From Male Stock to Female Vector Portrait in Illustrator

One of my biggest inspirations are drag queens, especially in my portrait work. In today’s tutorial I’m going to show you how I went from a male stock image to a female vector portrait in a drag queen style.

I’ll start with creating a photo manipulation reference in Adobe Photoshop and then bring it over to Adobe Illustrator to work from. This is more an exercise in transforming a stock image to create a portrait unlike what you’ve started with. So let’s get started!

Tutorial Details
  • Applications Used: Adobe Illustrator CS6
  • Difficulty: Advanced
  • Estimated Completion Time: 3h +

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Final Product What You’ll Be Creating

“Make up” Tutorial

Before we start with the actual process, it’s worth checking out a full facial transformation from male to female from a make up tutorial. Consider it a theory based lesson. This is my favorite make up tutorial on this subject as the drag queen, Manila Luzon, goes over why you need to apply shading and highlights here and there.

Step 1

I’m starting with a simple stock image of a male. I’ve choose this due to the symmetry in the face, the sculpted cheek bones and the fuller lips. The cheek bones and lips will be easier to manipulate to create a female look. With a bald man, it makes the transformation more dramatic as a bald head is very masculine.

I’ve duplicated the layer with the stock image on and then used Filter > Liquify on the stock image. I’ve brought the lips out and slimmed the bottom lip slightly. I’ve reduced the width of the nose and lifted the cheekbones further. I’ve then rounded the jawline and changed the chin so it’s more rounded rather than a masculine square jaw.

Step 2

Time to start blocking out and ‘neutralizing’ some of the shadows and features. I’ll be using the Brush Tool (B) with a pale skin tone to block out the eyebrows and angles of the face.

Then using the Smudge Tool, I’ve blended the edges through out the face. I’m also trying to hide the Adam’s apple, which is a dead give away on a man! I’ve then lowered the Opacity to create a more natural coverage.

Step 3

Using an off white, I’m going to start carving into the face where the highlights need to be. This is where I create the brow bone and thus where the eyebrows will go. I’ve increased the side of the eyelids to create a deeper eye-socket. Highlighting along the jawbone will help make the jawline less square.

Then lowering the Opacity to blend the color in.

Step 4

Smaller highlights now and deep shadows are placed around the face.

Smudged and blended in with a lower Opacity.

Step 5

Using a much darker color, let’s create eyebrows, eyelines and creased as well as sculpting the nose to create a more female appearance.

Here we have it again smudged and blended in.

…and that’s the end of the preview!

View The Tutorials

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