March 19, 2020

Realistic vector portrait of a beautiful woman

After having mostly created logos lately, I finally got to doing what I love most - making vector portraits. In the magnificent Affinity Designer of course that is way ahead of its competition where creating organic images is concerned. Its Gaussian blurring of vector shapes is unsurpassed and the custom gradient colouring and applying of transparency are unmatched, allowing artists to have almost complete control over creating subtle transitions. Illustrator and CorelDRAW don't even come near and I've worked with those programs for decades both professionally and privately. Only the fantastic open source program Inkscape is capable of doing the same, but its UI is still somewhat enigmatic, although its developers have made a lot of improvements in that field recently.

Below you see the progress sequence. The oldest stage at the bottom and the newer ones above that. This currently is a work in progress and I have only began drawing today (March 2020). I am trying out a new style (for me at least) and use techniques that I haven't used in creating vector portraits that I made before. I plan to make tutorials, but have only recently started fiddling with the video editor Olive. I hope to find the time to familiarize myself with this program and compile a tutorial about how to create a realistic vector portrait in Affinity Designer. I've written about this in previous blog posts, but I will present a short recap here of why Affinity Designer is better than Illustrator and CorelDRAW for making realistic vector portraits.

Realistic vector programs can be made in those programs, but only when using mesh-fills, which is a horrendously tedious business. The Affinity Designer functions I mentioned in the first paragraph allow to create realistic portraits AND allow to quickly tinker details afterwards, which is something the competition is unable to do. Creating realistic vector portraits is all about tweaking, so you've come to the right program with Affinity Designer. This is a huge time saver and it prevents headaches. Check regularly to see the progress I will make with this portrait after this day. By the way, the reference image was a rather average photo of the stunningly beautiful artist Monique Klemann who sings in the duo Lois Lane with her (also beautiful) sister Suzanne.

Tip for watching
Click on an image to see it in Google's lightbox. It allows you to flick between stages by using the scroll wheel on your mouse (assuming you're on a PC or Mac). This makes it easy to compare the difference in the stages. Some progress may seem small, but involved much work, which is a characteristic of creating portraits. Tablets and smartphones unfortunately do not allow to scroll in the lightbox.

12th stage March 25 2020

10th stage March 24 2020

9th stage March 22 2020

8th stage March 21 2020

7th stage March 21 2020

6th stage March 20 2020

5th stage March 20 2020

4th stage March 19 2020

3rd update of March 18 2020

2nd update March 18 2020

First stage March 18 2020

Vector outline view of the 12th stage

Notes March 22 2020
The real complexity is in tuning the gradients of each object where it concerns, colour, intensity, direction and positioning. Affinity Designer's approach is however far less tedious and time consuming as Illustrator's and CorelDRAW's that use the mesh-fill technique to create realistic portraits. The portrait on this page so far cost me four days of working on it and off (more off than on actually). Had it been constructed with mesh fills I would have worked on it for a month or longer. The mesh-fill drawing method is translating a cluster of pixels of a similar colour into a vector shape or stroke. This means gradients are all different clusters. Colourful images therefore have an absolutely huge palette. Depending on the subject being drawn, this can require a tremendous amount of drawing. Making changes afterwards as a result also require a shedload time and effort. Due to its available functions Affinity Designer does not force artists to struggle with these particular chores.

The 'new' techniques that I referred to in the second paragraph are textured custom brushes to create and edit irregularly shaped strokes that are too complex to edit with the stroke panel and blurred strokes clipped along the irregularly shaped edge inside an (also blurred) shape to apply a shadow effect. Clipping blurred shapes into other blurred shapes allow to create objects that have a varying level of blurring on their edges, which is quite useful when drawing portraits. It would of course be more clear if I were to demonstrate this is a video clip, but at this point I am still learning to use the video-editor Olive. Once I've mastered that I may create a video tutorial on these techniques.