i forgot i wrote this heavy vector art tutorial a while ago.
If you are here because you just want to watch me draw something
DISCLAIMER: I’m very passionate about what I do and why and how I do it. I will not be telling you what to do, I will be teaching you how to do it; a sort of crash course in anything that might resemble my style, or vector art in general. With it, comes many of my very personal and outspoken opinions, as well as my inspirations and reasonings. If this is not something you are interested in please just google “vector art tutorial” and click on the first link.
+ Step 0: Learn to Draw.
Yes. Most vector art is drawn very meticulously by hand first.
And yes, this tutorial starts like this. If you really want to really be able to art like this, you are going to need to learn how to actually draw. With books and charcoal and perspective and shading. All of that. The whole bit.
Ok, now that you have a basic understanding of drawing, let’s begin
+ Step 1: Begin Drawing
(But read all of this first.)
( No, a tablet is not required for this tutorial )
When I was learning graphic design I was always particularly drawn to the vector style. It always looked so slick and effortless. I’ve always loved logo design and this was just the epitome of that kind of beautiful simplicity to me.
After a few semi-failed attempts at imitating a few styles, I (coincidentally) became aware of the then newly popular “OBEY” style; and by that I mean people blatantly tracing photos in illustrator.
I quickly learned that the proportions of the image were not what was supposed to be admired (or even frowned upon), but the subtle line control expressed throughout the good pieces. Even a traced image could look stunning if the artist knew what he was doing, and after a while it was easy to spot the difference between someone who did, and someone who didn’t.
You could admire a clear, legible image from 20 feet away and the great detail and subtlety of it from inches away. Much like any good logo design.
This brings up a couple points but I will start with
> A. Basic Shape (And Key Features)
Almost anything you can draw has something that makes it “it” (we’ll refer to it as X so i don’t have to say “it factor”). Now, for a great many things, you will find that its silhouette can often be this factor; a guitar, a car, a plane from afar ~ However with other things it gets a bit more detailed. A particular person could have very specific hair/facial hair. An animal it might have a particular ear or tail shape. This factor could even be a costume that a character wears or a logo on their forehead. (we won’t get into comic book characters) et cetera.
The point is that often times you can make changes in the proportions or colors of any irrelevant attribute, or even take them all away entirely, and by keeping X, the thing will still obviously be the thing it’s supposed to be.
in this case by keeping the 卐 factor
Being able to identify these features and utilize them in your drawings is paramount. For those of you who have ever drawn fanart and just cannot fucking figure out why it still doesn’t look like Hermione for some reason, it’s probably because of this reason. Human characteristics are obviously a lot more subtle than, you know, having a tree face, but the same principles still apply. (you made her lips too big)*
*At this point you may end the tutorial and begin your career as a minimalist graphic designer on tumblr.
Now, your basic shape is usually pretty cool already. Especially if you are designing a logo for, say, “Swan Industries” and their logo is a swan. Swans are already S shaped. Bam. Logo done. EZ mode.
But when your silhouette doesn’t really have that “BAM” factor, you might have to delve into some more advanced techniques in order to spice up your designs such as
i. Making Stuff Up
Sometimes the thing you’re drawing is boring, or doesn’t really bring many of those X factors to the table.
Or maybe it’s just not the shape you want it to be, and you just want to make it whatever shape. Or (more realistically) you actually have to make it a different shape. Well it’s your lucky day! Because now that we’ve gathered our X's we can pretty much get as creative as we want.
Usually for designs like the Dota Hero series™, i will pick some sort of basic shape that could essentially fulfill the role of being some generic logo:
_and draw in the X details as needed. Sometimes you will have 10-20 X's to drop into your shape, sometimes you will have 2-5. Your job is to decide which are the most / least important and filter accordingly. However, your filtering is VERY IMPORTANT. It can mean the difference between a good result and a horrible result. I’m sure you’ve seen a vector of some hot young actress who looks like she’s aged 30+ years. This is because people do not know how to properly filter out non relevant features (wrinkles in particular) and it just gets out of hand. Conversely, you might see people filter out the necessary features, and decide they want to keep completely unnatural ones.
It’s important to note that you will often intermix X details with non-X details (Y details i guess?) when working with anything more complicated than a basic logo. You will have to stand back from your drawing and think, “do i really need to add the divot on the upper lip?"
This process is a balance that will be ultimately decided at your own will. Sometimes you’ll figure it out right away. Sometimes you will want to end your life right at your desk. But keep in mind it’s a balance. As someone said about God once, “you give AND take away, you give AND take away.”
G D Em C
ii. “Artistic Liberty”
No. Artistic Liberty does not mean “I’m an artist so I can do whatever I want. This is me expressing myself mom! Get out of my life you don’t unDERS TAND M3 ~!1! ”
* slams door *
As previously stated, some details (X) are relevant, some are not. If you happen to be tracing over a photograph, for example, and the person’s teeth are unevenly spaced (and this is not a relevant/wanted feature of this person, i.e. it’s your girlfriend) fucking fix her teeth! Nobody wants to see that!
Part of the simplicity of this sort of vector art is the elegance and beauty of quote / unquote perfection. This means that line widths are even, faces are perfectly symmetrical, hair flows in front of the face in fantastic wisps unmatched by even L’oreal commercials. If the line is jagged, make it straight; if it’s supposed to be jagged, make it slightly less jagged. And then probably even less jagged than that.
