Deke’s Techniques 285: Making a Scalable Avatar in Illustrator

In this week’s free Deke’s Techniques episode, Deke takes the photo-inspired paths he drew in Photoshop last week, brings them into Illustrator, and completes his scalable, vector-based homage to my cartoon self. He also leaves me a little happier this week, as you can see from the "Three Faces of Colleen" progression below.

But you don’t need an avatar of me, you say. (Wait, why would you need an avatar of me?) Fear not, the advice you can glean while watching Deke create Cartoon Colleen can be applied to your own photo-to-avatar transformation, as well. In this video, you’ll see how to take the paths we traced last week and combine, join, cut, erase, bend, and otherwise adjust them into shape.

Along the way, you’ll also acquire such pearls of wisdom as: "Best to draw the avatar bald, so you can update its hairstyle as needed." Or: "If you don’t know the person well, you may want to run it by them before posting to Facebook." Since variations on this image have been all over Deke’s Facebook page since he started working on it, we can assume he doesn’t put me in that category.

At the end of this exercise, you’ll see how Deke created the uniform black-and-white strokes that make up the structure of my alter-ego. If you’re a member of, you can watch the exclusive movie this week that shows you how he added the shading and blue (?) hair. (Is Deke trying to tell me something?)

Not a member? You can get a free week’s trial at Then you can scour the entire collection of Deke’s Techniques looking for other pixel-based experiments I’ve been subject to.

Next entry:Deke’s Techniques 287: Exporting Your Avatar as a PNG from Photoshop

Previous entry:Deke’s Techniques 284: Tracing a Photo in Photoshop to Create an Avatar


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