In this tutorial, Eelco van den Berg lets you behind the curtain to see how he creates his incredible vector portraits by turning a photo into a ‘poppy’ vector illustration. You will learn quick and easy Photoshop adjustments that prepare artwork for translation into vector shapes.

He shows you how to trace the basic shapes using the main tools in Illustrator, and how to use layers to organise the photos and your new vector artwork. You will discover how to create the feeling of light and shadow, build a simple brush to work with and use the Pen tool for more geometrical shapes.

You’ll also discover the possibilities of the Pathfinder tool, and how to draw with the brush to create a looser feel. We’ll also show you how to play around with elements of the portrait to build up the background and how to use a simple raster to give it some texture.

Step 1 In Photoshop, open photo.jpg from the Download Zone and select Duplicate Layer from the menu in the Layers panel. Use Cmd/Ctrl + L to bring up the Levels dialog, then use the middle slider to make the new layer a bit lighter, so the subject stands out better from the background.