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Adobe Illustrator Tutorial: How to Create a Clean Vector Outline, in Five Minutes

posted by: Iaroslav Lazunov, in Illustrator Tutorials / Vector Character/ Comments: 7
Final Image Preview

Create vector outline in Illustrator has always been laborious work which requires certain skills and accuracy. In this Adobe Illustrator tutorial I will tell you how to get a clean vector outline quickly using a simple method. Find out at the jump!





Tools Setting for Creating Vector Outline in Adobe Illustrator

In this vector tutorial I will use the goblin sketch which was kindly given by Victoria Vasilyeva.


Technically, there are a couple of ways of creating vector outline in Adobe Illustrator. You can use the Graphic Tablet. To create an outline in this case, use the Blob Brush Tool (Shift + B) or the Paintbrush Tool (B). The settings of these tools are indicated on the figures below.

Tick on the Merge Only with Selection in the dialog box of the Blob Brush Tool options if you use this tool. This is necessary if you’re using the described further technique. If you use the Paintbrush Tool for digital painting then you need to configure the brush options. I prefer a round brush; its settings are indicated on the figure below.

So, take the stylus and start creating the vector outline based on the sketch; reduce the opacity of the sketch for more convenient work. We don’t need to combine the lines exactly on the intersections of the outline. All the unnecessary odds and ends will be deleted later. It is difficult for me to get the proper thickness of the line right away, that’s why all the defects, indicated on the figure, are absolutely normal result of my work process.

I will give you some more tips which will help you to control the thickness and fidelity of the vector outline in the process of digital painting. For reducing/increasing the brush diameter use the "[" / "]” buttons. To open the Paintbrush Tool Options dialog box press the Enter and type the desired value of fidelity. The higher the value is, the smoother the vector outline will be; the lower value will make your outline more precise, i.e. the outline will display all the micro movements of your hand. It’s better to increase the value for the longer outlines and decrease it for the shorter outlines.

You can create a vector outline without the Graphic Tablet. In that case use the Pen Tool (P) and the Art Brush of the elliptical and triangular form.

Use the Stroke panel to control the width of the line.
You can also use the Variable Width Profile in the Stroke panel in Adobe Illustrator CS5 and CS6.

In this case, control the width of the path with the Width Tool (Shift + W)

So, choose a convenient and affordable tool and create a vector outline of our character.

Cleaning of the Vector Outline in Adobe Illustrator

Now, let’s start the cleaning of our vector outline. I write this ink vector tutorial mostly for that. Select the entire outline, then go to the Object > Expand Appearance. Do not do this if you used the Blob Brush Tool (Shift + B)

Now press on the Divide in the Pathfinder panel (Window > Pathfinder)

clean vector outline in Illustrator

As a result, the vector outline was cut into pieces in the intersection of its lines.

What remains is to select and delete its unnecessary parts. You can use the Direct Selection Tool (A) and the Lasso Tool (Q) for it, whatever you like more.

As you can see, we have got a perfect intersection of the vector outline. This method allows us to color the parts of outline into different colors. They just need to be selected and recolored.


However, in my opinion, it would be better to create a color vector outline right away because the black outline must be a little thinner than the color one. So, couple of minutes, and our vector outline is clean.


After coloring my goblin looks like this.








You can read about the other ways of Creating a Vector Outline in Adobe Illustrator and about Coloring in Adobe Illustrator if you use the following links:

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Total comments: 4
1 Raul Nunez   (2012 Sep 19 06:24)
This is wonderful - just really nice - thanks for all your effort on making this Tuto. ..... RAUL

2 iNdoOo   (2012 Oct 10 06:43)
The ninth image does not show.

3 jaroslav   (2012 Oct 10 06:45)
Hm, I can see all images. Could you refresh the page?

4 Charlie1981   (2014 Jun 22 13:00)
Im having issues. I created a outline. But when i attempt to select my fill areas it constantly fills outside of the selcted paths all weird.. any suggestions?

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