How to Create a Zodiac-Themed Portrait

It’s an absolute pleasure to be able to share with you my process of putting together this Zodiac/Leo the

Lion themed vector portrait which I created using Adobe Illustrator CS5.




Tutorial Details
  • Applications Used: Adobe Illustrator CS5
  • Difficulty: Advanced
  • Estimated Completion Time: 1h +

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Final Product What You’ll Be Creating

Step 1


For this tutorial, I’ve used a stock image as a reference. This great image comes from Photodune by AndresrPhotos.

First, I like to visualise the concept I have in mind for my vectors, so I tend to either sketch in Adobe®”Photoshop® CS5 or Illustrator CS5, depending on how much manipulation I need to do. As I intend to manipulate the stock image, Photoshop is my weapon of choice to start with. I begin by increasing the size of the canvas by choosing Image > Canvas Size (Ctrl + Alt + C) from the main menu,”selecting” the bottom middle anchor and increasing both the width and height.

Now I create a new layer “to put my sketch on. “To do this, select Create a New Layer at the bottom of the Layers panel. For the sketch work, select”the Brush Tool (B) and a color which stands out against the colors of the stock image, blue in this case.

Step 1

Step 2


Now that I have the basic concept in mind, I’m going to manipulate the stock image. I like to make the eyes and lips bigger, while reducing the nose to make the portrait look more cartoon-like.

First begin enlarging the eyes by using the Lasso tool (L) with a 15px feather. Select an area “around the eye, including the eyebrow. Use the Move tool (V) with “Show Transform Controls” enabled, increase the size of the eye, rotating it slightly to keep the dimensions in scale with the face.

Step 2a

Select and resize each eye individually rather than together so they remain in the same location they were originally.

Step 2b

Step 3


Now we need to select the lips to enlarge them, but we want to make them larger in height than width. However, if we use the Move tool (V) for enlarging the lips, which are at an angle here, it won’t enlarge them evenly, which is what we want.

Select the lips and use the Move tool (V) to rotate them so the parting of the lips is horizontally parallel. To commit to the change, press Enter (Windows) or”Return (Mac”OS), click the Commit button”? in the options bar, or double-click inside the transformation marquee. Now when you go back to using the Move tool (V), you can enlarge the lips knowing they will be scaled up in the manner you desire.

Step 3a

When rotating the lips back into the correct place, you can use the Rotate View tool (R) to rotate the canvas and then use the Move tool (V) to rotate the lips back into position. By having the face at the correct angle to you, you can better judge if you’ve put the lips back in the correct angle.”To restore the canvas to the original angle, click Reset View in the Control panel.

Step 3b

Step 4


Repeat the same process as Step 3 for the nose and reduce its size.

Step 4

Step 5


At this stage, I now want to add more to my sketch and modify what I already have. The animal lovers reading this would have been the first to point out that one, female lions don’t have big manes of hair/fur and second, they don’t have pointed cat-like ears. While I can try and hide under “creative licence” for the mane since I want to maintain the look of a lion, I can’t with the ears!

Draw a new ear, duplicate it and then use my favorite tool, the Move tool (V) to rotate and flip the ear so we have a pair.

Step 5



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