Best Illustrator Tutorials 2016: Create vector art, low-poly portraits & type

This year we explored a range of vector art styles in Adobe Illustrator, as this form of art continues to prove popular. 

Learn step-by-step skills from the vector art experts, such as how to create a vector portrait from a photo, how to create an eye-catching vector map and how to create colourful and crazy vector characters. 

Most tutorials are rather in-depth, so expect to learn a lot and take around five hours to complete a piece of art, with some needing finishing touches in Adobe Photoshop. 

Bram Vanhaeren: Create a vector portrait


In this tutorial for Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop, designer Bram Vanhaeren reveals how he chooses the right photo to work from, and designs the key shapes that will underpin the style of a vector portrait. 

From here he shows you how he has created an environment to find new ways to create his portraits, using a template built within Illustrator to guide his process.

He then shows you how he works up his initial draft into the final work – adding additional lighting and effects in Photoshop. 

Read our full tutorial here.

LouLou & Tummie: Create symmetrical character art


In this tutorial, creative duo LouLou & Tummie show you how to use Illustrator to create a symmetrical, character-filled banner. You’ll hone your use of the Pathfinder tool to build new shapes, and tweak lines to give them a sense of flow. 

The time to complete this tutorial will take around five hours, and to start you’ll need to get some reference images of plants and flowers and draw yourself a rough sketch to base the tutorial on.

Read our full tutorial here.

Breno Bitencourt: How to draw a mandala


Brazilian artist Breno Bitencourt reveals how to quickly and easily create a mandala using Adobe Illustrator's vector drawing tools. 

Mandalas were originally a symbol of spirituality in Indian religions such as Buddhism and Hinduism - but have been broadened in meaning by Western cultures to represent a sense of oneness within the universe.  

The purpose of this tutorial isn’t to teach you how to draw a particular style of mandala – that’s up to you. Instead Breno shows you how to build a radial template where anything you draw is automatically replicated around the circular structure of your mandala – with alternating variations for more visual interest and a more handmade feel. 

Read the full tutorial here.

Breno Bitencourt: Create a low-poly portrait


Breno is back again – this time he shows you step-by-step how to create a stylish low-poly portrait in Illustrator and Photoshop.

The secret to creating works in this style is working from the best reference photos – and first off Breno reveals how to capture these (using himself as a model). He then reveals how to work these up in Photoshop, then create a vector version in Illustrator.

Breno says you don’t need to be an expert in Illustrator or Photoshop to follow this tutorial, as long as you have a good eye – and a good amount of patience.

Read the full tutorial here.

Eelco van den Berg: Create vector portraits from a photo 

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.

Read the full tutorial here

Jimmy Gleeson: Design a vector map stuffed with creatures and landmarks


Jimmy Gleeson was commissioned by a homeware studio in Melbourne to illustrate a souvenir depiction of 'Australia'.  

Follow Jimmy as he creates a map from concepts and sketches through the finished piece in in Photoshop and Illustrator. The approaches he uses could be applied to any type of vector map from a theme park to a full country,  

Read the full tutorial here.

Onesidezero: Create colourful vector character art


This tutorial will teach you how to create a fully digital image from an initial sketch. You will learn how to control vector paths to create smooth angles and view the necessary stages to complete a piece of work in Adobe Illustrator. This tutorial demonstrates the stages taken from sketch to vector, covering colour adjustments, depth and composition.

Through learning these basic skills you will be able to create perfect characters that are scalable to any size, and which you can then enhance with finishing touches in Photoshop to achieve a truly eye-catching piece of work.

Read the full tutorial here.

Blood Sweat Vector: Create type filled with characters


Learn how 12 artists from the Blood Sweat Vector collective came together to design art in aid of earthquake victims in Haiti.

This tutorial gives a glimpse of that collaborative process through the work of Chris Leavens and Alexandra Zutto (aka Zutto) who created the letter R together as part of the artistic prints of ‘Renmen’ – the Haitian word for ‘love’. They bounced an Illustrator file between their respective homes in California and Miass, Russia, until they felt their letter was complete. 

Read the full tutorial here.

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