How to Create a Self Portrait in a Geometric Style

In this tutorial we are going to talk about how to create an illustrated self portrait in a geometric based style. We are going to work from a photograph of ourselves as the base of the illustration, then drawing the sketch and to the final piece, so let’s get started.


First we take or select a photo. As we’re going for a symmetrical look, face head on to the camera and get a close up shot of your face and shoulders. In this case I am going to take a picture with my webcam. It’s not necessary for it to be a perfect shot as this is just the base of our illustration.


Now we create a New document in Adobe Illustrator with an artboard size of 600 X 480 px.

we are going to organize the layers as follows:

  • The top layer is named “Draw” this is were we are going to do our illustration.
  • Below the “Draw” layer is the “Sketch” layer.
  • Below that is the “Photo” where we are going to put the photo we already taken
  • Finally the “Background” layer, in this layer draw a square same size as the artboard (600 X 480px) and paint it in a grey color, this in case you have to draw things in white or light colors.


Lock the "Background" and "Photo" layers. In the "Sketch" layer with the Blob Brush Tool (Shift + B), we draw our sketch using the photo as a guide. Try to do the lines straight and simplify for example the hair or in this case the glasses are like octagons, as geometry is the base of this style.



Now you can delete the “Photo” layer. Don’t worry if its a little messy, this is our guide for our self portrait.



Change the Opacity of the sketch to 30% and lock the “Sketch” layer.

We are going to start drawing from back to front using the Pen Tool (P). With a 1pt Black Stroke Weight, we star tracing the hair do using only straight lines.




For the T-shirt you can draw the half, then Copy (Cmnd + C) and Paste in front (Cmnd + F).

Now use the Reflect Tool (O) and flip the path.

Select both paths and use the Pathfinder > Unite option. Almost everything in the illustration can be done this way: copying, reflecting and Unite.



Now we draw the neck of the shirt this can be done with the Polygon Tool.

Then place the shapes at the base of the neck.



Use the same process with the head shape. Draw an octagon and then select the top nodes. Move them with the arrow keys or adjust with the Scale Tool.

The same shape can be duplicated and used for the face. Then use Pathfinder > Minus Front on another duplicate to trim the neck shape as shown below.




To add detail you can use the shape you have already created. For instance, in the example below to add detail to the neck you can duplicate the shape for the face and enlarge it. Then duplicate again the base shape of the neck and use Pathfinder > Intersect.




Add a little more detail to the illustration with the Pen Tool (P) and Shape Tools. Remember to take advantage of the shapes you have created previously and duplicate them to use with Pathfinder. We are going to leave the face until the end of the drawing process.



Press D and your illustration should look something like the below. Rearrange the shapes if required.

I’ve needed to rearrange the shapes for the head and the front of my hair.



Now the face, here we are going to apply all the things we have already seen like the use of Pathfinder, Scale Tool, Reflect Tool, etc. Let’s begin.

The lips we can start with a hexagon. Pull the side nodes and use the Scale Tool to modify the shape. Then draw a triangle and align it to the center. Use Pathfinder > Minus Front to remove the triangle from the top of the lip. Then Copy and Paste in Front the lips and scale the shape to the middle to create the parting in the lips. Modify the nodes at the top sides of the lips with the Direct Selection Tool (A).


For the eyes we begin with an octagon and with the Eraser Tool (Shift + E), remove the lower section of the shape. We then Copy by moving the path with Shift + Alt keys to Copy the object moving downwards. Duplicate the basic form and apply Minus Front in the Pathfinder. This is the shadow of the eye. Duplicate it further to create the eyelash. To add more details draw a little octagon for the iris and duplicate the basic for and transform to make the lower eyelid. Finally add some details and it’s done. Since the eyes are looking to the same direction we can duplicate it and we have our eyes finished.

For the nose we start with an octagon again. First modify some nodes and add some anchor points to get the base shape of the nose. Then draw some octagons and other simple shapes to add volume and detail. Remember to use the Pathfinder and Align to keep symmetry in the drawing.


The glasses are more simple just an octagon a little bit modified and then Copy and Paste in Front and Scale to get the detail. Then apply Minus Front with Pathfinder. Finally duplicate and add detail to finish the glasses.

At this time our illustration should look something like this.



Now we are going to generate our color palette. First select your colors for light and shadows. Draw squares with fills of the colors you are going to use for the different parts of the portrait. I’ve picked six colors, three are for the highlights and three are for shadows.

With the Blend Tool (W) click on the light color and on the darker color you are going to get as result an smooth blend.

Go to Object > Blend > Blend Options and change the option to Specified Steps. Input the value "5" and click on OK.



Now select the blend and go to Object > Expand. Now you can use the colors and add them to the Swatch panel by selecting them an click on the New Color Group Button.

You can add a name and save the palette for future illustrations.

This is our color palette, for the eyes and details we just change the option of the Blend to Specific Steps by 2 instead of 5.



At this time we are going to draw a line in the center of our illustration. We select the hair and lock it with Cmnd + 2. Then select the line and go to Object > Path > Divide Objects Below. This is going to cut all the paths that are behind that line.

With all the objects divided we can Unlock the hair by pressing Cmnd + Alt + 2 and we start applying our colors.

You can place your colors close to your art so you can apply them with the Eyedropper Tool (I). Click to grab the color and with Alt to apply that color.

There’s a side of lights and a side of shadows. Try to play with the colors to give the illustration life, for example in the skin in the side of lights you can use the first 3 colors for the base skin but in the nose, lips and eyes from the 3 to the 6 color. In the shadow from 2 to 4 to the base color and 4 to 7 for the nose (the same does for the clothes and hair).



To draw the beard and moustache, draw a small rectangle with the Rectangle Tool (M). Drag + Alt to copy the path and then press Cmd + D to repeat the last action. Group all and Align in to the center of the face shape. Our self portrait is almost done.



To finish the illustration you can add some details like more shadows for example, little ears by adjust some nodes, etc.





Our final illustration, hope you have enjoyed this tutorial. If you do follow this tutorial and create your own self portrait, please post it in the comments so we can see your result. Saludos amigos!









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