August 5, 2022

Vector portrait of Emma Britten

I originally posted this drawing in 2019, but kept on working on it every now and then (which is what I often do). Many artists are familiar with this method of working, because after 'finishing' a drawing, it is more often than not discovered that the image needs more adjusting and / or additional work. At times this is a repetitively occuring moment, especially with portraits, in which likeness can depend on moving objects 1 or 2 millimeters, changing their size or shape, skewing them or fiddling with their colours. Faces are the most prominent visual characteristic of a person, which is why there is not a photo of your foot in your passport or ID card, but one of your face.

Emma Hardinge Britten was a well known spiritualist who lived from May 2 1823 to October 2 1899. She was a writer, public speaker, musician and opera singer in her younger days to support her family after her father passed away when she was 11 years old. Her spiritual gifts brought her fame and she was frequently consulted by high ranking politicians, corporate leaders and other important people of her day. It is an indication that elevated echelons of society value the spiritual reality that is intentionally kept hidden from common folk.

This portrait is a work in progress and is drawn in Affinity Designer. This program has all the functionality to create realistic vector portraits that can be edited afterwards relatively fast which is a pain to do with mesh-filled vector portraits. And since tinkering is almost a necessity for portrait artists Affinity Designer is their ideal tool to make 100% vector portraits that can be re-scaled to any size without loss of quality. However, this work also contains vector brushes, which are not really vectors - more about this later.

Had to place this here or else the ugly
image below will show up in preview

What makes vector portraits look realistic is that edges of shapes and lines can be blurred in a controlled way. In addition color fadings can be customized in any desired way (using different colours) as well as the transparency of objects (in a linear, radial, elliptical or conical fashion). The combination of these 3 functions allows artists to create works that are visually indistinguishable from pixel portraits, but - as stated before - can be produced in any desired dimension while retaining the original quality.

Ugly Adobe Illustrator attempt (no offence) to
create a realistic vector portrait, b.t.w., this
is caused by Adobe Illustrator's limited
functionality to create realistic art.

Outside of Affinity Designer only the magnificent free open source program Inkscape (which a difficult to learn UI) has similar features, be it that some of them are difficult to find in Inkscape's UI; CorelDRAW and Adobe Illustrator do not have object blur functions, except when converting objects to bitmaps first, and can not be converted back into vectors. These programs are therefore not suited to create realistic vector portraits, other than with the hideously tedious mesh-fill tool. The portraits not made with the mesh fill tool are very unrealitsic looking portraits with hard edges, as is shown in the image above. Adobe's marketing department has tried to turn this into the standard for vector portraits (in which it obviously succeeded) by suggesting that the programs shortcomings are some sort of artistic oddity that they turned into an alleged type of feature. But no matter how one looks at the result, these are not realistic portraits of high quality; they are at best a visual metaphor of realism.

This is the custom vector brush
created to draw realistic strands
of hair. This can be imported in
your collection of brushes and
used for this specific purpose.

This is the custom made brush used
to paint skin pores. Mix dark strokes
and bright strokes combined, the latter
always on top in the layer panel.

Apply 3D and or Bevel / Emboss fx
to the textured brush strokes to
create a realistic skin pore texture
and fiddle with the brush properties
use custom colour and transparency
overlays and underlays, whatever it
takes to approach realism as much
as reasonably possible.

So below you see a realistic vector portrait created in Affinity Designer. Bear in mind that at this point (September 2019) you are looking at the early stages; it will become more realistic as more work is done to the image. Skin pores and detailed strands of hair in particular will be applied. For the hair texture I created a custom brush that allows to create realistic strands, both dark and bright. The oldest stage is at the bottom - more recent stages are placed above that. Click on one of the images and they will be shown in Google's Lightbox, which (on a PC anyway) allows to scroll through the various stages to quickly see and compare the changes. The original size of the portrait in which it was drawn, is 80 x 62 cm, approximately ten times larger than the images submitted to this site.

Mind you - as I found out later - vector brushes in Affinity Designer do NOT create vectors, but are pixels created inside of a vector drawing program, that will remain bitmaps. So when creating realistic art with Affinity Designer, be sure to make large images in order to avoid blurring and jagged edges when using 'vector' brushes, if the intention is to make large prints of the image.

September 20 2019 00:09 virtually in 3D frame

September 20 2019 00:09

September 16 2019 stage 12
vector curves & Brush strokes
outline view (hugely helpful
in the process of drawing)

September 12 2019 11:50

September 11 2019 11:01

September 10 2019 17:20

September 9 2019 20:13

September 9 2019 16:43

September 9 2019 12:20

September 8 2019

September 8 2019

September 8 2019

May 29, 2022


An old analog airbrush edited in Affinity Photo.

Native American warrior

With gradient colour overlays

May 2, 2022

Vector cartoon Mr. Bean


This time a vector cartoon of Mr. Bean, something different from the realistic vector portraits I usually draw. I didn't have to deviate very far from the reality, since his face in real life is already somewhat cartoonish (no offence). Created in the magnificent Affinity Designer - 100% vector, zero pixels. I first drew this image about 2 years ago and recently revisited the image to make some changes. It is what artists often do: walk away from a project to make some changes later, in this case two years, which allowed me to see details that I missed when drawing the initial image.

