When I create my cartoon illustrations, working on the final strokes in Illustrator, I enjoy experimenting with thickness and style of my outline. When you have a certain experience with this, you can achieve some great results of your linework!
There are a lot of ways to create a nice vector outline developing a character or a picture, each has its own advantages or disadvantages. For example, you can make a clean vector linework “manually”, using a hard brush in Photoshop. But this can result very tiresome and time-taking, you will have to go over the same lines several times to gain a perfect look.
Just look how it does my colleage, a spanish illustrator Serjio Ordonez:
Another outline technique would be using the Pentool. Such way of creating a cartoon illustration is a bit more practical, but still I would not call it perfect. It doesn’t give you a flexible possibility to work with lines, because you have to choose ahead what brush size you’ll use throughout the whole illustration, and sometimes it’s not very convenient for you.
Here’s another good demonstration from the same author:
So, making my own tests and mistakes, I came to a personal, more or less flexible, way of preparing a final vector outline.
I take my sketch and create above it a new layer with vector outlines, using Pen tool and Pencil tool with overall line weight of 1 pt.
At this point of developing the character I don’t pay too much attention to the artistic look. All I care about is a nice, clean, accurate outline! I will play with thickness and styles a bit later.
Now, when my basic outline is ready, I start to work out the line weight, based on air perspective. Mentally I picture my character in different angles – in profile or in three-quarters, twist it like this and like that, in order to understand which zone is closer to the viewer and which is farther. Where it’s closer, I make a bolder line, where it’s farther, I make it thinner. Usually I make the key zones, that need to be marked out, even bolder than the other ones.
But still I would not recommend you overplaying with weight range, choose 3-4 sizes and stick to them.
For example, the thinnest line would be 1pt, the boldest 5pt, and everything that is in the middle would depend from your artistic style and view, and final use of the picture.
After you finish playing with line weight, you can pass to the next step. It’s the final step of the process regarding vector outline. At this point we will work with outline profile.
Our main goal will be giving life to the picture and adding more artistical look to it, to transform it from a rough sketch to a true vivid picture, where strokes depend on the pressure of your hand, they become bolder or thinner in a natural way.
Here we will use two types of outline profiles. In places where strokes transverse each other at a right angle, making “T”-like objects, I use “narrow to own side” profile.
In places where strokes are not joint and do not form a right angle, I use narrowing to both sides.
Thus, using one outline style or another, I work out the whole picture. In the end, from a dry sketch our picture becomes “alive”, appears some volume and space!
About my work with color I will tell you in my further lessons, when I clear out a little time.