Monday, August 4, 2014

From Sketch to Vector, Part 1

It's time for a new paper doll base!  I want to retire my Friday dolls - at least for a little while - and start posting a new doll on Fridays starting in January or when I hit 100 fashion paper dolls, whichever comes first.  I posted some sketches last week & I'll be working with those today.

I decided to work on the baby sketch.  It's all round & cute and I've got some experience with babies.  I'm using Adobe Illustrator CC but my method should work for just about any version of AI (or most vector programs for that matter...).  This tutorial will assume you have some knowledge of Illustrator, but if there are questions, just let me know.

Open your sketch in Illustrator.  Place the sketch on one layer, lock it, and create a new layer to work on above it.

I'm going to use shapes and the pen tool to create the vector image.  Once that's done, I'll open one of the fashion paper dolls and adjust the scale & coloring.  I like to start with the head and work from there.

I like to work with a stroke and no fill at this stage.  I want to create outlines that I can fill later.  First, use an oval to rough in the head shape.  We'll use the direct select (white arrow) and pen tool to adjust the shape.  Use a stroke color you can see well - I'm using red.

The yellow shape is the overall head shape.  This will become the hair background.  It doesn't need to be a perfect circle or oval.  I adjusted the points to get this rough shape.  I also wanted a chubby little baby-ish face.  I'm thinking that this doll is a toddler - maybe 2 or so.  The white section will become the face.  It's just an oval that I tweaked.  To add the chin, I placed two points (one on each side) next to the center point of the oval and adjusted them.

Here's the ear.  I used the pen tool to rough in a shape.  There are only four points used to make up this shape.  The fewer points used, the smoother the overall shape.  I'll take this ear and duplicate it (go to Object > Transform > Reflect and select Copy).  That's one of the things I love about Illustrator - draw something once and use it as much as needed.  When I draw something by hand, I spend so much time fussing over things that should be symmetrical or similar or whatever.  Not in Illustrator!

The ears are in place.  Adjust them as needed to get the perfect shape.  Shape arrangement is really important in Illustrator.  Each shape or line or whatever is its own sub-layer within the layer.  It takes some time to really "get" the way Illustrator works.  In this image, the yellow section is the layer farthest in the back.  Then, the two ears, then the face shape.  I'll create the face features and place those on top of the face section.

Next, I'm going to make the features for the face.  There are two ways to make the features and I'll demonstrate both.  Decide for yourself which you prefer.

One feature in AI CC that I've been using is stroke profiles.  In the stroke menu there's a drop-down menu with various profiles that you can add to a stroke.  In AI CS4, I would have made a special brush to apply to a stroke.  I want the eye to have a curved shape with eyelashes like the fashion dolls.  I  could just re-use that element here, but I want to show the process  in its entirety!

And here's the beginning of the eye shape.  I selected a profile - it happens to be the first one - and fiddled with the stroke width til I found one I liked.  One that's established, I'll expand the stroke.  Make the eyelashes the same way, expand those, and use the pathfinder tool to combine them all into one shape.

OR make the eyes with the pen tool.  Take the pen tool and draw a line.  I like to go left to right.  Then, draw a line in the opposite direction and connect with your first point.  This makes a 2-point, enclosed shape.  I use the anchor point tool in the pen menu to tweak the points.

Here's a comparison of the two methods.  On the left is the stroke profile method with the stroke expanded.  There are a million points and it's a little clunky.  On the right, the pen method.  There are two points and the shape is smoother and easier to manipulate.  I prefer simpler shapes so I'll use the pen method.

To create the nose and mouth, I used the same method as the head shape.  I drew two ovals and played around with the points until I got a shape I liked.  That's it!

This is a pretty good stopping point.  I'm not totally certain I like the face at this stage but that's ok.  Once I complete the body and complete the final colors, I can tweak the face as needed.

Next week I'll work on creating the body!


  1. As always I find your posts about your process to be some of the most fascinating. I can't wait to see the baby when it is done.

    1. They are my favorite to write, but also the most difficult. I'm eager to finish the baby paper doll - it'll be a first for me!