January 6, 2022

How to avoid hard edges in vector portraits

In the images below cartoonish vector portraits of Rock & Roll legend Elvis Presley can be seen. This image was created in Affinity Designer. After having worked with Adobe Illustrator professionally, CorelDRAW privately and Inkscape occasionally for decades, I have come to the conclusion that the much cheaper one time fee, no subscription Affinity Designer is better suited to create vector portraits that do not have hard edges in the face, even if it does not include the Mesh Fill function, that is very time consuming and tedious to work with. The drawing and editing process - particularly when editing the drawing at a later point in time - in this program takes far less time and effort. Progress sequence of the portrait on the right can be seen in an other blog entry: https://communicats.blogspot.com/.../this-is-other-vector... 

Cartoonish vector portraits of Elvis Presley

The image below this paragraph is a screendump of the vector outline of the double portrait. Extensive use was made of Affinity Designers Gaussian blur function, which allows to avoid hard edges in the facial features, as are often seen in vector portraits created in Adobe Illustrator. Many of the curves with which areas on the face were drawn are made by applying multiple node gradient fills and gradient transparency. This method allows to quickly edit (also afterwards) of the drawing which is much faster than while using mesh gradient fill tool that isn't present in Affinity Designer. Personally, I don't miss it. A brilliant Russian artist who works with mesh fills in CorelDRAW once revealed that it took him months to draw a vector portrait, while it is possible in Affinity Designer to make the same effect in much less time. I used CorelDRAW for many years, but only after accidentally running across Affinity Designer I was able to create realistic vector portraits a lot quicker, while making editing afterwards easier and faster. More examples of realistic vector portraits and illustrations can be found in my website at: https://vectorwhiz.com/Vector.html

Vector outline view of the Elvis portraits

To create (gradient) tints and blurs in the facial area of a vector portrait, it often is necessary to draw curves that have a variable level of blur along their edges, meaning that some edge parts are just slightly unsharp, while other parts are blurred and yet other parts are very blurry. To achieve this effect, I apply the following technique that is below this paragraph:

In these vector portraits a Gaussian blur trick was applied in Affinity Designer, as can be seen in the third image. Ellipse 3 is clipped inside Circle 2 and circle 2 is clipped inside circle 1. In the image below you see, Circle 1 is transparent, the other two objects are opaque. Circle 1 has a minimal blur rate, Circle 2 has a higher blur rate and Ellipse 3 has the highest blur rate. The result of these settings are that circle one has an unsharp edge, circle 2 has a blurred edge to the left and an unsharp one to the right, while Ellipse 3 has a very blurry edge on the left and a less blurred towards the right. The blur values are indicated in the third image. The circle with the dotted line only serves to indicate the position and size of Circle 1 that is completely transparent, slightly blurred and used to clip the other objects.

Example drawing of Gaussian blur effects and object clipping

In the image below the Layer panel is shown containing the hierarchy of the objects in the image above this paragraph. Objects that are indented to the right are clipped inside the ones above them. The object names correspond with those in the Example drawing. The circles and ellipse are at the bottom of the panel. The objects marked with an 'A' thumbnail refer to the text in the Example drawing.

Object position in the Layer Panel

In addition all parts can be given a colour gradient and gradient transparency, all settings that are independently editable of the ones described above this paragraph. In doing so the annoying hard edges of shadows in the face of a vector portrait can be avoided that are almost always seen in vector portraits created in Adobe Illustrator. Affinity Designer allows to create more realistic vector portraits in a much easier way that vector portraits created with the mesh fill function. The added benefit of working in this way is that at a later point in time all the parameters can be edited and tweaked to the preference of the vector portrait artist. Working in vectors with this method allows to resize the portrait without any loss of quality. Of course this technique can be applied to any shape you can draw, not just to circles and ellipses, that I used in the example above, as can be seen in the completed vector double portrait at the top of this blog entry and the vector outline view screen dump below it.