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CorelDraw Tutorial: Creating a Photorealistic Vector Illustration

posted by: Alexey Oglushevich, in Illustrator Tutorials / Illustration/ Comments: 12
Final Image Preview

Today our guest is Aleksey Oglushevich from Russia who was a Grand Prize winner of CorelDRAW International Design Contest in 2009. This Corel Draw tutorial is going to describe the bland technique of creating photorealistic vector graphics.

Nowadays, a vector illustration is not simply an image the peculiarity of which lies in the toolset it has been created with but it is a kind of digital art which has bypassed the boundaries of creating images as files in vector graphics editing software, it comprises a noticeable number of absolutely different styles of artists and illustrators, unprecedented aesthetics and unique, broad creative freedom upheld by the constantly improving toolset of vector graphics editing software. Commercial demand, technical features surpassing counterparts of other formats, and the toolset enabling adaptation to stylistic traits of artists and illustrators all grant vast opportunities of utilisation of vector graphics.

One of the widespread illustrating styles is that resembling photographic realism. Advantages of this style are obvious: with all the efficiency, expressiveness of forms and realism borrowed from photography, the artist is in total control over the colour, light, details, and style of the image which allows reaching specific creative goals, artistic interpretation of any particular subject. By and large, a vector photorealistic illustration is a synergy of artistic photography with traditional illustration or even fine art. First of all, it is a self-sufficient piece of art possessing its own peculiarities and aesthetics although created not on a canvas and not by usual artistic techniques but by modern methods and means that have not yet been generally accepted into traditional perception of fine arts still not less valuable or promising.

Creating a photorealistic vector drawing is quite a complicated and laborious process thus taking this route requires patience and diligence so as both you and those who you will show your artwork to would get aesthetic pleasure.

There are two basic techniques of creating photorealistic images in vector graphics editing software—using mesh or blends. The former is based on standard vector grid filling tools and utilises raster format with vector guiding elements and provides scaling option without quality deterioration (to prove this it is sufficient to select a raster object in CorelDRAW and click the tool ‘Interactive Grid Filling’). The latter technique of creating images by using blends is built around exclusive utilisation of vector objects and tools, with the routine drawing process simplified through the use of the ‘Interactive overflow’ tool. In brief, the abovementioned can be brought down to two statements:

  2. The Mesh approach requires fewer efforts but is a less creative raster technique. Although, it should be admitted that if mastered to perfection this technique can produce astonishing results—for instance, the works by Ms Tatiana Prokofieva are very impressing.
  4. The Blends approach demands more work and is a more creative vector technique.

This article is going to describe this second technique of creating photorealistic vector graphics.

Stages of Drawing a Photorealistic Image

Creating the framework of an image from simple figures

At the first stage, it is necessary to build an image from simple figures, plates (a drawing which consists of closed objects each filled with a solid color), the image should not contain too much detail. At this stage, the main objective is to determine the basic colour palette to be used in drawing as well as the basic forms and the composition. Using the standard toolset, the ‘Bezier Curves’ and the ‘Form’ the framework of the future images is created. 

I have chosen this image in which the face is almost invisible because a photorealistic portrait requires more detailed explanation and laborious selection of the color palette although the basics of drawing a portrait are the same. If I have time I will probably dedicate a separate tutorial to portraits in vector graphics.

Many people do not use layers (Tools > Objects Manager) but using layers when creating a photorealistic image is very desirable as it often takes quite substantial time for even comparatively powerful computers to process your work so to avoid this the layers not being worked with can be simply disabled.
For example, when working on this particular drawing it is convenient to divide the image into six independent layers:

  2. Outline of the body;
  4. Shaded parts of the body;
  6. Illuminated parts of the body;
  8. Outline of the dress comprising three plates;
  10. The folds of the dress;
  12. The hair.


Layers are normally added during the drawing process. At further stages more layers can be added. It is also possible to add the plates with different color characteristics as the process is creative.


Creating Volume of Basic Forms


The second stage includes creation of upper plates on the basis of those already created by us and creation of transparent blends. These operations will add volume and form to the image. Creating an upper plate is very simple — copy and paste the lower plate, the most convenient way of doing this being with the gray "+” key on the numeric block of the keyboard. If this plate is very primitive it can be simply transformed into a smaller one and moved into the necessary place. For example, if the lightest part is a plate of complex configuration with sharp corners, etc. the Figure Tool should be used to capture basis points of the upper plate and then drag them to the new place. This new necessary place is solely determined by your feelings and the view; this will come with experience and is based on understanding of the light and shade principle.

