David Garcίa Vivancos Illustration Process

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Sometimes I receive messages, comments or e-mails in which fellow caricature artists (or simply people who like my work) ask me about how I prepare a caricature, so I’m going to explain my process from the sketch to the finished piece with this step-by-step article.

As a caricature artist, I’m “obsessed” with the abstraction of facial features and I always try to improve on this: only a few lines, a few colours, a few textures. To illustrate my own view of this fascinating art form, I’ve prepared a tutorial on my tribute to Steve Jobs, who sadly passed away last October.

Though it is kind of obvious, I first of all think about the person and the type of caricature I want to prepare. I usually draw my caricatures in a three-quarter pose, but in this case, I decided on a frontal caricature because I wanted to prepare an iconic image of Apple’s genius. With the idea “icon” in mind, I begin with the drawing:

Rough sketch: I have a common and simple school notebook, DIN A5 format (148 × 210 mm / 5.83 × 8.27 in), with white 60 gram pages, where I sketch all my caricatures with a black Bic pen (I don’t know if it’s well known abroad, but in Spain it’s a very popular tool). At this stage my drawings are always very unruly, but in this example the drawing is a bit cleaner. I look at the sketch and then decide what to change (for instance: I like the top middle part of the face and the nose-beard solution, but I think all should be wider) and I go to the next stage.

Refined sketch: I scan the refined sketch and open it in Photoshop. I then clean the lines a bit and adjust the drawing to my standard size, DIN A4. (210 × 297 mm / 8.27 × 11.69 in) Now, I modify the rough sketch, especially the jawline and the neck. I finally draw the new ears with the pen and tablet, because I don’t like the original shapes.

Colour areas: The most important part. I make the sketch blue with less opacity (it’s easier for me to work this way) by creating a layer over the sketch, filling it with blue and changing the layer mode to Screen. I then create paths with the pen tool for the different shapes and I fill each shape with a flat colour, with each shape/colour on a different layer. Finally, I make the lines with the same tool (except the eyes, which I simply draw free-hand) and my own Photoshop custom brushes.

Main texture: With all the coloured shapes finished, I put the basic texture, a cardboard photograph I took a few years ago (4a), on the top layer. I change the layer mode to Linear Burn and Opacity to 60% (for viewing on the screen this is a perfect percentage, but for print I need to lower it to 40%, because the texture makes the colours darker). Finally, I hide the sketch because I don’t need it anymore.

Colours: I adjust the colours and I also paint the lines with all layers in Normal mode and opacity at 100%. I have my own colour palette but I also find Photoshop’s Hue/Saturation command very useful. Now, I can go to the next stage to prepare some “effects.” The lines are on the topmost layer: it easy because you can lock transparent pixels (the little checkerboard icon in the Layers Palette) and you can paint the lines with a normal rounded brush. At this point, I have 11 layers (main texture, lines and the rest for the shapes with the colours) in this caricature.

Shadows and textures: With the final colour, I create a shadow below the head and the glasses. It’s a very easy trick: I fill a layer under both shapes with solid black, I apply a Gaussian Blur and I set the percentage to 20%. Then, I use two more textures to complete the image: a scratched metal texture (6a) with modified levels and Hue/ Saturation for the hair and beard (6b) and a concrete texture (6c) which I also modify for the black T-shirt (6d). These textures are from specialized websites like www. cgtextures.com, probably the best source with tons of really useful files. To use the textures, I first open the file with the texture (for the beard, for example) and I drag it into the file with the Move tool. I select the shape (in PC with Control+click in the layer; Command+click in Mac), then I invert the selection and I delete the rest of the texture (with the eraser tool or pressing the backspace key).

The false end: I delete the remaining cardboard background texture by selecting all the layers, inverting the selection and deleting the rest of the background texture with the eraser tool or by pressing the backspace key. The caricature is finished. I like it, however, it isn’t as iconic as I have in mind so I decide to do one final touch: I really think that it will look better as a duotone.

Grayscale: I change the colour mode to Grayscale (Image->Mode->Grayscale) because the file must be in grayscale before creating the duotone. The image looks very dark, but that’s no problem because it’s only an intermediate stage and I go to the next one (the real ending).

Duotone: I change the mode to a Duotone (Image->Mode- >Duotone) using black and gray which I love. I usually work with similar duotone curves for black (9a) and gray (9b) but, of course, I modify it if it’s necessary. Only when I really think the drawing is finished do I put my signature on it.

I hope you found this information useful and the process enjoyable!

David García Vivancos, DGV, is a professional caricature artist from Madrid, Spain, who works for press, magazines and private clients with his particular style based on flat colours and textures. Find more of DGV’s caricatures at www.dgvivencias.com.

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