Illustration from a photograph -Ttutorial

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How to create illustrated icon from photo

This tutorial is geared towards this very web site and explains how to create a user icon to upload to your profile.

In the tutorial, I'll turn a Dalai Lama photo taken from his G+ profile into this icon:

rsrc/dalai-lama-icon.png image

And here is the vector source for that image: dalai-lama-icon.rli. Note that you'll need the beta version of RWPaint 2012.1, currently available on my blog.

Narration transcript

Hello again, today, I am going to demonstrate how to create an illustration that can be used on rw-designer web site as a user icon.

You'll need the latest version of RealWorld Paint with support for vector layers. Follow the link in the description to download it.

First you'll need a photograph of yourself. In this tutorial, I'll use the photograph of the current Dalai Lama, because he is a well known person and has a very characteristic smile.

So, open your photograph and create a new vector layer using a button above the list of layers.

Select the Shape tool. This is a new tool in RWPaint 2012. You create shapes with it by specifying points and tangent directions by clicking and dragging with mouse.

I'll start with the neck. It does not need to be accurate, because other parts will overlap it. When the shape is complete, make the layer transparent, ensure that solid fill is selected and it is set to use primary color and pick a suitable color. That will do.

Now, let's trace the red part of the robe. Simple click creates a sharp vertex while click and drag creates a smooth vertex.

Notice that there are 3 kinds of control handles. The blue handles represent vertex positions, brown handles are used to control tangents at each vertex. Green handles are special - more about them later.

A single shape can consist of multiple sub-shapes. You can end current sub-path and start a new one from the context menu. There are also other commands available in the context menu when you click on a vertex. The red part has 3 separate sub-shapes.

About the green handles: they represent the curve segments between 2 neighbor blue vertices. Clicking on a green handle splits a curve segment and allows you to refine the shape.

The yellow part was piece of cake, right?

After you are done, continue with the face outline. It is starting to take shape.

Do the ear next and pick the darker color.

Hair consists of two separate areas. Some adjustments are needed.

Now, let's trace the lips and the interior of the mouth. After finishing the mouth, deselect it - otherwise you won't be able to start a new shape within the old one.

The eyebrows are quite simple.

The eyes are more tricky. Pick radial fill mode and setup the gradient like I did. Black color on one side and then rapid transition to white color. The purple handles allow you to position the pupils. If you want iris with a different color, modify your color gradient.

Nose is usually the most difficult part, I decided to fill the nose with a linear gradient from dark brown to transparent. If necessary, you can emphasize the nostrils.

Continue with the glasses. Select a custom color in the fill style configuration - there and pick a semitransparent color. Switch to Combined shape filling mode and select black color as a primary color. Set outline witdth to 2 pixels. Then make the center of the glasses using the curve tools and the sides with the shape tool using solid shape filling mode and black color.

The final part of the illustration are going to be the wrinkles.

When the illustration is done, switch to the layer with the photo and make it fully transparent. Use the Crop tool set to normal more and 4:3 aspect ratio to crop the image. Then rescale the image to 150x200 pixels.

That is all, the picture is ready to be used as an icon on rw-designer web after you export it to the PNG.

Thanks for watching and I hope to see a lot of great user icons online.

Recent comments

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user icon Benderbee registered user on September 20th 2016

I've tried to make an avatar, made out of black and white colors. It's 150x200, it's a transparent background, it has 4 layers. Does it have to be a RLI or a PNG? Why I ask is because on the other page, you said it had to be PNG, and on this page, the picture shown is a RLI. And I saved it as a PNG anyway.

This looks like a pretty good icon :-)

user icon Sum Fun Dude registered user on September 22nd 2016

woohoo, avatar time!


user icon nibbler forum moderator on October 19th 2016


user icon KittyKata12 registered user on May 17th 2019

Can someone make my icon for me? Thx!

user icon Vlazteron registered user on December 9th 2019

Can someone make an icon for me?

user icon Insane Games registered user on February 8th 2021

Can someone make an icon for me? Use this

user icon pik registered user on March 19th 2022

hey im :-)
maker of fnaf :-)

im makeing fnaf6

user icon Henry vntv registered user on June 29th 2022

i can't do it icon-image/23967-16x16x32.png image

user icon Kirsty Basa registered user on September 27th 2022


user icon Kirsty Basa registered user on September 27th 2022
user icon Anonymous
I wish there were...
What about ICL files?