How to Trace a Photograph and Transform It into a Digital Illustration

The entire process of illustration design and creation has faced constant updates. You have to rely on digital tools, as they do not consume much of your time and provide you with a dynamic designing method. The emergence of these tools is certainly a great blessing in the illustration industry and every illustrator needs to make the most out of these tools.

If you have a knack for art creation and you hope to become a part of top portrait illustrators then you have to start from the basics. The most basic step to designing digital portraits is tracing and here is everything you should know about it:

Tracing the photograph

Portrait illustrations are usually hand drawn but you can turn them into a digital design by tracing it into an online software. The process of tracing involves taking a photograph and then exporting it to a digital design software of your choice. It could be Photoshop or Illustrator as it entirely depends upon you. Once you have taken the picture, transferred it to the editing tool, the next step is to turn it into a digital portrait.

However, before we begin to explain the tracing process, you should know that scanned image should not be too visually dark instead, it looks to be bright with a focused background since the background would be traced as well.

Adding visual objects

You are the decision maker regarding the need to add additional items and objects. You could keep the canvas blank or you could enhance its visibility using various visual elements. Not using any would not bring an adverse impact but it is recommended if you do not keep the background of your canvas empty. When you change the trace the portrait into a digital imprint, you should measure its size and the space left for the background. Do not add blatant objects to the background as it ruins the visibility of your illustration. Keep it simple, add patterns or textures where needed and you are good to go.

Patterns and textures

When tracing the image digitally, you use the line art tool for it. No matter what tool you are using, each design software has a line art tool for sketching or tracing purposes. Lining the portrait can give it a neat appeal, which brushes, would not provide you with. Once the line art is done, move towards adding patterns or texture to the drawing. It does not have to be a pattern since you could also rely on gradient colors but there should be some sort of visual object that adds appeal to its visibility.

Multiple layers

A portrait illustration can be rendered digitally from scratch but if you have chosen a much easier approach that if of tracing a photograph then you would have to work on multiple layers. Most design software has the option of adding and merging layers so whether it is a desktop app or a designing app on your iPad, you can simply export the photograph and add layers to it. The process of line art begins with layer merging and you could have done it without it too but this approach lets you keep a track of what you are drawing and how you are doing it.

Coloring the portrait

After you are finished with the creation of line art and you have added texture or patterns to the canvas, at last, you have reached the coloring phase. Most portrait illustrations tend to be colorful but if you want to keep it unique then do not add color to it all. However, if you happen to be coloring it then choose the brush tool and select its density according to the part of the illustration you are coloring. Begin to color the main person or character of your illustration once you are done with the background, as it would save you a lot of time.

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