Friday, May 1, 2020

Affinity Designer - a better way to draw realistic vector portraits

One of the biggest challenges for artists that work with vector drawing programs, is to create realistic portraits. Usually they look like the image below, containing hard edges that artists try to disguise by placing a number of layers on top of each other with slightly different colours or with very contrasting colours to suggest that it is artsy art (which I think is horrible). In spite of these tricks the portraits remain hideous, although certain software producers have tried to promote this flawed type of 'art' to the standard of vector portrait drawing, so that it could continue to sell its software that actually is not capable of drawing proper realistic portraits.

Compilation of ugly vector portraits with hard edges

At some point the vendors of vector drawing programs began offering mesh-fill tools that basically transform clusters of pixels into blended areas of vector shapes. Using the mesh-fill tool is tedious and an extremely time consuming business, while making adjustments or corrections afterwards is a hugely laborious undertaking. On the CorelDRAW and Illustrator forums I have seen artists say that they work for months on end or even half a year on a vector portrait. This can of course be done if you have nothing else to do with your life, but if you do, I suggest you have a go at drawing portraits with Affinity Designer.

My first vector portrait created in Affinity Designer
Update sequence

For decades I've worked with Illustrator professionally, with CorelDRAW privately and with Inkscape occasionally, so I have good knowledge of those programs. But apart from struggling with the tiresome mesh-fill misery I never quite liked creating realistic vector portraits in any of those programs. Somewhere around 2016, if I recall correctly, I accidentally bumped into Affinity Designer and not long after I figured out that drawing realistic vector portraits in this program could be done a lot quicker with far less clicks (and less headache). I estimate creating a realistic vector portrait in Affinity Designer can be done in one third of the time that is necessary in the competition's software.

My third vector portrait created in Affinity Designer
Update sequence

The tools used in Affinity Designer that make drawing realistic vector portraits possible are:

  • Gaussian blurring
  • Gradient colouring
  • Gradient transparency application
  • Clipping blurred shapes and strokes inside other (often blurred) shapes
  • Custom made vector texture brushes (often Gaussian blurred and applied with 3D fx) to create pores / skin and hair textures

The subtleties of the female form created in vectors in Affinity Designer
Update sequence

That sounds like a lot of different techniques, but believe me, it is much faster than meticulously toiling with the mesh-fill tool. Not just the initial drawing, but also making adjustments or correction afterwards. A much needed effect in portrait drawing, is creating colour gradients that run in more than one direction. In Designer just duplicate shapes, change the direction of the gradient and cut off the parts of the shapes that aren't needed or make them disappear with the gradient transparency tool or by clipping. The Gaussian blur tool allows to create blurry edges and in doing so avoids drawing unwanted hard edges that other programs have difficulty to prevent from showing.

Crystal Reed vector portrait created in Affinity Designer
Update sequence

I might make a video tutorial on how to create a realistic vector portrait in the future, but at this point my webcam broke down and I have to familiarize myself with a video editor first. Meanwhile check out my portfolio blog in which I placed the stages of development of the vector portraits placed above and others. Move away from drawing ugly vector portrait drawing software and move towards Affinity Designer that currently (look at the date at the top of this article) offers a 50% ( ! ! ! ) price reduction - NO monthly subscription penalties - and a 90 day trial period ( . . . ). While this special offer runs Affinity Designer costs less than a one time fee of 28 USD. For this kind of money you can't let this opportunity pass by unused. Unless you have no clue on what to waste your money of course.

Hasta luego online virtual folks.

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