You can turn any photo into a comic-style illustration using just a Wacom tablet and Adobe Illustrator.

Aaron Sacco developed the process outlined here working on Richard Linklater’s mindbending film A Scanner Darkly – recreating this bold effect, using shapes of solid colour to represent a realistic image.

A Scanner Darkly used an animation technique called interpolated rotoscoping. Similar to rotoscoping, where each frame of film is painstakingly hand-painted, interpolated rotoscoping uses vector keyframes and interpolates between keyframes automatically. Each minute of animation in the movie required over 500 hours of work.

For this tutorial, we’re not going to animate a sequence, but concentrate on one image, representing one frame. The focus of the tutorial is to recreate the incredible, unique style of the movie through the use of colour and vectors.

For an image of this complexity, you should expect to spend five to six hours illustrating it. If you limit your colours and detail, you can spend less – but it’s worth putting in the extra effort. If you’re learning and experimenting, you can expect to spend much more. Be bold and have fun!

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