With our July Custom Portrait Sale in full swing, I thought it would be fun to give you all a fun behind-the-scenes peek at the step-by-step process that goes into creating a custom doodle portrait! The following is a photo-filled post of the making of a Level Three doodle portrait, the most detailed option we offer. Some steps of the process vary depending on the level of doodle I'm working on (I will note these differences as we go…) but for the most part, the order of operations remains the same.
Ready? Let's go!
Each portrait begins with a rough sketch on paper with a pencil. I used to just dive right in with my sharpie pen but found myself going through many pages of trial-and-error before getting the look I wanted. As it turns out, an eraser is a pretty amazing thing… ("duh", right?)
Next, I do one of two things: If the portrait is relatively simple, or there are less characters involved, I will go over the sketch in a black sharpie pen and then scan it into my computer and go right into coloring it in. I almost always do it this way with Level One or Level Two doodles.
If it's a more detailed sketch like this one, I will scan the sketch directly into my computer and trace it digitally in illustrator. This latter process is helpful If the portrait is more detailed, because it lets me utilize the "edit>undo" option that isn't available with a sharpie pen. If I mess up on paper, I have to resketch from the beginning…no fun.
While I'm working in Illustrator drawing lines over the sketch, I can use the "hide layer" function to toggle back and forth between having the sketch visible and hidden. This is great because it lets me see how the finished product is going to look as I go.
Once all of the main lines have been drawn, I "expand" the drawing's appearance. This basically means it takes all of the separate lines that I just drew, and joins them all together into one connected piece. It also allows me to use the "Live Paint" function which is sort of like turning the drawing into a coloring book -- super fun!
After I put the drawing into "Live Paint" mode, I get to color in the image. This is when it really starts coming together! I can fill the individual sections of the drawing with solid colors, gradients, or even patterns and swatches.
If I'm feeling super creative, I also like to create my own patterns to use as coloring fills. In this particular portrait, the little girl was wearing a dress in one of the photographs with an adorable fuchsia and pink deer print on it. So, I recreated the pattern in illustrator and used it to color in her doodle dress to match her real-life dress!
Once everything is filled in with color, I begin working on the close-ups, the shading, and the tiny details that make each portrait unique and fun…
WARNING: When I'm working on your custom portrait, I will likely zoom in super Super SUPER close to your face… I hope that doesn't make you uncomfortable, haha. This is one of my favorite parts of the whole process! When I was little I would draw faces in my sketchbook, over and over again, usually focusing on eyes. Now, I get to be a grown-up and do it everyday for a living, how fun is that!?
This is also when I add makeup or facial hair, other facial features like eyelashes, eyebrows, or noses, and do any touching up of line work.
I will usually crop the photos you provide really close in on your face and arrange them on the illustration right next to your doodle-self. This is what the scene looks like as I work… faces everywhere!
When everything is complete, I hit "Select All" to highlight all of the strokes I've made. In this case, you can see a bunch of red dots where tiny marks were made or white strokes are blending in to the white background. I erase these little marks to make sure everything is cleaned up and centered correctly on the page.
The last step of the process is often the trickiest-- picking out the background color! This may seem pretty arbitrary but it's important to pick a color that makes the portrait "pop". Too neutral and the skin tone fades into the background. Too bright and it could clash with the clothes.
Once it's complete, I make sure everything is centered, save one digital file for me and one for the client, and get their final copy sent to them either via email or a print shipped to their home! (Aaaand then they squeal with delight, tell all their friends, and order a hundred more!.... right? Hehehe....)