Open your model stock and adjust Saturation to +35 (Cmd/Ctrl+U to boost colours). This is important because the skin shading process depends on seeing all facial tones so tweak as you see fit. Also, don’t worry about your image resolution whether 72 dpi or above because we’re going to work with shape layers, which retain vector properties.
Set your Pen tool to Shape Layer mode, creating line art by tracing the model’s face edge. To make things easier, lower shape layer opacity to 20% in order to see the image beneath, accurately placing lines. Finally, keep everything organised in one layer by using the Add to Shape Area setting every time you close a shape.
Now that we have outlines as guidelines all we have to do is fill the lips section. Use the Eyedropper tool to select the nearest colour and fill the section using the Pen tool. Notice where all the dark sections are and where the shiny parts are placed, using according colours. Lower your Pen tool Opacity if you’re having a hard time to see through.
Now you must determine the shadow portions of your image, and why it was crucial to bring out the colours in the beginning. Grab the Eyedropper tool and select the nearest colour to the shadow portions from your model. Start tracing the shadows and repeat this process for midtones, remembering to keep each shape respectively in one layer. If you’re still new to vexels then I recommend you try using Image>Adjustments>Posterize on a duplicated model layer, so you can see where the shadings exist but not as your base reference.
Portrait highlights are crucial since without them your picture would look flat. Make sure to trace the spots using the Pen tool where there are white portions of the face. Even the smallest detail will make a difference, so zoom in tight to find them all. Highlights are usually found on the forehead, cheeks and chin areas of the face in contrast to shadows, which are near curves and edges.
Now that we have our portrait set, it’s time to create some elements for our vexel work. It can be whatever you want if you have an independent theme in mind, but for this tutorial it’s floral-based patterns.
You can look to pattern styles over the web and draw inspiration from these, or get accurate references from your own stock photo imagery, which is much better because you know where to place shading. Scan your sketches, open in Photoshop and have it ready.
Patterns are perfect ingredients in vexel works. You can create complex loops by just drawing simple swirls and lines and you can use these over and over. Trace over your patterns and apply less control points to create smoother curves. If you want to access these more easily in Photoshop then add them to your Custom Shape tool by activating an existing Shape Layer, right click the canvas shape and select Define Custom Shape.
…to be continued