Sometimes in order to fit your entire design into your basic shape, you may need to adjust ear size (smaller OR larger) hair length, eye brow shape… Sometimes you may need to modify your basic shape in order to compensate and start again from scratch. Again, it’s up to you to decide how far you want to take your artistic liberties, sometimes you can get away with it -
sometimes you can’t
Lines are arguably the most important and difficult aspect of minimal/ vector art simply because lines don’t actually exist. One of the first things you learned in your Charcoal Drawing Class (because I know you all took one, as required) is that there are no lines, only edges. There is no line differentiating your chin from your neck, or your lips from your face-
"There is a line between your lips when your mouth is closed!"
Shut the fuck up Jessica, you are dismissed from the class. You may go back to drawing anime eyes on your wide ruled notebook paper. In the office.
Lines are, luckily, a very familiar concept to most people. You draw a line around the head, maybe a line outlining the hair. Lines around clothing separating them from the skin. There are always those lines that just make sense to draw, and you probably draw them naturally.
One of your drawings
There a lot of subtleties that go into lines, where to put them, how thick to make them, etc. But most of that really comes down to your own discretion. How much realism do you want? How much detail do you want? How little detail do you want?
Your line control will just come with time and experience. You will realize that these lines should be thicker, these should be tapered at the ends, these shouldn’t exist at all. You’re just gonna have to feel it out.
Half of the work is figuring out how to imply depth in your image with just one or two lines, and no shading at all. Your familiarity with basic perspective from your Perspective 101 class will help you out during this stage. This brings us to
iv. Not-As-Basic Shapes
You will find that much of your drawing is made up of these things called “shapes”. “Shapes” often manifest themselves as shadows that explain a very important detail like a cheekbone or jawline. Shapes can sometimes resemble lines, but do not be fooled !; many shapes will try to sneak past your shape-o-scope disguised as lines such as: the the shadow under your nose, and the shape that appears in between your lips when your mouth is closed, Jessica.
How did you even get back in here?
.+~* Negative space is also a shape *~+.. <— Do not ever forget this. Make sure to take the time to see if your shapes look cool without the lines, and the lines look cool without the shapes. The key to having a really clean image is perfecting every single one of these shapes. Do not skimp out on any of them, not even the ones in your ears. Each one should be able to stand on it’s own.
> B. Color
Color is the hardest thing I’ve ever learned / am still learning. It can make or break your design in the end. I have no tips on color. Good luck. Ask your girlfriend. I’m sorry. I can’t help you.
> C. omposition
Remember when you were taking your Intro to Design course and your professor drew a bunch of random lines over some famous painting and exclaimed “Composition!” and you were just like wtf is this? this is a bunch of bullshit (lit majors I know you can relate.)
Well. It’s real. Composition is a real thing that every known artist uses, however, its abstractness can be off-putting. What looks good in a composition is almost purely subjective, and though many people will tell you there are still rules, there is no “right” or “wrong” art composition.
The thing is, no artist puts his brush to the canvas and paints from top left to bottom right. Even when you are designing a logo you have to take composition into account. How does your logo look at the top of your website? How does it look 20 pixels wide on the corner of your poster? Alone on the back of a cell phone? Every surface is the canvas. A good logo is like having a melody that fits in any song #artsyMetaphors, and since your vector art is essentially a glorified logo, it should accomplish a similar goal.
+ Step 3: Start Your Drawing Over Again
still the drawing stage
Even though you always do everything perfect the first time every time, well, I mean the rest of this section should be pretty self-explanatory.
I always draw everything twice at the very, very, very, very least. It takes less time than you think, and it’s always worth it. Often I will start a drawing very small in a notebook and scan and enlarge it so I don’t compromise large basic shapes. This is called a thumbnail, but you should already know that from pretty much every single one of your art classes.
do this. always.
+ Step 4: Vectorize your drawing.
Alright cool, so now that you are done with your drawing it’s time to vectorize it. And yes, I mean literally vectorize each element meticulously by hand. There is no filter or algorithm that will replace your hands.
or this rather
This part is really up to you. I’m not going to teach you how to use illustrator. There are a hundred thousand illustrator tutorials out there teaching dozens of different methods. Pick one and go with it for a while, until you figure out something better for you. The method I use is specific to how I like to work, I don’t do anything “special”, I don’t have any expensive plug-ins. Nothing. I use illustrator out of the box, primarily the pen tool, with a few basic tricks that I’ve learned over the years from random tutorials / classes that do absolutely nothing but increase efficiency.
+ Step 5: In Conclusion
I hope you didn’t come here looking for the Pro Vector Art Serum 3000™. This is just a formula that I use where most of the elements I (and many others like me) have developed over time with practice.
If I’ve done my job right, you should now have a slightly more enlightened perception of Picasso’s famously over-repeated and un-understood quote: "Good Artists Copy, Great Artists Steal." There are a lot of methods to “faking” decent vector art, but the truth is it’s just regular art. It’s a style, and the fact that it’s vectorized just happens to compliment this style in particular. So If you want to continue using your posterize filter and stock vectors, no one is going to stop you. But sooner or later people are going to notice that you buy all your card tricks from a magic shop.
half-life 3 confirmed
* * *
all of the art in this tutorial was either from my
porn art folder or found on google. The only art belonging to me are the screenshots from the Dota Hero Wallpaper series specifically, the “art” comic, and the DOAK shirt design. If you’re one of the artists of any of these pieces and you want to be credited for some reason or another, just let me know and I will credit you, however most pieces were used purely as examples.