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. Think of the two famous people as influences on you. Choose carefully which style to apply to each person.( styles are described below). Think about this as a series or group. What connections or meaning might you infer between the three by your choices of people, graphic style and overall arrangement—composition. Since your portrait is the only one that will be in color, it will naturally demand a lot of attention by comparison with the other two drawings. Use this to your advantage as you decide on the placement of the three images in creating the final composition/grouping.

  • Step 1—high-contrast
  • Step2—posterization
  • Step 3—“scanner darkly”


Key Tips for Step/Style I—High-Contrast


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.


  • 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 to import your PS JPEG image to Illustrator. Put it in a Template layer
  • Create additional drawing layers on top of the template layer. You will do your drawing in these layers.
  • You can alternatively turn the grayed template layer off or on to check your drawing progress and accuracy.
  • Determine the direction that the primary light source is coming from. This is a high contrast drawing. Look for shadow and highlight shapes —SHAPES OF LIGHT
  • 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.


Will Smith by Dustin McPhillips

  • Tip: Use Illustrator’s rectangle shape tool to create a small (1/4″) rectangle. Fill it with 50% gray and no border. Then with the Selection Arrow, drag it over your template photograph. By comparing it with the value on the area of the photograph that is directly beneath the rectangle, you can tell whether that area of the face should be converted to black or left empty (white). (Darker than the rectangle=black)
  • Use Beziér handles to control smooth curves, not a lot of points.

Key Tips for Step/Style II—Posterization

GOAL for STEP 2:

This drawing should be a “posterization”, made of levels of gray only, no color.


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

  • Open the Color window
  • From the Options (upper right corner of the Color Window) Change your color palette to Grayscale, not RGB or CMYK
  • Open the Swatches Window
  • Drag the Black color from the STROKE icon (located in upper left corner of the Swatches Window) down to the swatch list.
  • Double click the resulting new black swatch so its info window opens.
  • Change the color type to Spot Color and change the Color Mode to Grayscale. (you should also notice that the color is now a Global Color). OK button
  • Duplicate the resulting global Spot Grayscale color 9 more times.
  • Double click each of the resulting swatches and confirm that each is a global, spot grayscale swatch. type in increments of 90, 80, 70, 60… individually for each one. You should end up with Spot Global Swatches of 10 levels of gray (10%, 20%, 30%… 100% black). If you have done this correctly you will have created a grayscale ramp of  swatches that 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


Pablo Picasso by Andrew Ciminelli

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.

Winter Breen - Shepard Fairey - CMYK-o


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

GOAL for STEP 3:

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. The following are additional tips or updates to the tutorial.

In contrast to the Pen tool, the process of drawing with the Pencil tool mimics that of drawing with a real pen on paper. In reality, the Pencil tool is the exact opposite of the Pen tool. With the Pen tool, you define the anchor points, and Illustrator completes the paths. With the Pencil tool, you draw the path, and Illustrator creates the anchor points for you.

If using the Pencil tool to draw paths sounds a lot easier than creating anchor points with the Pen tool, remember that the mouse isn’t the easiest tool to control when you’re trying to draw. Although the Pencil tool is easier to use to create paths, it’s not as easy to create exact or precise paths with it. However, if you have a pressure-sensitive tablet available, the Pencil tool is a bit easier to control.

For technical drawing and precise illustration work, including logo creation and letterforms, you’ll most likely find that the Pen tool offers the fine control you need. You’ll find the Pencil tool useful when you’re working with creative illustrations, cartoons, and projects that require a more natural feel.

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).

Screen Shot 2019-02-04 at 2.00.07 PM

  • Fidelity and Smoothness. Available for both the Pencil and Smooth tools, the Fidelity setting determines how close the vector path is drawn in relation to the movement of your mouse or input pen. A lower Fidelity setting results in a path that more closely matches the exact movement of your mouse. A higher Fidelity setting results in a path that is smoother and less jittery but that may not match your stroke exactly. If you’re good with handling the mouse or if you’re using an input pen, you might go with a lower setting. If you have trouble controlling the mouse or pen precisely, you might benefit from a higher Fidelity setting. The Smoothness setting refers to how much smoothing Illustrator applies to paths as you draw them. The higher the Smoothness setting, the fewer anchor points you’ll see on your paths. If you’re looking for more fluid strokes, increasing the Smoothness setting will help.
  • Fill new pencil strokes. By default, Illustrator creates paths drawn with the Pencil tool as paths with a stroke but no fill. Selecting this option gives you the ability to choose a fill color and create filled paths as you draw them with the Pencil tool. This setting is available for the Pencil tool only, not for the Smooth tool.
  • Keep selected and Edit selected paths. With Illustrator’s default behavior, when you draw a path with the Pencil tool, the path becomes selected as soon as you complete it. You can change this behavior by deselecting the “Keep selected” option. When the “Edit selected paths” option is selected and your pointer is within the specified number of pixels from an existing selected path, Illustrator allows you to modify the selected path by simply drawing over it with the Pencil tool. This can be helpful because it allows you to tweak a path to perfection as you are drawing it, almost as if you were using the Smooth tool. Where this gets in the way, however, is when you intend to draw a new path but inadvertently end up editing a path that is selected instead. This can happen often if you have the “Keep selected” option selected. Many designers prefer to deselect the “Keep selected” option but leave the “Edit selected paths” option selected. This way, if they do need to edit a path, they can Command-click (Ctrl-click) a path to select it; at this point, the “Edit selected paths” option lets them draw over it.
  • Option Key Toggles to Smooth Tool. This is a nice convenient and quick way to switch (toggle) back and forth between the pencil and the smooth tools without having to go back and forth to the tool box. When using the Pencil, simply press the Option key to change it to the smooth tool. Releasing the option key changes the tool back to the pencil.

Katie Nimmo

After drawing with black to identify main shapes, you should then proceed with the colored shapes. In general, you want to do this by working from dark to light. Make a separate layer for each  color. Be sure to stack the darkest layers on top with succeeding light er covered layers underneath. Regardless of how many layers/colors you have, make sure the layers are stacked in an order of dark on top to light on the bottom.

The exception to this is for the hair. If you have black or dark hair, place this layer in the middle of your layers. Then the only layers that go above the hair (black) layer will be the layers for the hair highlights, proceeding dark to light going up. The layers below the hair (black) layer should still proceed dark to light with the lightest on the bottom.

Screen Shot 2019-02-06 at 3.57.48 PM

Use the eyedropper to sample colors from your template image. The point is not to sample and use all of the colors, just pick 8–10 of them. After each sample, be sure to drag it to the Swatches Palette. Then double click the color to see its options window. Change from Process to a Spot color and check the Global box. (You will know if you have done this correctly by the white triangle (global) and dot (spot) now showing in the color swatch) In the example below, Green and Yellow swatches have been changed to Global Spot colors, while Blue is still a Process color.

Screen Shot 2019-02-04 at 2.28.40 PM

From the Options in the upper right hand corner of the Swatches window, “Select All Unused Colors” and delete them by clicking on the small trash can lower right hand corner of the swatches window.

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.