When creating a vector or a vexel from a reference image, choosing the correct photo is half of the battle. Once you've picked a good shot, then you're full steam ahead on making your master piece. Of course if you're just getting into vector or vexel art, making that leap into any old image might be a scary thing. You might realise that after spending several hours... even 20 hours plus on half of it, to find out that you've reached a point where you feel you've stepped out of your comfort zone.
It happens to all of us. We'll try to take on something new and it's human nature to feel stuck and frustrated. Unfortunately most times this results in discarding the image or even at the worst, just giving up on the idea of that art form out of frustration.
Well help is at hand, because not only is this article going to suggest some good basic portrait stock here on deviantART, but also give you some pointers on how to discover and hunt out that stock yourself!
Now before we go any further, I just want to make it clear that vexel and vector art are in no way limited to portrait work... infact they are no way limited to work from a reference. It is just a popular and often easy way to introduce yourself into the genre.
Choosing your first image
First things first, I'm assuming you've not put pen tool to canvas and have no experience in these art forms. So based on this, these images shouldn't present a great deal of a challenge in comparison to others.
So what do you need to look out for in a starter image?
One of the biggest challenges in starting a piece is hair. I can sense a lot of artists nodding along with me on that one! So for your first piece, why not try creating a vexel/vector WITHOUT hair?
Kstock12 by k-d-n-stock is a great reference image which not only has a great facial expression but also has no hair! Well maybe a little tuft here and there... but because he's not going a mass of dreadlocks or loads of curls... this will help you focus on a very underrated but crucial element to a portrait... the skin.
Talking about the skin, I'd highly recommend going for a stock image which has not got bizarre lighting which gives the face fancy shadows. Infact the more even the lighting the better.
Shai180 by BerlinElliott is a great example of this. Not only that but her skin is very clear and she has an even skin tone. This is especially helpful if you're going to be using a limited number of colours in your piece. The model also has striking features...
Picking a good stock image, you want to make it as attractive as possible to yourself and a good subject model with striking eyes and lushious lips will always make the image a pleasure to spend hours in front of. It also gives your audience, should you decide to share you new found talents, something to find pleasing.
Stock 41 by showmesara has some sexy eyes on here, which I must admit would be a joy to get my pen tool into. Sometimes a set of eyes or pair of lips are what's need to make an image a piece of art. They also set a focal point to the piece. As soon as you saw that image... did you see her eyes first? Did they grab you? Or maybe there was a brief... eek HAIR! moment?
So maybe Kstock12 was not to your taste and you want a brief introduction into hair... but you don't want something which is overly complex?
Stock-16-girl by Dagwanoenyent-Stock gives away a nice little secret... black or dark hair. You wont need to go into a great deal of detail at all... probably just some subtle highlights to show that it's not completely black. This should easy you into hair nicely. Now personally, if I was going to use this image, I'd not vexel/vector the hand until I felt I was ready... this could also be said about other elements...
Clothes. Personally I hate them. Not that I run around naked all day, but vectoring them, I get frustrated with them. Often picking an image with a lot of complex clothing and texture elements can lead to boredom and frustration... each to their own really.
Dom 1 - lioness by HoneyBeeJuju uses her hair as a frame and because it's such a close up of the face... there are no clothes to be seen! "If in dowt, do nowt" is what I say! It lets you focus on the face and helps you nicely avoid taking too much of a big leap into vexel/vectoring of having to go through doing clothes. Talking of close ups...
The bigger the image, in theory, the more detail there is to show. So if you're wanting to get into detailed work, a high quality, large image can be the key.
miss.draya.smiles.8 by clickypenpixieXstock, like other stock artists, provide a variety of high quality, large images. This one specifically has a resolution of 1915 x 2788. This is especially handy if you're venturing into vexel art... if you don't know why check this article.
So what are the key points then?
So any budding artists out there wishing to hunt out that wonderful stock or even stock artists wanting to know some hints on grabbing us vexel/vector artists starting out remember:
Starting out is going to be hard, so don't run before you can walk... look out for simplistic stock
If you're not comfortable with hair, then choose a reference image which doesn't have any or just focuses on purely the face
If you're wanting to attempt hair, why not start out with simple single toned hair... black hair is especially easy to do.
Choose images with evenly spread lighting and no overly complex shadows.
Choose a stock image which has clear skin tones
Striking eyes and lushious lips are always more of a joy to vexel/vector and to view
Try to avoid models with clothing if you're not comfortable with it yet.
Aim to use stock which is of high quality and a large image if you're wanting to vexel it over vectoring... or want to see a lot of detail.
And possibly one of the biggest things to remember...
Please remember to view the stock providers rules, agree to them, follow them and give credit where it's due!
Now as much as I'd love to fill your time featuring more stock art to use, I can't... I'm afraid I have a cat who is begging me for attention. Thankfully, deviantART has a wonderful tool called "Collections" and in my lovely favourites I have a Collection entitled Stock for Vexel Vector Beginners... which I will keep on adding to. So if you're lazy or just wanna see some good stock to ease you into vectoring/vexelling... swing by to have a look!
If you'd like to read my previous articles on vexel and vector art, please visit the links below:
Getting into vexelling and vectoring
The difference between Vector and Vexel Art
Thank you for reading!