How to Create a Portrait in the Pop Art Style

In this tutorial we will learn how to create a vector portrait in Pop Art style. We will try to reproduce the style of Roy Lichtenstein, one of the best representatives of this trend. To create the raster effect and fine-tune it, the Phantasm CS vector Halftone tool was applied. To perform this tutorial, you can use any photo, so why not make a self-portrait in the Pop Art style? Let's get started!

Roy Lichtenstein (October 27, 1923 – September 29, 1997) is one of the most famous American artists working in the Pop Art style. We will be reproducing his style, and I think it would be appropriate to show you some of his works.

the style of Roy Lichtenstein

Step 1

As an example reference, we will be using a photograph β€” a portrait of Marilyn Monroe. It is a pleasure to work with a portrait of a beautiful woman. Of course, you can take your picture and create a self-portrait.

a portrait of Marilyn Monroe

Put a photo in the workspace of the document (File > Place …), then click on the Embed button at the top toolbar.

Marilyn Monroe

Lock the layer with the photo in the Layers panel in order not to move it in the process.

Step 2

On top of the first layer create a new layer. We will be working in this layer. Now take the Pen Tool (P) and create a facial contour.

Vector face

By following these steps, you should reproduce the overall proportions of the face; it is not necessary to go into all minor anatomical details of the image. Remember, we are creating a stylized portrait, not a copy of the photo.

Step 3

With the Pen Tool (P) create neck outline and hair.

vector neck

vector hair

Swap the stroke of the created objects with the fill to preview the profiles created. I always perform this action after manual tracing of a sketch or photo.

vector portrait

Continuing manual tracing, I switch the fill and stroke again or turn off the visibility of objects created in the Layers panel.

Step 4

Getting to the creation of eyes. Take the Pen Tool (P) and create a path that reproduces the outlines of the eyes and the shape of the shadow around it (I have filled this shape with red for better visibility).

vector eyes

Creation of eyes is the most important work, because we see human eyes every day, and any imbalance will be immediately noticed. I would suggest you to rely more on your feelings than on the photo. Take the Ellipse Tool (L) and create a circle with a blue fill and black stroke.

vector iris

This circle will be iris. Take the Scissors Tool (C) and cut the circle at points A and B, then remove the top of the circle.

vector iris

Now connect the points A and B using the Pen Tool (P) as shown in the figure below.

vector iris

Step 5

Using the same technique, create a pupil.

vector pupil

Take the Ellipse Tool (L) and create a glare of light on the surface of the eye.

vector create a glare of light

For Illustrator CS5 users, to create the lashes using the Pen Tool (P), apply to the curved path segment a triangular profile from the Stroke panel.

If you use Illustrator CS4 or earlier, create a triangular brush profile and apply this to the curved path segments.

vector lashes

vector lashes

In the same way create the second eye.

vector eyes

Step 6

Based on the photo, create the elements of the mouth. The teeth are filled with solid white color β€” this is the style of works by Roy Lichtenstein. As with the overall graphic, simplify the outline by reproducing only the significant outlines in the underlying photo.

vector mouth

I created glare on the lower lip with the help of Pen Tool (P) and applied a suitable profile to the line from the Stroke panel.

vector lips

Step 7

With the help of the Pen Tool (P) I made the eyebrows and nostrils, and with the help of the Ellipse Tool (L) a birthmark on her cheek.

vector eyebrows, nostrils, birthmark

vector Marilyn Monroe

Now create the folds of skin around the eyes and nose, using the Pen Tool (P) and profiles from the Stroke panel.

vector portrait

Create shadows on the neck.

vector neck

vector neck

All elements of the face are ready.

Step 8

Start creating stylized hair. The task is not simple, since Marilyn has a fairly elaborate hairstyle. In this work, the main thing is to differentiate locks of hair and to understand their direction. I printed a few portraits of Marilyn and tried to create a few pencil sketches.

vector hair

Of course, you don't have to do this if your hairdo is not so complicated. After such exercises, I confidently took the Pen Tool (P) and created the curved lines reproducing hair direction.

vector hairdo

Now, group up all the lines and lock the group in the Layers panel. This group will be used as a template. Take the Pen Tool (P) and create new lines using the template, and apply different profiles to them, establishing their width in the Stroke panel.

vector hairdo

Now the template can be removed.

vector hairdo

Step 9

A characteristic feature of Roy Lichtenstein works is an exaggerated imitation of the halftone print pattern. This style is called the Ben-Day dots. With the Phantasm CS plugin installed (click here to download a full 7 day trial version), we can easily replicate this effect and even experiment a bit. Copy the shape of the face and neck and paste them in front (CMD / Ctrl + C; CMD / Ctrl + F), fill them with maroon color, and unite them into one shape by clicking the Unite button from the Pathfinder panel.

