This blog is about Graphic Design, Vector Art, and Cartoon Illustration

Family portrait cartoon illustration in color

When I originally started talking to my client about doing a family cartoon portrait, I had only envisioned a collage of floating heads in black-and-white. But as it progressed, and as I was having so much fun with it, it became more elaborate. I recommend that you try it. This is how I did it.

The first step is the sketch, which I do in pencil and then scan in to Photoshop. I found that the setting of 200 dpi for my scanner in Preview seems to work the best. All I'm trying to do there is to get the drawing to be visible on a layer in Adobe Illustrator. The scan is just a guide (Adobe Illustrator calls it a template) and does not appear at all in the final artwork.

There are basically three layers - one for the template, one which I call *drawing* and one which I call *color*. I added some more layers on this drawing to isolate some of the more difficult things to draw, like the glasses. The drawing itself is done using the calligraphy brush tool and a pressure-sensitive graphics tablet. I used a Wacom Bamboo Connect, which cost me $79.99 at Staples. I saw more expensive ones, but I didn't need them.

There are a lot of advantages to using Adobe Illustrator for this. First and foremost is that you are drawing with vectors, so you don't have to be concerned about resolution. Vectors can be output to any resolution, and you never, ever, get *the jaggies*. I work on a size that is comfortable on my screen, but it doesn't matter to Adobe Illustrator. When I output the jpeg for my client I can make it any size they want. If they want to plaster it all over the side of a building, they can. Hey, that would be cool!

Another advantage to using Adobe Illustrator is how easy it is to do *cartoon colors*. The colors are perfectly flat and clean and are simply made by using the pen tool on a layer that is underneath the drawing layer. And if I accidentally drew you with brown eyes, click - it's changed!

I am always happy to do *warranty work* on my drawings, and I am also happy to supply my client with a pdf file. Pdf files can be edited in Adobe Illustrator, you know. You didn't know that? Well, they can. So if you have a tight deadline and suddenly see that my cartoon background doesn't work, just open up the pdf in Adobe Illustrator, make the change, and there you go.

Life is good.