Rendered view

I refined, tweaked and recoloured a number of areas in the face, in order to add a certain degree of realism to the portrait, while trying not to throw the cartoonish feel out the window. Affinity Designer allows to blur the edges of a curve (object), while gradient colours and transparency are added to it. The programs clipping function allows to draw objects that have various levels of blurriness around their edges, which adds to the realistic atmosphere of a drawing, i.e. not having areas with unrealistic hard edges. I wrote a tutorial on this trick in an other blog post.

Vector outline view

Such a cartoon of a well known person would be perfect to use in a T-shirt design, which of course brings the risk of copyright infringement. I have to see how to deal with this. The circular text around the Bean's is borrowed from one of the quotes of his creator, Rowan Atkinson, who is a fastidious bachelor, that said a thing or two about living alone, that touched up on the heart of this type of life.

Concept T-shirt design, based on one of his quotes

I made a small collage of various cartoons I drew over time and placed it on my website, that contains many variations in style of my artwork. The cartoons below each are drawn in a different style using different techniques.

Part of a cartoon compilation on my website,

I am trying to become familiar with Blender, which is quite a challenge, since its UI is like no other 3D program I have used before. But I guess I have to endure the headaches and frustrations, while attempting to adjust my way of thinking to that of Blender's developer department employees. The program is free, which better relates to the non-existing contents of my bank account.

Psychedelic Bean rendered in virtual 3D frame

Fiddling about wildly with the curve function - placing a heap of nodes on the curve and dragging them to unusual levels, which does surprising things with the colours of an image and sometimes leads to results that are actually worth looking at. The portrait was clipped inside crossing and expanded strokes that I made into wavy lines with the Node tool and then transformed them into curves that can be used to clip other vector objects or pixel images. I wrote a blog entry before on how to do this.

April 16, 2022

Vector butterfly


This was an exercise to draw organic shapes in Affinity Designer. To the curves and strokes gradient colours, opacity and fx were applied. Vector drawing programs are commonly known to produce hard edges, but Affinity Designer is quite well capable of the opposite, which allows to draw realistic vector shapes, that resemble imagery that is created in pixel editing programs, while being re-scalable to any size without loss of quality. Vector images are also easily edited afterwards, easier than pixel art in any event, because each curve and stroke is a separate, editable object.

Affinity Designer allows object edges to be anywhere between hard and soft and even is capable of  creating objects that have a varied level of softness in their edges, that I haven't been able to achieve so effectively and fast in the programs of the competition, while still being able to swiftly edit the blurred edge properties afterwards. The varied level blurring is done by multi-level clipping, gradient opacity and Gaussian blurring effect. Below on top you see the rendered image and below that the vector outline view. Click the images to see them in Google's Lightbox.

The rendered view

The vector outline view

Adobe Illustrator and CorelDRAW offer the Mesh Fill function with which similar looking effects can be achieved. But that technique is nothing but replacing a cluster of pixels of the same colour with a small vector area of one particular colour, that can be manipulated somewhat. Depending on the complexity of the object that is drawn, using this method can require a shedload of work, because all colours involved (in the reference image) have to be mis en place (selected and made available in a colour ribbon before drawing even starts), and each change in color has to be determined to be replaced by a vector area. Affinity Designer allows to use curves and / or strokes that can be clipped in more levels, which makes it easy to edit areas at a later point in time, which is a hell of a chore in Mesh Fill images, even when parts of objects are drawn separately.

In addition Affinity Designer allows to define transparent areas that are adjacent or inside to the colour filled ones or inside them, with either sharp or blurred edges (which are also editable afterwards). So, illustrators and designers that must or want to make images that include organic shapes, are absolutely better served by Affinity Designer. Especially artists that don't have to worry about legacy data from programs of the competition, will find that Designer suits their requirements excellently. 

April 13, 2022

Rasta monkey cartoon


A short blog entry this time. I drew a vector rasta monkey cartoon in Affinity Designer, that I intend to use as a T-shirt design. Below the rendered image you see the vector wireframe view of it, which is quite simple and  hints at the fact that giving strokes and curves different properties and effects, is what really defines the appearance of an image. It also implies that these properties and effects can quickly be changed at a later stage. Click on the images to see larger versions of them in Google's Lightbox.

Vector wire frame view

April 12, 2022

Jugendstil mandala


Mandalas have always fascinated me, as well as Jugendstil designs, particularly ornaments. Without planning to draw either one of them, out of some sort of boredom, I kind of mindlessly started dabbling in Affinity Designer, the result of which you see below. When composing the main drawing, I applied several effects to eh image - the most dominant of which is Gradient Colour overlay that allows black and white images to be enhanced instantly. All values assigned in the settings of effects, colouring and gradients are esoteric / vector math values.

The mandala

The image basically contains two parts, that I have arranged in a 7 element circular pattern, the larger object of which I placed below this paragraph. The objects are embedded in the main drawing.

The larger object

The smaller object, I placed below this paragraph. Click the images to see larger versions of them in Google's Lightbox, that allows to scroll through them by turning the scroll wheel of the mouse.

The smaller object