Assigning transparency. The lower or the basis plate should have homogeneous transparency, with the transparency level close to 100%:

Usually, transparency level in the range of 80–98% is sufficient depending on the effect the artist wants to produce. For example, when drawing redness in the cheeks I use 98%.
Why transparent blend? I would answer that transparent blends make drawing subtle gradations in colour or hues more simple.

Let’s discuss the process of drawing photorealistic vector graphics on this part.

Having deactivated all other layers, we are left with this part of the girl’s body.

Starting to work on shaded parts of the body. By selecting a plate and pressing "+” we will get the exact copy of the selected plate. Then using the Figure Tool we are going to form this new plate.

I have corrected the basis plate as well though this can be done at the third stage. But since I have realised that I made some mistakes when drawing the plate image I have decided to correct the image right away.

Now it is time to work on transparency.  Let us assign homogeneous transparency with transparency level of 100% to the main plate and homogeneous transparency with level of 84% to the copy. Now, let us create a blend by using the transition tool. You can see the result in the picture.

I usually use standard settings of the transition panel.

The most important rule for creating a perfect blend: you must not reduce the number of basis points on the upper plate, i.e. the number of basis points of the upper and of the lower figures must be the same. That is why all the work on the basis points must be carried out when creating the plate image, i.e. at the first stage. There may be separate instances when we can neglect this rule but this is another story.

Let us repeat the same operations with all visible plates. These steps will bring us to this image.

Final Adjustments in Blends

The third stage includes:

  • adjusting placement of basis points;
  • altering transparency of the upper plate;
  • sometimes changing the colour of the upper plate;
  • fine-tuning the transparency level of the blend.

At the third stage, save your project often. It could be very disappointing to lose the work of many hours due to a snark.

Now, using the figure tool we are adjusting the upper plates and the lower plates of the blends, experimenting with the transparency levels. If you are not satisfied with the image, you can create additional plates. After the third stage the body and the dress look like this:

Now, let us deactivate all the layers except that with hair. Let us take the very same steps but allocating more time may be necessary as some original plates are very thin and require close attention for them not to become broken—the hair waves should be smooth and we will try hard to carry that out. When working on the hair I usually combine the second and the third stages of building the image since there are quite a lot of basis points and it may be difficult to come back to change something.

Let us add a glass of wine and we will get a drawing "Solitude”

All in all it took around 40 hours including preparation of this tutorial. One can add further details to the drawing but the tutorial is finished and I am a bit tired of working :-) And some final advice: If you already like your drawing, leave it for two days. When you get back to it you will definitely want to add some details or change something.

Aleksey Oglushevich on the Web:

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Total comments: 11
1 Ace   (2012 Feb 29 20:26)
I appreciate the work and time put into this tutorial, not to mention the final result looks great, but in terms of efficiency, wouldn't painting it in Photoshop would yield more aesthetically pleasing results (with different paint strokes, brush settings, etc.)? Not to mention a lot quicker (given that you should have skill in painting, drawing, and illustration).

2 Alfred   (2012 Mar 03 08:59)
Very informative tutorial. The final result is great. Thank you. As for comment #1, Why would someone go out of their way to a vector drawing site to encourage use of a bitmap program? It doesn't show any thought at all. Unless the intention was to irritate someone.

3 Juan   (2012 Apr 14 11:18)
Exelente tutorial una obra de arte y quiero aclarar que la diferencia entre un programa vectorial y uno de mapa de bits es que la imagen hecha con el vectorial la podes llevar al tamaño que quieras mientra que en el mapa de bits estas limitado porque si agrandas demasiado se pixela

4 Utpal Borah   (2012 May 28 06:43)
wow its vary beautiful

5 Mark Tereau   (2012 Aug 19 19:29)
To Ace I would say, a painted illustration in Photoshop cannot be scaled to bigger sizes without getting blurry. A photo-realistic vector illustration is perfect for scaling up to large sizes like a billboard or a poster or anything larger than the original so it can still be printed in 300 dpi. If you're going to do a big photograph in Photoshop, you'd better have a really high-res photo to blow up big.

6 Maac   (2013 Jan 25 00:38)
Hi. All i am not able to fine "homogeneous transparency" in corel X6 plz tell me where is option. biggrin

7 jaroslav   (2013 Jan 25 03:40)
It's a problem of the translation. Author had in mind "Uniform", of course  wink

8 Tutorial Lounge   (2013 Feb 22 10:56)
simply superb details in this vector tutorial.

9 Saddam Pirzada   (2013 Dec 30 04:55)
Nice tutorial...

10 bijutoha   (2014 Jan 27 03:56)
Made by by CorelDRAW?

11 jaroslav   (2014 Jan 28 02:07)

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