic composition.
  • Find a quotation from each of your famous people. They should have something in common with one another, similar words, similar topic, etc.—same topic.
  • Create a quotation for yourself based on the wording and sentiment of the first two. Imagine if the three of you were together having a conversation. Your quote is essentially what you might say in that conversation.
  • Arrange the typography of each quote so that they integrate with the images. Choice of typeface, placement, size, etc. are prime influences on doing this successfully.
  • Create bleed area (main menu»Document Setup»bleed».125″)
  • extend (bleed) all image parts that go to edges of your paper out to the red line (bleed area surrounding the artboard)
  • Save As, again and name “Final print + your name”
  • Be sure to make a backup copy of this file


Below are various examples of portraits completed in some sort of posterized style. they are meant to give you some ideas about color or composition or style. They are not meant as literal examples of this assignment.


Your Final Presentation/Printing

For the Epson 4900 be sure to do the following:

  • Use ISO numbers when specifying  paper size. For example, select Super A3/B (Sheet) as the paper size for 13 x 19 inch paper. 
  • If printing 12 x 18 images with bleeds to Super A3B paper (sheet), select “fit to page” under the General Print settings to print all trim marks.

Optional Additional Step V—Gradient Mesh

The purpose of this style optional step is realism. The gradient mesh tool is the single most effective tool in achieving this modeling/chiaroscuro effect. However, combinations of all gradient tools and special brushes are usually necessary to achieve a lifelike 3D form. Your 3 main tools or options for achieving shading in Illustrator are the mesh tool, the blending of two shapes, and the gradient fills. The blended shaded, versions of the morphs below relied heavily on the use of the gradient mesh.

Online tips and tutorials for getting the most from the Gradient MESH TOOL:

Keys to Step IV

  • First draw the main contour of the face, excluding hair, ears, beards, etc.
  • Change your color palette to Grayscale, not RGB or CMYK
  • Create Swatches of the 5 or 6 levels of gray and make those swatches global colors
  • Fill the face shape with a 50% gray value. Then lower its transparence (opacity) so that you can see the photographic image underneath.
  • Using the gradient mesh tool click once on the location of the main highlight, usually the tip of the nose.
  • Adjust the resulting mesh lines so that the vertical one follows the middle of the nose up through the center of the forehead and down through the middle of the lips and chin.
  • You may have to delete a shape contour point in order to reposition a mesh contour point. Then add the shape contour point back if necessary, now on the other side of the mesh point.
  • Generally, add as few mesh lines as possible. Add them by clicking on an already existing mesh line and on a point where other facial highlights occur, for example on the cheek bones. Adjust the lines as necessary to follow the basic bone structure of the face.
  • Add separate shapes for ears, lips, nose eyes on top of the main face mesh.
  • Use radial gradients or blended shapes, or gradient meshes on these smaller individual feature shapes to give them dimension.
  • Smooth the value between these added features and the main mesh by sampling the values with the eyedropper. Then fine tune by adjusting points, and using feathering.
  • Hair and beards, can be created with the watercolor brushes. Adjust weight and color (Value) of the brush shape for the best results.