My Vector Workflow

Last night I was putting together some stuff for my Sketchbook Project, which I’m scrambling to finish before the January 31st deadline.This is a tough project for me, because generally I don’t sketch out my illustrations anymore. I tend to work from photo reference, and lately, I’ve been drawing completely from scratch in Illustrator.

Luckily I’m a packrat who tends to save multiple versions of my vectors as I work. I went back through some of my illustrations from this year and found tons of examples of my in-progress vectors. So, I decided to dedicate my sketchbook to vectors this year :)

I also decided it’d be fun to show a couple of examples of my on-screen workflow. Here is my process when working from scratch:

  1. I’ll create a rough sketch using the pencil tool, reworking shapes until I’ve got a decent starting point
  2. Then I’ll begin tracing over the initial sketch, refining as I work
  3. Once my main lines are down, I’ll go in and start adding details like clothing, hair, props, etc
  4. Now I decide on a line thickness. I usually go with 1.5 to 2 points depending how detailed the illustration is
  5. Once all the lines are done, I’ll zoom in and make sure that all of the ends all line up with no gaps or overlaps
  6. I’ll expand all the strokes and merge them
  7. From here things go super fast. I’ll draw in colored fills underneath the lines
  8. Once the fills are in place I’ll add in shading and highlights
  9. I’ll draw in a background, and voila, all done

This is a goofy little portrait I did of my friend Lobo. The starting sketch is a bit more refined than I usually use and my final drawing is very close to the original.

Here’s an example of a very, very rough initial sketch. I was mostly trying to get the proportions and pose nailed down before drawing. I added a lot more detail after drawing the main outlines of her body.

In this example, I made a lot of changes from the initial sketch as I was working. I ended up moving characters around, changing poses, and adjusting the perspective. I also included a peek at the color fill layer.

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