Posted 31 Dec 2009 - 18 Gratefully received comments
I created this text illustration of the ‘Bard’ as an ironic play on the idea of making pictures out of words. Something Shakespeare is one of the best at.
Programme: Illustrator CS2
Difficulty: Beginner – Intermediate
Time to completion: 4-6 hours
Files that might help:
Shakespeare reference picture – istockphoto
Ink Blot Vectors – I have provided these for download in an earlier post.
Il Shake Fest Font – DaFont
Shakespeare Quotes – Available from many sources on the internet.
Open source file in Photoshop, set to grayscale (Image > Mode > Grayscale).
The next step is to remove any unwanted details.
Use the Polygonal Lasso to draw around the desired portion of picture,don’t be too fussy about this. Crop the image down (Image > Crop) to get rid of the unwanted parts of the picture. Then boost contrast/brightness (Image > Adjustments > Brightness/Contrast) to make the tones more extreme. Alternatively or in addition you could adjust the exposure (Image > Adjustments > Exposure) as well to get the desired effect.
You may also want to erase some of the background by using the eraser tool or by drawing around it with the Polygonal Lasso.
Place the image into a new Illustrator artboard. Open the Layers Window (Window > Layers). 1a: Create a new layer (Click the arrow at the top right of the layers window > New Layer).
1b: Name the new layer appropriately.
1c: Drag it to the bottom of the layer list to make sure it is behind everything else.
1d: Select the image and using the coloured square drag it to the bottom layer.
1e: Finally, lock the image in the bottom layer (Click the second box to the left of the layer name, a padlock should appear).
Now we have our source image ready in Illustrator so we can use it as a guide and work over the top of it.
To make the task of filling the dark patches with text easier I made some ink blot vectors, that I made available for download last week.
I use these to make a rough guide of where the densest areas need to be. I went for ink because it is suitable to the illustration style.
I use a bright colour to work over the top of the image, this time magenta.
Font selection is very important according to the type of illustration you want, with this sort of illustration it is like choosing a brush. In this case I’ve gone for “Il Shake Fest“, downloaded from DaFont.
As this is a typographical illustration there is another important decision to make. You can just use a jumble of characters to achieve the affect we are after or we can use actual quotes that relate to the subject that might be made visible in the illustration. I like to work with the second idea as it gives an extra layer to the image.
For this illustration all of the text I have used is made from quotes taken from Shakespeare’s many plays and sonnets. (You will be able to find many online resources for this).
I collected the quotes together in a text box and changed them all to my desired font.
4a: Select the text quotes, and outline the text (Type > Create Outlines), I find it easier to work with shapes instead of live text.
4b: Ungroup the text (select the group > Object > Ungroup)
4c: Group single words or full phrases (Select desired grouping > CMD + G).
I choose the quotes I want to use as I go along, and find this more interesting, as I can decide if ‘Hamlet’ should make up his nose, then putting ‘Othello’ in his hair. That’s because I’m a geek, and because it would be dull to process all of the text at once.
The closest comparison I can make to this technique is like crosshatching with a pen.
First I place the text so it forms the simple shapes of the facial feature. I tend to keep the text all at the same size for the fine details of the face. Use the selection tool to position the words, rotating if needed.
To build up areas of dense tone I rotate the words and overlay them. With areas of very dense tone just copy words over and over again. (Hold Alt and drag a word to copy it easily)
Try to make the ink blots blend with the type clusters. We want the type to be prominent not the ink elements.
An important thing to consider is how the flow of the words describes the shapes you are after. In this case the words that describe the hair need to run in the direction of the strands.
To be honest there isn’t a lot more to it! It’s basic repetition, you could do the entire illustration like this and it would be fine, but there are a few little things you can do to bring the whole illustration to life.
What is the point in doing an illustration made out of text if you can’t see it? Once you have all of the dark detail areas done the image should be coming together quite well. Check your progress by making the image layer invisible and zooming out. This should give you a good idea of how the illustration is progressing.
With the areas of lighter tone you can use ‘impact’ text. Text that should be readable and mean something to the image. In this case I’ll be using the titles of Shakespeare’s plays.
Another approach to ‘impact’ text is to use the text path tool. This can be used for detail or to create texture.
8a: Select the pen tool, click once to add an anchor point, then click in another place, hold the button and drag the mouse to describe a curve betwen the two points.
8b: Click again to extend the line and emphasise the curves. You should be able to trace lines within the picture like this, easily.
8c: Select the type path tool and click the first anchor point of the line to activate the line as a path for type to sit on.
8d: Type your desired text along the path.
Using these simple illustrator techniques you should be able to describe your desired subject. I have finished my illustration with a little more use of the ink blot vectors because of the final finish I have planned for the piece.
The great thing about this technique is that the end product is dependant on the artictic ability of the person doing the illustration, the computer isn’t doing all of the work.
To give this illustration a nice finish I wanted to create a parchment style background for it to sit on.
Now is the time to define the size of your final piece as you will have to artwork the background bigger than you require.
10a: Use the rectangle tool to draw a rectangle that more than covers your artboard, set it’s colour as a dark brown. Select the Wrinkle tool.
10b: Double-click the wrinkle tool to open it’s dialogue box. When wrinkling the horizonal edges the settings have to be 100% horizontal, 0% vertical, the opposite applies for the vertical edges.
10c: Now go ahead and wrinkle the edges until you are pleased with the effect.
10d: Now copy that rectangle and paste it infront of the original (Select the rectangle > Edit > Copy. Edit > Paste in Front).
10e: Select the top rectangle and change it’s colour to a lighter brown. Then use hte feather effect (Effect > Stylize > Feather).
10f: Use the feather dialouge box with preview chosen to view the effect until you are satisfied.
You may try placing darker blocks of brown over the top of this effect and applying the feather effect to create a little more texture in the middle of the image.
All that is left to do now are a few finishing touches to clean the image up.
I decided I didn’t like the rough edges of the parchment effect, but I liked the subtle tones of the distressed edges. One way to solve this is to create a clipping mask.
11a: Draw a rectangle over the parchment withni the image. Make sure everything under the rectangle is grouped together, and the rectangle itself is the top object.
11b: Select both the grouped parchment artwork and the rectagle then create a clipping mask (Object > Clipping Mask > Make).
I then took the completed illustration, changed it’s colour to a very dark brown (Select one element of the magenta illustration > Same > Fill Colour. Then choose a new colour for the selection) and placed it onto the background. I added the tag line using the ink vectors as a finishing touch so the whole thing looks handwritten by Shakespeare himself!
This is a great technique to experiment with. Because the final effect is dependent on the font, the illustrations can be as varied as the thousands of fonts that are available. It is also worth thinking about experimenting with colour and mixing fonts within one image.
I’d love to see any illustrations that this tutorial might have initiated.
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