Dragon – Sketch To Vector Art

Dragon - Sketch To Vector Art

  • Software: GIMP (or other raster editors, or you can sketch on paper can scan the artwork) + Inkscape (or other vector graphics editors like Illustrator)
  • Level: Advanced
  • Subject: Dragon

You will some times want or need to create elaborate vector illustrations but still want to keep the shapes simple. When the subject is complex, this can be quite a challenging task. In such cases, you can start drawing and sketching in raster mode (or on paper).

For this example, I will take a sketch of a Dragon.

Dragon - Sketch

I did the above sketch in GIMP. You can use any other software like Adobe Photoshop – or even draw it on paper and scan it as a image if you have a scanner.

Import the sketch into Inkscape. (File > Import).

Dragon - Import Sketch

Once it is imported, I make it transparent by around 50%. (On Inkscape, the control is on the bottom part next to ‘O’).

Then I take the Bezier tool and start marking out the basic bulk of the shape.

Dragon - Illustrate bulk shape

I then tweak the shape by editing the Bezier control nodes.

Dragon - Tweak bulk shape

Mark out the remaining of the shapes like the horns, spikes and neck.

Dragon - Illustrate remaining shapes

Do not forget to shape them into curves. Change the color of the outlines of these shapes to something. It does not matter which color – as we will be turning it off in the final artwork. Giving it color, helps you identify groups of shapes.

Dragon - Illustrate hightlights

I then use the bezier curve again to mark out the highlights.

Change its color to something else. (I set the outline of the highlight shapes to green).

Dragon - Illustrate shadows

After that, mark out the shadow areas. It actually does not matter, in which order you create these shapes, as you can always arrange them in any order afterwards.

Dragon - Fill color for head and neck

Fill out the main shapes with mid tone colors. This will be the time, when yo would want to rearrage the order of the shapes.

Switch off the outlines of the shapes which you have filled with colors. Proceed to give colors to the hightlight and shadow.

Dragon - Fill color for highlights

Swtich off the outlines for the highlights and shadows as well. You may again need to rearrange some of the shapes. For this example, the shadow shape of under the lower jaw had to be layered under the head shape.

You would need to go in and give some ‘shiny’ highlighs and shadows to those horns. You would need to tweak some shapes. It is in this step that you can make a mediocre vector art look great – with tiny yet simple details.

Dragon Illustration - Final

To finish it off, I make a copy of all the shapes, ‘outset’ it and put it behind all the shapes with a dark color to give a heavy set outline to the full shape. I also delete the imported sketch layer. I also, give the eye a little more detail.

Feel free to post links to your vector art made by this method in the comment section.

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  1. stephen’s avatar

    I subscribe to your RSS feed and always look forward to your updates.



  2. Vyoma’s avatar

    :) Hi stephen. Thanks for subscribing.

    Please do let me know if there is something specific you would like to see here at KalaaLog.com.


  3. Jeff Lewis’s avatar

    When creating a vector drawing is best to use a drawing tablet?


    Do most vector artists, from beginner to amazing, use drawing tablets?

    and lastly

    Can I do everything in Photoshop that can be done in Illustrator?



  4. Vyoma’s avatar

    Here are my thoughts on those questions, Jeff:

    1. A drawing tablet is not necessary for vector drawings. It only comes into play when you are following a workflow similar to the one here where you sketch something and import it into Inkscape. Even in such a workflow, you can make do with a scanner where you can sketch on paper, scan it and then import into Inkscape.

    2. I cannot say for others, but I do use it extensively. I have almost stopped using the touch pad/mouse – instead I exclusively use tablet. The reason for this is, part of the time, I spend doing digital paintings. I have gotten quite comfortable with it that I use it whiled doing vector illustrations too.

    3. I don’t think you can do everything in Photoshop that can be done in Illustrator. Photoshop can do some things that Illustrator can do, but at the end of the day, Photoshop is a raster editor and Illustrator is a vector editor. Even though you can use some of the vector tools in Photoshop, it would not result in a vector illustration (like AI, EPS, SVG) – instead would be rasterised.

    Hope this helps. :) Thanks for dropping by.


  5. Sheena Ritchie’s avatar

    What a great tutorial. Thanks!



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