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Vector points

How to Turn a Photo into Vector Artwork


final image

Tutorial Resources

Step 1: Trace the Photo with the Pen Tool

Download our reference photo and then open it in Adobe Illustrator. If you’d like to use your own shoe, feel free to do so! jasmina s high heeled shoe preview In the Layers Panel, lock the reference image’s layer by clicking on the empty box beside the eye icon so we don’t accidentally move it around as we work.

If done correctly, it should have an icon of a padlock indicating the layer is locked. After that, create a new layer on top of the reference image layer. step01 lock layer Grab the Pen Tool (P) and start tracing the image.

We’ll partition the shoe into small parts so that we’ll be able to manipulate them individually later on. step02 tracing step03 tracing step04 tracing step05 tracing Your tracing doesn’t have to be perfect at first because you can always adjust your vector paths later on. Also, some parts of the shoe will be hidden behind other parts, so don’t worry if some of the edges aren’t completely perfect.

We just need to make sure we’re creating smooth paths. Let’s continue tracing. You can choose different Fill colors for each part of the shoe so we can see them better.

step06 tracing step07 tracing step08 tracing 1 step09 tracing step10 tracing step11 tracing You should end up with something like the image below (note that I’ve hidden the reference photo temporarily): step12 tracing final Those are actually all of the parts we have to create. I have to admit, right now, our work doesn’t look like a shoe I’d wear in public. That’s what we’ll work on next.

Step 2: Applying Colors and Gradients

Now, it’s time to apply some nice fill colors and color gradients to our vector objects. Make sure to have the Gradient Panel open by going to Window > Gradient (Ctrl/Cmd + F9) because you’ll be using it extensively throughout this step. Use the images below to see how to color each part of our high-heeled shoe illustration.

step13 colors step14 colors step15 colors step16 colors step17 colors step18 colors step19 colors Use the same color gradient above for the strap by clicking on the strap to select it, choosing the Eyedropper Tool and then clicking on the vector object above to set the strap to the same color. step20 colors Do the same (use the same color gradient) for the strap’s edge. step21 colors Continue filling in the unfinished parts of the shoe.

step22 colors step23 colors step24 colors step25 colors step26 colors step27 colors step28 colors step29 colors step30 colors You’ll notice that we’re using the same gradients for the other parts of the shoe (we’re only changing the gradient’s starting position and its angle). step31 colors step32 colors step33 colors step34 colors step35 colors step36 colors

Step 3: Create the Insole Surface

Select the inner side of the shoe and then go to Object > Path > Offset Path. Set the Offset value to -5. Repeat this process for the lower part of the shoe. step37 offset path Apply a red color gradient on the new path. step38 colors step39 colors

Step 4: Adding Highlights

We could say that our shoe is finished, but since we’re trying to make the illustration as realistic as possible, we need to give it some highlights.

Select the inner part of the heel and then duplicate it twice by first copying it (Ctrl/Cmd + C) and then pasting in front (Ctrl/Cmd + F) two times. Nudge one of the duplicates to the left by 1px using your Left Arrow key. Next, select both the duplicates and then, in the Pathfinder Panel, hit the Minus Front button.

step40 minus front Apply a subtle gradient to the resultant object. step41 gradient Repeat the technique above for other edges of the shoe. Below, you can see some of the locations where it’s a good idea to create highlights.

step42 highlights

Step 5: Adding Surface Details to the Straps

Switch to the Pen Tool (P) and create the vector paths shown below. Make sure to create them such that they follow the contour of the shoe’s shape. step43 paths Make sure you have the Stroke Panel open (Window > Stroke or press Ctrl/Cmd + F10 to toggle its visibility).

In the Tools Panel, set the Stroke color to #414042. In the Stroke Panel, check the box for the Dashed Lines option. step44 dashed lines To remove any excess portions of the dashed lines, just use the Eraser Tool (Shift + E).

Step 6: Adding More Surface Details

There are a few more details you can add; use the image below for ideas.

step45 details

Step 7: Creating Shadows

This is our last step. To enhance the 3D appearance of our illustration, we can give it a drop shadow for enhanced depth. To start, grab the Pen Tool (P) and create the two shapes shown below.

step46 shapes Select both shapes, go to Object > Blend > Blend Options and then, in the dialog box that appears, set the Spacing option to Specified Steps and type in 30 in the input box on the right of the option (which means the blend will be created using 30 steps). Afterwards, create the blend by going to Object > Blend > Make. step47 blend Send the shadow behind the shoe by going to Object > Arrange > Send to Back (Shift + Ctrl/Cmd + [ ).

Use the technique above to create a shadow for the shoe’s heel. step48 blend And we are done!

Tutorial Summary

The aim of this tutorial is to walk you through the process of creating a vector illustration using a reference photo.

You can create amazing vector artwork just by tracing a reference image. All you have to do is to practice your Pen Tool prowess, study the image’s colors, and take note of how the object’s surface handles lighting. Another thing I’d like to say — and you’ve probably heard it before — is that the details are worth paying attention to.

Try to breathe life into your illustration by actually using and interacting with the subject (in this case, a shoe) if possible. I hope you liked this tutorial. If you have any questions, feel free to post them in the comments section below.

Thank you for following along with me! final image

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