Graphic Design.

Portrait illustration

Project Detail

The aim of the project was to create a vector portrait using various different methods (gradients, different tools in illustrator to make the portrait more realistic) to determine where shading is required and where highlights are required.

The purpose/function of the project was to understand when to use shading, highlights and mid-tones in illustrator to create a realistic vector image.

Software used:

Adobe Illustrator


Graphic Designer


BCIT Adobe Illustrator

Design Process

Original image

I chose this portrait because of how the lighting reflected on my face, and I also found the colors of the dress were intriguing, which I knew I could experiment with different gradient effects to get a look as close to it as possible.

Base skin and Mid-tones

For this portrait I had a swatch of 5 different colors that I took from the original image using the eyedropper tool and then adjusted them accordingly until I had the final colors for the swatches, corresponding them in the layers called skin tones and then sublayers by highlight, mid-tones, second darkest, darkest and base skin. The first step was tracing the outline of my skin, under the layer base skin color. Once I finished that, I proceeded tracing the mid-tones of the portrait.


Second darkest, darkest, highlights, and hair

The next steps that followed was tracing the second darkest, darkest and highlights for the portrait. This skin tones were vital in being accurate as they defined the facial features and how the image illustration would look in the final product. I used the second darkest and darkest skin tones where there was a shadow along the hair line, arms etc. I also traced the outline of my hair, using a gradient fill in to show reflections of the light.

Hair strand details, eyes, teeth and lips

To make the hair stand out more and look realistic, I traced the dominate hair strand with the pencil tool. After tracing out all the hair strands, I changed the properties of the stroke appearance, in the uniform appearance. I then went to the fill and changed the fill to the gradient similar to hair base underneath it. I then duplicated the hair stands accordingly to make the hair look more realistic. I did the same steps for the hair on my eyebrows, and eyelashes.

For the eyes, lips and teeth, I also made up different swatches of colors. Tracing each part accordingly, the most challenging part was the teeth as you zoomed into the picture, the pixels made the shadows, and highlights harder to see compared to the rest of the portrait.

Final Product Process

Finishing touches

The final touches of the portrait that were left was the dress and jewelry in which I traced each part, played around with different gradients (also shapes and different elements for the dress and jewellery pieces alike). I then added a black and white gradient background, with the words prom night displayed.

Final result

Every little detail in this portrait contributes to the final overall look and feel of the portrait. I noticed this particularly when I went back and corrected some skin tones and highlights. This project really challenged me (which I loved) because I now have a greater understanding of using different shadings and highlights to improve the overall look and feel of my illustrations. I had never used illustrator prior to this program (working with primarily Photoshop in the past) and in the beginning I will admit it was a challenge but thanks to the guidance of my instructor and my own hard work, I now enjoy making illustrations in Illustrator!