Pop Art style

Move the maroon shape in the layers panel so that it is taking the right position as shown in the figure below.

Pop Art style

Step 10

Keep the object selected, go to Effect > Phantasm CS > Halftone…. The dialog window contains a variety of options allowing the fine-tuning of the effect.

Phantasm CS effects

To imitate the style of Roy Lichtenstein, I set the Grid Angle equal to "45 degrees", the Shape of the point to "Circle". The DPI parameter affects the image detail, controlling the number of dots in any given area whilst Scale adjusts each dot's relative size. You can see the changes of the effect by changing the parameters in the dialog box; it is very convenient.

vector Halftone

You have probably noticed that points go beyond the neck contour, let's hide this effect. Copy the maroon shape and paste it in front (CMD / Ctrl + C; CMD / Ctrl + F), remove the Halftone effect from the Appearance panel .

(Further details of how to constrain a vector Halftone effect may be found in the AG Blog article Constraining a Phantasm CS vector Halftone.)

vector Halftone

Now select both of the maroon shapes and press the keyboard shortcut Cmd / Ctrl + 7, creating a Clipping Mask.

Marilyn Monroe

Portrait in the style of Pop Art is ready.

Step 11

Phantasm CS allows us to create more complex Halftone effect. Let's play a little with it. Turn off the visibility of the Halftone effect created in the previous step, the skin folds of the shadow on Marilyn's neck.

complex Halftone effect

Move the photo in the layers panel so that it could take the position indicated in the figure below.

complex Halftone effect

With the help of Phantasm CS, you can adjust the levels of the raster image directly in Adobe Illustrator without resorting to Photoshop. Besides being convenient, there is another advantage, which will be discussed later. Select the photo and go to Effect > Phantasm CS > Levels…, leaving the effect parameters unchanged for now and click on OK in the dialog window.

Phantasm CS Levels

Step 12

Now go to Effect > Phantasm CS > Halftone… and set the effect parameters in a dialog window.

complex Halftone effect

Sure, you don't have to stick to my parameters, because you can create your own unique effect. For example, instead of round dots, you can use squares, lines, Characters, and even Symbols, if you have previously saved them in the Symbols panel.

complex Halftone effect

complex Halftone effect

Once the effect parameters of work are set, my work looks like this.

Marilyn Monroe

Step 13

Now we can adjust the levels of the raster image. Open the Appearance panel (Window > Appearance). We can see that two Phantasm CS effects were applied to our object, and it's possible to further adjust these live Effects. Open the Phantasm CS Levels dialog window by double-clicking on its name in the Appearance panel; adjusting Levels settings and observe the changes. When you achieve a desirable result, click on the OK button.

Phantasm CS Levels

Step 14

Hide the dots that go beyond the contour of the head, using the technique of Clipping Mask, as described in step 10.

Marilyn Monroe Halftone

Step 15

In my opinion, some parts of our portrait need to be fixed. Arrows on the figure below show the trouble spots.

Marilyn Monroe Halftone

Select the object with the effects and go to Object > Expand Appearance.

Marilyn Monroe Halftone

As a result, the live Halftone Effect has become a group of vector circles that we can edit by conventional methods. After editing, the picture looks as shown below.

Marilyn Monroe Halftone

Step 16

We just have to create the background. For the background we will use a paper photo texture. You can download such textures here (credit to deviantART user ~Knald). Paste the texture into the artwork (File > Place …) and set the Multiply Blending Mode for it in the Transparency panel.

Paper raster texture

Hide the extra parts of the texture with the Clipping Mask (see step 10).

Marilyn Monroe Halftone

For the second version of the portrait, I'm using a different texture.

Marilyn Monroe Halftone

Conclusion

I hope you have enjoyed this tutorial. Phantasm CS gives you complete freedom for creativity. Perhaps Roy Lichtenstein would have even used such digital tools in his works?

For further insight into Phantasm CS, you can view several product movies by clicking here.

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