How to trace any shape in illustrator?

The internet is going gaga! over Rick and Morty’s latest season so I hopped on the bandwagon and wrote this post. Hahaha! Just kidding! It’s not going to be one of those fandom posts the internet is overflowing with right now. We are here to learn about tracing complex shapes in illustrator and we shall do that in style! So let us stick to the plan. This tutorial is divided into two equally important parts.

PART 1: HOW TO USE SHAPE BUILDER TOOL?

PART 2: HOW TO TRACE A FACE?

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This is a reference image that will help you to figure out the location of various tools in the UI of Ai.

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PART 1: HOW TO USE SHAPE BUILDER TOOL?

Step 1:

Select the rectangle tool from the tools panels and draw a square by pushing shift + Alt and dragging the mouse; If you are not able to find the rectangle tool then refer to the image above.

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Step 2:

Draw a circle, by clicking shift + Alt and dragging mouse, keeping the center  of the circle as the middle point of the upper edge of the square

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Step 3:

Repeat the above step by taking the right edge of the square and drawing a circle from the middle point of that edge.

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Step 4:

Select all the shapes by clicking on the selection tool and drawing a box which overlaps all the shapes present on the art board or you can individually shift and click the shapes to add them to the currently selected buffer.

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Step 5:

Now select the shape Builder tool, if you are not able to find it then refer to the fig 1 and search it. This tool lets you perform certain operations like union and intersection of shapes. Just select all the shapes that you want to edit and the drag the mouse by clicking to add the two shapes. To subtract a region go to that region and click the ‘alt’ button and then drag the mouse.

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Step 6:

This is what you get when you have dragged the mouse through all the regions to combine them.

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Step 8:

Rotate the heart shape by right clicking the shape by selecting Transform > Rotate.

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Adding stroke and the fill color and there you go, you proper geometric shaped heart is ready

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Now let’s try to trace a face in illustrator. The character that I have chosen is Morty from Rick and Morty (If you are sci-fi lover than it’s something that you should not miss, I mean go and watch it like umm… right after this reading this post)

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PART 2: HOW TO TRACE A FACE?

Step 1:

Make a circle with center almost in the middle of the face (use shift + alt and drag to fix the center at one place)

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Step 2: 

Tweak the shape of the circle to using individual selection tool to adjust the curvature to the face of Morty.

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Step 3:

Again the way you made face, make the right and left eye now with the help of an ellipse.

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Step 4:

To make the bulge for the ear make an ellipse of the same curvature. Duplicate this ellipse and turn the visibility off for this one.

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Step 5:

Now select the face and the ear ellipse together and use the shape builder tool as explained in the first part. Join the two shapes together.

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Step 6:

Turn the visibility back for the ellipse we duplicated in step 4 and then use the direct selection tool. Click on the left anchor point on the ellipse and the press backspace to delete it.

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Step 7: 

Rotate the curve to fit the alignment properly. To rotate right click the mouse button, select transform and then click rotate. Turn on the preview option and the use the pointer in the circle to change the angle.

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Step 8:

Select the proper fill color of all the paths by using color picker tool.

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Step 9: 

Now put the fill color to none for all the paths and let’s proceed ahead. Select the pen tool and trace out the nose and mouth curves.

If you are having trouble in using pen tool then I would recommend you to read my blog post on How to use pen tool?

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Step 10:

Here comes the trickiest bit, you want the closed path of face and the hair to have the exact same overlapping curve. Which is quite difficult when you try to do it with your hand. To avoid that we will use shape builder tool that we learnt in the first part.

First trace the hair as shown below and make sure that you complete the path. You can see that there is extra path crossing through Morty’s face. We have to adjust this shape using the shape builder tool.

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Select the path of the face and make a duplicate copy by using ctrl + C and the ctrl + F (this will duplicate the path right over the original one).

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Select the duplicated face path and the hair path and choose the shape builder tool. Now we have everything set to trim out the unnecessary bit from the hair path.

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Press alt and start trimming the unwanted regions till you are left with something like this:

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Step 11:

Finally trace out the smaller details like eyebrows and eye pupils and assign them proper stroke width and color.

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FINALLY WE ARE LEFT WITH THE TRACED FACE

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