So why Iron man you ask? Well besides the fact that the character recently was revived by Hollywood, Iron man is a very Angular character, and lends himself well to vector art, because of the line and gradient based look of the hero. I’ve broken down the tutorial into four phases, Setup, Linework, Coloring, and Effects.
Phase 1: Setup and prepping your project
First we need our reference photo, obviously the object of our affection for this project is none other than Tony Stark Himself, Iron Man. Click here to download the Hi-Res Iron Man Photo. Now we need to make a new Illustrator file, 3500pts Wide and 2500pts Tall. You can use these doc settings.
Now It’s time to place in our Iron man Pic. Place the Jpeg into the stage, you’ll notice how tiny he is, since this pic has plenty of pixels we’re going to ramp it up.
Select our Iron Man image and scale it up to 520% of its original size, and make it a uniform scale, so that you keep in proportion.
Now we have a much larger Iron man, and we need to align him, set you’re alignment at the top to the stage, with center, and bottom align.
Name you’re layer Iron Man and lock it, this is our reference Double click the layer, name it and lock it, you can also do this from the Layers Pallette.
Now Make a second layer and rename it, this time we have to double click it because we’re going to need to set it to a color that will show up while we work on our hero. I chose Cyan, I recommend you do the same, as we’re going to be making a green “blueprint” of Iron Man, starting with his head. Why a blueprint? Because coloring will come second, if we try to color each part as we go, we may not have a consistent effect. Do not lock this layer
Finally Save the file, and be sure to set it to include linked files inside of the save dialogue box, this will increase file size but keep the image in the file while you’re working on it.
Now we’re down to the nitty gritty, it’s time to trace, and trace, and click, and click. This process will take different amounts of time for each person. Some strategies I like to use is create simple “whole” shapes (like the outline of the head) and then create the line work that will serve as “cutouts” of the original shape. Confused? Let me show you an example.
This is where I chose to start my file at the chin, once you’ve completed a shape like this, it’s a good practice to hit “V” then “P” again on your keyboard, to deselect the path you’re working on (especially if its not a complete path) and then go back to the pen tool, now I’d draw a line diagonally following that highlight to “cut” the chin shape into three segments.
For the sake of visual separation, fill in your white outlines with a color, something different from Ironman’s colors. Green suits well. Since I cannot train you on the pen tool, I will provide you with reference, and give you some general tips.
Also, Making your shapes and lines partially transparent will also help, in the transparency dialogue box, turn your shapes down to 50-60% Take a look at the top of Iron’s Head:
Now this is going to leave you with a lot of junk shapes, and not nessary lines inside your design, so why do I do it? Time! It’s much faster to stray out of the lines and then worry about cleanup, then it is to make every shape exactly aligned and layered. This is a great technique and will save you time.
Stop once you’ve traced out the head, It’s time to polish up your paths. Once you’ve got the shaped down and dirty, It’s time to do some cleanup, Use the pathfinder again by selecting paths that should go together and were separated during the divide process, holding the ALT key on your keyboard, and clicking the “add to shape” button in the pathfinder, this command adds shapes together and makes them one object.
Now it’s time to color Iron Man, If you’d like to jump straight to this point, you can download this outline only version I’ve created. The first step is reletiavly simple, make nine squares. Why you ask? Because Tony Stark’s costume really only has 3 colors in it, and for our gradients we want to represent lighting of sorts to give it a “3D” look.
Now, You’re more than welcome to change any one of these colors, personally I found the movie version of the suit, to be a bit too purple in this instance, but I did not stray from it, Later on I’ll show you a version with different color. Keep in mind that this is really just a launching pad for coloring the entire design.
Color Tony Stark! Use the mid tone of each to color in Iron Man’s separate parts, for the areas that are black I suggest using the darkest red tone. I made the eyes and chest blue to remind me they are different.
Now, It’s time to create our gradients. Open up the gradients palette, and select the “blades” to the left side of Iron Man’s chest. Notice I’ve made a copy of the iron man picture, This will sit under your design, and you can shrink it and move it around to it serves as a point of reference for coloring and shading Iron man.
Select the gradient tool from the toolbox in illustrator, and drag it to highlight the correct area of iron man, you can adjust your sliders to match. I’ve also hidden the background image at this point, as it only serves as a distraction. You can now select solid areas of the design, and use the eye-dropper to sample the gradient that you’ve already created, some will set up the gradient as a swatch, but there’s no real need for that.
Once you have all the gradients done, You’re now free to use the magic want tool and select, say, all of the red gradients, and select one of the swatches and change the color values, here’s a look at Iron Man in a more classic red, next to his more movie color counterpart. Once you have all the coloring done, keeping the stoke on is up to you, I turned if off in this photo.
Phase 4 – Finishing and Adding Glows and Polish
Ok Iron man is almost done except for 2 things. The eyes and that super glowing chest thingy! Before we take this step, please note, this created a much larger file. If you don’t have a lot of ram, or don’t want to wait for you illustrator file to load, I suggest making a copy of the file before continuing.
Now do the same for the chest piece, You can pretty much rinse and repeat, you may want to increase the blur level to make it cover more ground. After all is said and done, you should have yourself a pretty legit Iron Man!
Since it’s not often done, I’d like to say if you finished this tutorial well done! I’m sure you put in a lot of time and effort. Please post and questions, concerns, clarifications and corrections so that I can make this tutorial even better.